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  1. #1

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    Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"?

    A thought experiment. For a moment pretend we had the ability to modify the names in Disney parks. And thus:

    • Thunder Mountain was named "Bryce Canyon Railway" in honor of the American canyon from which it derives its look. Frontierland was named "Westernland", in honor of the American west from which it was inspired.

    • Critter Country Was renamed "The Deep South" as it represents the American Southern swamps/forest.

    • The Jungle Cruise was modified to be more Bayou-like rather than rainforesty. The Temple for Indiana Jones was supposed to be an old Aztec temple found somewhere along the Souther border of the US.

    • Tomorrowland is stated to be an American city of the future (say LA, just for fun).

    • Main Street is already suppossed to be a fairly specific American city (idealized)

    • New Orleans Square is already representing an American city.

    • There's already a show (returning soon) that celebrates an American President.

    • And so on....


    I've done nothing but change a few names: nothing about the lands has changed at all. But now notice that everything in Disneyland "technically" represents America. By Disney's "California Adventure" logic, I could now rename Disneyland to "Disney's America Adventure." Everything is about America, right? All the lands have names and themes that come from American cities. I could now rename the candy shop to "Ameri-candy" and have a cart that sells french fries called "United Tates of America." Obviously this park is about America: everything is American themed!

    But it wouldn't be. It would still be Disneyland. No matter what names I throw on these lands and food carts, the true themes of the lands would still remain. Disneyland isn't about "America", really. Strong American themes run through it, for sure, but it is not *about* America.

    This is why I would argue that California Adventure was never truly about California. Yes, that was the original idea. Yes, the lands are based on places theoretically in California. Yes, they threw California cities and landmarks on the names of every restaurant and food cart. Yes Michael Eisner said it was about California. But doing so does not make a place represent California any more than Disneyland represents America. Which is to say they both do represent those things at some level, but it's only on a surface level. The much deeper level represents much deeper themes:

    • Main Street represents an idealized small town and the time when technology and old-ideals were meeting. It is not "Missouri-town", which is what it would be under "California Adventure" logic.

    • Condor Flats is about aviation and flight. These concepts transcend location and don't rely on California at all. It is not about "flying in California".

    • Grizzly Peak represents a national park, redwood forests, and whitewater rafting. These themes are deep and could easily apply to Colorado or Yellowstone, which aren't in California. To this day many people assume this land represents Yellowstone National Park, which is not in California.

    • Paradise Pier represents the theme of the sea, particularly seaside amusement and entertainment. It is not about Santa Monica Pier or anything specific like that.

    • Carsland looks like it's going to be celebrating cars, deserts, and highways. Things very apparent in California to be sure, but again it's not "about" California anymore than it is about Arizona or Fronteirland is about Utah (Bryce Canyon).

    • Even Hollywoodland, the most "California" of the current lands, is really about the glitz and glamour of the film industry and movies. Yes the movie industry is located primarily in "Hollywood", but celebrating films and moviemaking and celebrating Hollywood are two different things.


    The point is that what makes Disneyland so powerful is that the themes it encapsulates run DEEP. They represent powerful ideas and emotions and encapsulate them in physical locations. That is (I think) what makes it a place so much of us love.

    This applies to DCA as well. I think DCA has some strong themes to work with. But for some reason the imagineers (or maybe just management) and a lot of other people seem hung up on the surface properties of the lands and park rather than the deeper themes. I think this is what created the problems we saw in the past when the park first opened: throwing on some signs and paint and calling it a theme. We're seeing some of this again with some of the Paradise Pier stuff too. The "lipstick on a pig" argument about the DCA expansion essentially argues that the problem is focusing on surface characteristics without addressing fundamental problems. I'd argue that focusing on the "California" in the lands in California Adventure is a similar mistake: it's focusing on a surface characteristic rather than the true "meat" of a land/park. When Disneyland works well it does so because the lands and themes evoke emotion and spirit. Excitement, exploration, progress, imagination. These are much stronger themes than "random locations in California". This is why I support that California Adventure needs to focus on it's deep emotional themes first and worry about shoehorning California into those themes second. Paradise Pier needs to evoke a care-free spirit. The majesty of the sea and the fun and amusement one can have around it. The wonder of riding a huge roller coaster over the water. etc. It does NOT need to focus on screaming "SANTA MONICA!" and "MALIBU!" at the guest every two feet.

