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  1. #1

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    How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    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:

    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9078

    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.


    Overall Conclusion

    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
    2. MK
    3. MGM
    4. DCA
    5. Epcot
    6. AK

    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.
    Last edited by HydroGuy; 08-26-2006 at 09:29 PM. Reason: Fixed several typos

  2. #2

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    I was going to chime in with yet another source regarding DCA's overall attendance and how it added to the profits of Disneyland, but I see your quote:

    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.
    ...and I agree. I think that while DCA could have done better, I think, financially and in terms of popularity, part of the strategy was to get visitors to extend their stay at Disneyland, instead of having "one day at [pick one: Universal/Sea World/Knotts/Magic Mountain/the beach], and the increase in the Disneyland's resorts profits show this has worked somewhat.

    But since your question calls for a different analysis, I'll just comment by saying this: I developed a new appreciation for DCA after visiting Legoland, and Universal Studios Hollywood, for the first time this year. The pricing is similar, but DCA has much, much much more to do for a visitor, and I don't think I realized the "good things" about DCA until visiting other parks, since I had just compared it to Disneyland before then.

  3. #3

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    IF ... DCA were another land inside DL we'd all love it. Alas it's considered marketed as a park on it's own so it can't help but disappoint at least a little (or a lot depending on your opinion.) Personally I love the place and could spend (and have spent) a day in DCA without ever traveling across the Esplanade to DL itself.

    I like the themes, some of DLRs BEST rides are in DCA and the dining is fun. We enjoy DCA very much. And we never stayed in a Disney hotel until we started visiting DCA and the bug to stay in GCH. Now we stay in the hotels several times a year because we enjoy the entire Disney experience.

    DCA isn't perfect but it is
    ours "our's" (So. California's) and I'm excited at what the future will bring this little, underrated gem in the Disney Crown. We visited WDW last year and it was nice but we really prefer DLR and DCA is a HUGE part of that for us.

    1. DL
    2. DCA
    3. MK
    4. MGM
    5. AK
    6. EPCOT
    Last edited by Uzmati; 08-27-2006 at 01:31 PM. Reason: added numerically ordered list ...
    IMO - YMMV - FYIGM


  4. #4

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    DCA is like Disneyland. Both parks started off bad and over time they slowly became better. I think with the big DCA revamp Iger is planning, DCA may become a really good park and definatly better than it is now. Just give it some time .

    Since I have only been to Disneylandand DCA, I say it is not as good as DL, but I still think it has a chance.

  5. #5

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    As far as second gates go, DCA is actually a pretty good park. It has enough rides to keep one entertained but I think the biggest problem is the lack of theming in some parts of the park. It lacks that immersion level that Disney fans like you and me look for in a Disney theme park.

    Look at Tokyo DisneySea and then DCA, and you'll see what I mean. Without a doubt the most beautiful theme park ever created, and one of Disney's greatest parks yet. Gives Disneyland a run for its money. All it's lacking right now is attractions, but in a few years I can see Tokyo DisneySea becoming the best theme park in the world.
    ~ Tokyo DisneySea’s Arabian Coast at nighttime ~


  6. #6

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    DCA is like Disneyland. Both parks started off bad and over time they slowly became better.
    I somewhat agree. California Adventure didn't start off bad, it just didn't have many attractions, over time it got a hell of a lot better.

    Disneyland on the other hand in my opinion was nothing to rave about if it was the exact same as it was in the year 1955. Fantasyland was a glorified circus, Tomorrowland didn't have fantastic and futuristic architecture it now has. Frontierland had one attraction that was the Twain, Adventureland was probably the best out of all of them because of the Jungle Cruise which has been severely re-done over years.

  7. #7

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    Here is some additional info...

