Opposite the old school Disney park is Disney's California Adventure, a newer and more unique park that supposedly encapsulates all that is good about the sunny state of California. In 2002 this was a very new park having only been open a year but still offered a very good day out. Further investment had taken place in subsequent years including a major step-change announced this year with a whole new section of the park.
Nice ArtyDecoy entrance with the obligatory security checks only a little more Californian than the other park.
Uh Oh! Hoardings galore as soon as we entered the park was a big sign (pun intended) that the new Cars section of the park wasn't going to be open for us. It turns out that we missed this by a week. We did see people with wristbands being allowed in that officially were character actors but unofficially were probably hotel guests...unless they've recruited school kids, scouts, and pensioners amongst others into their ranks.
The wonderful wolf looking mountain signifies the first main area of the park made to look like the National Parks of California (which having visited are much more cooler than the cities). This part of the park is home to a rather brilliant rapids ride and an activity trail for kids. For some odd reason there were also some people trying to sell holiday homes here too.
One day one the rapids was down, but that was resolved on day 2. I remember the big slide drop in 2002 and good to see it was still as good now. It's also worth mentioning that 10 years of growth has really allowed the plants to get to a decent size, really adding to the theming.
Some random "come and dance with the guys in suits until they die from exhaustion" show that everytime we saw running was very popular with the little 'uns.
The park does have a small main street that contain some shops and eating places, the new improved main street is behind the hoardings and not open to us daytrippers. If you have an impressive wiener they'll give you an award.
At the top of Main Street and in the New York themed section of the park. The backdrop is completely fake but a popular photo attraction. In the building to the right is a huge hall that focuses on the animation of Disney but tucked in the corner is Turtle Talk, a wonderful animation display that has you interacting with Crush of Finding Nemo fame, and I got picked on and jokes made at the expense of my beard.
This video I stole from youtube shows how Turtle Talk works with hidden cameras, mics, improvisational skills on the part of the staff and graphics working together into a show that captivates the kids and blows away the adults...actually sod that, it really is Crush from Finding Nemo in a tank.
A rather strange area in the park themed around the Mad Hatter Tea Party, which I subsequently found out was very new having recently replaced the ElecTRONica show. Now supposedly this area comes alive in the evening with live bands and bars. A nice idea however it wasn't going to be open on our visit.
So we didn't get to see this, I'd have definitely been up for staying out for this and think its great to pot on something a little more adult orientated. Just a shame they've attempted to rip off the DeadMau5 look (ironically who has a mouse for a head) with their DJ White Rabbit. If you watch this clip watch for the angry cameo from Pugsley Addams at 00:45
Instead we had to make do with the Monsters Inc ride that was just a car ride through some sets from the film. A big thanks to the staff member on the gates who when asked if there was a single rider queue (we didn't want to queue the 30 minutes) just said to walk on down the exit and say she'd sent you down there. 5 minutes later we were in the car and ticking the ride off.
The ride that stands out over all the others is of course Tower of Terror, and it's still a very popular draw with the tourists. For those that don't know what it is, where on earth have you been?
It's basically an over themed drop tower style attraction with a great drop program and a ride that never disappoints.
Just don't be a dick and ignore the lap strap rules.
Across from the Tower we took time out to see their Aladdin Broadway style show. I didn't take any photos of the show itself as we were asked not to however I did sneak this hidden Mickey in the decor. The show was actually pretty good but there were pockets of the crowd who sniggered whenever the politically correct wheel-chair bound actress was on stage, especially when she was playing the part of the pyramid in the flying sequence. It really was just her in her chair with a pyramid on her head driving through dry ice.
Bugs Life section of the park contains the same 4D show as the other Disney parks and some theming that makes this section of the park look tiny.
I love that Disney invests thousands on the best rides but for some kids they need nothing more than a fountain to keep them happy. The same trick that Universal used.
Another cookie cut show (that sounds much worse than I intended as they're still great) is the Muppets 4D show which contains some very good 3D effects and clever use of animatronics.
In the Quayside area of the park and we're in the middle of the eating area. At the back end on the right of this shot is a great chocolate shop which I highly recommend for their desserts.
