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Disney California Adventures will celebrate its 15th anniversary on February 8th. Of course, the park we see today is very, very different than the one that opened 15 years ago. I doubt any Disney park other than Disneyland has had so many changes in such a short time — even the name has changed.

Starting next #ThrowbackThursday, we’re going to be running a series of articles leading up to the anniversary looking back to the park’s past and forward to its future. But, for today’s throwback article, I wanted to share two columns I wrote in January of 2001. The first was written after my visit to the park during its very first Cast preview. The second was written after I visited the park for the fifth time, still in soft openings.

I’ll warn you ahead of time: my feelings about DCA 1.0 were — and still are — very positive. I loved the park then and, despite some great improvements that have been made since, I do miss the original Disney’s California Adventure.

Hope you enjoy this look back.

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Doobie’s first impressions of Disney’s California Adventure.

The Trip

Thanks to a relative, I had the opportunity to attend the first Cast Member preview of Disney’s California Adventure on January 7th. The park was open from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and we spent all of those 8 hours in the park. Our journey started in the Entry Plaza then our first stop was Condor Flats to ride California Soarin’. Next was Grizzly River Run then a short stop at the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Then it was on to Paradise Pier to look around, but not ride anything though we did play around with one of the water play areas.

Then it was on to Pacific Wharf to check out the Mission Tortilla Factory tour and the Boudin Bakery tour and then to Disney’s Steps in Time at the Hyperion Theater. Afterwards we had lunch at Hollywood & Dine and got in line for Superstar Limo. Unfortunately, it broke down before we got on so we headed to Muppet*Vision 3D to check out the queue (but didn’t actually do the attraction since we’ve experienced it at Walt Disney World). Then it was back to the Golden State and the Bay Area to see Golden Dreams.

Next up was Disney’s Eureka! The California Adventure Parade then a walk through more of Paradise Pier to get a close-up view of California Screamin’ and King Triton’s Carousel (but again, we didn’t ride). Then it was back to Hollywood for Disney Animation and finally back in line for Superstar Limo – which again broke down before we could ride. Finally it was back to the Entrance Plaza to browse through   some shops and say goodbye to DCA – for now.

Before I go into a few details, I have to say I had a wonderful time. I enjoyed the new park immensely. Now I make no bones about the fact I’m an Annual Passholder who loves to just hang out at Disneyland enjoying the scenery, the atmosphere and the food. I do love the rides, but just don’t go on them all that much. I think DCA will be a great park for people like me. For the average tourist … I’ll let others comment on that. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve been an average tourist at Disneyland. Be sure to read some of our other articles over the next few weeks, our discussion boards and our DCA Attraction Guide for many opinions from a wide variety of people on whether or not DCA is a good park for you.

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Grizzly River Run and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel

What I Liked
There is a lot I liked about DCA. Actually, there’s a lot I loved about DCA. I loved the themeing of the Golden State districts – especially Pacific Wharf, Condor Flats and the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. What really got me was how well the Grand Californian Hotel fits in as a background for parts of the Golden State district. Paradise Pier at night is also a site to behold as is most of the park, frankly.

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Grizzly Peak stretches above the Mondavi building

I loved Grizzly Peak. I don’t mean the attraction (which is a lot of fun), but the mountain itself. It’s stunning from a distance, up close and from every an
gle. My favorite part is how you can see it from many places throughout the park peeking up over whatever you’re looking at. Grizzly Peak is awesome!

I loved Disney’s Steps in Time. The show features several Disney songs but not a single traditional Disney character. It also makes good use of multimedia. I’ll leave it at that and let you discover the rest for yourself, but be prepared – it’s unlike any Disney theme park stage show I’ve ever seen. And I’m guessing it won’t be a hit with everyone.

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Inside Disney Animation. The screens show scenes from various animated films. These are from The Lion King.

I loved the Disney Animation attraction. The courtyard in there is stunning. I could spend quite a while in there just watching everything. The Sorcerer’s Workshop is so incredibly detailed you forget to do the interactive details because you’re caught up looking at everything. And Drawn to Animation, which features a live Cast Member talking about film development with Mushu from Mulan, had me laughing out loud several times.

