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Editorial: Why I'm Done With Disneyland

Creativity

While you and I have probably rolled our eyes at at least some of Disney's decisions, we can also go on and on about their brilliance and creativity and they've built stunning attractions, inconcievable themed lands, and ambitious, groundbreaking parks in the same time span.

Image: Disney

We all watched in awe as Disney did something unprecedented: admitted defeat and committed $1.5 billion toward Disney’s California Adventure, which had been foundationally flawed in its execution. We chronicled the in-depth story of Disney's California Adventure in its own feature, but you know the refrain: a creatively starved park that set out to spoof modern California and played Top 40 hits made very few fans. Disney's unimaginable effort righted a sinking ship by tearing each of California Adventure's modern-themed lands to the rivets, rebuilding them in the style of Disneyland Park's: storied, reverent, idealized, historic lands. Rather than taking an irrevent and joking tone toward modern California, the new California Adventure transported guests to romantic periods of California's great and celebrated history.

Paradise Pier, originally a modern seaside carnival of circus-freak posters, neon lights, and stucco walls was reimagined as a turn-of-the-century Victorian boardwalk of strung popcorn lights, calliope music, a beautiful seaside aquarium, pie-eyed Disney characters, and all the architectural charm you’d expect – a gorgeous Californian dream that's part history, part storybook. 

Grizzly Peak went from a rundown wilderness logging operation overtaken by an extreme sports company to a storied 1950s National Park ripe with opportunities for exploration, with the ole’ Packard parked outside and wonderful adventures waiting within a thriving, historic park that perfectly encapsulated the romantic era of Northern Californian wilderness.

The Red Car Trolley route, connecting two themed lands in two eras with one overarching story. Image: Disney

Buena Vista Street was built from scratch as the park's new entry land, recreating an idealized version of the Los Angeles Walt must've encountered when he arrived in the 1920s – newsies, jazz, elegant department stores, and the towering, iconic Carthay Circle Theater created in California Adventure one of the strongest and most beautiul opening acts of any Disney Park! Guests today can board the electric Red Car Trolley as it glides down the 1920s boulevard, where it passes before the Carthay and down the street into another themed land.

Hollywood Land would born from the ashes of the tired, modern Hollywood Pictures Backlot, downplaying the former's "behind the scenes" look at flat facades and instead working to craft a picture of 1930s and '40s Hollywood – "a bustling young town at the height of its Golden Age." Indeed, there's some integral element of design at play here that guests can take the Red Car Trolley from Carthay Circle to the Hollywood Tower Hotel, the reigning pueblo-deco tower looming over Hollywood Land.

Image: Disney

"Back" in the 1920s Buena Vista Street's Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe, you'll see posters hanging on the walls advertising jazz shows occuring at the Hotel's Tip Top Club. But board the Red Car Trolley and get off at the Hollywood Tower Hotel stop and you'll notice that in the 20 years between Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land, things have changed. The Hollywood Tower Hotel is overgrown and crumbling – a faded star, and a dimmed beacon of Hollywood. How? Well c'mon now, you know that the only way to find out what tarnished this golden hotel's history is to step inside and board The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

But that's neither here nor there, really. In uniting Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Land (and indeed, all of California Adventure) in this new, storied, compelling, cohesive frame of telling California's celebrated stories, Disney finally got it right. It took a billion dollars, but California Adventure was finally free from the irreverent humor, modern references, 20th century soundtrack, and cheesy visuals that had made the park appear so two-dimensional compared to Disneyland Park.

Shattered

That's what made it sound so absolutely outrageous when, a few months ago, fan sites started circulating a rumor that the Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel's 2014 hit film – would take up residence in the Hollywood Tower Hotel. A futuristic sci-fi superhero movie in a 1920s art-deco hotel standing prominently in a 1940s Hollywood? Unimaginable, right? And I counted myself among those who insisted that this rumor must have been invented by a wayward fan just to see how feverishly the absolutely-preposterous story would spread... That it would be a learning moment for us all to realize just how gullible we could be to imagine that this might actually be considered.

