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$120 million a year isn't a lot of money? Even for Disney standards, $120 million a year for an already established theme park is a huge amount of investment. Usually you see $100+ million given out every 3-5 years, not every single year for the next decade.
Here's the latest from everyone's favorite writer!
He put's the DCA refurb being complete just before 2017. I thought this was more of a 5-7 year project. Sheesh!! Since it's that far off maybe DCA will have a flying Delorean exhibit and sell Dust Busters and Sports almanacs.
This is Oliver from Germany. I am writing you today because I wonder whether you know new details about the retheming of DCA? As far as I know a new Pixar parade and a new lagoon show have been approved already. But what about the general make-over of the themed areas? It has been said that DCA's aim is to rival Tokyo DisneySea regarding detailed theming, etc. That sounds more likely impossible for me. Your thoughts? (To keep it the way you would ask...)
Greetings from Stuttgart and a big thank you for your effort that makes JHM the most indispensably website for me!
Dear Oliver --
Thanks for the kind words regarding JHM. As for what's about to happen at DCA ... Jeez, how much time do you have?
Copyright 1967 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved
I mean, it's not as if Walt Disney Imagineering hasn't ever retooled and/or rethemed a land at one of the company's theme parks before. The redo of Disneyland's Tomorrowland back in 1967 immediately comes to mind. As does the retooling of that theme park's Fantasyland section in 1983 as well as the Bear Country / Critter Country retheming that was done back in 1988.
But what's now in the works for Disney's California Adventure (i.e. Basically the reinvention of an entire theme park) ... A project of this scale has never really been tried before. Which is why this $1.2 billion project is already causing an awful lot of controversy back at WDI headquarters in Glendale, CA.
"Wait a minute," you say. "Given that virtually every person on the planet agrees that DCA needs some help, why would Disney's decision to finally fix this troubled theme park be generating controversy at Imagineering?" Ah, but it's what's slated to be fixed that's got many Imagineers up in arms right now.
Copyright 2000 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Case in point: The "California Screamin' " roller coaster that currently circles around Paradise Pier. Under the current plan, this DCA thrill ride is due to be rethemed around the Disney Villains. So that you'd have several close encounters with the studio's biggest baddies as you whizzed around that track.
Sounds like fun, don't you think? Well, there are actually Imagineers who are trying to put the kibosh on the retheming of this DCA thrill ride. Arguing that -- given that "California Screamin' " is already very popular with California Adventure visitors -- there's really no need to spend any additional money now on "plussing" this particular attraction.
Ah, but there are other Imagineers within the company who argue that Walt himself used to "plus" already popular attractions. Take -- for example -- the "Elephant Bathing Pool" section that was added to Disneyland's "Jungle Cruise" ride back in 1962. Which was then followed by the "African Veldt" & "Lost Safari" sequences that were added to this very same Adventureland attraction in 1964.
Copyright 1964 Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved
As the story goes, the Ol' Mousetro had these new scenes added to the "Jungle Cruise" because he wanted to give Disneyland visitors a compelling new reason to re-experience this still-very-popular Adventureland attraction.
Which is all well and good, says my guy inside of WDI. Except that (quoting now from a conversation that I recently had with this Imagineering insider) ...
"It's one thing to add new scenes and characters to a slow moving boat ride. It's quite another to add additional show elements to a thrill ride that's already got guests zooming along at 60 MPH.
This proposed retheming of 'California Screamin' ' ? It's completely unnecessary. More to the point, the money that's going to be used on all of these new show elements could be much better spent elsewhere."
Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
That's the other thing Disneyana fans may have trouble wrapping their heads around. $1.2 billion may sound like a huge amount of money. But when you spread those funds out over a 10 year period ... That's just (on average) $120 million per year. Which -- given how expensive it's actually going to be to build brand-new rides, shows and attractions and/or retheme particular parts of this park -- isn't going to go as far as you might think.
Which is why Bob Weis (i.e. WDI's new VP in charge of DCA) is right now in the middle of putting together a highly detailed battle plan. One that will -- first and foremost -- allow him to deliver the E-Tickets that Disney's board of directors were promised when they initially agreed to underwrite this reboot of California Adventure. But at the same time, leave enough money to fund the actual retheming of this troubled theme park, folding in new show elements & story details where they're now so desperately needed.
And then there are all those behind-the-scenes issues that Weis has to take in account as he drafts his DCA revival plan. Take -- for example -- the Hollywood Pictures Backlot section of this theme park. You'd think that Bob would be holding off on retooling this particular portion of California Adventure because of all of the money that the Imagineers just spent on placemaking (Not to mention the $30 million that was poured into turning "Superstar Limo" into "Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue!").
Copyright 2007 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved
No, the real reason that Weis won't be able to touch this side of DCA until at least 2010 is that Disneyland Meetings already has dozens of after-hours private functions booked for the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area in the coming years. And given that the Mouse really doesn't want to refund all of those deposits ... Well, Bob will just have to concentrate on reworking other corners of this theme park until all of these previously scheduled corporate events are completed.
On the upside, one of his old Disney-MGM ideas that Weis is hoping to revive as part of his California Adventure retheming project is Mickey's Movieland. Which would involve building a full-scale recreation of the old Disney animation studio that used to be located at 2719 Hyperion Avenue.
Mind you, many of the shows & exhibits featured inside of this new structure would look rather familiar to fans of DCA's "Disney Animation" attraction. The point is that -- once this recreation of Hyperion Studios is in place -- Hollywood Pictures Backlot goes from being this very generic space that could be the backlot of any modern movie studio to becoming a place that tells a very specific story. You're now going to be exploring the Hollywood that Walt Disney knew back in the 1930s. When audiences everywhere were still wild about Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies, and "Snow White" was about to take the world by storm.
Copyright 1990 Walt Disney Company. All Rights Reserved
That's what Weis is going to try & do with the rest of California Adventure. Try and change this theme park into a place that -- while it still entertains tens of thousands of people each day -- now tells very specific stories. Transports people to a seaside amusement park circa 1920 and/or out to Radiator Springs. Where Disneyland Resort guests can interact with the cast of "Cars."
And given that Disney's board of directors only agreed to give Bob $1.2 billion (Rather than the $1.7 billion that the Imagineers were originally asking for) ... Well, Mr. Weis is going to have to carefully pick and choose how he spends his dough. Because -- as I mentioned earlier in this article -- $120 million a year doesn't really go all that far these days. Particularly when the plan is to drop several sizable E-Tickets into that theme park before 2017 rolls around.
Anyway ... Given that (What with all the brawling over things like "Does 'California Screamin' ' really need a Disney Villains-themed overlay?") these plans remain very much in flux at the moment, don't expect any highly detailed news about DCA's redo to start leaking out of WDI 'til the far side of August. And even then -- given that the Walt Disney Company's new fiscal year doesn't begin until October 1st -- full-blown design works and/or staffing up at Imagineering on the reinvention of California Adventure won't really begin in earnest 'til after that date.
In short, this is a project with a lot of moving parts, people. So expect these plans to change -- sometimes drastically -- over the next 10 years. As Walt Disney Imagineering finds out that $1.2 billion (While it may sound like an awful lot of money right now) may not actually be enough to cover the complete retooling / retheming of Disney's California Adventure.
If the fairly impressive Nemo ride cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 mil and DCA has less than that a year for rides AND retheming this could be slow...but...if memory server toystory mania and wwoc are not included in this current budget so everything should work out alright.