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This Land Is Your Land

California Adventure, Disney's new theme park in Anaheim, pays tribute to the Golden State, from the red wood forest to the Southland's waters


As workers put the finishing touches on Disney's California Adventure, the new theme park next to Disneyland in Anaheim, Barry Braverman marveled at what has emerged on the Magic Kingdom's old asphalt parking lot.

Braverman led the Disney design team that developed the 55-acre park, which will have its grand opening Feb. 8. (Some members of the public, including Disneyland partners and annual pass-holders, will be visiting starting Tuesday.)

Only 5 1/2 years ago, a theme park celebrating California's unique cultural and natural resources was no more than an idea that surfaced in brainstorming sessions with several dozen Imagineers and attractions executives during a three-day retreat in Aspen, Colo., with Disney Chairman Michael Eisner.

Site preparation and dirt moving began about 3 1/2 years ago, and vertical construction began only a little more than 2 1/2 years ago.

"It's just been go-go-go from Day One," said Braverman, 52, senior vice president and executive producer of Walt Disney Imagineering, the design and engineering division of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts.

California Adventure is the centerpiece of a $1.4-billion expansion of what is now called the Disneyland Resort. Included in the expansion are the deluxe 750-room Disney's Grand Californian Hotel, which sits on a corner of California Adventure and has its own park entry for guests; and Downtown Disney, a public retail, dining and entertainment center that links the two theme parks and the three Disneyland Resort hotels.

California Adventure, which has its own distinct identity separate from the 45-year-old Magic Kingdom's, is divided into three main theme areas: Paradise Pier, a nostalgic California beachfront amusement section; Hollywood Pictures Backlot, a district inspired by Hollywood Boulevard and the movies; and the Golden State, a more sprawling area devoted to the people, natural beauty and industries of California.

The new park has 22 shows, rides and attractions--the same number Disneyland had when it opened in 1955 but far fewer than the 63 the Magic Kingdom now boasts on its 85 acres. Admission prices for both parks, however, will be the same--currently $43 for adults and $33 for children 3 to 9. California Adventure alone cost $1.1 billion, according to Anaheim city documents. Disneyland cost $17 million to build in the 1950s--that would be $109.3 million today when adjusted for inflation.

Although California Adventure has a number of highly anticipated rides and attractions, such as the California Screamin' roller coaster and a flight simulation ride over the Golden State, the new park has already received criticism from some Disneyland die-hards for offering fewer E-ticket rides and attractions, because of budgetary restraints, than its sister park.

"Being a stone's throw from Disneyland and the only other Disney park in California, it's naturally going to be compared to Disneyland, in many cases unfavorably," says longtime Disneyland watcher David Koenig, author of the "Mouse Tales" books, which offer unauthorized backstage looks at the Magic Kingdom.

Koenig added, however, "I think there's going to be more good reaction than bad reaction because California Adventure is a brand-new Disney park, with the Disney underlined. That's the main thing, and I'm sure it will be beautiful. I've spoken with [employees] who have previewed some of the attractions, and they have good things to say about some of them, so California Adventure will certainly be fun and nice to see and different."

As final work continued and rides were tested in December, the bearded Braverman--clad in blue jeans, a denim jacket and a brown hard hat identifying him as an Imagineer--led a personal tour of the new park, providing insight into its design and creation.

"We looked at a bunch of different ideas during those three days in Colorado," he recalled, as he headed to the California Adventure entrance across from the entrance to Disneyland. "I think what appealed to Michael [Eisner] about California was he saw an opportunity to do several different things he was interested in doing"--the movies, a nostalgic take on the beach, and the workplace.

"At a very high-concept level, he just felt, 'This really feels like it could be something,' " said Braverman. "I will say that once we got back and started working on it, he was very clear about [saying], 'Don't hesitate to tell me if this is a bad idea.' He said, 'You guys, don't just yes me. As you work on it, if it doesn't feel strong, please let me know.'

"Of course, as we started working on it, it felt very strong. We were able to do a lot with it."

Golden Gateway

Visitors approaching the California Adventure entrance are greeted by 11 1/2-foot-high gold-tiled letters spelling out "CALIFORNIA."

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