Sure, the original, directionless, rudderless California Adventure might've attempted this; throw everything at the wall until something sticks. And it wouldn't have burnt fans, because that park had nothing to lose. It could've become a Hollywood Studios catch-all where any intellectual property could simply take up residence in a tan showbuilding, explained away. But that's NOT what happened. California Adventure was fixed! Its foundational problem was solved! It was saved! Disney would never just toss a Marvel ride into the park, much less one that would force the closure of a guest favorite! 

But it's official.

Less than a year from today, the fabulous, breathtaking, gorgeous hotel visible from the Esplanade, reigning over a park so tailor-made for it, the Hollywood Tower Hotel will be no more. In its place will stand a futuristic-industrial sci-fi tower of metal rivets and spires and glowing emblems, ostensibly themed to The Collector from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. You don't have to squint hard to notice that this is, indeed, simply the Hollywood Tower Hotel, its gorgeous art-deco towers, angular port cochere, and even those stunning doned towers, now painted silver and affixed with pipes.

This will now be the icon looming over Hollywood Land and Disney California Adventure. From Main Street Station at Disneyland, you’ll see this – the vague shape of a historic hotel now covered in pipes and satellites. Even Joe Rohde could do little more than describe it as "a kind of warehouse / fortress / power plant." This new sci-fi warehouse tower will be visible from each of the park's themed lands, looming in the distance behind Pacific Wharf, Paradise Pier, Grizzly Peak...


Image: Disney / Marvel

If the concept sounded like a bad April Fools Day joke, the artwork seemed equally implausible, like something cooked up for a fan site's April 1st "update" just to earn chuckles from fans at how Disney's almost out-of-touch enough to actually consider it! And if the concept and artwork seem like the stuff of late night Disney Twitter ramblings, wait until you hear the name...

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! will star the “outrageous and irreverent gang” of anti-heroes assembled in the hit Marvel film on a “comically high-energy adventure.” This new laugh-out-loud superhero thrill ride will indeed be a sight to behold, and since Joe Rohde (creative lead of Disney’s Animal Kingdom) has been singularly handed the keys to Disney’s integration of Marvel into the parks, we can be sure that it’ll be a really delightful attraction with some surprising effects and great details.

And don't misunderstand. Despite the massive push fans have leveled against this change (a bigger and more vocal uprising that usual, actually), the ride will have multi-hour waits and play to delighted audiences when it opens. No doubt. The guests who enjoy it won't at all be wrong or stupid for doing so. My taste isn't "better" than theirs at all, and I have no doubt Mission: BREAKOUT! will be a great ride.

I just won’t know firsthand.

I think that for a while, I'm done with Disneyland.

And it’s not because I don’t like Marvel (I'm a huge Marvel fan!) or that I don’t like Guardians of the Galaxy (I loved it!) or that I don’t trust Joe Rhode and Disney’s Imagineers to create an absolutely wonderful ride experience (I really do!). It’s just that, looking across the skyline of Disney California Adventure and seeing this 160-foot tall spaceship that’s vaguely-hotel shaped with obvious relics of that beautiful hotel attached, I’ll sigh. That’s not my Disneyland.

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There are 23 comments.

Fully agree that change is hard. But, how can we complain about change when that very change brought us the rides and attractions that we so dearly cherish.

We are quick to point out the 100 people that agreed with us on a blog, but fail to admit Frozen fills the theatre more than a 10+ year Aladdin production.

We fail to admit, the Submarine Voyage never had a line prior to Nemo. Or that the People Mover was considered BORING in our hip teen years.

Bring on something new and exciting, you know... that e-ticket rush Indy and Star Tours gave us as Hollywood films joined Walt's classic lands.

Turns out, they didn't destroy Walt's original lands. They're following Walt's example, for he too, continually changed and expanded them.

Iv never commented on any of the posts on here but after reading this one i just felt i had to. Everything you said hit home with me, everyone indeed has their own Disney that they have grown up with, myself included and to read your thoughts on the matter was like a punch to the stomach, making me realize i too feel the same way but hadn't fully processed it through properly. I feel your pain and your post is one that moved me and made me get frustrated at myself equally once i realized my own feelings on the matter and on other similar Disney decisions of the past.

