October 16

Dauntless Disney's New Adventure

By Peter Bart
Editor in chief of Variety and
the co-host of long-running AMC talk show Shootout.

How’s this for courage? Disney is forging ahead with its plan to double its billion dollar bet on its California Adventure theme park, the pour cousin of Disneyland. Recession be damned, the pricey makeover will pursue a 1920s theme – the period when old Walt first arrived in Southern California.

A gritty, idiosyncratic character, Walt Disney was almost wiped out by the Great Depression. His bankers and even his brother, Roy were furious at Walt when he decided in the early 1930s, with unemployment topping 20%, to make his first full-length animated feature film. Roy essentially stopped talking to his brother when Walt budgeted $250,000 for his feature – then escalated the cost to $1.7 million.

Of course, it turned out to be “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Bob Iger won’t face that sort of opposition by moving ahead on his theme park makeover, even though the recession may batter theme park attendance more harshly than any other sector of the entertainment business. Disney cancelled the Fantasyland makeover at Disneyland in Florida.

The new California Adventure however will feature a re-creation of the Cathay Circle Theater, a Red Car Trolley, a nostalgic ‘20s style Paradise Pier amusement area and a 12 acre Cars Land that will bring the town of Radiator Springs to life (the Setting for the animated hit “Cars”).

I think old Walt would be thrilled to learn all this. He once gave me a personal guided tour of Disneyland. Listening to his descriptions, it was clear he built the park for parents, not children. And the new theme park sounds like grownups of all ages will find a lot to relish.
Dauntless Disney’s New Adventure - Peter Bart - Blog on Variety.com