Part III: Coast-to-Coast Disney Trip Report
Disney California Adventure just sounds odd after hearing it as Disney’s California Adventure for so long, and given that it’s inconsistent with the other properties (Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, etc.) in Florida. When the name first changed, I recall reading a multi-page thread on WDWMagic concerning the grammar of the new name. Most posters contended that the new name was grammatically incorrect, as “California Adventure” belongs to Disney, in which case the possessive, “Disney’s” would be necessary. However, this assumes that Disney’s intent is for California Adventure to belong to Disney. If the entire proper name is now meant to be Disney California Adventure, that is no different than my name being Thomas Brandon Bricker. It’s confusing, because the previous intent was to establish Disney’s ownership of California Adventure by attaching the “Disney” name to the park’s title, but just because that was the previous intent doesn’t mean it’s the present intent. As a stylistic matter, the new name sounds awkward, and as a practical matter it certainly seems like a waste of money to change over signage and promotional materials to the new name for no cognizable financial benefit, but perhaps there is some justifiable rationale for the change.
In any case, I’ll bet you didn’t expect grammar lessons in a trip report. Hopefully this one isn’t a snooze-fest already! Once made our way through the labyrinth of construction walls around DCA’s main entrance, we jumped through what was left of the California post-card in the entrance-way plaza. As I begin my reminiscing about California Adventure and the good ole days (go ahead and laugh out loud as I “reminisce” about my one trip to the garish California Adventure), the first thing that comes to mind is this entrance.
I liked the CALIFORNIA letters on the promenade. I thought the mountain mosaic was gorgeous, I think the Golden Gate monorail track is a neat touch, and I really like the neon signs above the gift shops in this atmosphere. Most of all, I love the atmosphere here at night, when the neon comes alive with color, the monorail passes, and you can hear the mellow tunes of the Beach Boys. Don’t get me wrong, I think the new theming will be much more befitting of a Disney theme park, and will look much better (I’ve already seen a lot of it at the Disney-MGM Studios (or Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the youngsters reading), and it does look better!), but I will always think back to the current/slightly past entrance-way with fond memories.
My reminiscing over, we then headed towards two of the top attractions in DCA: Monsters, Inc Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Monsters, Inc. dark ride is not more popular. Seriously, especially with the lack of attractions in DCA, the attraction, even with its greater capacity, should have Peter Pan’s Flight-like lines.
Yeah, a lot of it has been repurposed from Superstar Taxi. Yeah, it’s no Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek. So what? It’s a really fun family style dark ride, and it’s pretty well executed. Perhaps we’re just partial to the movie Monsters, Inc., but Sarah and I think this is a dark ride stand-out.
From there, we wandered a little further to the Hollywood Tower Hotel. This is an attraction I love, but far prefer at Walt Disney World. It’s not even that the attraction is that much better there (although it is), there’s just something about it. I actually couldn’t quite put my finger on it until Destination D, when Imagineer Jason Surrell described the storytelling process for the Tower of Terror beginning as you first step foot on Sunset Boulevard and see the HTH in the distance. There, it fits the theming perfectly. Sunset Blvd is, by and large, Old Hollywood.
By contrast, the Hollywood Pictures Backlot is a hodge podge. It features Aladdin the Musical alongside Monsters, Inc., with the beats elecTRONica bouncing throughout at night. Nothing about it is cohesive, and while most of the attractions are wonderful individually, they aren’t tied together especially well into the land. This seems like it has started to improve with some of the facades (I think so, at least), but the elecTRONica infrastructure all over the place is a step in the wrong direction, even if elecTRONica is wildly fun and successful. Hopefully all of this is rectified when the land becomes Hollywood Land.
The ride itself was enjoyable, and I find myself still spotting little details (unique to the DCA version) in the queue and gift shop each time we ride. Overall, I’m not as wild about the substance of the attraction itself at DCA, nor do I like the look of the Tower as well, but it’s quite possibly my favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, and it easily ranks up there at DCA, too.
Next we wandered through a bug’s land. After our last trip, we realized the one attraction that we had done here was…the restroom. We figured we should probably give something else a chance, and noted the short line for Flik’s Flyers. These were fairly entertaining, relaxing, and gave a nice view of the park. They were definitely not something for which I’d wait in line 60 minutes, but for a 5 minute wait, they were worth it.