I agree with you Brian. Disney today seems to be increasingly out of touch with their own fanbase. The last 10 years of decisions have been questionable at best and they are becoming increasingly frustrating. First they pick an unestablished ip to bring into a park instead of their planned original expansion. While odd and risky they have poured a lot of resources and thought into this expansion and are going to make it worthy addition to Animal Kingdom. Then they inject characters that only marginally have anything to do with the Norway. But at least the outside structure still very much fits in with the flow and theme of the area. Now this decision with tower of terror will be an absolute blight on the entire park. What happened to the Disney that so carefully plans out sight lines and themes to the point that they build a building with the careful thought of how it will look even from another park?

But one area I have to disagree with is that while Hollywood Studios is limping by with 5 Eticket attractions (not three like you suggest) there is no way that California Adventures has a dozen.

you hit the nail on the head! my sentiments exactly except that i am refering to Disney World because i have never been to Disneyland. Disney World is my happy place. i've been there many many times. but with the removal of so many things like the sorcerers hat, and now the ears tower, and several rides, i'm upset. the addition of Star Wars is horrid!! not to mention Avatarland. good grief the kids will be scared to death before they even see mickey!! start a whole new theme park somewhere else for this stuff. leave my happy place alone. i suppose next i'll see tinkerbell being shot by a deathstar super laser. ENOUGH already!

Beautifully said and right on point. I grew up a child of Disney World. We would go every other year when I was young. But the last 3 times I've flown down to Florida, I've thought, "This just isn't what it used to be." I didn't feel the magic anymore in Disney World. I hadn't been to Disneyland since I was 6, but last year (after a 23 year hiatus), I returned to Disneyland in October for the 60th anniversary celebration. I fell in love. I felt the magic that I used to feel at Disney World. I decided I'd much rather fly to Disneyland from the east coast than make the much shorter trip to Disney World...And then Star Wars land was announced, and I found out they'd be closing so much at Disneyland for an extended period of time. But it was ok, I'd deal. I flew back to Disneyland last month to experience the 60th anniversary celebration again. I stayed in the Grand Californian and started every day staring out my window at Grizzly Peak and Tower of Terror. At night, I walked onto the balcony and watched the Tower Hotel glowing eerily in the distance. To me, it was the best view imaginable from a hotel room. And now it's going to be gone? Replaced by some superheroes that I don't know (and probably never will because I'm so over superhero movies). I'm just sad. Sad that Disney doesn't listen. Sad that they think they know what's best for us even if it's not what anyone wants. And for me at least, it goes way back. Remember when Winnie the Pooh replaced Mr. Toad in Disney World? Awful. Or when they said they were closing 20,000 Leagues for refurbishment and put in a Pooh playground in Disney World? The worst. Or how in Disney World, they're still shoving Avatar down our throats even though no one cares about it? Or how they tore out Maelstrom and gave us Frozen, which has nothing to do with Norway?
And now Disneyland. This beautiful place that I've just rediscovered. The place where the magic still lives. They want to destroy that too. (Sigh.) I was kind of hoping if they put anything in California Adventure, it would be a Big Hero 6 ride. At least that would actually fit the Californian theme (kind of...since it's San Fransokya, and not San Francisco). But this. Guardians of the Galaxy makes no sense. It doesn't fit. It's going to ruin the landscape. And even when I return to Disneyland, I know I won't ride it...just like when I was there in June, I didn't see the new Frozen stage show. I can't support these decisions that they're making. I do understand it's a business, but they've gotten so far away from Walt's vision that it hurts my heart.

My only concern with this retheme is in terms of how the building will fit into dca as a whole. I even emailed Disney about that. Otherwise, I am ok with a new ride experience. Our family travels to both coasts and it will be nice to further differentiate the feel of each coast and get the most for our travel dollars. I don't, however, want to sacrifice the feeling off being transported to another time and place for a flavor of the year ride experience that doesn't fit overall.

