I find it hard to believe that California Adventure opened five years ago today.
When I walked through the park on opening day I couldn’t believe how empty it was. The soft-opening preview days leading up to February 8th, 2001 were jam-packed and full of people! Where had everybody gone? Opening day was a ghost town.
It’s sad how little has changed since then!
Even as Disneyland proper broke its own fifty years of attendance records in 2005, California Adventure’s confused theming, lack of high-budget e-ticket attractions, and overall cheapness are still working hard to keep the crowds away in large numbers.
The people responsible for DCA have mostly all left or have been pushed out of the company by now. Cost-cutting impresario Paul Pressler left shortly after the park opened to lackluster attendance. Then-Disneyland Resort president Cynthia Hariss went with him a few months later. Barry Braverman was given his walking papers from WDI last month. And we all know what happened to Michael Eisner. Rumor has it the California theme was his idea to begin with.
Even Marty Sklar, the only remaining full-time Disney employee to have worked directly alongside Walt Disney is considered by many to have succumbed to the Sirens’ call of reduced budgets and outsourced attractions development. His retirement is not far off.
Little by little things are slowly starting to turn around at DCA. A multi-phase beautification project is currently underway and the park has already gotten some new attractions. CEO Bob Iger has committed to spend more money on Disney’s parks, and an e-ticket for Pixar’s “Cars” is in the early stages of development for the Hollywood backlot. Pixar’s John Lassetter is a huge Disneyland fan and as of last week now has creative control over pretty much everything WDI does from this point on.
The planets are aligning for great things ahead, so let’s hope that five years from now DCA in its current state will be just a laughable memory!