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  1. #1

    • Darkbeer
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    February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Future

    So we have reached California Adventure’s Sixth Anniversary, and currently it is still having problems, but there are strong rumors of Major Improvements and Changes in the future.

    We will talk about the future at the end, but let’s look at the park as of February 8th, 2007.

    Much of the park is still closed to general Park Guests.

    In the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area, the Former Millionaire Building, now called Stage 17 is just used for Special events and Private Parties. The same holds true for the former Hollywood and Dine location. Two large facilities fairly close to each other. The Hyperion now sits unused two days a week.

    Over at the Bountiful Valley Farm area, Caterpillar has pulled out of being a sponsor, and the Stage area has been removed, leaving a very dead space.

    Next door, in the Pacific Wharf area, the largest eatery still sits empty and unused (Lucky Fortune Cookery), though it did get some use during the Food and Wine Festival.

    And right next to that you have the Golden Vine Winery Wine Bars, the larger of the two (the west end) has sat unused (except for some special events a few days a year) for years, along with the Season of the Vine attraction, which is hardly ever open. Last Sunday, we had a group of 20 that asked for someone to come over and show us the movie, and were told that it was closed.

    On the other side of the closed Wine Bar is the San Francisco area, with a empty building, last time it was used by Guests was during the X-Games promotion, as an arcade.

    The Cove Bar is just open three days a week in the off-season.

    The Entertainment Corridor only has a Parade go down it 3 days a week during the off-season and the Electrical Parade is only offered about 4 months out of the year.

    DCA still has shorter park operating hours and much less entertainment and character interaction than Disneyland. The only new things that DCA got in the last 12 months were the High School Musical and the Lighting McQueen and Mater Meet and Greet, plus “PUSH” getting relocated from Tomorrowland.

    Less than a year ago, Disney's chief executive officer, Robert Iger went on record during the company's annual stockholder meeting on March 10th, 2006, when someone asked about a potential third park being built in Anaheim. "We're still working to assure the second gate is successful", Iger said, referring to California Adventure. "In the spirit of candor, we have been challenged."

    What is the challenge? Well, it has been reported that the Senior Execs now are looking into “The DCA Problem” and how to fix it.

    But the main problem is currently attendance, or more precisely, paid admission revenue.

    Currently we have major discounts and promotions to try and draw guests into DCA.

    The current marketing program, “Rockin’ Both Parks” was rushed and changed multiple times the weeks before it took effect, including logos and now a revised Television commercial that features the “Dreams” music instead of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with once again revised logos. The marketing program was designed to match up with the return of the 2fer ticket, which Disney still markets as “Enjoy Disneyland® Park on one day and Disney's California Adventure® Park on another day FREE!".

    Then we have the severe discounting offered to guests that will buy a Three Day or longer ParkHopper (Currently a 3 day ParkHopper is just $7 more than a 2 day ParkHopper). This has Disney looking for guests to take a look at DCA while they are there, but not much additional admission revenue paying for the park operation.
    Disney also does force some folks to go into DCA. First during certain times, if a Cast Member wants to sign in a guest, they need to use the DCA turnstiles, not Disneyland’s. Also there are less Cast Member Blockout days for themselves and guests at DCA than at Disneyland.

    Add the Annual Passport program, in which Southern Californians can get an AP for $154 or less for an entire year.

    Now, DCA did get a boost in its attendance count due to the expansion of the Mickey’s Halloween treat event, which had a larger daily attendance this year.
    Also, Disney was very pro-active on days of high attendance at Disneyland, stopping one day ticket sales to Disneyland earlier, but offering a special DCA ticket for the same price, that allowed a guest to visit DCA, but then enter Disneyland after a certain set time printed on the ticket (they spread the time around to not have a large group at any one time try to enter Disneyland, but times like after 4 PM, 5 PM and 6 PM were common). This helped DCA attendance, as they count the first park visited in a day.

