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New Disney Theme Park to Pay Homage to Hollywood

June 12, 1996|MARLA DICKERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The world has long considered Southern California something of giant theme park. Leave it to Walt Disney Co. to make it a reality.

Disney's California Adventure is the working title of the long-awaited second theme park to be constructed on the Disneyland parking lot in Anaheim. Disney brass are tight-lipped about the details, but sources familiar with the project say it will combine the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown with the sun-and-fun culture that has made the Golden State synonymous with pleasure.

Walt Disney Imagineering, the company's design wizards, are still tinkering with the concept, but sources say the park will borrow some ideas from its existing properties in Florida to create period attractions, shops and restaurants reflecting classic California style.

Among the themes being developed are a 1940s-era studio back lot that will re-create the Golden Age of Hollywood movie making, as well as a boardwalk area to capture the feel, food and fun of an old-fashioned seaside resort, complete with a wooden roller coaster.

The park would be a boon to Southland tourism and bolster Disney's efforts to create a full-fledged resort in Anaheim. But so far the company has declined to even set a date for the groundbreaking.

Disney was expected to unveil plans for its second Anaheim park by the end of March, a target mentioned publicly by Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. The company subsequently backed away from that date, though not from the project itself.

"We are waiting to get all the creative and financial elements in place," said Disneyland spokesman Tom Brocato. "We plan on going forward with the expansion. All I can say at this point is that we'll make an announcement sometime in 1996."

Disney and the city of Anaheim have yet to resolve who will pay for millions in required public improvements for the proposed expansion. Industry sources speculate that those hurdles, combined with the recent harried negotiations over Anaheim Stadium, not to mention the inevitable last-minute tinkering of the Imagineers, caused Disney to back off from the first-quarter unveiling of plans for the new park.

Disney executives are also trying to avoid a repeat of the public relations nightmare that accompanied Westcot, its first attempt to construct a companion park at Disneyland. Following a splashy 1991 unveiling and lengthy approval process for the $3-billion World's Fair-style theme park and resort, Disney scrapped the project as too ambitious.

Although the new Anaheim expansion will undoubtedly contain some unique elements, Disney appears to be utilizing its time-tested strategy of taking an attraction that proves successful in one of its parks and replicating it in another.

Visitors can already see Hollywood-style movie magic at the Disney-MGM Studios near Orlando, Fla., which combines working movie and television production facilities with a theme park tribute to Hollywood's glamorous past.

The park's main street is Hollywood Boulevard, a neon and Art Deco re-creation of Tinseltown's booming studio district in the 1930s and '40s. The Sunset Boulevard district pays homage to Hollywood landmarks such as the Beverly Wilshire Theater. Guests can also experience movie rides, action shows, Hollywood-themed restaurants and studio tours.

"Popular attractions that work in one area will often work in another," said Jim Benedick, theme park consultant with Management Resources in Tustin.

Likewise, the boardwalk concept being planned for Disney's California Adventure has its roots in a Florida attraction. The company is getting set to take the wraps off Disney's BoardWalk, an entertainment district and hotel complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Scheduled to open at the end of June, BoardWalk attempts to re-create the charm of a 1930s seaside resort and will feature beach-themed entertainment, nightclubs and restaurants.

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