Saturday, January 03, 2009
DCA: What Happened?
On July 17, 1996, the 41st Anniversary of Disneyland, excitement ran high in Anaheim as Disney announced a $1.4 billion expansion of “The Disneyland Resort.” Disneyland President Paul Pressler, who has since become one of the most hated execs of the company, touted that 55 acres of parking would be converted into an area that would celebrate the fun and diversity of California. According to this rendering, Disneyland looks positively dull and puny compared to what DCA was going to be:
This shaded (and crappy in quality) map shows what the new layout would look like space-wise:
The Grand Californian Hotel is one of the few things that didn’t look like it was done on the cheap—mainly because it was the first part of this expansion before the money really got reigned in.
Talk about forced perspective; this rendering really took liberties with the space when showing what the Grizzly River Run Attraction would look like:
Although the film itself was one of the highlights of DCA (which sadly wasn’t much of a compliment when the park opened), the attraction building for Soarin’ Over California didn’t turn out to be as elaborate as this rendering would lead you to believe:
Whatever the heck this was supposed to be, it never panned out either. The elephants at the entrance of the Hollywood area lost the whimsy shown here and became direct descendants of D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance” set, and the Animation building became a hybrid of Deco and Moderne amidst a 1930’s street:
Compare with what actually got built:
And the best quality photo in the bunch is the one of Pressler himself...feel free to get out your ink pens to do your best Groucho:
I was given a tour of the restaurants when the park first opened; I was so disappointed in what I saw that I didn’t linger at all after the tour was over. The Hollywood area baffled me; the street with façades was such a waste. Buildings that did nothing; once the gag is realized (Oh yeah...they're just movie sets—wow!), the guest is left thinking, "Now what?!?" which is really what they should have called the original DCA: “Now what?!?" I was amazed that Disney was going to charge extra admission for it. In the back of the Hollywood area, there was a building that housed a number of vintage dining areas (Hollywood & Dine), themed after old nightclubs from Hollywood’s Glamour Era. The theming was actually pretty decent; however, the food court was your typical unoriginal crap that you could find in any mall. Another missed opportunity that was shutdown within a year. Soap Opera Bistro was another early casualty that lasted less than two years. Each dining room was themed to represent a different ABC Soap Opera set; the one picture here is Luke’s Night Club from General Hospital. Cute theming, decent food...it’s too bad this one didn’t make it.
In the presskit, Paradise Pier was touted as a “nostalgic boardwalk where California’s beach culture will come alive with classic rides each given a unique Disney twist.” Sadly, there was no twist. This section honked me off the most, as it was the area that I felt screamed “sell-out.” Walt Disney went to great lengths to keep his park from being like all the other Amusement Parks. With Paradise Pier, the Pressler crew ignored that wisdom and bought every canned attraction that you could find at any cheap traveling carnival. I will give credit to California Screamin’; it is one of my favorite roller-coasters. Still, there was no friggin' Disney twist here.
The promo packet is extremely vague about attractions; the only ones really spelled out are Soarin', The Grizzly River Rafts, and the Animation Building, none of which really screamed innovation.
DCA became an expensive lesson to Disney and most likely cost Pressler his job. Pressler had success on paper by cutting back costs (reducing labor & maintenance schedules of the attractions) and pushing the in-house merchandise. A strategy like that is extremely shortsided, and when his practices carried over to DCA, the whole thing fell apart at the seams. Guests stayed away in droves and the lack of people even became a joke. In an episode of the cartoon "King of the Hill" DCA was suggested as the perfect hiding place because there wasn't anyone for miles and miles. Disney tried to do bandaid fixes to DCA by adding a few new attractions (Monsters Inc., Tower of Terror) and removing the really crappy ones (Superstar Limo), but eventually they realized that in order to "fix" the park and get an angry Anaheim off their butts, an overhaul was in order.
It was with great pleasure that I have been reading Disney’s announcements about the “new” DCA. Unlike the 1996 press release, Disney has been much more specific about what they plan to do here. New attractions (A Little Mermaid Dark Ride, the already opened Toy Story Midway Mania, Radiator Springs Racers), more cohesive and exciting theming (especially in the Paradise Pier area) as well as an entirely new land, Radiator Springs. The Red Trolley recreation is also something I am looking forward to seeing. Makes me wish it was 2012 already! Well...almost...
For those who can’t wait, you can always check-out the Blue Sky Preview Center over in DCA!
Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter. See more vintage & current California Adventure photos at my regular website.