It’s finally arrived. I seriously want to cry…
Cars Land, the unequivocal staple of the new Disney California Adventure, adds 12 acres and three brand new attractions, plus magnificently detailed shops, restaurants, and character experiences. The headlining attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, is already being heralded as the best Disney ride since 1995’s Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye.
Buena Vista Street replaces the concrete Sunshine Plaza, where ill-conceived stores concealed behind tacky neon and sunglass-wearing-suns have been replaced by an idealized Los Angeles of the 1920’s. Most spectacularly, guests traveling between Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure will make a journey strikingly similar to Walt Disney’s: from sleepy 1900’s Missouri (Main Street, U.S.A.) to the bright, bustling world of Southern California in its prime: sunset-colored roofs, copper drainpipes, electric trolley wires, news boys, and regal fountains.
At the end of Buena Vista Street, directly across from Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Carthay Circle Theater stands as a testament to both California and Disney history: the historic theater with its iconic architecture was one of LA’s great theaters (alongside the Chinese Theater, recreated at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida and the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, whose distinct, streamlined, sea-foam architecture is the gateway of new the California Adventure park) and premiered the first ever full-length animated film: Walt Disney’s Snow White the Seven Dwarves. It’s a beautiful, fitting tribute to a park that’s now a revered, sacred look at California’s past instead of a spoof of its modern-day pop culture feel.
Grizzly Peak, Condor Flats, and Pacific Wharf have become three distinct lands (previously lumped under the singular “Golden State” land) and are consistently being tweaked to compliment the new park’s feel, turning back the clock a few decades. For example, the Grizzly Peak area is slowly loosing its “extreme sports in an abandoned mountain river pass” props, music, and themeing in favor of an authentic 1950’s national park.
Hollywoodland has begun the transformation from Hollywood Pictures Backlot to a distinct, 1920’s Hollywood of glitz and glamour that melds seamlessly into Buena Vista Street, with the Red Car Trolley zipping down the brick streets. Early concept art shows the Hyperion Theater’s “Blue Sky” facade being replaced by an elegant, period-specific theater facade, and work has already been done to remove the “spoof” signs and window displays to make the buildings down Hollywood Blvd. look less like studio-style facades and more like authentic Hollywood offices and businesses from the era.
Paradise Pier finally feels complete after dropping its mid-century carnival theme in favor of a turn-of-the-last-century seaside boardwalk with classic amusements that have a touch of Disney flavor. Toy Story Mania was added, Maliboomer was removed, and the remaining flats received a lot of TLC while being rebranded with classic, appropriately-styled Disney characters. The magnificent World of Color made its way into the once-stagnant Paradise Bay, and the charming Little Mermaid dark ride replaced an educational film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Next door, a McDonalds in disguise made way for the elegant and beautiful Paradise Garden Grill and Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta, where you can dine under vine-covered trellises to the tune of big band music in the nearby gazebo.
Disneyland may never be completed, but things are really looking up…