    Disney doesn’t issue official attendance counts, but they do talk about percentage increases and decreases by the “resort” in investor information and phone calls. In the conference call on November 9th, 2006, they reported that the Disneyland Resort attendance was down 7% in the 4th Quarter (as compared to 4th quarter 2005). The Fourth Quarter covers the months of July, August and September. Of course, the 50th celebration was winding down, so it wasn’t a big surprise that attendance drop as compared to 2005. In the February 7th, 2007 conference call, it was reported that the Disneyland Resort attendance was down 5% for the October thru December 2006 period compared to the same timeframe in 2005.

    So the vast majority of DCA’s attendance are folks who paid very little to enter DCA (The 2fer, Advance Purchase ParkHoppers, Annual Passes and Cast Member sign ins and comps). On the other hand, Disneyland sells a lot of single day tickets to its park, bringing in a lot more revenue on a “per guest” basis than DCA does.

    We know of one major project in the works, “Toy Story Mania!” which is being built and opens in 2008. So far, everything that has been announced sounds like Disney is using new technology and including advanced AA’s, things that are sorely lacking currently at DCA. Also, part of the budget is to help plus the area around the entrance to “Toy Story Mania”.

    This is all fine and good, but Disney did learn that just opening one new attraction will just help push more Annual Passholders thru the gates to check out the new ride when they opened Tower of Terror and Monsters, Inc. Currently both attractions have short waits the majority of the time. The park is still not seen as having a full days worth of “value”.

    Disney has known they need to have a much stronger Extreme Makeover of the park, and rumors have the decision to spend over $650 million, about the same amount of money as what it costs to build the original DCA. And some of the current rumors are getting positive spin on the internet.

    The Walt Disney Company Annual Stockholders Meeting will be held Thursday, March 8th and rumors have the Board coming up to a final decision on the proposed plans and that an announcement will be made to the major investment and needed changes to DCA around the same time, maybe even at the meeting itself.

    So we should have some great things to discuss, upcoming new attractions and the possible re-branding of the park when the project is completed. Maybe then Disney can get more than a few folks a day to pay full price to visit the park just south of Disneyland

    So Disney will let the day pass by without celebration at the Park, just another normal off-season weekday with limited hours and entertainment.

    Here is hoping that we can spend more time a year from now (and 4 years from now) with all the work being done to help make DCA more deserving to be called “Disney’s” California Adventure.

    And then, Disney can celebrate the changes when they can reduce and eliminate all the discounts and the CM’s selling tickets can truly ask, “You want a One Day ticket, which park would you like to visit?” and not get just one answer…..
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  2. #2

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Nice post, darkbeer.

    I hope that one day I could actually finish my day at DCA because I would actually like to do that... but their hours just don't allow it.


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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Thanks for sharing. I hope we see a significant change in DCA's future. It better be good.

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Thanks for all of that great info! It really showed me how much DCA needs help

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    This is a wonderfully written post, Darkbeer, but I would disagree with one aspect. Visitors who use a park hopper to visit DCA are no paying no less, nor are they getting something at a discounted price, as compared to Disneyland admission. I recently visited both parks with a six day parkhopper. We spent almost equal time in both parks...maybe 60/40 with two extra weekend nights at Disneyland when they were open very late. Just like at WDW, the resorts encourage park hopper tickets and out of town tourists like me. We paid "full price" (no one would expect us to pay for a single day ticket each day would they?), and we had a wonderful time at both parks. I think it's misleading to say that park hoppers (and even season pass holders) are discounted admissions as compared to complimentary admissions and 2fer discounts. The difference in single day ticket sales is a much fairer comparrison.

  6. #6

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    But if you look at the history of the 2 park ticket program, you will see that original Disney was not going to have ParkHoppers for most guests, very similar to how the Ticket Program at Toyko Disneyland works.

    You can buy Multi-Day tickets at a small discount, but the tickets are good for just one park per day. Disney originally only sold ParkHopper tickets to those folks staying in one of the three Disney owned Hotels.

