So tomorrow, February 8th, is the day Disney has decided to celebrate the day. Why not the first day of previews back in January???? Disneyland celebrates its Anniversary on the first (and only) preview day, instead of the first day open to the public, July 18th.....
So, let's "walk" around the park in a tour group, and make some comments about different areas and attractions...
We start at the Esplanade, well, that name didn't last long, as Disney decided that too many people didn't understand the word, and renamed the area the "Main Entry Plaza", and changed all the maps to reflect the new name.
And no look back at DCA can be complete without mentioning the ongoing marketing and ticket prices. Year one, the park was planned to stand by itself, very few people could get ParkHoppers, multi day tickets required you to pick one park for the day, and they stopped selling all new AP's.
Well, opening day was very quiet, the expected 38,000 guests turned out to be only 14,000, and Disneyland got 17,000 that day.
Attendance trends continued to be a lot smaller than Disney expected.
So much so, that after a few weeks, Disney started to expand the folks that could get ParkHopper tickets, brought back the AP program, and then the big promotion, for the Summer of 2001, Adults at the kids price, and the kid ticket for free. Then in the fall, the dropping of the AP prices to reflect the old Disneyland only AP price.
Over the last five years, we have seen a lot of Advance Purchase Multi-Day ParkHoppers, or "2 days free" to help drive tourist to stay and check out DCA, and locals have now come to expect to get into DCA for FREE! if you pay for Disneyland.
And then the marketing efforts, the Rockin' the Bay "Music" series (Disney wouldn't call it a concert series, since the sets were only about 40 minutes long), the X Games summer, Fiesta Latina, Soap Opera Weekends, and the ABC Primetime Preview weekend, all of which have been cancelled.
Now DCA isn't even mentioned in the current advertising for Monsters, Inc., just the fact it is at the Disneyland Resort. It makes you think that DCA was just designed for Disneyland's overflow (even though we know that wasn't the case).
OK, let's go inside and check out some memories.... We will walk around the park in a clockwise direction, pointing out some interesting facts.
As we walk thru the turnstiles, we hit one of the first memories for many folks... the "What IS that smell???" memory, and while I have heard it called different things, the correct smell is burnt coffee (roasted coffee beans). Someone decided to pump it out to the entry way. That is one of MANY decisions that will be questioned along the "tour"...
So at the end of the entry way, (watch out for the Kodak folks) we have the park's "weenie", the large sun and water fountain. While a nice feature, it is underwhelming as a park icon. Enjoy it while you can, looks like it will be removed and replaced with hopefully a better "weenie" in the near future (and maybe they can take the coffee roaster vents away at the same time!)
Off to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area, we have the nice archway, too bad they didn't build it like on the original plans, the ones that would have the arch being able to raise up during parades to allow tall floats to pass. Hollywood Blvd is a nice area, and makes a very nice backdrop for the parade. In fact, Disney did use it for the media shots when they had celebrities in parades for things like Soap Opera weekends and the ABC Primetime Preview weekends. Alas, they could only use automobiles and marching bands in the area.
Well, we will focus on the left hand side for right now....
So far, the only thing we have walked by are Gift Shops, and finally our first restaurant, but not even a restaurant, but a place that sells hot dogs, and allows you to sit on the sidewalk and eat them.
A little bit further, a turn to the left, and the first attraction of the park, Muppet*Vision 3D, for some reason, the folks who designed the park thought that these type of 3D movies would be real popular, so much so, they installed FASTPASS machines for them. They have been removed for lack of need/use. While a nice movie, it is a 10 year old movie featured in Orlando.
Then we have the first major expansion for the park, currently an empty building. In response to guests comments of lack of attractions, Disney rushed to build this building shortly after the park opened. In September, it was up and ready, featuring another Orlando import, the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire - Play It!" live show. For some reason, DCA did not get the pre-show they offer at Orlando though. The timing of this attraction was hurt by a couple of things, one was that the show was losing steam, as it was being overshown on the airwaves. The second, the scheduled Media opening of the attraction got overshadowed by September 11th. It did remain open for a few years, when it was closed due to entertainment cutbacks.
