The term “second gate” refers to a resort’s second theme park. Disney’s first second gate, EPCOT Center, opened in Walt Disney World in October of 1982. Disneyland didn’t get its second gate, Disney’s California Adventure (as it was known then), until February of 2001.
In terms of when they opened, these gates will always be #2 in their respective resorts. But today, we shall venture to determine which #2 is #1!
(As usual, Keith is representing Disneyland, while Jeff represents Walt Disney World)
Topic 11: Second Gate
Jeff: When it opened in 1982, EPCOT was the crowning achievement in edutainment, creating the perfect cross-over between a learning experience and having fun at a theme park.
Keith: Um, what.
Jeff: What what? Was there a part of that you didn’t understand? I’m trying to state why EPCOT was practically the pinnacle of Disney Theme Park entertainment in its heyday.
Keith: Um. WHAT.
Jeff: You know, EPCOT? As in Walt Disney World? As in the superior second gate, especially when compared to California Adventure?
Keith: We’re doing Epcot vs. California Adventure? Really?
Jeff: Yes, really. You agreed to this one!
Keith: I thought you were joking!
Jeff: There are two things I never joke about, dear Keith. And one of them is EPCOT.
Keith: What’s the other thing?
Jeff: None of your business.
Keith: Well, here goes. Disneyland’s second gate, Disney California Adventure, opened on June 15, 2012–
Jeff: Wait, wait, wait…that’s not right. It opened in February 2001…not in 2012. You’re a bit off on your years there, buddy.
Keith: No I’m not.
Jeff: Uh…yeah, you are. You want to go back and fact check, Mr. Know-It-All?
Keith: Oh! You’re talking about the park that was said to open on February 8, 2001? The one that was meant to emulate the experience of the entire Golden State, and after walking through or around 11-foot tall letters that spelled out “California,” you entered what looked like a side entrance? And upon further walking, you could hear basically the same six California-themed songs played over and over, as the visual feast of: shops designed to look like a train, a “Greetings from California” retail store complete with “understated” huge postcard sign adorning its entrance, and a gaudy tin-looking Sun Icon which became known by many Disney fans as “the hubcap,” all vied for your attention? All of this before you sprinted to such E-ticket attractions as the Maliboomer, or SuperStar Limo?
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the one.
Keith: Never happened.
Jeff: Never happened?
Keith: Don’t be so naive, Jeff! It’s just a story grown-ups tell kids around campfires to scare the crap out of them.
Jeff: Oh. Well…it works.
Keith: When Disney California Adventure opened on June 15, 2012, it was home to eight themed areas: Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Land, Condor Flats, Grizzly Peak, Paradise Pier, Pacific Wharf, A Bug’s Land, and Cars Land.
Jeff: Alright, well, if you want to play it that way, then you must already know how beat you are. Because allow me to talk a little bit about Walt Disney World’s second gate, EPCOT Center. And watch me NOT lie about it.
EPCOT Center opened in October 1982. AND it was a huge success, unlike some other Parks I can think of. While it wasn’t Walt’s original idea for EPCOT, as an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, it was a step in the right direction. The Park opened as a form of “edutainment” for families; this meant it snuck a bit of learning into all the fun kids were having! It was a sort of permanent World’s Fair, in a lot of ways.
EPCOT Center opened with two distinct areas, each with own sub-themes. The first half of the Park is known as Future World, which explored innovative new concepts, and how they could be applied to everyday living. In its heyday, there were 8 Pavilions that were part of Future World, including The Land, CommuniCore, World of Motion, Imagination, Horizons, Spaceship Earth, Universe of Energy, The Living Seas and Wonders of Life.
Keith: I sure do love Epcot. I wish I were there right now. I think walking around World Showcase at dusk might be one of my favorite things to do in all of Disney. Did you know that the Eiffel Tower in the France pavilion was built using the very blueprints drawn up by Gustave Eiffel? It is one-tenth the size of the real Eiffel Tower, and was constructed without its base since that part was never intended for guests to see, as it would throw of the illusion of the landmark being “off in the distance.”
Oh wait, what am I talking about again? Oh yeah, DCA. Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! is fun. Although why it’s in Hollywood Land, I have no idea. Grizzly Peak is nice to walk through. I actually miss Golden Dreams. It was corny, but inspiring. And as a Californian, it was cool seeing some of our history acted out. I enjoyed the montage at the end. Who doesn’t love seeing Ice Cube in a Disney attraction? Plus it obviously reminded me of the American Adventure in Epcot.
Ahhh, Epcot. Hey Jeff, did you know that the mechanism that changes the scenes in the American Adventure show is 65-feet wide, weighs 175 tons, and is controlled by over two dozen computers? I think the American Adventure may be one of the best shows Disney has ever done. When Ben Franklin traverses those stairs, then walks towards Thomas Jefferson… I mean, wow.
Jeff: Why am I even bothering to make any sort of retaliation? You’re doing all my work for me! I mean, I clearly don’t mind. But heck, don’t you have a park you should be defending?!
Even though you were just going on about World Showcase, let me back up to talk about Future World again. Because it was amazing.
Now, each Pavilion had a distinct focus, to help guests learn about the achievements of the past while looking toward the improvements of the future. For example, The Land (my favorite pavilion, even to this day), teaches you all about how plants are grown and cultivated, even in the harshest of climates. One of the most interesting bits in the pavilion is learning about hydroponics, in which plants grow without soil. Living with the Land is a slow paced, but highly entertaining, attraction in which you can learn all about it.
