Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Disney's California Adventure Extreme Makeover: No Better Blues

Disney announced plans today to try and improve on their under-performing second gate, Disney's California Adventure. The press release describes what the Burbank gang is planning for the former Disneyland parking lot...

Things don't appear to be getting any better. And they're spending over a billion dollars on the improvements.

To my way of thinking, they've made the announcement too soon-- there's an awful lot of half-baked ideas in that official statement.

Put another way, if this is the best they've got (with the exception of the mentioned "Cars Land"), we're all in store for Dismal California Adventure, version 2.

They've announced that they are building a "Unique Nighttime Spectacular" water show that, "...features colorful lighting." You've GOT to be kidding me. How very... um... 1973.

The not-on-anyone's-travel-agenda tortilla-and-bread-making plant remains??? REALLY? The one part of the park you could roll-a-grenade-through-and-not-hit-a-soul (kids, don't try this at home), remains largely intact?!? Who the heck is doing their research?? Who in their right mind spends 66 bucks to watch a machine flatten corn meal?!? Am I alone here? I'm thinking, 'where's my mine train ride through the grizzly mountain?' and Disney president, Bob Iger is giving me maize.

HOLLYWOOD PICTURES BACKLOT: They wanna hold workshops with writers and directors. Wow. Plastic folding chairs in an overheated conference room and a tacky dais of your favorite (but never heard of them before) Desperate Housewife staff scribes. So now DCA is the biggest, most fun version of The Learning Tree Annex. Is this release for real? Did Iger read this pap before it was released? It sounds like a mid-level publicist wrote this drivel before it had the chance of being reviewed by Head Imagineer Bob Weis, Pixar and Imagineering Guru John Lasseter OR Iger. This whole document comes across like a boring travel pamphlet published by a podunk chamber of commerce.

I wince when Iger invokes Walt's name-- I don't believe their intent is true. In fact, I think it is an indicator that WDI is still grasping for TRUE solutions to an underwhelmed public response to DCA, and using the iconic Disney name like a salve to cover the lack of ideas.

The bottom line is that DCA is too "off the shelf"-- not enough unique "DISNEY" ideas to ride approaches. What I'm seeing in this release is the mention of a lot of shops and restaurants, and not enough (except as stated above, regarding CARS LAND) fun and innovative attractions.

GOLDEN STATE: Sounds unchanged. Read the release, you'll agree with me.

PREVIEW CENTER: As a kid I LOVED seeing models of "Discoveryland" and other proposed projects from WDI. That said, I fail to see how a small storefront crammed with posterboard models will drive ticket sales to 15 million. Hey, I kid... but is the best idea they have to "fix" an entire themed land?

Lastly, where was any mention of John Lasseter? Neither the LA Times, the Disney release or today's Wall Street Journal column mentioned him-- and he's for all intents and purposes, guiding this re-do.

Iger is known in some Hollywood camps for being an very affable -- yet not so creative -- guy. Without John Lasseter's hand -- a true storyteller & creative force in the mold of Walt Disney -- the project is up a creek.

I get the impression that the creative teams have a long way to go before they plunge the first shovel into the soil. If they move too quickly, today's press release indicates that Disney is about to make another big blunder in the old parking lot.

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At 1:39 AM, Blogger James said...

Your take on the DCA re-do cracked me up. Loved your description of the tortilla and bread factories. The description of the grenade - hilarious!

Personally I'm a bit more optimistic about the redesign than you appear to be (although you were spot on about that lackluster description of the show on the lake).

Also agree that the intention is not to bring Walt into the park as much as it is to bring more paying customers into it (it is a business after all). But it's Disney, after all, and as with anything they do, they have to make it at least appear like they're more interested in providing a great experience than great profits. So although I agree with you, it's what I've come to expect.

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