He wasn't at the big news event Wednesday, but John Lasseter's fingerprints are all over what will be the new and improved Disney's California Adventure theme park.
Disney CEO Robert Iger and parks and resorts chairman Jay Rasulo, speaking with reporters at the Imagineering building in Glendale, unveiled their five-year plan for California Adventure and said that by the time they're finished it might sport a new name.
Central to the upgrade is Cars Land. Based on the Disney-Pixar film "Cars," the 12-acre parcel will be Disney's first "land" in any of its theme parks to be dedicated to a single product. The E-ticket attraction in Cars Land will be Radiator Springs Racers.
Also coming to California Adventure is Toy Store Mania, dubbed a "high-energy 4-D" ride based on the first Disney-Pixar film, 1995's "Toy Story."
Lasseter, who directed "Cars" and "Toy Story," was named principal creative adviser at Walt Disney Imagineering -- where theme park attractions are designed -- in April 2006, when Disney purchased Pixar. Lasseter has said from the beginning that Pixar-themed attractions are a high priority.
"We have the benefit of having John's great storytelling skills involved in almost everything we do at Imagineering," Rasulo said. Iger and Imagineering executive vp Bob Weis also took turns praising Lasseter as well as Pixar technology, which will play a big role in the building of several new attractions.
The executives on hand wouldn't say how much the company is spending on the improvements, but they didn't deny speculation that it's about $1.1 billion. A significant amount, considering the original price tag for building California Adventure, along with Downtown Disney and the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, was about $1.4 billion.
Experts have been saying for years that California Adventure has been underperforming expectations because it lacks Disneyland's iconic draw. It's estimated that Disneyland boasted 15 million visitors last year compared with 6 million for the neighboring California Adventure.
Rasulo said California Adventure, 55 acres now, will grow about seven acres, and some attractions, like the Golden Dreams Theater, will disappear.