Moving along, Spaceship Earth, though different today than it was 30 years ago, is all about the history of communication. You’ll learn how it was formed in the earliest of days, all the way up to how it may be used in our future.
And even though World of Motion, Horizons, and Wonders of Life may be defunct, the messages they carried are still alive and well in EPCOT today, in some form or another. Yes, I miss the desert of Mesa Verde as much as the next DisGeek, but it will always live on in our hearts.
And I’d be remiss without mentioning CommuniCore, the namesake of the podcast I co-host with George Taylor, Communicore Weekly. In case you’ve forgotten, it’s the Greatest Online Show ™. The pavilion was dedicated to technological advances, and allowed guests to interact with highly entertaining exhibits, such as chatting with SMRT-1 or Compute-A-Coaster.
Surely you had things like that at DCA, right, Keith?
Keith: Oh! I’ve heard of that Communicore podcast. How often does it air, again?
Jeff: …weekly, Keith. It airs weekly.
Keith: Oh, and no, bud. While over there nothing was astuter, than your computer, over here we were giving guests tours of a working tortilla factory, and letting them guess their weight in tortillas. We were letting people guess their weight in tortillas.
Jeff: For the record, I probably weigh about 17 tortillas. Soaking wet.
Keith: I’ll bring you to the gym with me.
Jeff: Thank you.
Keith: On the upside, Cars Land has proven to be a bona fide success. I was puzzled at first as to why they selected such a mediocre movie from the rich bank of Pixar films to choose from. But then, oh yeah, Route 66. “California” Adventure. Got it. That said, is Monstropolis in California? And was The Little Mermaid set in California? It may sound nitpicky, but this was the short-sighted problem with theming an entire park around one state in the first place.
Back to the upside: The Tower of Terror is a fantastic attraction, with one of the best queues in all of Disney. Soarin’ Over California has been a staple since DCA’s opening day. Truth be told it’s been needing an update for a while, but it still remains an enjoyable attraction, with very reasonable wait times (ha! take that, Epcot!). I love the lobby of the Animation Building, and sometimes sit through the entire movie loop. I also dig the Aladdin stage show, which is now Broadway-bound!
In June of 2010, World of Color joined the Disney ranks of “nighttime spectaculars,” and has been an enormous success. When it first premiered, it utilized brand-new technology that was created specifically for the show. World of Color uses music, lasers, fog, fire, surround sound, and close to 1,200 fountains to tell its ever-changing story.
Jeff: You know, I didn’t even get over to World Showcase yet, and it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to cream you on this one.
But anyway, yes, on the back half of EPCOT sits World Showcase, where one can go to experience the culture (and food!) of the many different countries that sit along the lagoon. In the mood to learn about Mexico, while sipping a margarita, and riding on the Three Caballeros boat ride? Mexico has you covered! Perhaps the far east is more your style, and you’d like to take in a 360 degree film while learning a little culture. China is the place to be for you! Or maybe you’d even like to have some fresh water from something that looks like a shampoo bottle, while going “back…back over the falls” to get away from some trolls. Then the NOOOOORWAAAAY PAAAVILIOOOOOON is your destination. World Showcase has tons of stuff for the young and old to do (and learn) while strolling through.
And if you want a nighttime spectacular, look no further than IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which is a laser, firework, and sound-filled delight.
You really can’t beat me, Keith.
Keith: Winning was never an option.
I positively, wholeheartedly, unequivocally, unabashedly concede to you this round, my friend. On no planet in no galaxy is there a California Adventure that trumps Epcot. What makes it worse is all the research you and I did recently on WESTCOT (hey, we should give a presentation about that one day). Knowing how amazing WESTCOT would have been, and seeing what was handed to us in 2001, makes matters that much worse.
I will say that Disney did a terrific job leading up to the 2012 Grand Re-Opening. Buena Vista Street is insanely gorgeous, and in my opinion captures the spirit of Walt beautifully. Many times while there I’ll just sit on a bench and relax, enjoying the atmosphere. I would rather have seen the Carthay Circle open as a film, or some sort of attraction, but it is a lovely restaurant, and 1901 is a nice compliment to Club 33. I also adore the Red Cars, Elias & Co., Oswald’s, the Storytellers Statue, etc. I’ve stated more than once that I feel Buena Vista Street is the crown jewel of DCA 2.0, not Cars Land.
But it’s still not enough to hang with Epcot. I am not a fan of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. I like Toy Story Midway Mania, but the whole Paradise Pier area will never sit well with me. I know what they were trying to do, but it’s still the exact thing Walt didn’t want. My friend who hadn’t been to Disney since the 90s went to Disneyland recently, and he commented on California Screamin’: “I liked the roller coaster, but it was weird because it didn’t feel very Disney.” And what’s up with the raves? At night when I board a majestic Red Car in Buena Vista Street headed towards the Tower of Terror, and upon passing the Animation Building begin to hear the thumping sounds of trip-hop as grown men with pacifiers saunter in and out of the Monsters, Inc. area, it does not exactly enhance my Disney experience.
While it may sound like I hate DCA, haha, that is not the case. Since June of 2012 (I was actually there on “Re-Opening Day”) it has become quite the viable park, and I do spend time there when I head down south. Sure it’s heartbreaking that there will never be a Spacestation Earth across from Disneyland, but we’ve got to make due with what we’ve got. That said, it’s no Epcot.
Hey, that rhymed.
What are your guys’ thoughts? Does Epcot really trump DCA, or are Keith & Jeff (in this case) both wrong and DCA is the superior 2nd gate? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Dueling Disney is written by Jeff Heimbuch & Keith Gluck