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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Veteran Theme Park Designer Curious Over Disney's 'Adventure'

August 22, 2000|E. SCOTT RECKARD

Working as a Disneyland magician in the late 1960s taught Bob Rogers show business: Perform a trick (the show), then sell the trick (the business).

He later designed attractions at Disney World and Knott's Berry Farm, and his company's current projects include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and a Woody Woodpecker attraction for Universal Studios Osaka.

Rogers has become a bit of a specialist on the show business of theme parks, the design and the story line behind attractions.

But ask about that cluster of undisguised thrill rides looming at Disney's new California Adventure park and he appears as puzzled as the customers he once entertained at Merlin's Magic Shop.

"From across the street, I see roller coasters, a Ferris wheel; I see a very un-Disney park," says Rogers, chairman of BRC Imagination Arts in Burbank. "It seems on the surface to contradict everything Disneyland stands for. . . . Originally Disneyland had no thrill rides at all, no roller coaster."

Disney executives say the new thrill rides, including an innovative Ferris wheel and a "space shot" called the Maliboomer that blasts riders high into the air, are just Disney's imaginative take on an old-fashioned California beach amusement zone, such as Pacific Ocean Park. And those rides are just in one corner of the 55-acre theme park.

Rogers says the industry buzz is about how cheaply California Adventure was built, but he's withholding judgment until it opens.

"The underlying fact is that it's Disney, and they don't do bad work," he says. "And if it doesn't work they will hose it with money until the problem is taken care of."

E. Scott Reckard covers tourism for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7407 and at scott.reckard@latimes.com.

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