    I see some criticisms about the rides at DCA. Some of the WDW parks do not have very many rides. Each park there has at least a couple really good rides, but there are also many that are not that great. Here is some info I put together in a thread on another forum.
    ...it is somewhat ambiguous what is and is not a ride, and I had to use some judgement. I have it all in an Excel spreadsheet and think I was fair to both parks. Here is what I came up with:

    WDW - 72
    DLR - 66

    Hmmm, four parks at WDW but only 6 more rides. That is a very interesting. Here is how they break down:

    MK - 32
    Epcot - 19
    MGM - 10
    AK - 11

    DL - 41
    DCA - 25
    A copy of my Excel spreadsheet for WDW rides is here http://hydroguy.smugmug.com/gallery/1819958/1/90919696, and DLR rides is here http://hydroguy.smugmug.com/gallery/1819958/1/90919695

  8. #8

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by TDR_Fan View Post
    Look at Tokyo DisneySea and then DCA, and you'll see what I mean. Without a doubt the most beautiful theme park ever created, and one of Disney's greatest parks yet. Gives Disneyland a run for its money. All it's lacking right now is attractions, but in a few years I can see Tokyo DisneySea becoming the best theme park in the world.
    I would really like to do this some day. It took me 43 years to get to WDW this year. Hopefully it will not take me as long to get to TDS.

  9. #9

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    I should have added these thoughts to my OP.

    1. A number of people criticize DCA because they believe a theme park celebrating California and located in California is misguided and not likely to appeal to Californians in particular.

    2. A number of people criticize Disney for charging the same entrance price for DCA as for DL, whereas DL is clearly a much better park. It should be noted that WDW has the same policy as DLR in this regard.

  10. #10

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    I think it's refreshing to see someone try to evaluate DCA objectively. Since we love to hate it so, it's hard for it to get a fair appraisal.

    I haven't been to WDW since the 80's, and all we had back then were MK and Epcot, so I can't take part in the comparison to other Disney parks. My gut feeling, though, is that it would fare better in our collective opinion if it were part of WDW instead of DLR. It just doesn't seem worthy of standing next to its big brother, the park that started it all.

    If you take it out of that context, though, it does have some great shows and rides. Alladin is very impressive. And IMO, Soarin' is one of the best Disney attractions ANYWHERE. The park suffers from incoherent theming -- if they can address that, it will be a very fine park.

  11. #11

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by HydroGuy View Post
    ...people criticize DCA because they believe a theme park celebrating California and located in California is misguided and not likely to appeal to Californians in particular.....
    I've heard this criticism, and I don't buy it. I've talked to a lot of out of town tourists (and remember that studies show that people outside of California spend more at Disneyland Resort than locals), who say that they like the theme - that it's nice to learn a little more about California while they are there. And if it keeps locals feeling like they had a touch of San Francisco, or the redwoods, or the beach piers of Santa Cruz, Pismo, or Santa Monica, they might be more willing to spend an extra day at the DL resort, instead of elsewhere. Knotts has an "old California" theme that works well for them, and of course there is little difference between Universal Studios and the "Hollywood Pictures Backlot" theme of at least part of DCA.

    Do you really go to Frontierland or Critter Country just because of a theme? Of course not - you go there because of what is there in terms of things to do.

  12. #12

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    What's interesting is that DCA beats Universal Studios California in attendance. DCA is obviously doing well enough to keep people away from it's competitors. The park has it's flaws, but it also has really great areas. I love the giant painting of the street that makes hollywood blvd. (at first glance) look very very long. Grizzly peaks is the tallest river ride in the world. And also (in my opinion ) the BEST in the world. The queue, when being completely used, is really nice. Since the trees have grown in that area you can really believe that you are in the mountains. Not to mention the great waterfalls/desing of the area. All they need is an animatronic bear to swoop it's paw at you somwhere durring the ride. There really is good things in DCA, and a lot of "okay" things that have potential.

    Great thread, HydroGuy.

  13. #13

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    Quote Originally Posted by Frogberto View Post

    Do you really go to Frontierland or Critter Country just because of a theme? Of course not - you go there because of what is there in terms of things to do.
    GREAT point.

    *claps*

  14. #14

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    I think with the big DCA revamp Iger is planning, DCA may become a really good park and definatly better than it is now. Just give it some time .
    whats he planning?

    i think that DCA is a little lacking in my opinion they only have three good rides, [tower, screamin, soarin] plus those free tortilas [man those are good]
    doombuggiesDISNEYROYALTY

  15. #15

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    Re: How Does DCA Really Compare To Other Disney Parks?

    It sucks...good day


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