    I'll leave you with another hypothetical: Let's look at expanding Condor Flats, which is a great little area with a lot of potential. If the imagineers approach a Condor Flats expansion by thinking "how can we represent California better?" then it will likely be disappointing. But if they approach it by thinking "how can we represent the beauty and history of flight and aviation?" then I bet it would turn out amazing.

    I think DCA has some amazing themes to work with, but I think we'll only see the park reach its full potential if these themes are addressed directly rather than focusing on surface characteristics. California has strong themes, but calling a place "Brrrr-Bank Ice Cream" is not tapping into them at all.

  2. #2

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    At first I thought I wasn't going to agree, but overall I actually do agree with most of what you said. I completely agree that one of the problems with DCA orginally were too much focus on geography, cheesy names and reproductions of famous icons. The park instead should be more like DL is to America, absolutely. It needs to be inspired by the dreams, ideals and culture of the place, not try to recreate settings.
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  3. #3

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    DCA was just poorly thought out. You COULD do a theme park on CA and it could actually be great. But in my vision of it, I don't think Paradise Pier ever became a part of it.

    You're right about Disneyland representing America though. It wasn't on purpose, but at the same time, that was always Walt's vision and outlook on things anyway. He loved history and nostalgia, and he was a curious person always looking to the future.

    A lot of people also think that a park about movie studios is a good idea too. What they don't realize that Disneyland is also exactly that. He took movie people and created the magic of film into a themed environment.

    Disneyland is a product that works in so many different ways and that's the beauty of it. Any other park that applies one concept (movies, animals, california etc) is limiting its creative vision and scope.


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  4. #4

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Bob View Post
    At first I thought I wasn't going to agree, but overall I actually do agree with most of what you said. I completely agree that one of the problems with DCA orginally were too much focus on geography, cheesy names and reproductions of famous icons. The park instead should be more like DL is to America, absolutely. It needs to be inspired by the dreams, ideals and culture of the place, not try to recreate settings.
    I thought the whole concept of a park about California, right in the middle of the real thing, was badly flawed from the start - and attendance figures over the first several years have borne that out. Now they're having to spend billions of dollars to fix the mess that was created.
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  5. #5

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    I agree. The California name and overtones are limiting the real themes that are at work in the park. A name that doesn't limit it to California should be used so that the themes can be explored and expanded to their full potential.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. mycroft16 on Twitter

  6. #6

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    I think the emphasis on cheesy names and random Californian insertions were done for locals. I mean, I'll admit, I giggled the first time I saw all the puns and stuff because I thought it was cute. But ask any random tourist that doesn't live in SoCal if they 'get it' and they probably won't.

    Although I like the concept of representing California, the direction they're heading seems to make it slightly disjointed. Focusing on the spirit of certain Californian elements (national parks, cars, aviation, etc.) as opposed to taking those Californian elements and exploiting them and using them as puzzle pieces seems more wise.

    Good post!

  7. #7

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    DCA absolutely needs to drop the "California" from its name. That would really open them up to be able to fit more and better rides and themeing into the park.
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  8. #8

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Where does Fantasyland fit into your "Disney America" example?

    Because I see that as being the equivalent of either Carsland or Bugsland... it's not California... and yet it is supposed to be in a park that glorifies California.

    For those who feel California is a "limiting" name I encourage you to crack open a history book and compare the real California to what is represented in DCA. Where are the miners? Where are the missions? Where are any of a number of "icons" that we immediately equate to being California? DCA was a washed out mess that tacked on a California tshirt instead of fully embracing and embodying California in it's core. It can be done. It wasn't done correctly. But that wasn't because of California in the name. Now it's a challenge and some would encourage WDI to just "give up"... many in WDI appear to have already done so.
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  9. #9

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    Where does Fantasyland fit into your "Disney America" example?

    Because I see that as being the equivalent of either Carsland or Bugsland... it's not California... and yet it is supposed to be in a park that glorifies California.