    After major adjustments in the first year, including making all Multi-Day Tickets ParkHoppers, they started a "Two days free" program for Advance Purchase tickets. But due to abuse on eBay (people selling the unused days), they went to this current system of very cheap extra days if you stay 3 or more days. Currently it is $7 for the third day, making it $43 a day, or half the cost of a One Day ParkHopper. One of the major complaints was the fact that Disneyland Park lost income as the Senior Managers shifted some of the ticket revenue away from Disneyland and into DCA's budget, just to show the park doing better than it was.

    Many people pay full price, for example, Universal Studios Hollywood sells a lot of Full Price tickets, plus One Day special tickets at $99 and $149 for a single day for VIP style access.

    There is a lot of good history regarding the first years of DCA in this thread...

    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9078
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  7. #7

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    I follow your reasoning, but I think what you believe should be the "ideal" ticketing situation...paying full price for either park is not realistic. The model of what is likely the best scenaria of ticketing for a multi-park "resort" is exemplified by WDW and Universal Orlando where you pay for all parks in one ticket and multiple days become cheaper per day encouraging longer stays and more spending while one day one park visitors pay a premium for the experience and their lack of in-park spending over time. This is what the Disneyland Resort is doing with multi-day park hoppers. Using your logic, then WDW and Universal Orlando are giving away admissions left and right when they should be charging per park per day. That's just not realistic for encouraging vacations.

  8. #8

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    But one big difference, and one Disney failed to take into considerations when they built DCA. The market is a LOT different in Anaheim than in Orlando.

    Disney right now is basically trying to get folks to arrive in town on a plane, get on a bus (free of course) to get onto WDW property, and then try and keep the guests there, making a lot of money since they own the vast majority of hotels and restaurants on property.

    Anaheim was chosen for the location for Disneyland mainly because it was the predicted center point for Southern California once it "grew up", and that is exactly what happened.

    That means a lot of locals (within a few hours drive) come down for the day and don't stay in the area. Also, most of the hotels and restaurants in the area are not owned by Disney (or the fact that Disney collects rent, such as the places in DtD). This makes a big difference in the Financial Model. Disney needs a larger "upfront" fee from Guests, and currently they are paying less per day than at WDW, even with all the "discounts", since they have added fees that many folks pick for the multi day tickets in Florida. Also the CM's in California make more money due to Minimum Wage and related employment costs (Workers Comp and Unemployment).

    Yes, folks like Knott's and Six Flags Magic Mountain can operate on around $30 per day in admission (the typical discounted rate), but currently DCA is making less than $30 a day, as the typical breakdown of admissions, other than Single Day, Single Park tickets is about 1/3'rd to DCA, with 2/3'rds being allocated to Disneyland.

    I think what Disney would like to have in Southern California is a minor discount on Multi Day tickets, such as $63 for a One Day Single Park Ticket, $115 for a Two Day, Single Park Ticket, $160 for a three day Single Park ticket (or do it like Tokyo, the first two days must be a Single Park, the third day and longer the guest can ParkHopper).
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  9. #9

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Very informative overview Darkbeer, thanks a lot. Seems like it was just yesterday DCA "celebrated" its rather lackluster 5th. And it seems as though tomorrow it will be no different. Yet as you say, if the things we keep hearing about are true, better California Adventures are on the horizon.

    In the eight visits I made to the resort so far this year, I have entered DCA just twice. As it stands today, when I make it past security checkpoint into the esplanade, I do give it a fair chance when I'm deciding. "DCA? Hmm...

    ...Naah! Next time, for sure!"

  10. #10

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Great post, Darkbeer.

  11. #11

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Great report. I love all this information.






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  12. #12

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    I still have a lot of hope for DCA and what the future holds in the next 4 years...just in time for it's 10th anniversary! I've been a big fan of DCA since day one, and will always continue to enjoy it and keep that faith that it will become what it was supposed to be!

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    It is easy to look and the many short-comings of DCA. Eisner, Pressler and the others involved in this project just didn't get it.

