Two quick new items today that won't hold until the next update, plus a repeat of an answer from last Wednesday's Round-Up for those who may have missed it.

Got that Bloody Mary mixed now? Well then let's get going shall we? - Al

How Sweet it is...

Disney California Adventure is going through a metamorphosis that is unprecedented in the history of Disney theme parks, especially for a park that is barely 10 years old and has already enjoyed healthy expansion and investment over that first decade. Much has been made of the additional 1.2 Billion dollars being poured into the park during an accelerated timeframe, and executives right up to CEO Bob Iger have had to publicly admit it’s all an attempt to fix a park that never met expectations. While that 1.2 Billion dollar mega-project continues, smaller changes unassociated with the makeover itself continue to move through the pipeline for DCA, and the next change arrives on Tuesday, May 31st. That’s when the Mission Tortilla Factory quietly closes and passes into the DCA history books.

The Mission Tortilla Factory was one of DCA’s 2001 opening day offerings that was widely lampooned at first as an example of the cheap and mundane attractions in the park, but slowly gained a loyal following for its free half-tortilla samples and quirky exhibits, not to mention the Annual Passholders who returned year after year on their birthdays to receive a big bag of free tortillas from the CM’s running the tortilla machines. But the run of free tortillas ends on Tuesday, and the doors to the factory will be shut for good.

Yes, we have no tortillas...

The excuse that managers are giving DCA Cast Members is that Mission failed to renew their latest sponsorship agreement and the location must now close to allow for construction to continue on the big entranceway into Cars Land that is behind the walls nearby. But that’s not the complete story behind this sudden and quiet closure. The rest of the story is that Disney is wrapping up the details on a new sponsorship deal with an iconic California company they had been chasing back in the late 1990’s for DCA, but who wisely took a pass after deciding they were unimpressed with the original park. But now the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company of San Francisco is planned to become DCA’s newest sponsor, and if the current timeline holds Ghirardelli will debut in 2012 in an expanded and remade building at the old Mission Tortilla Factory location.

Taking direct inspiration from Ghirardelli’s famous waterfront chocolate factory in San Francisco, Imagineering plans to keep the footprint of the current building, but give it an exterior that mimics the charming red brick and stone of Ghirardelli’s Larkin street building and clock tower, complete with a version of the lighted sign that has greeted arriving sailors in San Francisco Bay since 1923. They’ll also expand the current building to the south, taking over the adjoining backstage structure that houses DCA’s first aid and lost children complex, while a replacement facility is created near the front of the park. The remade Ghirardelli complex will offer enough space to provide for a small factory tour experience, as well as an attached chocolate shop and soda fountain.

While the permanent closure of the tortilla factory will happen on Tuesday without much notice during this hectic week of grand openings and media parties, the exact timing of the Ghirardelli announcement to replace Mission in DCA is up in the air. These types of things are notoriously tricky to get signed off by all the various lawyers at both companies, but as of last week Disney was trying to get the deal tidied up by this Friday in order to include the Ghirardelli news in the big “What’s Next?” press event staged at 11:00 a.m. that morning at the western entrance to Cars Land. We’ll have to see if they make it.

No tortillas here

For their part, Ghirardelli is thrilled with the plum spot they’ve secured in the increasingly successful new theme park. Ghirardelli’s location near the main entrance to Cars Land, with a clear line of sight from DCA’s busy parade route, should prove to be a very high-traffic location beginning in June, 2012 when the 12 acre Cars Land expansion opens.

Disney chased several chocolate companies in the late 1990’s, notably See’s and Ghirardelli, when they were trying to get DCA’s floundering factory tour concept off the ground (a concept that Eisner loved, and bragged about quite a bit back then). The original spot had the proposed chocolate factory going in to a complex of multiple factory exhibits on the current location of the World of Color viewing amphitheater. How wise of Ghirardelli to pass on that original offer and wait out the first underwhelming decade of DCA’s existence.