As we meandered our way to the back of the Pier, we noticed everything that had changed since our last trip. Maliboomer was no more. Pizza Om Mow Mow and Burger Invasion were under the knife. The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure’s show building was pretty much complete, and was looking great. Mulholland Madness was gone and Goofy’s Sky School was making tremendous strides.
During our last visit, all of the aforementioned that are either now gone or are under the knife (and thus will be gone or known by different names) were still operational. As a bit of a theme park historian, I regret that we experienced only Pizza Om Mow Mow of that lot. The rest didn’t seem like anything special, so perhaps that’s why we passed on them, but had we known they’d be gone, we would have experienced them just for the sake of having experienced them. I really wish I would have followed Disneyland news prior to our last trip like I follow it now. However, I didn’t want to see or read too much, thus ruining the surprise of actually being surprised by the attractions the first time I experienced them. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and in the regard that Disneyland was a wholly new experience to me when we visited, I know I made the right decision not reading more about the parks then. Had I read and seen more, the first visit wouldn’t have been the same.
Because I didn’t read more, though, I think I overly cherish Pizza Om Mow Mow, which I now jokingly describe as the “heart” of Disney California Adventure and the “greatest restaurant in California ever!” While these are obviously nothing more than sarcastic remarks, I did think Pizza Om Mow Mow’s theme was fairly neat, and its food okay, it just didn’t belong in the Victorian-themed Paradise Pier.
Also due to the historian in me, you might read comments in which I express surprisingly positive sentiment towards things a lot of Disneyland fans might think are garish. For example, the neon signs in Sunshine Plaza. There are a few possible reasons for this: A) I am a tacky and eclectic person without much eye for style, B) I value the idea of the thing more than the thing, and since it is disappearing soon/has disappeared, I place too high of a premium on it, or C) as a photographer, I partially gauge things based on their photogenic qualities, and neon and vibrant colors are decidedly photogenic–at least for my style of photography.
That said, I really wish we could have seen circa 2001 (or even circa 2006) DCA. Personally, I think the Sun Wheel looked cooler than the Fun Wheel, I think the CALIFORNIA letters were cool, I liked the entrance plaza mural, and the Orange Stinger looked pretty cool, although I think overall the Silly Symphony Swings are probably a big improvement there. Come 2013 when the dust finally settles, I have no doubt that the park will be far superior to the park as it existed in 2007, but it still would be cool to have visited back then. Plus, it’s only human nature to long for that which no longer exists. Anyway, as we passed the former home of Pizza Om Mow Mow on the way to Toy Story Mania, I poured some Coke on the curb, in honor of my fallen homie.
There are multiple pages in this Disneyland trip report installment. Navigate to the next page below!
You probably know this by now but the Grand Californian was modeled after the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. It seems like it doesn’t fit into a theme park based on Ca but it’s actually perfect. I’ve become obsessed with your blog, such a fun resource for a disney fan. Thanks!
Somehow, I started reading this report way-back-when, and never finished. Bad me!!
On the beer discussion, one of the microbrews that frequently shows up on menus at WDW is Athens, GA’s Terrapin. Fantastic stuff!!
Of course, my love for Terrapin could have something to do with their live music weekends, with gate entry, 8 beer tickets AND a custom beer glass for $10 (and the fact that I can practically walk from my house to the brewery). But whatever…next time you’re in FL, and you see Terrapin on the menu, give whatever they have a try. Typically, I’ve seen the Rye Pale Ale, with an occasional listing of the Hopsecutioner IPA. I’m not generally an IPA girl, but the Hop is one of my favorite beers. (Alternately, WDW is known to swap out the Terrapin for some SweetWater brews, which are out of Atlanta).
Your trip reports are some of the best. Being a Californian and an hour away from DLR, it’s my home base. It’s so nice to see you do a TR for our resort! I love WDW as well and have been several times, it’s nice to see your photos and thoughts on home though.
Now, where is part 4! I’ve been checking everyday all week ahahah
It’s up now–enjoy!