    Well, since Fantasyland is nothing more than Advertisementland for inherently American Disney classics, maybe it could be represented as celebrating the history of inherently American Disney films! :P

  10. #10

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Quote Originally Posted by techskip View Post
    For those who feel California is a "limiting" name I encourage you to crack open a history book and compare the real California to what is represented in DCA. Where are the miners? Where are the missions? Where are any of a number of "icons" that we immediately equate to being California? DCA was a washed out mess that tacked on a California tshirt instead of fully embracing and embodying California in it's core. It can be done. It wasn't done correctly. But that wasn't because of California in the name.
    I don't feel the California limits the possible themes out there, but that it limits the possible growth of the themes they have chosen to place in the park.

    There are already threads about the problems with Carsland and it's more likely location outside California. Flight has history all over the world, and yet when you tack the California name on, you limit it. Same with movies.

    You're right, the problem initially wasn't because California was in the name, but having the California in the name now could limit it because they are working from the already built park which imposes limitations on what can be done without literally imploding lands and starting over. Even that has its limitations though. So really they need to do what they can to "unlimit" the themes that they are, for the most part, stuck with.

    Little Mermaid is another example of this. It's a European tale, yet it's going to end up on a Californian Pier near San Francisco. You can shoe-horn that in and make it sort of work, but if you untether the park from "California" it really does work, because then the Pier area becomes like Main Street... it doesn't represent a single locale, but can be made to represent all seaside areas.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. mycroft16 on Twitter

  11. #11

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Quote Originally Posted by mycroft16 View Post
    I don't feel the California limits the possible themes out there, but that it limits the possible growth of the themes they have chosen to place in the park.
    The themes within the park can change, and per the overlay are changing. Again it isn't California itself that is placing that limit on the respective "lands".

    There are already threads about the problems with Carsland and it's more likely location outside California. Flight has history all over the world, and yet when you tack the California name on, you limit it. Same with movies.
    The limitation is to make it unique to California... They can't make Bugs or Cars unique to California AND tied to the movie... so movie wins. Soarin... and for that matter Condor Flats... does not have that problem because they are firmly rooted in the history of flight in California and more specifically Howard Hughes. Please don't confuse actual history that is California with Pixar creations that may fall outside of it. They could include both Bugs and Cars... but that would mean basing an attraction on a character and a land on California... in other words WDI would have to theme a land on more then just a single movie... something WED was good at doing.

    Little Mermaid is another example of this. It's a European tale, yet it's going to end up on a Californian Pier near San Francisco. You can shoe-horn that in and make it sort of work, but if you untether the park from "California" it really does work, because then the Pier area becomes like Main Street... it doesn't represent a single locale, but can be made to represent all seaside areas.
    Little Mermaid is a seaside theme in a seaside Boardwalk. It actually "fits" from that perspective. What will clash is the Sky Skool right next to it. So you have jellyfish jumping, you have a lagoon, you have fish and mermaids everywhere... then you have an airplane . It sounds to me like WDI can't even work inside of a basic theme... let alone an elaborate one... time to theme another land to a movie so they can call it a day. Sky Skool in Condor would be perfect. Sky Skool in Paradise Pier is a stretch to say the least. It's already been brought up in multiple threads. The mermaid isn't really the issue.


    With minimal effort they can theme Grizzly to the 49ers, emphasize Sequoia and Yosemite in Redwood and bring back a downsized version of the Country Bears. All would fit and all would support the "theme" of the wilds of California and it's rich history. With a little more effort they can bring in the Red Cars, drop in some letters from the Hollywoodland sign (prior to the actual Hollywood sign). They can bring in some classic cars, and bring old Hollywood back. It can be done, the creative effort to do so just isn't there. To them it is easier to drop California and just theme entire lands around movies. Blaming California for the limitation IMHO is a cop-out.
    Last edited by techskip; 06-16-2009 at 11:35 AM.
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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Very, very interesting post. Something about it doesn't quite rub me the right way, but I'm having trouble putting my finger on it, and you've certainly made some good points.

