History of Disney California Adventure

Hollywood Pictures Backlot:

The Hollywood Pictures Backlot (now Hollywood Land) is the land at Disney California Adventure that has quite possibly seen the most turnover since 2001. It has always been a no-man’s land, of sorts, for concepts that didn’t quite fit elsewhere but could fall under the generic “Hollywood” umbrella (and since everything in a Disney theme park is “show,” to some extent, anything fits). Hollywood Pictures Backlot was home to Disney’s worst attraction ever (Superstar Limo), originally housed several dining locations like Hollywood & Dine and Soap Opera Bistro, and more recently has become home to dance parties. Many of these changes occurred early in Disney California Adventure’s existence, and thus were not thoroughly documented (for example, about the only content I could find on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Play It was this Yesterland article). As the Disney California Adventure overhaul draws to a close, it’s, in my opinion, the land in need of the most work.

Here we’ll start with some photos of general Hollywood Pictures Backlot aesthetics that have changed, such as the entrance archway that has since been removed and the Sorcerer Mickey that was added to improve the ambiance of Disney California Adventure after the park opened but has since been displaced by dance party infrastructure. After that, we’ll move on to specific attractions that have changed.

Hollywood Pictures Backlot Entrance

Hollywood Pictures Backlot entrance

Disneyland 4-21-10 338 Merge

Soap Opera Bistro

Earful Tower at Disney's California Adventure

Sorcerer Mickey

Sorcerer Mickey

Hollywood Land Entrance, Disney California Adventure

Entrance Arch - Hollywoodland

Red Car Trolley construction walls at Hollywood Pictures Backlot

Superstar Limo:

Ahhh, the infamous Superstar Limo. Disney California Adventure’s only opening-day dark ride, this attraction was poised to join the elite company of other more evolved dark rides like Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean. Well, not exactly. Instead, it stayed open for just a year, and received a terrible reaction from park guests. I never had the chance to experience the attraction, but in watching videos posted online, all I can surmise is that the cynical nature of the attraction, Hollywood in-jokes, and low-show quality left many guests stunned. It probably wasn’t the worst Disney attraction ever, but it was definitely not what you’d expect from a Disney dark ride. Instead of being a timeless and immersive experience for guests of all ages, it was a topical and edgy look at Hollywood that you’d likely only love if your last name were “Eisner.”

Superstar Limo

Superstar Limo Queue

Superstar Limo: Muscle Beach at Disney's California Adventure

Monsters, Inc. Facade During Construction

Superstar Limo closed after only a year of operation and was replaced over four years later by Monsters, Inc.: Mike & Sulley to the Rescue in 2006. What took so long is unclear, as Monsters, Inc. is hardly a complex dark ride, and mirrors its predecessor in a lot of places (with Monsters, Inc. re-skinning, obviously). Despite its simplicity, Monsters, Inc. is a fun dark ride comparable to Fantasyland classics that the whole family can enjoy. It doesn’t utilize technology too well, which is disappointing after the 4 year wait for the replacement.

Photos don’t entirely do Superstar Limo justice, so check out these videos (the first is a slideshow, the second a ride-through video, the third a side-by-side comparison to Monsters, Inc):


Glowfest was a street dance party for Summer Nightastic in 2010 at Disney California Adventure. It went extinct in 2010, as well.

In my head, the story of how Glowfest came to fruition went something like this:

Executive A: “Disney California Adventure isn’t even coming close to living up to financial expectations. Food & Beverage and merchandise numbers are incredibly low. There’s only one bright spot…”
Executive B: “What’s that?”
Executive A: “Booze sales! The upside to building a boring theme park is that people need to add alcohol to enhance the experience.”
Executive B: “Well, how can we get them to drink more?”
Executive A: “I have the perfect idea–let’s get them dancing! Is there a reality TV show upon which we can base a dancing attraction? I want something that will be irrelevant in 2 months!”
Executive B: “No, but drunks love things that glow. Let’s make a dance party and call it ‘Festival of Glowing.'”

Okay, so perhaps it didn’t go quite like this, and in all honesty, GlowFest was pretty fun. That said, these dance parties with their $11.50 drinks seem to me to be little more than vehicles to sell alcohol. I’m quite okay with that, as both of the dance parties that I’ve experienced, GlowFest and elecTRONica, have been very enjoyable. I expect the same of Mad T Party.

Entrance to Glow Fest

Glow Fest at Disney California Adventure

Glow Fest at Disney California Adventure

Disneyland Aug 2010 - Glow Fest

Glow Fest at Disney California Adventure

Glow Fest Night

GlowFest: New Club Scene

Dancers at Club Glow


Shortly after Glowfest ended, elecTRONica took its place. ElecTRONica was very similar in nature to Glowfest, but used more special effects and permanent infrastructure than its predecessor. Basically, it was an expansion upon the original dance party concept that also worked as a promotional tie-in to the Tron: Legacy film.

In addition to dancing, elecTRONica featured Laserman, the End of Line Club, and Flynn’s Arcade.

Laser Man Monday...

Flynn's Arcade

Feeling the Force...

Step into the Grid

annissë at eleTRONica


Step onto the Grid for 25¢

Mad T Party Band - Mad T Party

Flamingo - Mad T Party

ElecTRONica went extinct in 2012 to make way for Mad T Party, a similar dance party, inspired by Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film. While I really enjoyed elecTRONica, it was initially supposed to be a limited engagement, and by the end of its run, it was a bit stale. Initial reports indicate that Mad T Party is tons of fun, so this looks like another positive change for Disney California Adventure!

Explore the rest of Disney California Adventure on the next page! You can navigate to specific lands and changes via the links below, or take the full tour by simply clicking the numbers below!

Park Entrance
Sunshine Plaza
Paradise Pier – Part 1
Paradise Pier – Part 2
Golden State
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
Parades & Events
Cars Land Construction

42 Responses to “History of Disney California Adventure”
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