Not all of Disney’s parks have been big hits right out of the gate. Disney California Adventure got off to a rough start, as did one of it’s opening day attractions SuperStar Limo. On the series premiere of Things Disney Wishes You Would Forget, Kory and Adam take a deeper look at these two things that Disney wishes you would forget!
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THE RUN SHEET (YES, THE ACTUAL SCRIPT)
- Overall concept of the serial
- We’re starting off with parks, since that’s our main focus. Not all parks have been big hits right out of the gate. Disneyland struggled at first (opening day woes), Euro Disneyland problems.
5 minute produced piece-DCA 1.0
Breeze, birds, bees…fades to parking lot.
You often hear that up until the early 1950s, the land currently occupied by Disneyland was nothing but orange groves. *Welcome to Radiator Springs* Well, along that theme, imagine that if you’re standing in the middle of Cars Land today, you’d have been in a huge parking lot until 1980.
Okay, so that doesn’t have quite the same romantic ring to it.
But regardless, by the early 1990s, Disney was anxious for an expansion to their original California property.
*upbeat music hits*
Walt Disney World had long ago eclipsed Disneyland as the most visited theme park property in the world, thanks to the immersive themed resorts, flagship Magic Kingdom Park, and two sprawling expansions; EPCOT Center in 1982, and Disney/MGM Studios in 1989.
It was Epcot Center that would ultimately inspire Disney CEO Michael Eisner to transform the Anaheim property from a single park to a full-fledged resort. WestCOT would feature a re-tooled World Showcase, improved versions of several Future World attractions, and the first ever Disney hotel to be located inside a park.
But the project was plagued with logistical problems from the start. *dark music* FROZEN WATER Chief among them were land, money, and strong-willed neighbors. An EPCOT-style park would require a lot of land, but property values around the park had skyrocketed since Walt’s initial purchase in the 1950s, and the proposed signature attraction of the park, Spacestation Earth, would be 120 feet taller than Spaceship Earth in Florida, upsetting local residents who feared it would be a giant golden eyesore. Couple that with the parks department still feeling the sting of Euro Disneyland’s rough start, and by 1995, WestCOT was dead. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
Eisner gathered Disney executives in Aspen, Colorado in summer 1995 to come up with a new concept. They realized something; people who visited Disneyland only spent a couple of days on their property, then spent upwards of a week or more exploring the sights and splendor of California as a whole, for example, the towering coastal Redwoods, the beautiful and historic San Francisco Bay, and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. What this meant to Eisner and company was that, if they could recreate everything that people loved about California, their guests would stay on property longer, and spend more money, instead of venturing out and seeing those things for themselves. *INTERRUPTION* This idea gave birth to…Disney’s California Adventure.
*commercial audio or music or Epcot info piece?*
EPCOT had become a big success by catering more to adults than to kids, so Disney saw no reason not to follow that model with Disney’s California Adventure. They would break with Walt’s long-held teetotaler tradition on the Anaheim property, and allow beer and wine for the first time in Disneyland Resort history. Construction began on January 22, 1998 for the park itself, as well as the new Downtown Disney shopping district and the Grand Californian hotel, inside the park.
On January 14, 2001, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece called “The Most Jam Packed Theme Park on Earth?”, predicting that the park would hit capacity and have to turn away guests in the first few weeks, and again when the summer came around. In reality…that didn’t happen. Due to budget cuts, DCA opened with far fewer rides than it’s sister park across the Esplanade. There was plentiful shopping and high-end restaurants…but not much else. Considering that Disneyland Resort has always catered primarily to families with young children, DCA 1.0 was a tough sell.
Adding to those problems was a lack of immersion. Disneyland had been designed with high perimeter berms of trees and earth, keeping the real world from intruding on the Happiest Place on Earth. From DCA, you could see power lines, hotels, and the Anaheim Convention Center. In short, you were never far from a reminder that you were smack in the middle of an urban center. Not exactly a good vibe for that signature Disney magic.
Visitor surveys in the park’s first year of operation found that just 20% of visitors were satisfied with their experience at Disney’s California Adventure.
You can point to any one of these problems to illustrate the folly of Disney’s California Adventure version 1.0.
*end of piece*
Superstar Limo Teaser segment.
Kory (ad-lib, play with copy): welcome back to things Disney wishes you’d forget. Adam talked in the first segment about Disney California Adventure 1.0, Disneyland’s sister park had a rough start, and one attraction symbolizes everything that was wrong with DCA. You know what I am talking about? *Adam feign a few ideas that sucked if you can, or just hit that you might know what I am talking about.* The ride called Superstar Limo.
5 minute produced piece-Superstar Limo
If Disney’s goal with California Adventure was to replicate the magic of the Golden State, then Superstar Limo sought to re-create the experience of being a highly sought-after movie star in Hollywood. Makes some sense. Early in the park’s development, around 1996, it was originally designed to be a frantic, high-speed paparazzi chase through the streets of Hollywood.
That all changed in late summer of 1997, *news clips fade in/out* Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a horrific car crash while her chauffeur was trying to escape the cameras of the French media. Suddenly, what was originally conceived as a fun, madcap update of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had become a macabre, tasteless parody of real life tragedy. Needless to say, the project was scrapped.
*Tower of Terror Music?*
Disney was leaning toward merely cloning a Disney/MGM Studios attraction like The Great Movie RIde, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or Rockin’ Rollercoaster. Eisner even had the idea to build the Tower of Terror as a hybrid of a ride and an actual functioning hotel. *INTERRUPTION* But in the end, they opted to keep Superstar Limo, just with some major theming changes.
The ride was a complete mess. Continued budget cuts forced Imagineers to forego a lavishly designed exterior to the show building in favor of cheap-looking, cartoony wooden facades.
After working their way through a queue featuring a laughably bad spoof of Joan Rivers, announcing the newest Hollywood sensation (AKA you), you would board your limo at LAX, and make your way through the streets of Beverly HIlls, Venice Beach, and Malibu.
The ride was populated with about a dozen celebrities, but those suffered from a lot of problems, too. First, they were only the likenesses of celebrities that Disney already had the rights to, or that were cheap to acquire. Between the time the ride was conceived and the time it opened, many of their celebrity statuses had significantly diminished. On top of that, the characters were very poor audio animatronics by Disney standards; their faces didn’t even move!
Among the stars on the attraction were Regis Philbin, Melanie Griffith, Antonio Banderas, Cindy Crawford, Tim Allen, Jackie Chan, Drew Carey, Cher, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Superstar Limo was terribly received. It would remain open for less than a year, receiving the dubious distinction of being the first DCA ride to close. The show building sat unused for nearly four years and Walt Disney Imagineering brainstormed several different options for the ride, but it wasn’t until Michael Eisner was ousted as CEO that it was officially replaced by Monsters, Inc: Mike & Sulley to the Rescue in 2006. *monsters music* An attraction which made no changes to the simple animatronics or their locations, ride layout, or ride vehicles. It even made use of some of the old attraction’s special effects.
Monsters Incorporated Mike & Sully to the rescue rarely has a wait to this day. At least Roz is hilarious.
*end of piece*
Discussion about overall theming changes to DCA. California to IPs.