Saturday, June 11, 2011

Land of Second Chances

We love in a great country - the good ol' USA.  It's a forgiving country.  It's a country that loves to give second chances. General Motors is getting its second chance now. Every time an athlete gets released from prison for doing something completely moronic and stupid someone is out there ready to give them a 2nd chance (provided they still run like they've been shot out of a cannon). Call it a do-over. We all need do-overs in some aspect of our lives.

Disney flopped all over itself  when California Adventure opened 10 years. Despite Michael Eisner's ear to ear grin, nobody had a lot of good things to say about his park. The biggest problems? There was nothing much for small kids to do. It was top heavy with exclusive high priced restaurants that theme park travelers had little interest in (lets see - pay through the nose to get in, then pay through the nose again to eat at some place that has the Wolfgang Puck or Robert Mondavi name attached to it)' The park had extremely muddled theming, the off the shelf carnival rides that were better suited for a county fair, and where was Mickey.

Now to be fair, DCA had a few great rides - California Sreamin' is a great coaster, Grizzly River Run is a great water ride, Soarin' Over California is a sensational experience, and A Bug's Life is a totally enjoyable show (as long as you aren't under 5 or deathly afraid of bugs), and Muppets anywhere are never a bad thing.  But after you did all those rides and attractions in about a half day there was little else to do except head over to Disneyland where you always got more bang for your buck.

The current 1.1 billion dollar make over is said to have started with the great Toy Story Mania. I really think it began long before that. The DCA makeover began right after the gates opened and Disney knew they had some major shortcomings with their new park. My impression is that almost everything that has been done with DCA over the 7 or 8 years has been an improvement with a few forgivable missteps along the way.

A Bug's Land gets regularly lampooned for its cheap county fair type rides. But if your under 5 what do you care if the rides are less than a minute long and lack the over the top Disney magic. The little rides are simple and fun. I've never been on Heimlich the train but I always enjoy watching it make its little journey. It's completely charming. And who wouldn't enjoy flying round and round in a box of Chinese take-out as you do in Flick's Flyers. The place looks wonderful at Christmastime. Yes, Disney was in a mad rush to put A Bug's Land in place so there would be something for kids to do but it was a needed improvement.

And improvement was the name of the game with the spectacular Aladdin stage show, the Hollywood Tower of Terror thrill ride, Turtle Talk with Crush, the Pixar Play Parade (not the forgettable Block Party Bash), the exhibit of the Toy Story Zoetrope, and the swapping out of Superstar Limo with Monsters Inc. These were all improvements that were made prior to the official makeover. They were also able to run Disney's wonderful Electrical Parade for a time (when the park wasn't filled with construction walls, cranes, and bulldozers).

As for the makeover itself, Toy Story Mania is Disney's best fun for all ride in a long, long time. The World of Color is nothing short of breathtaking despite the pacing that doesn't seem to build the way it should and some of segments are too long, too short, or just not needed (Mustafa death scene). I would never ride on something like Silly Symphony Swings but it is visually much better to look at than its hideous looking Orange Stinger predecessor (the Mickey bandleader on top is still about 3 feet too small though). The carny like Maliboomer needed to come down. Goofy's Sky School will be a much more welcomed theme to Mulholland Madness. Though not open yet, the new Paradise Pier restaurants should be a marked improvement over the previous dining facilities which were awful. You can criticize the Boardwalk Games as being ridiculously overpriced but if nothing else, they fit well the new Paradise Pier theming and a whole lot better than shooting basketballs into a hoop. It has its critics but the Little Mermaid dark ride was much needed in the park and show building looks fabulous. And this all continues with the opening of Buena Vista St. and Carsland in 2012.

Yep DCA - you've come a long, long, way and people like John Lassater, Larry Nicolai, Kathy Mangum, Steve Davison, along with countless others deserve an awful lot of credit for taking an eyesore and making it eye popping. Thank you.

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