    I have to say, my kids do like the park a lot and despite its rather meager offerings, would rather spend time there than at Knotts or Magic Mountain as the environment isn't very nice.

    The encouraging news is that most of the egos involved with the concept of this park are gone and new leaders are willing to admit that much needs to be done.
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  14. #14

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    John over at The Disney Blog saw the OP, and has some very interesting comments...

    http://www.thedisneyblog.com/tdb/200...rnia_adve.html


    Disney fans have known what the problems were from the moment plans were leaked to the internet. The plans for the park were conceived during an executive retreat in Aspen. Disneyland President Paul Pressler and rising WDI star Barry Braverman (known for his ability to build attractions on the cheap) came up with the idea for the park during a brief walk down to the corner. There was no story, no need to be filled (other than the company's coffers), and no theme park design experience in the original group. Then they handed the park off to the a new group of Imagineers who were brought in from Disney's Development Company (the folks who built Hotels and Resorts). Essentially, they were flying blind.

    There were three main problems. One, on Michael Eisner's orders they went cheap. They spent $1.4 billion expanding the resort, but only around $650 million of that went to the new park. Tokyo Disney Sea, which opened later in 2001 spent $1.6 billion just on the park. There are a host of problems that come with going cheap. No birm (or creative building placement) to block out the outside world, over use of lightly themed buildings and off the shelf attractions, very little shade, and more. Some of this is easy to fix (better themeing) and some of it isn't. The lack of a birm let's Disney's hotels, neighboring hotels, and the convention center loom over the park constant reminders of the decidedly unfun world they're trying to escape.
    Much more at the link...
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  15. #15

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    Re: February 8th, 2007 – DCA’s 6th Anniversary – Current issues and Hope for the Futu

    Here is a classic post I wrote just 1 year ago today...

    DCA's 5th Anniversary, a few thoughts and observations

    http://www.micechat.com/forums/showthread.php?t=19609

    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.

    OK, lets head thru Sunshine Plaza, and bear to the left...

    We are now walking down the "Entertainment Corridor", DCA originally was supposed to be "Hip and Edgy", and couldn't use terms from Disneyland like Parade Route.... Whatever

    So now we have Grizzly Peak Mountain on the right, more on this later, lets stay to the left....

    We are walking up to the Bug's Land area, this originally was supposed to be a working farm and another Orlando movie import "It's Tough to be a Bug", once again, they originally installed FASTPASS machines, but removed them for the lack of need. The movie is cute, but Disney made a major mistake with DCA, and that is the failure to take into consideration the amount of local visitors that visit Disneyland. About 2/3'rds of the visitors are locals (considered to be within a day's drive round trip). When Walt Disney decided where to build Disneyland, one of the major focuses was to pick a location that would end up being the center of the Southern California area. And they did a great job, as they were only a few miles off the current center of the region. These are folks who return more often, and make day trips. Movies (even the Disneyland version such as HISTA) have a low repeatability rate. Also, making Day Trips, many of these folks know and prefer Disneyland, and will choose that for a day, and especially with the current ticket pricing, just opt for the cheaper one day, one park ticket. DCA is known by many as a half-day park, and if they really wanted to get full price, they should have spent more time planning before building DCA.

    Getting back to the area, the budget was tight, and Disney needed something to fill up this area, so they added some crops and a water play area. It was considered by many to be weak. Even today, most of the eateries are still closed due to lack of demand.

    In response to the initial complaints about lack of things for kids to do (and there were lots of complaints, in fact, the first summer, they offered the kids tickets for free if you bought a discounted Adult ticket, and had special stands set up where kids could get stickers and color as a quick fix, plus adding appearances by Disney Characters, originally not part of the plan, instead they had their own characters such as DeVine and Three Bags Full, which have gone to Yester-DCA Park), Disney decided to build a kids area, which turned out to be the Flik's Fun Fair area. They re-themed the Farm area to just flower beds and a few statures of Pixar characters.

