Disneyland Resort’s second park, California Adventure, opened ten years ago this week – to lackluster reviews and lukewarm attendance. It rained for weeks. And then 9/11 happened, and a nation was plunged into fear and mourning.
In retrospect, many factors contributed to California Adventure’s mediocrity. The original ideas were scaled back before they were ever built. Rides were purchased “off the shelf” – they could have been in any Six Flags or King’s Island across the country. There was no “Disney” in this Disney. And people noticed. And complained.
Little by little, in a seemingly half-hearted fashion, the company responded to guest feedback. They added the childrens’-themed “Bug’s Land.” They tweaked rides and restaurants. But the park still failed to reach the attendance goals that were set for it.
But ten years later, well, things, they are a changin’, as the attraction gets the retrofit to be the park that many think it should have been in the first place.
When Bob Iger, Disney’s current CEO, took over the company from Michael Eisner, he acknowledged that the park was a “withdrawal” on the Disney brand. His answer? Invest, and make the park what it should have been in the first place. To that end, California Adventure is currently undergoing a 5-year, $1 billion dollar, top-to-bottom renovation. The new vision of the park will be to reflect the California of the early Disney years.
Will it work? It looks promising. The first notable addition to the park, the nighttime spectacular “World of Color” has delighted 2 million visitors with 500 shows since it debuted in June. It’s a step in the right direction.
And with the dismal performance of years past, California Adventure truly has nowhere to go but up.