For the Walt Disney Company, I believe the real California Adventure involves much more than turning attendance around and upward at this theme park. There is alot more at risk- and much more to prove now.
Let's be honest- most of us Disney park fans were hoping for so much more than what we got in 2001. Some was good, even excellent, but a large portion of this park was mediocre at best. I will not rehash the details. Here's where things stand- the public at large has spoken, and Disney has acknowledged the challenge.
The Real California Adventure for Disney? This challenge:
- Differentiate the Disneyland Resort as a unique experience from the other Disney resorts worldwide but especially Florida. Brand this resort as being worth our money and our time. Here in Denver, it is often cheaper to go to Florida than California. Convince us to make a trip to the West Coast.
- Build a foundation for the future. Whether it is the anticipated Third Park, additional hotels, or more entertainment and activity options, plan for long term investment not just short term profits.
- Show commitment to the original intent of the park. Drop adding any cloned attractions, think through the character additions, and continue adding fascinating and varied experiences which celebrate the great diversity of California as it is now and as Walt Disney found it decades ago. No one can duplicate the wonderful beaches and the breathtaking Yosemite area that God created, but attempt to make any additions as good as they can be when paying tribute to that which is man-made. Yes, bring in character based attractions where they fit. (I am looking forward to The Little Mermaid and Carsland- but please come up with a better name!) That is part of the Disney heritage and future. In the midst of that plan, however, continue to strive for the elegance of Epcot, the fun of Disney Studios, and the discoveries of Animal Kingdom. It can be done. Disney is the best at what it does when it remembers each park needs to be for all ages to enjoy. No one else comes close in standard setting theme park execution. No one.
Regain the great Disney reputation that was lost. Show the world once more that you can wow us by telling great stories in wonderfully immersive environments and by using new technologies unavailable elewhere. Think about what Indiana Jones Adventure did for Disneyland and top it! Don't make us fly to Tokyo to be mesmerized. We will love you for it- and we'll pay for the chance to experience it for decades to come.
(By the way, the above image for a proposed look for California Adventure came from this site. There's a nice painting of Frontierland in Disneyland Paris, too. As always, all concept art is property of Disney.)