    The new area is richly themed (another original complaint about DCA), but many find the rides lacking. Two particular ones are the Bumper Cars, with a high height requirement for kids (no very kid friendly), and the Heimlich's Chew-Chew Train, a ride which is fun, but way too short. If they run two trains, you spend more time waiting for the first train to leave the station then the actual ride. Also, another water play area was added, even though there was one just outside in the old farm area, and another major one we will see later. Many see the use of the water areas as a cheap, easy out to fill space, and while one or even two is nice for those hot summer days, three does seem to be overkill.

    Before entering the Pacific Wharf area, lets go back to the right side of the street, and the Golden Vineyard area. Originally built for the Robert Mondavi Winery as a showcase for their wines, the company pulled out just after 6 months of being in business. A small attraction remains, "Seasons of the Vine", a movie about wine-making, but is hardly ever open.

    One of the two wine bars remains open for business, but the restaurant areas got an major overhaul. The upstairs fine dining Vineyard Room is now run by Disney with different chefs, but the basic offerings are the same.

    The downstairs area originally had a nice deli, but was converted to a downstairs restaurant with sit down service. Disney did a good job with this conversion, but many do miss the choices the deli offered. Also you can see the large west tasting area which has been closed since the first few days of operation.

    Let's head over to Pacific Wharf. This is another "mini-area" which has a lot of folks scratching their heads. What it ended up being was a large food court area, with two "factory" tours where you can see tortillas and Sourdough bread being made. The factory tours are counted as park attractions, even though they are basically a commercial for the sponsoring companies. The other half of the area was made up for 4 different food choices, though two of them have closed due to lack of business. A Margarita Stand and a Beer Truck are also in the area to complement the food choices. Interesting story, when the park first opened, the Beer Truck was not installed, as Disney did not want the Media to focus on it. Right after the Opening Weekend activities, a crane was used to place the Beer Truck in its current location. Also, Disney really tried to make a deal with one of the Major Beer Companies to be a sponsor, but could not come to terms with any of them. At the last minute, Karl Strauss, a San Diego Micro-brewery was invited to become the official beer of the Park, and now has seven types of beer available to guests. (And the guests were the winners on this issue, as they got a true taste of a good California product, compared to mass produced stuff!).

    Time to leave the Pacific Wharf area and to the San Francisco court yard, we will stay to the left and head to the Paradise Pier area, and will return to the San Francisco area later.

    As we walk up the "pier", you will see a gift shop on the left, and "Ariel's Grotto" on the right. The restaurant was originally built by Wolfgang Puck and called Avalon Cove. It was a fine dining option, but one with limited appeal. Why was it on the inside of the park gates, where you had to pay over $40 just to get to the front door. This is another restaurant that made more sense to have in the Downtown Disney area, especially with another Fine Dining choice just a few yards away in the Golden Vine Winery area.
    I remember the great Sushi and Clam Chowder they served in the upstairs bar area.

    Well, Wolfgang Puck pulled out of the park at the same time Robert Mondavi did, both of which reported multi-million ($10+) dollar losses. Disney took over and converted the downstairs main dining area into a Character Dining location. They still are trying to increase the amount of meals served here, as they have changed the Character selections a few times. The original set of Characters included Ariel in Mermaid form, who sat on a special cart, and first was pushed around to allow her to visit guests at their table. Then she was moved to a location near the main entrance, which didn't require her to be pushed except when entering and leaving the restaurant, the rest of the Characters were just a group of Disney Characters that changed depending on who was available. After a couple of years, Disney decided to allow Mickey Mouse to host a character meal for the first time, to help drive additional guests to eat. Well, after that decision was made, the execs looked at the price to rename the location to reflect Mickey replacing Ariel. Well, the signage was going to be very expensive, especially the original sign installed by Wolfgang Puck, and slightly modified by Disney to reflect the new name of "Ariel's Grotto". So it was decided to leave the name as is, and say "Ariel's Grotto featuring Captain Mickey and Friends". It was confusing, as guests kept asking where Ariel was.... The amount of business did not significally increase, so they came up with the current idea. Looking at WDW, they saw that the Princess Dining was always sold out at WDW, so let's try that, and we can have Ariel appear post-marriage in human form to eliminate the problems of transporting her around. So far, business has been decent, but not the sold-out situation you find at Orlando.

