June 11, 2021

Port Disney Leads to Tokyo Disneysea Success and California Adventure Failure

And you thought Avengers Campus was lacking in ambition and execution! Take a look at the piece of concept art used to sell Port Disney to the city of Long Beach. Toss in the extravagance of EPCOT Center with a nautical theme, and you get a blockbuster Disney theme park. Or so it seems...

The grand entry.

In actuality, this was a well designed ploy by Michael Eisner to get the city of Anaheim to pony up big cash for what folks thought would be WESTCOT Center. But it was a true bait and switch. 

The second Disneyland Resort theme park would instead be the very underwhelming Disney California Adventure 1.0- a total flop creatively and financially. It would take another billion or so to transform it from the laughing stock of the theme park world to something vaguely resembling a Disney park- if only later to begin reverting to tacky and "hip and edgy".

In the meantime, quietly opening (at least to US Disney park fans) several months later in 2001 would be the grandest of all parks, Tokyo Disneysea in Japan. That park only gets better over time. And it is a consistent money maker from day one. 

You don't believe that California Adventure was once the bastion of what I call Bargain Basement Imagineering? Check out this look at DCA over its 20 year history and my very popular series, and view the concept art that formed the foundation of the park. It makes Spider-Man's WEB Slingers look like a masterpiece!

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

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