I really liked Soarin’ Over California. The ride isn’t meant to be thrilling, but I’m afraid of heights so it was the scariest thing I did all day. From my front row seat the view was spectacular – the effect really worked for me. I was gripping my railing like there was no tomorrow and during one sequence had to close my eyes until it was over. Now that I know I can handle the heights, this – more than any other attraction I did – is the one I can’t wait to do again.

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Eureka!

I really liked Disney’s Eureka! The California Adventure parade. The music was fun, the floats lots of fun, and the puppets and live drumming (reminded me of Tapestry of Nations at Epcot) really appealed to me. I liked the way Muppet*Vision extends to the area around it to create kind of a Muppet mini-land.

pic5I liked Golden Dreams. It easily held my attention the entire time even though it was a film, and the song and photo montage at the end made me cry – but I’m a sucker for photo montages. I also liked Pizza Primavera at Hollywood & Dine. It’s the only thing I ate while in the park and I enjoyed it thoroughly. And my absolute favorite “little thing” in the park (though it certainly ain’t little) was Dinosaur Jack’s Sunglass Shack. How could anyone not love that face???

What I Didn’t Like
There are quite a few Disney attractions I’ve experience that I don’t like. But at DCA I encountered the first Disney attraction that, in my opinion, has no business being called an attraction. That would be the Mission Tortilla Factory tour. I never had a problem with Disney putting two factory tours into DCA. Factory tours can be interesting and the Boudin Bakery Tour, while nothing to write home about, was ok. But the Mission Tortilla Factory tour … it’s not that it was bad – it’s just not an attraction. It would be fine as a part of a store or restaurant, but it’s not an attraction – at least not what I saw.

I didn’t like how many borders in the park are just walls. Not landscaping, or an attraction, or a berm – just a wall. I’m not really one to notice things like that, but I noticed it a couple of times at DCA. There are also some places where Anaheim hotes or the convention center serve as the backdrop of the park. It looks very good when the Grand Californian is the backdrop. It looks less than good when the Anaheim Convention Center is the backdrop.

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Considering how much I loved this show, I should lose some weight going up and down these stairs.

I didn’t like walking up all those stairs to the mezzanine level of the Hyperion Theater. I know it’s my fault for being so out of shape, but still an escalator would’ve been nice. I can’t think of another Disney attraction that goes nearly that far up without an escalator or moving sidewalk (there did appear to be an escalator from the mezzanine to the balcony and an elevator was available for disabled access).

I didn’t like how the jokes in the first part of the Superstar Limo queue repeated too quickly. There needs to be more of them. Ok, it’s a minor quibble, but there’s not much I didn’t like – I had to think of something.

Overall
As I said earlier, overall it’s a great park for me. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed (and I did go in with high hopes). I cannot wait to get back in there. There’s so much I didn’t do including the attraction I think will become my favorite – California Screamin’. I didn’t even make it over to the Midway Games and I love Midway Games!!! And, of course, there are many places I want to eat and I want to try those date shakes at Sam Andreas Shakes!

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Muppets in Hollywood

One more note – a very special moment for me was stepping past the Golden Gate Bridge and looking back and see the bridge, the DCA entrance, Disneyland’s entrance and the Main Street Train Station. It’s a moment I won’t soon forget. Make sure you do it on your first trip into DCA.

Doobie is the co-owner of LaughingPlace.com having founded the website with his wife Rebekah is 1999. He became a “hardcore” Disney fan in 1995. His favorite Disney film is Snow White and his all-time favorite attraction is the PeopleMover. Having lived near both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, he’s visited them literally thousands of times.

Doobie is the co-owner of LaughingPlace.com having founded the website with his wife Rebekah is 1999. He became a “hardcore” Disney fan in 1995. His favorite Disney film is Snow White and his all-time favorite attraction is the PeopleMover. Having lived near both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, he’s visited them literally thousands of times.

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