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Jim Hill
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by Jim Hill (archives)
October 5, 2001
During a week where there seemed to be nothing but bad news coming out of Disney's California Adventure theme park, Jim Hill tries to put a positive spin on the situation.

In Defense of DCA
During a week where there seemed to be nothing but bad news coming out of Disney's California Adventure theme park, Jim Hill tries to put a positive spin on the situation.

Okay. It's official. Hell should start freezing over just about ... now.

Why? Because I -- Jim Hill -- one of the very first people to officially go on record as saying that I thought that Disney's California Adventure was a significantly flawed theme park (Don't believe me? Then check out this story that I wrote for O.C. Weekly back in June 2001 would like to now say a few kind words about the place.

I mean, I think that it's genuinely sad that Wolfgang Puck decided to pull out of Avalon Cove this past week. It was a beautiful facility with truly great food. And I'm also sorry to hear that the Mondavi Company backed out of their deal to serve as the hands-on managers of the "Golden Vine" restaurant/retail complex, opting instead to step back and become the passive sponsors of that attraction. And -- yes -- it's unfortunate that the tragic events in New York City, Washington D.C. and South Western Pennsylvania continue to put a damper on DCA's already dismal attendance levels. And I feel sorry for all the folks who lost their jobs when both of these restaurants shut down and/or the Mouse started cutting back operating hours at California Adventure.

That said, in spite of all this calamity, I still don't think that DCA is a flop.

Do I think that Disney's California Adventure a significantly troubled park? Sure. A place that the Mouse is going to have to spend several years -- and ten of millions of dollars -- to fix up? Absolutely. But a flop. No way.

Here's another question that I've been hearing a lot from LaughingPlace.com readers: "Is Disney really going to shut DCA down, and -- after several months of overhauling the theming of the joint -- re-open the park as 'Disney's America'?"

Oh God, no. When that one was recently reported on the Internet, I can assure you that Imagineers were in hysterics all over Glendale. Falling down laughing at 1401 Flower Street at the idea that anyone would dare to put such a ridiculous rumor in print.

So -- just for the record -- let me state: Grizzly River Run is *NOT* about to be rethemed and become a Lewis & Clark's Whitewater adventure. Nor is Condor Flats about to get a 1940s era makeover and emerge as Victory Field. And Paradise Pier is going to remain right where it is and stay just as pretty as it is now. The Mouse is going to stick with the park's California theming and do whatever it has to turn the place into a success. You can take that to the bank, folks.

So how is the Walt Disney Company going to fix DCA? They're going to move slowly, folks. No more panicked, last minute decisions. No, sir. From here on in, Disneyland Resort managers and the Imagineers are going to think things through, plot their next moves out carefully. Why? So that they can avoid the same sorts of costly mistakes that they've made in the past.

More importantly, Disney's going to try & build on DCA's successes. Yes -- believe it or not -- there have been some significant success stories associated with the expansion of the Disneyland Resort. Don't believe me? Then stand in the middle of Downtown Disney most any night and watch  the throngs of happy people strolling, shopping & eating. That part of the project has gone better, been more quickly accepted as *THE* place to go by Orange County locals, than anyone at Team Disney Anaheim had ever dreamed possible.

Now stand near the exit of "Soarin' Over California" and see the smiles on the faces of all those guests who've just had a great time riding that state-of-the-art attraction. Or -- better yet -- stand in the lobby of the "Magic of Disney Animation" exhibit and watch how people just look up in awe for a half hour or more, mesmerized by the tremendous show that's playing out on those overhead screens.

Okay, so not everything at DCA is as much fun as "Soarin' Over California" or the "Magic of Disney Animation" exhibit. "Superstar Limo," the "Steps in Time" show at the Hyperion Theater as well as all the hands-on stuff at "Bountiful Valley Farm" all turned out to be colossal duds. That's why the Mouse has plans currently in the works to replace or repair all of these attractions. This time next year -- when "Goofy's Superstar Limo" is up & running and "Blast!" is wowing audiences at the Hyperion Theater and kids are spinning themselves silly on all the fun new rides over in "Bountiful Valley Farm's " Bug Town annex -- none of this will even be an issue anymore.

You see, while other folks may be quick to condemn Disney for things it does wrong, I think that it's also important to remember that the Mouse almost always tries to fix its mistakes. For example: Did any of you readers out there ever get down to Disney/MGM back when the studio theme park initially opened in May 1989? There were lots of charming faux 1940s Hollywood shops & restaurants, weren't there? But -- beyond that -- not a whole lot to do. You could see the entire park in less than six hours. Which is why -- back then -- Disneyana fans moaned endlessly about how the Mouse had done the place on the cheap, how the Walt Disney Company had thrown the park open before it was really ready, how they'd never go back to the place again. Is any of this sounding familiar?

Okay, so let's now take a look at Disney /MGM 12 years later. What with the addition of "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror," the "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" as well as the "Fantasmic!" outdoor amphitheater (Not to mention the dozens of other shows, shops, restaurants & attractions that have been added to the park over the past 10 years), now the studio is perhaps the funnest Disney theme park currently on property. So is it any wonder that the Mouse chose Disney / MGM to serve as the centerpiece of WDW's "100 Years of Magic" celebration?

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