December 4, 2015

Disney Theme Park Disasters: Paradise Pier

Don't be fooled by this absolutely stunning piece of concept art for Disney California Adventure's Paradise Pier! It is a beauty- but like many wonderful pieces of art, it disguises what the end result becomes, and it has currently become a mixed bag of artistry and left over pieces from California Adventure 1.0- the one Disney suits tried to put over on us as the cutting edge of Disney Imagineering as of 2001. (Look at my multi-part Bargain Basement Imagineering posts for all the concept art for the park version 1.0)

On this blog, this is one of the largest pieces of Imagineering art you'll find. If you enlarge it, it really is beautiful, but when you compare it to the real thing, the brick and mortar world of Paradise Pier falls apart in comparison. The following photos were not taken by me, but they were taken by others and show some of the "wonders" of Paradise Pier- especially in its first incarnation.

Photo from Duchess of Disneyland.

California Screamin' remains a very fun, very thrilling centerpiece to the land. In person, the truth is, the queue is cheap, the awnings just as lackluster, and the track itself could use a good paint job. 

Everything looks better at night!
Photo by WDWMagic.

Toy Story Midway Mania contains the most detailed, Disney worthy building in the area. Unfortunately, it is surrounded by a light retheming of what was there at opening. Yes, it's still a step above the Orange County Fair but really not by too much. Just check out the trim on the buildings from one part of the area to the next. It's a place to start in telling where corners have been cut. Paradise Pier is no Main Street U.S.A.

Photo by Werner Weiss at Yesterland.

Iron rides abound, and that's ok. It's just unfortunate that they are not done with a bit more charm and creativity. Still, it's not 2001 when a giant orange and road signs passed for great theming on a spinner and a cheap roller coaster. 

Photo by

Here's the bottom line: Paradise Pier could be so much more than it is! And for that matter, so could Ariel's Undersea Adventure, the new Audio-Animatronic attraction that should have been the Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion of the park. It was not to be. Perhaps 2016's refurbishment will yield some of the additional needed improvements hinted at by blogmastgers over the last couple of years. 

If only they'd bring in a new version of Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor. That attraction themed to California's Winchester Mystery House would be an excellent beginning of moving this area from a half baked creation to a first class representation of what Disney can do when it wants. Just take a look next door at Cars Land for inspiration!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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