Awesome third part! I really like the idea of rolling out the trip report this way. Leaves me wanting to read more, but also knowing that more will be coming! Also glad to hear that you thought The Magic, the Memories, and You was a good show. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it since I saw a video of the first run posted on YouTube. Way exceeded my expectations (although they were quite low)! Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it at the Magic Kingdom.
Doing the trip report in installments like this really makes it a lot easier on me. I’ve fallen behind a bit, but hopefully can get caught back up here over the weekend.
It’s interesting that the Grand Floridian is the flagship of WDW (we just came back from a stay there and really enjoyed it) and got alot of its concepts from the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego which we have also been. Tom you really need to visit it as well. So much history and such a great location. We have stayed at the Grand Californian as well. We really enjoyed it so much. Glad you got to see RDCT again. It is by far and away the best fireworks show. What did you think of Aladdin stage show? I am such of big fan of DL’s Fantasyland. I love dark rides and love how many there are and coupled with Storybook Canal ride and Casey Jr makes for so much fun. I really hope WDW adds more rides to their expansion.
I can’t wait to go back in 2012. I think we are going to get annual passports and hit summertime and Christmas next year. Can’t wait to hear what you think of Christmas at DL. My wife and I did it last year and it was so magical.
Anyways, great shots and a wonderful trip report.
PS how did you get into Club 33? I won’t tell anyone! 🙂
It is pretty ironic that the Grand Floridian is inspired by a Californian hotel, while the Grand Californian (at least as far as I know) isn’t directly inspired by anything, but is just reminiscent of National Park lodges of the arts and crafts period.
All of the rest of your questions will be answered in due time. Just keep reading! 🙂
As always, your Trip Report did not disappoint! Fabulous write up and even better photos! You go above & beyond ‘the norm’ which just makes it super enjoyable to read 🙂 I completely agree with how amazing the technology is for The Magic, The Memories, And You…incredible potential for future Disney endeavors. The tripod issues are unsettling…finally stepping out of my ‘comfort box’ and using the longer exposures for the fireworks…how on earth will that work without a tripod??!! Argh!
Thanks for a great report…can’t wait for the next chapter!
Another great addition to the trip report Tom! I got a little grief from a cast member in WDW last trip to. Wasn’t security and simply said that I wasn’t supposed to have my tripod in the park, to which I politley responded that security at the front of the park let me in with it, so I must be able to use it. These trip reports are no good for my bank account as you post each new one, I want to plan a trip to DLR even more. Great job again and can’t wait for the next one!
I fear the writing is on the wall for tripods in the US parks. They already aren’t allowed in Tokyo, and with a (seeming) proliferation in their use in the US parks, I think we’re one incident of a kid getting whacked on the head with a tripod leg away from them being banned here.
I’m just glad you didn’t go to Napa Rose 6-months ago; the beer select was far worse! At least they have Chimay White on tap, Franzikaner, and my personal favorite (though in a bottle), Boont Amber from Anderson Valley Brewing Co. They got rid of the Guinness Extra Draught, sadly in the recent change (february ’11).
Bayside Brews, dude, Bayside Brews! The future of beer in Disneyland.
What did you have for dinner? Was it the Sea Bass? What did you think of whatever it was?
I gotta say you brought me back to a lost part of my childhood by referencing an Ecto-cooler!
As a fellow beer snob who decided long ago that I didn’t have the patience or love of wine to develop a refined wine palette, I feel your pain at restaurants neglecting to have a sterling selection of unique brews. I think that’s starting to change, though, as craft beers continue to gain more traction and popularity, so here’s hoping.
As always, outstanding photos and great report. Seems like y’all had a blast as usual. Keep up the good work!
I think craft brews are gaining mainstream traction, too, which made it even more disappointing to see the flagship restaurant have so few beers. As Henry says, though, it has actually improved to get to this point!
I’ve never done the Food & Wine Festival, but I think a solid beer presence there would be a nice touch, with much more of a movement going on currently towards crafting beers to pair with various dishes. Guess I’ll have a to make that an event to hit up and see what’s offered.
Which restaurant at WDW that you’ve visited would you say had the most admirable beer offerings?
Oh jeez…good question. None of them are all that great, but if I recall correctly, the Swan & Dolphin restaurants have good beer lists, as does Le Cellier and Flying Fish.