Editor's note: My friend Len Yokoyama returns with part two of his California Disney Resort Trip report. In addition to being a great photographer and all around nice guy, did you know Len also is a huge comic book fan with his own comic book series? Anyway, onto his interesting take on Anaheim's second Disney park. Enjoy!
I can't recall the exact year I first visited Disney California Adventure, but I do remember being vastly underwhelmed. There were hints of creative inspiration...the postcard motif at the entrance gate, the Golden Gate bride replica lit up at night, and of course, the debut of Soarin'. Other than those few bright spots, DCA struck me as a low budget Disney park, hastily slapped together with bits and pieces from whatever the company could cobble together. Comparing the layout and theming of both Disneyland and DCA, one could see the vast differences that put them apart at the farthest ends of the spectrum. Whereas Disneyland's layout guides you down Main Street, past the hub, and straight on to Sleeping Beauty Castle, DCA's entry path lead you to Sunshine Plaza who's reigning carrot was a sun icon above a rather plain looking fountain. The whole thing felt and looked like a visual dead end. You could imagine then CEO Michael Eisner telling his Imagineers to just slap something in that space...the visitors won't care, they'll still come in droves. Well, the visitors did care, and they did come in droves...to Disneyland! Our vacation strategy was to run over to DCA for a relaxing lunch and then head back to DL for some real park fun. The second gate ended up being a rest stop for us, albeit one with an expensive entry fee. My biggest disappointment, however, was that it wasn't Disneysea. Now I know if that particular park had been built, it’s would’ve been in Long Beach, but the thought of having a park resembling the Tokyo version always makes me a bit melancholy.
Wonderful food at the Carthay!The centerpiece of Buena Vista, is of course, The Carthay Circle Restaurant. Standing tall and proud at the end of the street, the Imagineers did a magnificent job of replicating the original movie palace circa 1926.
Condor Flats- now in California Adventure's Yesterland.
Truth in advertising.
There were two special parties I attended at DCA, both on my first day at the park. The first was the Frozen Dessert Party. A $60.00 price tag gets you into a pre-show event with sweet treats, photo ops, and alcohol (wine, beer, and hard liquor). Since I don't drink, I gave my complimentary ticket to another guest to enjoy. I had a snow cone (similar to shave ice in Hawaii), which is a blend of fine crushed ice and sugary syrups. There were 5 or 6 dioramas where families could have their pictures taken against the backdrop of Arendelle and other assorted winter scenery. Olaf made an appearance to the delight of the children and the event was capped by a cool snowstorm in the middle of the room. Being the only adult, I didn't get much out of it other than the treats (which wasn't the reason why I signed up). Come show time, we were escorted to the Hyperion Theater for priority seating. Now, priority seating at some other events (looking at you Candlelight Processional) doesn't mean much, and can often be disadvantageous for photographers (sort of looking at you World of Color Dessert Party). But for Frozen Live! “priority” truly lived up to its billing as we were first to arrive and allowed to choose whatever seats we wanted! I choose front row...smack dab in the middle!
Outstanding food choices all over the park- even if you pay extra for some.
A classic San Francisco lunch.The Pacific Wharf area is another favorite area of mine at DCA (I seem to say this a lot about DCA in general). I love the variety of foods here, and I'll pretty much head there by default to have the Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bowl at Boudin Bakery. The Mexican food at Cocina Cucamonga is also darn tasty and who can go wrong with a sundae or ice cream cone from Ghiradelli's?
Better than before but still very weak.
Protecting America for all!
Even great photographs do not do the place justice!
Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters replaces the much maligned (and deservedly so) Luigi's Flying Tires. Sue and I rode Flying Tires when it first opened, and the ride had all the thrills of waiting in a dental office to have your teeth cleaned. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but it struck me that even 50 years later, Disney still can't get this type of floating ride to work (Flying Saucers anyone?). I probably won't be alive when the Imagineers give it another shot, but hopefully the third time's a charm!
The new standard for theme park attractions.
From a photography standpoint, you can't take a bad picture here. Every inch of space, every angle has been maximized for visual impact and storytelling. Disney's attention to detail is a company trademark, but here it's taken to a new level. The downside of all this "theming goodness" is the place is literally packed from dawn to dusk. This is one area that security begins to close down access almost immediately at park closing. On the first night, I made the mistake of shooting Pacific Wharf first, and 15 minutes after closing, a guard would not allow me to enter Cars Land. While getting shots without people is challenging, the quick closures does usher folks towards the front much faster, clearing out areas for isolated images.
(Photographs copyright Len Yokoyama.)