This thread is not for or against DCA. I know this is a hot button topic around here. Those of you who are tired of discussing the DCA pros and cons may want to just skip this thread.
I am not part of the DCA Haters or DCA Lovers Club and have no emotional stake in the answer to this question.
My reason for asking this now is an outgrowth of my first ever visit to WDW in June. I am a DL vet, having visited the park every year or so over the last 40 years. I have been a fairly regular reader of MiceChat for the last 18 months, as well as several other DLR forums. I have visited DCA on four trips over the last few years and have had enough time to form some definite opinions about it.
It is no secret that DCA has not met Disney's attendance expectations. The reasons for this have been debated elsewhere and it is not relevant to my question as stated in the thread's title.
The most reliable attendance numbers for 2005 North American theme parks can be found here: www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/200512/2/
Historical attendance numbers at all Disney parks can be found here: www.scottware.com.au/theme/guide.htm - click on the “When to Go/Attendance graphs” on the left menu and from there click on the “Annual Visitor Totals” link.
From reading MC and other forums, it appears there are a number of knowledgeable people who believe that DCA misses the mark of a Disney park. Much of the criticism can be found on Darkbeer's informative thread which has stretched out for the last 12 months. Here is a link:
I have no idea of the accuracy of the reports of the alleged PowerPoint presentation and the "invent a new theme park over a weekend in Colorado" retreat. I tend to believe Darkbeer's assertions, FWIW.
I have a sense that the DCA naysayers take their position on principle. In others words, because of the Powerpoint presentation, the Colorado retreat, the "build DCA cheap" history, the "off the shelf rides" claims, the $2.1 to $1.4 billion budget cut, and the attendance problems, they think DCA is not up to snuff compared to other Disney parks.
Before going to WDW, I was aware of the above point of view. Even though I did not think DCA was as bad as some made it out to be, I have to admit that I was prepared for DCA to fall short of the WDW parks. We were at WDW for 10 days in June 2006, and I spent two full days at each of the four parks.
Preceding my June 2006 trip to WDW I spent lots of time over six months on WDW Internet forums gathering information. And along the way I came into the circle of a number of WDW vets who have visited DLR recently. Their perspective on DCA was interesting - and unanimous, BTW - as discussed later in this thread.
I have not been to the Disney parks in Paris or Asia and thus can only speak to the DLR and WDW parks. There is a lot of personal opinion in the following, but here is what I have concluded.
1. Putting all of its checkered history and attendance problems aside, DCA actually holds up pretty well compared to the WDW parks.
2. DCA is most similar to Disney MGM Studios
3. DCA is not the only Disney park to have some awful rides
4. MK (Magic Kingdom) is of course most similar to DL and thus is not comparable to DCA.
Many people rave about Epcot (opened in 1981/1982), but if you have never been you would not believe how many cheesy rides they have. They really outdo DCA in the cheesy ride department. The rides like Journey Into Imagination may not be "off-the-shelf", but that does not help them avoid being cheesy.
Epcot of course also has World Showcase, which is a neat place. But I have to admit the relationship between WS and Disney strengths and history is lost on me. Where is the Disney magic here? I would have to say that if I had to decide between DCA and Epcot, DCA would win.
Disney MGM Studios (opened in 1989) was easily my second favorite park at WDW and happens to be the most similar to DCA. It had a really fun atmosphere. Apparently it was built in response to Universal Studios opening their Orlando park. It is a little short on rides, but it has several cool shows. Like DCA, it also has some dead areas of the park - I do not understand the Streets of America at all. Looks like wasted space to me. And there are some awful rides at MGM well - with "Sounds Dangerous" being one of the worst Disney attractions I have ever experienced. I would choose MGM over DCA - but not by a lot.
Disney's Animal Kingdom (opened in 1998) is kind of a strange park for Disney. It was built in response to other live animal parks in Florida such as Busch Gardens, I believe. AK was also a neat park, but the link to Disney strengths and history was not obvious to me. There are two really cool rides there, IMO. The new Expedition Everest is top notch, and I also liked the Dinosaur ride. After that it was a lot like visiting a zoo. And here again DCA does not have a lock on off-the-shelf rides, as the DinoLand area at AK has a carnival-type atmosphere and rides that reminded me a lot of DCA's Paradise Pier - but worse. Bottom line? I would take DCA over AK in a heartbeat.
5. I have seen some on MC make claims to the effect that WDW vets think DCA falls short of Disney parks. From the tons of time I spent on WDW forums, and the people I met online there, I found the opposite to be true. Invariably I saw WDW vets post something to the effect "We had a blast at DCA. I do not understand why people say such negative things about it". I saw this both in public posts and in PMs to me. So claims that WDW vets frown upon DCA no longer hold water for me.
6. Many DL vets make a big deal about how DCA could never "stand on its own". And they may very well be right. But I think the same is true of the WDW parks. The only park there that could stand on its own, IMO, is Magic Kingdom. But that is really beside the point. With WDW and DLR, Disney is trying to provide a cumulative experience where the parks reinforce each other and people stay for more days to have a wider experience (and spend more money ). So their parks do not have to stand alone. It is just not fair to single out DCA for not being able to stand alone.
7. There are many WDW vets who dislike and/or avoid some of the WDW parks. MK is the only park there that seems universally loved. But there are some naysayers for Epcot. And there are many naysayers for MGM or AK (Animal Kingdom). Some WDW vets skip these parks, or plan to visit them for a half-day because they think they should at least visit them since they are there.
8. WDW vets consider MGM and AK one-day or even half-day parks - similar to what DL vets think about DCA. If being a one-day or half-day park is a Disney sin, then MGM and AK are also both guilty.
I was surprised at how well DCA compared to the WDW parks. If I had to rank the six Disney parks at DLR and WDW, they would come out as follows:
1. DL - hands down
DCA has problems that Disney needs to solve. But even with its checkered history, budget cuts and the much maligned Paradise Pier and Bugs Land rides - which seem to bother DL vets so much - DCA does not fall short of Disney parks when measured against the ones in Florida.
All agreements and disagreements are welcome, but please keep the emotional mud slinging down and give thoughtful and well reasoned responses.