We’ll preface this article by saying it is grouped under our satellite operations – as we’re once again stepping outside the bounds of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – but Disney has announced that Disney’s California Adventure will debut Carsland and Buena Vista Street on June 15, 2012.
Along with that announcement, they’ve rolled out a bunch of fun media to promote the “Grand Re-Opening” of the park set to happen on that day. We’re looking into airfare to be there to cover the events, but like you we’re not invited to the “media day” on the 14th, when the park will be closed to day guests. So we’re just as excited to see all these special bits behind the walls as you are.
Now, the big focus for a lot of people is Carsland and the Radiator Springs Racers attraction, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but really the big step for California Adventure as a park is the Buena Vista Street overhaul. You see, when DCA opened it met a lot of negative publicity for not ‘looking the part’ of a Disney theme park. The entry corridor was a huge homogenous concrete slab that funneled guest past blocky uninspired modern building designs. Lets not forget the atrocious murals either – those blights upon the retinas of the world were crafted as part of a tit-for-tat agreement inside Imagineering. Rather than really searching for the best of the best for the job, as Imagineering claims to do, the project-design-head of the original park entry area along with the lead sculptor at WDI hired in their friends who ran a small custom “mosaic” company.
And we use the term mosaic loosely – typically a mosaic is made from uniform tiles or random pieces of broken tiles and glass. These installations were like giant paint-by-numbers where imagery was decided first and then the couple would craft glass pieces to fit. And no, not small pieces, but if they wanted to depict a whale, by golly they’d craft an entire colored and shaded whale as a single “piece” of the mosaic. Again, we use the term very loosely when referring to these “works of art.”
Cue the announcement that DCA is getting as aesthetic overhauled and suddenly the online community is in an uproar as “good people” from WDI are quickly disposed.. the project-head, the lead sculptor, and the couple who fabricated the murals. It wasn’t hard to see those walls were coming down – and they did, to the delight of many, us included. And now, after many months hiding behind refurbishment walls Buena Vista Street is starting to show itself (note the actual mosaic artistry in the tile work! Tone, color! Nothing ironic nor hip!)
Gone also is the sculptural Sun Icon, commonly referred to as an ugly hub cap, replaced with a loving recreation of the Carthay Circle Theater. To say that DCA 1.0 was a series of artistic blunders is an understatement, but the park really becoming a real place worth visiting and worthy of the Disney name.
Now, we’re not going to give the blanket statement that everything is wonderful in DCA 2.0, there have already been a few missteps – the Little Mermaid ride building is at best “uninspired”, and the Red Car Trolly is a pet project of WDI’s train-geeks costing WAY TOO MUCH – but the overall result is so much better than what the park had before “project sparkle” was initiated.
And the big headliner is of course Radiator Springs Racers. Carsland is getting three attractions, but the big one is of course the zippy ride based on the same technology as Test Track at Epcot. It’s a bit ironic that all these years we’ve accused Test Track of being not-so-futuristic and not fitting with Epcot’s theme, when in reality it turned out to actually be a prototype for future attractions. Who knew?
But Radiator Springs Racers goes beyond what Test Track offered with two tracks and nicely revamped vehicles. Improved sound systems, more comfortable seating, and a much sleeker overall design really makes the ride system shine beyond the boxy “test vehicles” of yore. And the scenery isn’t half bad either – the massive Cadillac Range blocks out the horrors of SoCal (seriously, SoCal is uggo) from the rear of the park to create a more fully realized immersive environment. Again, there are some reservations – the ride it seems will have a top speed well below that of Test Track – and the nearby Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree doesn’t seem like the best use of funds, but overall the land looks like a winning addition.
Now, as always Disney’s gotta tack something onto this whole project. Something that doesn’t fit but is their flavor of the week to promote. We give you, the Mad T Party.
Now, we’ll give Disney credit for at least not hanging onto the Tron themed well beyond its useful life. You see, when Disney launched World of Color they had a distinct lack of capacity in the show’s viewing areas. Thus they had to run three shows a night to accommodate the interested park goers – and along with that, a lack of decent attractions in the park meant the guests waiting for the two later shows had nothing to do. Thus, a nighttime street party full of booze, DJs, and dancers on pedestals was born. The first iteration was passable at best, but then to promote the coming Tron movie it became ElecTRONica and it seemed Disney hit it right out of the park with guest satisfaction surveys.
It just couldn’t go on forever. Tron is now very much something of the past in the minds of most park goers – the movie franchise just doesn’t have real legs – and so we’re transitioning to the Mad T Party. It’s odd, strangely stylized, and no one is really sure how it’s going to be received. In contrast to Tron’s icy blue aesthetic, the Mad T Party seems to be going with neon reds and pinks. It has the ability to look good, but basing the night time spectacle on an overly-hip-and-trendy version of Alice in Wonderful seems to be a step backwards, a step toward the old hip-and-trendy atmosphere that ruined DCA 1.0 – so we shall see.
Regardless, it’ll be an interesting summer out at the Disneyland resort. We’ll hopefully be there, accrued airline miles permitting, and of course if any of our “media” friends wants to sneak us in, we’d quite delighted to join them! Otherwise, we’ll see you in the parks and hopefully be bringing you fresh photo updates shortly after it opens.