    The upstairs bar remained, and is operated by Disney, though they have cut back the hours of operation, especially during the off-season, with the bar only open on weekends. They also changed the food options, and Disney is enforcing a policy of not allowing items that could be considered "meal replacements", such as Garlic Fries in the bar.

    Next we will walk along the edge of the water (Ocean?), many folks think this area is nicer in the evening with all the lights shining, but with the shortened hours due to lack of visitors, not too many people get to see them during the off season.

    On the left we have California Screamin', a nice smooth roller coaster, but that is what it is, a roller coaster that you could find at any other park. You go over roof tops and over unlandscaped dirt, and have lots of views of the outside, including the convention center and back stage areas, things you don't find on any other Disney park coaster.

    After the coaster, we have a small merry-go-round, a couple of eateries, one which has been closed for good, and another which has been a hit, so much so, most of its menu was brought to Frontierland in Disneyland.

    On the left now is a group of Carny games... Many folks think they do not belong inside of a Disney park. On the right is the giant Sun Wheel, another nice ride, but you can find a wheel about the same size at the Orange County Fair each summer.

    Next is more shops on the left (a major complaint about the original park, too much emphasis on shops and food, and not enough on attractions).

    After a narrowing of the path, we have the Maliboomer on the left, a S&S Power Tower. Another ride you can find at other parks. Knott's Berry Farm has a much bigger version called Supreme Scream. Also, many folks complain about the "Scream Shields" that were placed on the ride, even though many folks think they are "Vomit Guards".

    After Maliboomer, we are transitioning to the Route 66 area, with two Minor rides on the right, the Orange Stinger and Jumpin Jellyfish.

    On the left we have a couple of restaurants, A Pizza Place, and Burger Madness, which serves McDonalds food at high prices.

    Also, we have another kids water play area, the s.s. rustworthy. Nicely themed, but not a major expense.

    After that, we have Mulholland Madness, a wild-mouse roller coaster. When it first opened, it was very rough, so much so, Disney medical staff pretty much just stayed at the attraction for the first few weeks until it was closed for modification to eliminate the constant minor injuries it was creating.

    On the right is the Golden Zepher, a nice looking ride, but a ride with major flaws. The original version couldn't operate even under light winds. They modified and beefed up the guide wires, but still today, moderate winds force the rides closure.

    On the left is more shops, and hidden behind some bushes, an entrance that was designed to help sell room at the Paradise Pier Hotel, a private entrance to the park. It closed down Labor Day, 2004 due to lack of use, and safety concerns for the few CM's that staffed the entrance.

    On the right is the Golden State Amphitheater, another underbuilt area. When Disney has tried to host concerts in this area, they have had to build stages, add additional seating and trim bushes and trees. Even with all that, the venue has major problem, including lack of shade. Nowadays, it pretty much sits unused.

    On the left is a building that looks like the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While a nice looking building on the outside, on the inside is an attraction that MANY folks find underwhelming, called Golden Dreams. The original park plans called for an AA attraction with a revolving stage that featured California history. What was finally delivered was a 20 minute film that is just that, a film, something you could watch on PBS on the TV at home. While there are some fans of the film, many feel it wasn't worth the time to watch it, especially in a park where you expect to find rides and attractions that are different than watching TV at home. Strong rumors have the film being relocated (due to contractial obligations) to a much smaller theater. Here is hoping they can find a good attraction to be placed in the Palace of Fine Arts.

    Let's make a left turn onto "Bathroom" row and the San Francisco area. On the right is a set of buildings that originally was going to feature artisans, but those plans fell through. The building has been used a couple of times, mainly as an video arcade, or for making Christmas Cards for a show called Luminaria, which only lasted one season, mainly since it was a rushed job and had many problems, including seating and viewing issues.

