D23 Expo was light on announcements for Disneyland Resort, but the biggest surprise of the afternoon was the addition of Pixar Pier in Disney California. This will be a new look for Paradise Pier, with the addition of ‘Pixar Pals Theater’ and Pixar characters from The Incredibles, Inside Out, and Toy Story.
Disney is describing it as adding “whimsical neighborhoods” for these characters to the seaside waterfront. It’s also being billed as a continuation of the evolution of Disney California Adventure, which began a decade ago with the addition of Toy Story Midway Mania to Paradise Pier.
Pixar Place will be a permanent addition to Disney California Adventure that will debut in Summer 2018 during Pixar Fest, a celebration of all things Pixar throughout Disneyland Resort. This celebration will occur in both parks…
Over in Disneyland, there will be a brand-new Pixar fireworks show, which will utilize the Main Street USA projection mapping technology pioneered in Disneyland Forever during the Diamond Celebration.
Additionally, the interminable Pixar Play Parade will have a new lease on life, switching parks and making its Disneyland debut.
Consequently, Paint the Night will return, moving across the Esplanade to Disney California Adventure. While this is being pitched as being a result of Pixar Fest, I do not believe that’s actually the case. A new float will also be joining Paint the Night when it debuts in Disney California Adventure.
More on all of this below…
As I mentioned, this was the big surprise of the Parks & Resorts panel. This all came out of left field, with no rumors beforehand to my knowledge.
My initial reaction (there’s going to be a twist ending) with regard to Pixar Pier was this could actually work. The concept art that flashed onscreen as this announcement was made reminded me of Toyville Trolley Park, where Toy Story Mania is located in Tokyo DisneySea.
While I was not a huge fan of Toy Story Mania being added to that park, I view Toyville Trolley Park as a lemonade out of lemons scenario, and that area has always felt like it’s the best-themed integration of Toy Story Mania into any of the parks.
If the concept art is any indication, Pixar Pier will feature some of the same stylistic notes as Toyville Trolley Park. Aesthetically, I’d consider that a win. While the placemaking that led up to the relaunch of Disney California Adventure changed a lot of Paradise Pier, it mostly toned down its puns and caricatured style, making it visually ordinary in the process.
Even then, the Paradise Pier refresh felt like a stopgap. At one point, it was rumored that “Phase 2” of the Disney California Adventure overhaul would include adding a trackless dark ride “Museum of the Weird” (modeled after Mystic Manor) into the old Maliboomer (RIP) plot, but that never happened.
On a high level, I’m not concerned about losing iconic “California” themed design here. I don’t think Paradise Pier is a masterwork of themed design, nor does it draw specifically on particularly iconic piers in California (at least ones with which I’m familiar). Instead, it evokes them generally, feeling like it could be what an idealized version of the Santa Monica Pier (or something of its sort) was like in an bygone era.
While Pixar Pier also will lack a distinct California flavor (if it’s like Toyville Trolley Park, it’ll draw inspiration from Lunar Park in Australia), at least it will have more character and charm. Viewed through this prism, I consider at least part of Pixar Pier a theoretical upgrade.
However, there’s the potential for the wheels to fall off if they push this too far. What about Mickey’s Fun Wheel? Does that become Mater’s Fun Wheel? Does Cove Bar become Crush’s Bar? Should a Pixar-land even have a bar? Does Ariel’s Grotto become Anton Ego’s Grill? (Okay, that one I might be able to get behind.) What about Ariel’s Undersea Adventure? Or the several other non-Pixar attractions in Paradise Pier?
The announcement of this re-themed raises a lot of questions, and doesn’t answer any of them. It feels almost like someone had the initial gut-level reaction to seeing Toyville Trolley Park at Tokyo DisneySea as I did, and said, “this would work at Disney California Adventure, too!”
The problem is, once you get past the seaside promenade of Paradise Pier and its shops and carnival games…it does not necessarily work. And causes a lot of problems, and thematic incongruity, in the process.
We also don’t know what substantive additions this will bring with it. Based upon the concept art, my guess would be Pixar Pals Theater and Bing Bong’s Confectionary are going into the vacant plot left by the Maliboomer (RIP), with those being the only additions. It wouldn’t shock me if Pixar Pals Theater is just a Pixar meet & greet location.
This leads me to wonder whether the entire land is not going to be redone as Pixar Pier, but rather, only the stretch from between Toy Story Mania to Maliboomer (RIP) Park, with Mickey’s Fun Wheel and everything on the other side of Paradise Bay ignored completely. Pixar Pier could actually be a subland of Paradise Pier, in which case I’m totally on board with it.
Ultimately, I suppose that’s a workable approach that gives Paradise Pier a visual refresh and new entertainment, while also leaving undisturbed the aspects of Paradise Pier that work well. We also don’t know what substantive additions this will bring with it. While I’d love to see a strong family ride fill the Maliboomer (RIP) plot, if Marvel Land proves to have family-friendly attractions, I think that’s workable.
As for the parade news, it’s really…something. I’m shocked by Pixar Play Parade moving to Disneyland and replacing the Mickey’s Soundsational Parade, which is clearly the superior parade. Pixar Play Parade has gone on hiatus a few times recently for various festivals and other excuses, and my assumption was that was because everyone dislikes it as much as I do. I mean…I guess it’s fine if you like loud noises, and the cute Slinky float, but beyond that? No thanks.
It’s also interesting that Paint the Night is being bundled with this announcement, as that’s a domino effect caused by Pixar Play Parade moving. It’s not. With Fantasmic returning to Disneyland (and likely to draw record crowds) and the Halloween and Christmas seasons being busy at Disneyland, something is needed to draw crowds to Disney California Adventure.
One of those ‘somethings’ is the Halloween overlays coming to DCA. The other part of the equation was thought to be Paint the Night parade, which would (will?) debut in Disney California Adventure this fall, before October.
I don’t know if that’s no longer the plan or if this was just slick marketing to make it sound like all of this is occurring as part of a big Pixar Fest thing, but the announcement was ambiguous with regard to Paint the Night.
The other aspect of the Paint the Night announcement is to ‘expect a new float.’ New may not be the right word so much as repurposed, as one of the floats in Paint the Night cannot fit the Disney California Adventure parade route in its current form. Again, unless something has changed, there’s no net gain in terms of the parade floats.
Then there are the new Pixar fireworks coming to Disneyland. Call me old fashioned, but the park designed by Walt Disney himself–the park that still regularly milks this nostalgia–should not have a fireworks show dedicated to the creations of a company that was purchased by the Disney Company decades later. Pixar is perfectly appropriate for DCA and can be integrated into Disneyland in tasteful ways, but an entire fireworks show (or parade)? That rubs me the wrong way.
Overall, the end result of this Pixar announcement was a bit puzzling, I guess? Some of the changes to Paradise Pier could potentially enhance that area of the park depending upon the execution, but I see the best case scenario there being some nice placemaking and a new meet & greet. Not exactly earth-shattering stuff. By contrast, I could envision a worst case scenario that’s pretty bad, introducing a lot of inconsistency and unnecessary overlays into Pixar Pier if the entirety of Paradise Pier is to be redone. As for the other aspects of Pixar Fest…I’m not a fan.
What do you think of Pixar Pier being added to/replacing Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure? Any theories of your own as to how this will be accomplished and/or whether it’ll be confined to the back portion of the pier? What do you think about Pixar Fest coming to Disneyland Resort? What about Paint the Night moving to DCA? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of these changes? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!