Next is maybe one of the parks biggest mistakes, and now one of the park future stars. Originally this building opened as a dark ride called Superstar Limo, but got the nickname of StupidStar Lame-O. A ride that had many flaws, first was the lack of sets, the majority of the ride, only one side of the attraction was used, leaving a blank wall on the other side, second was the use of celebrities. Most of these folks were already under contract to Disney/ABC, and were used not for the longevity as celebrities, but since they were easy (and cheap) to use. This made the ride a bunch of small sets with no real story behind it. Add to this the use of some very bizarre puppets, both in the pre-show, and on the actual ride, and it was just a strange ride that never got popular. So much so, that SSL was one of the shortest lasting attractions in Disney history. Then it sat unused for the last 4 years before getting totally rethemed (The original track and vehicles are still used). It just re-opened as a totally new attraction, Monsters, In.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue. This design is much more detail oriented, the entire ride is full of sets, using both sides of the track this time. Also, much consideration was used in the repeatability of the ride, using a few things to make each ride a bit different, and using a much better story line, with characters that have a much longer shelf life than the SSL celebrities. Hopefully more of the park will be plussed and enhanced in the future.
Over on the right is the Hollywood Backlot Stage. An area that has seen many different shows, though none have been a big hit. Also interesting to note, the original area had no shade structure, only after a couple of years of complaints did Disney add the large overhang roof over the seating area.
Back to the left, we have Stage 12. This originally was going to be one of the park's major restaurants, called Hollywood & Dine. Offering a few different types of food, it never caught on, especially since nothing else was going on in the area to help drive guests into the restaurant, it was closed after a year of use, and now is used for hosting private events, and has been placed behind a new wall. In front of that wall is the Studio Catering Company, offering sodas and snacks.
Now we are approaching the Hyperion Theater, another building with a story to tell.
First, many folks scratched their head when no real lobby was built, but instead an outdoor queue area, once again, without shade is being used. Supposedly part of the original plans was to offer not just shows for the park, but also the ability to offer special events and movie premiers in the facility. They did try one for Spy Kids 2, but had a lot of problems, including the lack of restrooms in the facility (OK for short shows, not good for 2 hour events). Adding restrooms and concession stands would have allowed better use of the building.
The original show, "Steps in Time" was such a fiasco, it was redone in just a few weeks due to the original reviews during the park previews. Steps in Time, version 2 wasn't much better, and was replaced by a shortened version of the Broadway hit "Blast". The show performed to larger crowds than Steps in Time, who found the show based on Marching Bands and hit music with a flair an enjoyable time. It remained until Disney figured out a show that would be more "Disney" that could draw crowds. That show was "Aladdin", which opened with large fanfare, using some well known Broadway actors. It was an initial hit, and helped bring back Annual Passholders for repeat shows. Currently, the show has lost some of its steam, partly due to the fact that it has been around for quite awhile now, and the fact that they have cut back on the well known actors. Everything runs its course, and it seems about time to replace this show with something new.
Next is another major addition to the park, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Once again, another Orlando transplant. Many folks feel that this version is a bit less than the Florida version. Also, folks questioned if this was the right type of attraction to add to the park, since many folks will not ride a thrill ride like this, and that maybe an E-ticket ride for the entire family would have been a better choice. In hindsight, they might have been right, as the attraction has not been a major driver of new attendance to the park.
Next is the Animation Building, if you can find the entrance. This has been one of the complaints, as the entrance isn't clearly marked. Disney has tried many things, including adding turnstiles, and a show on the street that ends with bringing in folks inside to meet characters. A lot of the building has been redone, adding new shows like Turtle Talk with Crush, and Drawn into Animation. Those who venture inside usually have fun, especially with the interactive exhibits on the lower level.
Just before we take a bathroom break in the area inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, lets talk about the last attraction in the area. Originally it was a restaurant named "Soap Opera Bistro", it was a sit down restaurant that featured actors playing Soap Opera scenes while having lunch or dinner. Once again in Hindsight, a place like this should have been in Downtown Disney instead of inside the park. Many folks are not interested in Soap Operas, so it was too narrow-casted for the guests entering the park. So it was closed, and converted to another Orlando import, a show designed for pre-schools that Disney's sees as synergy in promoting the shows it offers on the Disney Channel. And while the show is great for the pre-school set, most of the adults get bored quickly.
Lets take a break, and then we will return our tour of DCA.....