Monday, June 10, 2019

CALIFORNIA Has Moved


Today’s OCYDS is a tale of an iconic Orange County attraction that has made a change of address.

The Walt Disney Company, under the direction of Michael Eisner, came up with the idea to open a second theme park located adjacent to Disneyland. Eisner wanted to create a somewhat educational park that featured the history and treasures to be found in California. Disney’s California Adventure opened on February 8, 2001. There was a farmer's market. A wine courtyard. And a boardwalk area complete with crashing waves underneath.   

The weather that opening day was wet and dreary and did not contribute to the overall impression made on awaiting fans.  In fact, the park was a dud. DCA, as it has come to be known, drew only minimal crowds.

Large cement letters spelled out CALIFORNIA a few yards in front of the entry, which was done in an aqua, art-deco style.  Inside on both sides of the entry were two enormous mosaic works of art depicting several California sights, such as the redwoods, Malibu, Avalon, windsurfers and playful sea creatures leaping from the waters offshore. 

Photo from Yesterland.com
Connecting the two sides, Disney created a decoration to the existing monorail track that resembled the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. If you stood in the right spot looking from the esplanade between the two theme parks, you could pose family members among the letters of CALIFORNIA to create a photo that really looked like a postcard.   Extra points if you could time your photo to the exact moment the monorail crossed the bridge.  The letters themselves were popular picture spots. 

The Park was not.

The theme, design, and educational mission were lost on the superfans that overpopulated the internet.  Eisner had no idea how powerful an underwhelmed cyber-fan base could be. There were no lovable Disney characters to be found… at least very few.  There were not enough attractions to fill a day, and half of them were problematic.  A ride in a “SuperStar Limo” arriving at a film premiere? Yawn.  A movie with a very politically correct presentation of Californian history starring Eisner’s pal, Whoopie Goldberg? 

Puleeze.

For ten years, the park struggled and faltered.  Eisner was booted out of Disney, and Imagineers set to restyle the park with less pedantic, more fun attractions.  They rethemed attractions to include Marvel Superheroes and Pixar stars.  The entry way was restyled to a theme of Hollywood when Uncle Walt first arrived, complete with Red Car Trolleys and a new statue of Walt and Mickey arriving in town.

A Sun Icon sculpture was replaced with a restaurant designed to look like the Carthay Circle theater (where Snow White premiered). The Sun Icon was reportedly sold to the city of Anaheim, but has yet to resurface.  And the mosaic, once the biggest mosaic to be found in the United States, was crushed into powder, providing builders material for terrazzo floors in other attractions.  

Photo by Phil Kampel Photography
As for those CALIFORNIA letters: there is good news. They were carefully removed and shipped to their new California home in Sacramento.  Gracing the entryway to the State of California’s State Fairgrounds at 1600 Exposition Blvd, Sacramento, the letters still stand tall and picture ready, just as they did in Anaheim.  The fair runs the last two weeks in July (the 12 th – 28 th ), so if you are up for a little nostalgic road trip this summer, be sure to drop by. 

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