    As we come up to the Waterwheel, we will walk to the left. The right does offer another path, but it basically walks behind the Grizzly River Run loading area, and while has some nice detail, is nothing special and ends up at the GRR rental lockers.

    On the left is the Redwood Creek Play Area, the one major attraction that was designed for kids when the park opened. Mainly a place to let kids run off stored energy, nicely themed, but basically stuff you can find at a big city park.

    On the right is the river rapids ride, Grizzly River Run. This is another attraction that can be found at three other SoCal parks in similar form, though themed slightly differently. A nice ride in the hot summer days, though has limited appeal on those cool or cold off-season days.

    On the left is the Grand Californian Hotel, and a special entrance/exit that allows guests to grab some food or drink at the Hotel.

    As we continue on, we enter the last area of DCA, the Condor Flats area.

    This is not the largest area, and only houses one attraction, Soarin' over California.

    Before we get there, let me point out the area on the right, which is bathrooms and a smoking area. Interesting to note that the smoking area was added after the park opened, and was originally themed as the fuel storage area for the airplanes. Shortly after they made it a smoking area, someone got smart and had all the "fuel" references removed from the area....

    Getting back to Soarin' over California, it was the one "unique" attraction when DCA opened, and was a holdover from the WESTcot plans. While the entire pre-show queue area was cut from the budget, the actual attraction became a hit. Amazing that due to politics (Soarin' coming from the "old school" folks), the people in charge didn't expect the attraction to be a hit, and failed to build a decent queue outside the building. Shortly after opening, they had to build a temporary queue next to Taste Pilots Grill while they added to the original queue, both in the size, and to add shade (something the original plans failed in providing throughout the park). This attraction was so popular, it has been copied in Orlando, but of course, they have a nicer queue area.

    Then we have Taste Pilots Grill, one of the more popular restaurants in the park. The fixin bar for your sandwiches is a favorite of many, and was a test location for self service touch screen ordering, which continues today, though it has not yet spread to other locations.

    Then back to the Sunshine Plaza area......

    To finish up, DCA has had a lot of problems, many of which were caused by the way Disney designed the park (Rushed and with budget at the top of the list), or the way it was marketed. Some of the solutions have hurt the resort in general (the major one being the amount of discounted tickets that have to be offered to drive attendance to DCA), but hopefully the major changes that have happened in change of management, including the fact that the majority of senior management involved with the original plans for DCA have left the company bode well for the future of this park.

    Many folks working for the company think that only Major changes, and even a change in the park's name is what will fix the problems that DCA have become to the Anaheim resort.

    The next few years should be fun to watch as they seriously address the problems, and hopefully come up with some great solutions.

    You are right, I missed talking about the "entertainment" otherwise known as Parades. I mentioned the route, but since I was mentally walking thru the park, I missed them.

    The first attempt at Street Entertainment was Eureka, a parade that was different, but unique. I still like listening to the music on occasion, and watched it a few times, though not every time I visited.

    The return of the Main Street Electrical Parade was a serious marketing attempt to drive folks to DCA in 2001, and was seen as an "easy fix", though it did make a LOT of folks upset, especially those who bought the light bulbs from the last year at Disneyland.

    Block Party Bash started in May, and is seen by many folks as a "kids" parade, with lots of energy. Not too many people see any repeatability in it, and many folks have been seen walking away from the "event" after a few minutes, especially adults. Part of DCA problems is the fact that there isn't much for the "entire" family to enjoy at the same time, and IMHO Block Party Bash adds to it. Thank Goodness those ugly large Red Traffic Cones were removed from the Mickey & Friends Tram area, and the Main Entry Plaza advertising the roaming entertainment.

    And thank goodness I forgot to Mention the LARGE Chicken Head from late 2005, that was SCARY!!!!
    Check out my Theme Park Photos at http://darkbeer.smugmug.com

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