For those that need a coffee in the morning I'm also told its the best place to get your caffeine fix (not being a coffee drinker I wouldn't know)
All the nice girls like a sailor. A meet and greet opportunity. Kids never question why Mickey can change outfits and move between the parks so quickly. I wonder if they coordinate his appearances between the parks?
Now that's what a rollercoaster should look like, this part of the park is great looking. The Wonderwheel copy now has the Mickey centrepiece where before I think it was a sun.
California Screamin' is a steel launched coaster that's made to look like an old wooden one. They've even faked a chain link shunt up the hill and sound effects playing to make it seem like it's an old coaster that you're on.
This and Tower of Terror are the 2 biggest crowd pullers so the best place to consider using the fast passes to jump crowds like this.
A pretty themed carousel.
New to this part of the park is the Toy Story arcade ride, similar to the one in Florida that has you playing a number of 3D games where those who can tug on their gun (ooer) and aim straight (ooer) get the highest score. For a film series that's full of entendres - hero is called woody (ooer), and has a vibrator shaped friend called buzz (ooer) - it's apt that to have an attraction that looks rude when you're playing it (ooer).
The mouse coaster which is very generic, and an odd attraction for Disney to have used to be called Mulholland Madness but has been given an overhaul to be themed around Goofy turning his chicken farm into a flight training school.
Nice touches like the signs telling you each element ("dive and pull up") make this better than it's predecessor but it's still just a mouse coaster. I do quite like the ride op uniforms on this ride though. They're like golfers on drugs!
The Ariel dark ride was well themed but a bit too short with an anticlimatic ending. Still the little kids liked it, and it'll never be as terrifying as Small World.
Soaring over California was a wonderful gliding simulation back in 2002 and I have strong memories of the smells pumped into the theatre to add to the themes (orange when you're flying over orange groves, pine over the forests, diesel over the aircraft carrier etc). Given that smell is the one sense linked to memory that's perhaps not a surprise. What I don't remember is being able to see the feet of the people above you, perhaps they need to widen the guards that are supposed to block them. Also this time around we had no smells although others did, perhaps it depended on the theatre we were in as they have several in the hangar building.
We found a little shack next to a wonderful Italian restaurant where a concept overview of the new Cars land was laid out for all to see. It looked really good with a huge Test Track style car ride at the end but only 3 new rides in total.
We also sneaked a shot over the hoarding of the park before being told to get down.
This video gives an overview of the new rides better than my shot over the hoarding will ever do, and it's now open for you to enjoy.
We caught the Pixar Parade which consisted of lots of loveable characters from your favourite (Disney) Pixar films coming past on large floats and every single one of them doing their best to spray you in the face, or perhaps they just singled me out (even Crush had picked on me earlier in the day so perhaps not a surprise)
At the back of the parade was the main car from Cars and some remarkably clean pit girls. I've not seen Cars so have no idea who this is.
In addition to all the shops trying to get you to spend all your money whilst in the park, there's a whole shopping emporium outside the parks where they'll do their best to get you to spend some more. It's places like this that make me glad I chose never to buy park merchandise.
I think Eeyore would rather be somewhere else too!
At night the park takes on a different feel with some great lighting such as this cool use of LEDs on the wheel.
Paradise pier at night.
We got one of the last goes on the Toy Story ride at night and the park really need to sort out the queue jumping here. It's really bad, I had a run in with a guy who thought it was OK to join his wife that he'd put in the queue earlier. He didn't understand why he was in the wrong. Ah well!
California Adventure has a light show at the end of the day where they lower the lake revealing LED lit fountains onto which they project film clips. There are also flame throwers and a very loud soundsystem, not too dissimilar to a Tiesto gig (perhaps they should put DJ White Rabbit over here). It was alright but I found myself spending more time wondering why people were trying to photograph and film it when they could just be enjoying it...a downside to having a camera in your phone I guess.
California Adventure has actually come on quite nicely since my last visit but as with the other elephants encountered we just missed the opportunity to enjoy Car Land by 2 weeks. But the Screamin' coaster is great and Tower of Terror is just superb. Both are great attractions but my favourite attraction was Turtle Talk which is still impressive and horribly overlooked.