    I guess my problem is this. If I'm not mistaken, an important part of your argument is that since each individual facet of a California theme could be easily found somewhere else, a California theme isn't necessarily a California theme; the elements could all be from different places, for all we know. I have two objections to that line of thought, the second stronger than the first:

    * There are some elements that are simply Californian by nature. The Golden Gate Bridge is inherently Californian in a way that Thunder Mountain is not inherently Utah-an. (What is the word for something/someone from Utah? ) There are similar landmarks that immediately scream CALIFORNIA and do not merely reside in the thematic "surface." The problem here is that miniaturizing those landmarks tends to feel cheap, as DCA demonstrates.

    * More importantly, even if you have a collection of themes that could individually be from different parts of the world, the whole will collectively feel Californian if each theme is well-conceived and well-executed. That's not to say that Disney did this with DCA, of course, but it's theoretically possible. If you assemble a park comprising numerous compatible lands that masterfully and enjoyably represent different facets of California, the whole thing will feel like a masterful and enjoyable representation of California. It's sort of a gestalt thing...the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


  13. #13

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Disneyland pretty much encompasses Disney though, so i think the name fits really well.

    As far as DCA, I think a name change and a whole theme change wouldnt be bad. I think some of the stuff should stay the same, but the direction they are going, is not even in ruite of California.

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    I think that is ridiculous to bring up changing the name of Disneyland, Walt's own creation. Disneyland embodies what is disney. Yes, it may be all those things that you have said, but that doesn't mean you rename it. It is still very much "Disney" throughout the whole park and thus is appropriately named Disneyland. There is just way too much history behind this one park (Besides being the only park that Walt was around to see finished) to just change the name with a snap of a finger.

    Here is a post of mine from another thread about my thoughts on DCA:
    Most of the time, I am just a lurker on these boards, as a matter of fact, I hadn't even signed up until I felt the urge to post just now. I am young, but have been around Disney a lot. I have been to WDW monthly of late, and have been to DL resort 2 times. Both times I went I was there when California Adventure was built. I feel, while it definatley deserves it's many shares of critisism, that a lot of people are being to harsh on it.

    As someone who was going for a visit from out of state, I did leave with an overall pretty good impression from the park both times (the last time I was there was 2008 and I had an idea of what they were going to do to reconstruct the park.) Now I am not saying that DCA is a top notch park, but I do think a lot of you guys are being to picky about things. Sure, some things just don't seem right here or there, but there are still a lot of good rides in this park.

    We should be happy that Disney is actually listening to us for a change and realizing that they messed up with this park. Putting $1.1 Billion into the park to renovate it and add new attractions into it is a lot of money to go into one park that was supposed to have already been finished being constructed 8 years ago. The fact that Disney has actually taken the time to put the Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar to tell us what they are doing to the park and on top of that updating it consistently is also a great thing. That is not something that they have to do, it is something that they are doing extra to keep park-goers informed on all the changes.

    Also, To say that this is not based on California is also a proposterous statement. Just look at the red car trolly that will be going down through the lands as one example. Other examples would include: The changing of the name hollywood backlot to hollywoodland, The new entrance gate, Buena Vista Street (Based off the street in Burbank, California where the Walt Disney Studios are located), The Cars land (which incases you didn't notice California is big on Cars), The Paradise Pier improvments and you could even include the Grand Californian DVC if you wanted. I am probably missing some stuff also, but you get the point. You can't honestly look at the above listed and tell me DCA is not about California.

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    Re: Is DCA really about California? is Disneyland really "Disney's America Adventure"

    Quote Originally Posted by Disney Vet View Post
    I think that is ridiculous to bring up changing the name of Disneyland, Walt's own creation. Disneyland embodies what is disney. Yes, it may be all those things that you have said, but that doesn't mean you rename it. It is still very much "Disney" throughout the whole park and thus is appropriately named Disneyland. There is just way too much history behind this one park (Besides being the only park that Walt was around to see finished) to just change the name with a snap of a finger.
    He doesn't want to rename Disneyland... that whole section was a thought experiment to reinforce his logical point about DCA. He in no way is suggesting that we change the name of Disneyland at all.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. mycroft16 on Twitter

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