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Disney California Adventure: How we got here and what's next

June 18, 2012|By Brady MacDonald

The next logical area to attack is the newly dubbed Hollywood Land, which has a pair of studio soundstages sitting empty that once housed the "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" show and the Hollywood & Dine food court. Any makeover would remove the still-remaining pop cultural signage in the land and affix a distinct 1930s to 1940s golden age of Hollywood time period to the area. And then there's the question of what to do with the last remaining five acres of the former Timon parking lot sitting behind Tower of Terror.

After that, Imagineering will have to figure out how to tackle the neighboring Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats lands, which both suffer from the same problem: a severe dearth of attractions. Grizzly River Run, lacking both Disney DNA and audio-animatronics, takes up a precious five acres of land and serves as a constant reminder of the old park, making the rapids ride and its iconic peak a prime target for renovation or removal. Meanwhile, speculation has circulated for years that Soarin' Over California could get an internationally-themed movie upgrade while Redwood Creek Challenge Trail might be leveled in favor of a new E-Ticket ride.

Like a doughnut hole in the middle of the park, the Pacific Wharf food court, the unused San Francisco city block and under-utilized Golden Vine Winery seem orphaned from any land, time period or storyline. Short of few name changes, all three areas remain essentially unchanged since DCA opened in 2001. The entire space cries out for a Buena Vista Street-style reimagineering.

That leaves a bug's land, a 2002 Band-Aid intended as a quick fix to the persistent complaint that DCA lacked any attractions for young children. What visitors got and what we're still left with is the most pathetic collection of kiddie rides ever assembled in a Disney park: the bumper cars don't bump, the teacup ride ends before it gets going and the caterpillar train feels like the beginning of a dark ride that doesn't exist. And then there's the absolute lack of a connection to DCA's California theme. But like any set of off-the-shelf carnival rides, bug's land can and should be folded up overnight and shipped to the next county fair or church picnic where it belongs.

It may take another five years of consistent investment to undo the bad will DCA has built up over the past decade, but if the turnstiles spin and the cash registers ring the money should be there to continue the park's considerable uphill climb. If and only if that happens, DCA could still turn out to be a worthy neighbor to Disneyland despite the rough start.

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