Friday, September 9, 2011

Buena Vista Street

It was exactly one year ago that work began on Buena Vista Street, the newest addition to Disney's Califonia Adventure. The plan is convert the nondescript Walt Disney Plaza into a recreation of Los Angeles when Disney himself arrived there in 1923. Here's a 3D rendering of what the finished themed entrance will look like:

This is the latest in a series of changes to the park; making up a $1.1 Billion renovation of the park, with minor changes to Golden Coast and Hollywood Pictures Backlot (now Hollywoodland), a total re-haul of Paradise Pier and Walt Disney Plaza (soon to be Buena Vista Street), and even an entirely new area for the theme park: Cars Land, based on Radiator Springs and the entire cast of Pixar's "Cars". These changes come just in time for the park's tenth anniversary and are set to be completed just after the celebrations in 2012.

Satellite image of the original entrance and the new entrance blueprint.

Disney California Adventure had been expected to be a huge success; Disney executives fully expected to have to turn away visitors but were sorely disappointed by attendance in the first months and years after the park's opening. This major renovation is a direct result of California Adventure's struggles to keep up with it's next-door neighbor, Disneyland.

An in-progress photo with the intact Golden Gate in the background.
Paradise Pier has already completed its transformation into an early 20th century boardwalk, as opposed to the disjointed, pier theme park it originally was. Complaints arose when the park opened that this section of the park, in particular, seemed cheap, cookie-cutter, and like something you could find in any other 'ordinary' theme park. Although many of the changes were cosmetic, the addition of two new rides (Toy Story Midway Madness and a dark ride based on The Little Mermaid) and the unprecedented "World of Color" hydrotechnic experience have ultimately made the renovation worthwhile so far.

Part of the World of Color show
The Buena Vista Street project is not quite as ambitious, without any planned rides save a vintage-style trolley that will take guests from the entrance directly to the foot of the Tower of Terror. Both the miniature Golden Gate Bridge and the California Zephyr train are being replaced with more in-theme decor. In what was once 'Sunshine Plaza' - the hub from which guests could enter all the different lands - a replica of the Carthay Circle Theatre (where Snow White premiered in 1937) is in the works. It looks like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit might even get a nod with his own gas station in the main square (Who's Oswald? Find out next Friday). The new art-deco entrance gates were completed this past July, and most of the renovations should be ready sometime this fall.

Artist's Rendering of the Central Plaza with the Carthay Circle Theatre
Cars Land will feature several new rides, including one based on Test Track in Epcot. Construction of this and the other lands can be seen on Google Maps.

Concept Rendering for Radiator Springs
Ultimately these changes should serve as a pick-me-up to the down-on-its-luck California Adventure. Seems like the 1.1 Billion are being put to good use - Disney is directly addressing many of the complaints made by guests: a lack of attractions, poor theme cohesion, and a general absence of the 'Disney touch'.

A maquette for the statue of Disney to be placed in Buena Vista Street
I have yet to visit either of the Anaheim parks, but these additions make the idea all the more tempting.

Reckard, E. Scott "The Most Jam-Packed Theme Park on Earth?" LA Times, Jan. 14 2001

MacDonald, Brady "Disney California Adventure Extreme Makeover to Transform Entrance" LA Times, Dec. 21 2010

MacDonald, Brady "Review: Disappointing Goofy's Sky School Coaster Marks End of Paradise Pier Makeover at Disney California Adventure" LA Times, Jun. 28 2011

Cress, Robby "Early Homes and Studios of Walt Disney" Dear Old Hollywood, Oct. 6 2010
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