There are some that will get sentimental over the closure of the tortilla factory, but the arrival of a fully themed and upscale Ghirardelli shop in its place should take the sting out for all those APs used to the free bag of birthday tortillas.

Monorail Blues

Still looks like a medical device

You may have noticed the ducks have had free run of the monorail beam lately, as all three trains have been down for the past few weeks. One of the monorails developed mechanical problems, and the decision was made to go ahead and shut down the other two trains (even though they were fine) until the problem could be understood and then solved.

Monorail Blue has been properly repaired and should be up and running by now. Orange and Red monorails shouldn't take too much longer. Best to be safe, rather than sorry.

Rear View

(First posted 5/25 in the MiceChat Round-up.)

A lot of you have been asking about what are they going to do to theme the back of the huge Disney California Adventure Cars Land rock backdrop, in particular those areas adjacent to Pacific Wharf and Paradise Pier. As always, take note that any of this may be subject to change, but so far here's what to expect...

It could have been a shop

As I understand it, at around thirteen stories tall and 280,000 square feet, the rockwork that makes up Cars Land is the largest mountain structure that Disney has ever built in any of its parks around the world. The artistic goal of the huge structure is not just to recreate the Cadillac Range backdrop of Radiator Springs, but to also block out the views of modern Anaheim that have plagued DCA since it opened. The front of the rock work is almost completely done with the hand shaping, and about halfway through with the painting, as the backside remains an open steel grid to allow access to the inserts that support the catwalks along the front side.

Vultures or Seagulls?

Once the front of the massive facade is finished later this summer, the Imagineers assigned to the rock work will then turn their attention to finishing off the backside. As seen from the Pacific Wharf dining area, the rock work that creates the look of a hood and hood ornament will blend around the eastern wall into a less cartoonish rocky cliff that extends due south. That same rock wall will then form a rocky sea bluff that looms above the east end of the Paradise Pier boardwalk.

One giant pine tree shaped air freshener coming right up!

What hasn't been decided is how Imagineering and Disneyland's entertainment department will handle the dowdy stucco float warehouse that parallels that rocky bluff. That float warehouse was thrown up quickly in early 2002 to house the Electrical Parade that was brought back from the dead in a panic during the summer of '01, as the floats were still being stored backstage under tents. Since DCA's original float warehouse behind California Screamin' is now being eyed as an expansion pad for a future attraction show building, the Entertainment team considers the warehouse behind Cars Land as their long term home. Everyone realizes it has to be reskinned, but the exact artistic treatment hasn't been decided yet.

Beep, beep! The Anti-Matter-horn?

Then there's the towering backside of Cars Land that faces Katella for four hundred feet, as Disney needs to play nice with Anaheim's aesthetic zoning requirements in the city's Resort District. The big show building that houses Radiator Springs Racers dark ride portion has already received a brown stucco exterior that mostly disappears behind the heavy landscaping along Katella. The tall cliffs are too big to attempt a disappearing act, and they'll be sealed up with patterned stucco.

The view of the backside of Cars Land for those hotels along Harbor and Katella won't be nearly as impressive as the front side, but the increased business they'll get from the biggest theme park expansion in Anaheim history should take quite a bit of the sting out of it for them.

Special thanks to Fishbulb for the recent shots,
and Andy Castro for the archive photos used above.

Oh-kay - that should do it for today. Remember your support is vital, your donations to PayPal help keep the bills paid. We're only here due to all of your kind efforts.

Keep in mind updates only get posted when there is something to report on, and not before. It takes time to confirm things, and even then we can only offer a snapshot of a continually evolving story. (People do change their minds you know.) Just like the happiest place on earth, patience is a virtue; the queue may take a while before you can enjoy the attraction. ;)

See you at Disneyland!

Al Lutz may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally. FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Al Lutz did not receive any payments, free items, or free services from any of the parties discussed in this article. He pays for his own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

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