By Charly SHELTON
In 2001, Disney’s California Adventure park opened across the way from Disneyland. It had maybe three good rides – Soarin’ Over California, Grizzly River Run and California Screamin’. The rest either broke constantly or were bad rides or just didn’t make any sense as to why it was in a Disney park, which was known for its amazing rides. Suffice it to say, it was a disappointment.
For years after that, it seemed compared to Disneyland not many people went to DCA. Rides closed down and others took their place, but they were the same kind of lame attractions.
But then in 2007 things changed. Bob Iger, CEO of the Disney Company, decided to do a major overhaul of DCA and make it a worthwhile destination rather than a nice waiting area to hang out when Disneyland was crowded. In 2008, Toy Story Midway Mania opened. It is a great ride in a carnival game setting where riders can shoot their cannons onto digital screens in 3D to win digital prizes – a really cool ride. Then the plain Ferris wheel became Mickey-themed. More and more and more changes took place culminating with this summer, five years after the DCA 2.0 project began, and the unveiling of Buena Vista Street and Cars Land. From beginning to end, DCA has been entirely transformed into a park that is now worthy of sharing the hallowed ground that is Disneyland. I am finally proud to say, for the first time ever, that I love Disney California Adventure.
Let’s start with the new entrance area, Buena Vista Street.
Disneyland has Main Street, U.S.A. DCA had Sunshine Plaza, showcasing all of California’s finest concrete. That’s all it was – concrete that ended the walkway abruptly at a weird sun statue. That was it. It closed off the park from the entrance, it wasn’t really themed and it just didn’t have the same kind of entrance statement that Disneyland had. So as part of DCA 2.0, Sunshine Plaza was turned into Buena Vista Street, a trip back in time to Los Angeles 1923 when a young Walt Disney got off the train from Kansas City with a cardboard suitcase and a pocket full of dreams to make his way in L.A. The young cartoonist is immortalized in a statue with his most famous character, Mickey Mouse, towards the top of the street, just like in Disneyland.
Next to the statue is a new dining experience, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge. A replica of the classic Carthay Circle theater where Walt held his gala premiere of Snow White in 1937, this new restaurant is the swankiest of the swanky, with reservations booked for weeks in advance. But never fear, as the summer stretches on tables will be available for lunch or dinner. And if you don’t want a full meal, stop by the lounge on the first floor for drinks, appetizers, desserts and even a nice pot of tea. Come in and relax in the glorious luxuries of yesteryear while it is hot and crowded outside. With lines in Cars Land at four to five hours, you may need that break from the crowds and heat.
All along the street are Red Car Trolley tracks, reviving a mass transit system from back in the day when L.A. ran not on cars, but on electric trolleys. At a press event that CV Weekly attended, legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr shared his memories of the real red cars from the 1930s.
“I used to sit in this window right here on the bench above the electric motors because from there I could watch the [red car driver] working the controls,” said Gurr. “I used to take this every day to school. A nickel there and a nickel back.
“It’s great to see them around again.”
Trolleys can be boarded at any of the multiple stops along Buena Vista Street or Hollywood Land. When the trolleys are not carrying passengers, it becomes the stage for shows including the Five and Dimes and the News Paper Boy performances.
Next week we will delve further into DCA 2.0 with a look at Cars Land and the many new excitements that are there.