November 12, 2010

Before There Was California Adventure...Westcot!

Don't get me wrong. I love all the wonderful changes that have been completed and those that are still coming to Disney California Adventure. All $1B worth for Phase One, and whatever else they decide to actually build for Phase Two- if its well done. I'm all for almost anything to make this park a respectable and worthy companion to Walt's Disneyland. But I will say unabashedly, I am a Westcot fan. (Just take a look at this stunning concept art for the abandoned second park, and you'll see why. Click on it to see it full sized.)

At the grand opening of California Adventure, the Walt Disney Company and its leaders Michael Eisner and Roy Disney promised us wonderful and charming attractions honoring the spirit, locales, and people of the Golden State. It was only half-heartedly delivered. It looked much more like outtakes from the abandonded Disney's America project. (Even then, some of the most true to concept pieces of the California themed park were discarded- the beautiful Eureka parade- with its awful "hip" soundtrack; the all too politically correct and cheapened from the original Circle of Hands Audio-Animatronics show, Golden Dreams; lastly the simply delicate and wonderfully delightful Seasons of the Vine show. And oh yeah, Superstar Limo... awful but in theme.) Gotta give Robert Iger credit for trying to right the wrongs now- even though he was part of the group that approved the original plans. The Paradise Pier makeover is a good start to a reboot of the park. Buena Vista Street looks great and Carsland terrific. However...

Imagine being delivered the world instead of just a Pixared California. Not just the world of the future, but the four corners of the globe. Imagine having the elegant World Showcase from Epcot reimagined for the West Coast. Beautiful nighttime vistas of global landmarks, wonderful and varied dining options, gorgeously lush landscapes, thrilling and educational attractions. Nice, huh- and very near the quality of Tokyo Disney Sea.

Instead of the world, we get Mickey's Fun Wheel, and we have to live with it. Let's just say the Imagineers and the suits have their work cut out for them to transform California Adventure into something worthy of the magnitude of Westcot. Can they do it? We'll see in 2012, but I still pine for what could have been. Some may say "Get over it!" but there's still that third slice of land holding court as a parking lot just in case the Westcot concept would rise from the ashes.

For the record, SamLand's Disney Adventures has the absolutely best series on the creation and history of this never completed Disney park. You'll find part one right here. For a transcript of the entire Westcot presentation as told by Imagineer Extraordinaire Tony Baxter, go here. The transcript is full of juicy details of the attractions proposed for the park- and how it was to be an improvement over World Showcase in particular. Go to these posts and drool. You will. Trust me.

For now, let us rejoice in the little theme park that is getting a second chance. The suits could have left it half-baked. Instead, it will become something worthy of a full and fun-filled day. But never forget what is found in Tokyo or what could have been. Hold the company we love to their previous high standards. Universal's done it with Harry Potter. We deserve it- and they can deliver more.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


SamLand said...

Thank you for the plug.

After my research I am even more disappointed that we got DCA instead of WestCot. I followed up on the Anaheim project and that led me to the failed Disney's America project in Virginia. It is interesting to see how everything is related.


Mark Taft said...

It's a great article, Sam!

I'm still holding out for the third park. I'd would so love an Epcot experience available in California!

George said...

WestCot seems bit Blue Sky... Either way, what would you rather have: Originality or a clone? Too many clones exist in the Disney Parks, then to clone an entire theme park (okay, so it'll have some minor differences...) is absolutely ridiculous. If Disney had made California Adventure like they are trying to make it now back then, it'd be a great place. DCA is going to be better, I have hope in the Imagineers.

Mark Taft said...

Yes, I'd rather have had WestCot. It would have minimized the emphasis on characters and movie tie ins. Would it have been a clone of Epcot? No, Epcot improved! ;)