My only concern with this retheme is in terms of how the building will fit into dca as a whole. I even emailed Disney about that. Otherwise, I am ok with a new ride experience. Our family travels to both coasts and it will be nice to further differentiate the feel of each coast and get the most for our travel dollars. I don't, however, want to sacrifice the feeling off being transported to another time and place for a flavor of the year ride experience that doesn't fit overall.

I am all in favor on capitalizing on the acquisition of Marvel, but not at the expense of other attractions. Tower of Terror really connects Disneyland to its neighboring city of Hollywood and I believe historically this is important. Tower of Terror is a great stand alone story telling attraction that should not be destroyed. I am a Marvel fan, always have been, but I found Galaxy of Guardians to be boring. If anything focus it in an original stand alone attraction in a new Marvel Land. Ok, Disneyland may be limited for space but Disney World is not limited. I hate that Disney made this decision about Tower.

I totally agree Brian. The WDC (I never call it the Walt Disney Company, because Walt has nothing to do with the company as it is today) is in totally for the bottom line. Has nothing to do with innovation, creativity of imagineering.

Ver ooked at the park that way. I'm a child of the 70s. So yes, I miss things such as Adventures thru Innerspace and the Main Street Electric Paradebut m always excited to see the new things. What I appreciate is the little things. A Dole whip on a hot day with birds serenading me. Enjoying a meal I. New Orleans without the airfare. Walking through the maientre and seeing the Mickey-head flower bed in DL and the homage to Pan Pacific auditorium in DCA. Each park has things I love and sure things will change but I think since I grew up with change size always been willing to adapt and accept. It is a shame you feel like it is no longer yours, the thing is it wasn't meant to be yours...it is ours and our children's. The parks are now a part of my son's new memories but I always discuss with him the changes that have already happened and the changes still yet to be. If anything I want him to be flexible and adaptable since the world is constantly changing and to be unable to adapt is to be unable to survive.

You mention that no one will be comforted by the thought that there is still a Hollywood Tower of Terror in Florida. You're right, but that seems to be their answer to the closing of many attractions people love. Unhappy that Mr Toad is gone? He's still in CA. Unhappy that the Country Bears are gone? Go to FL. You still want the old Snow White ride? Back to CA with you! I'm sensing a pattern, here.
I was a Disneyland child of the '60s. The last time I was there was '74, and I was surprised then how much it had changed in just 6 years. I have told my family that I'd like to go back, and as long as the Matterhorn is still there it'll be ok. Maybe I'll just keep my memories of growing up there, and spend my time now at WDW, where I'm not so attached.

While I understand your frustration, I find it interesting that you say the attraction will quickly feel "dated". Twilight Zone isn't dated? It's a TV show from the 50's. A majority of young people today probably have no idea what Twilight Zone even is. The ride is already dated. Great ride, but most definitely dated. Plus, if the planned Marvel expansion ends up being where the rumors suggest(behind the Hollywood Tower), the GOTG ride wont be a big eyesore out of place in Hollywood Land. It will be a new icon at the entrance to Marvel Land. It all makes sense. The bottom line here is that Disney cannot win here no matter what they do, and since they cannot use Marvel characters in the Florida parks, it's coming to California. Just breathe man, it's gonna be alright. =)

I think you're getting the term dated confused with the word classic. As much as I absolutely loved the Guardians of the Galaxy, reskinning the ToT is equivalent to having the Rock n Roller Coaster staring Smash Mouth. That's why Disney chose Aerosmith as the band the headline for the Rock n Roller Coaster. Aerosmith didn't have a single song in the top 100 the year the ride opened.

Actually, Disney can use Marvel characters in its parks. Doctor Strange is already in Hollywood Studios. The contract states that the Marvel characters in Universal Studios can't show up in Disney and characters in Disney can't show up in Universal. Basically Spider-Man and his characters, Doctor Doom and his characters, Storm and Her characters, and the Incredible Hulk can't show up at Disney. Disney can use the Avengers, but the Hulk isn't allowed.

When this rumor first circulated it did occur to me that they were throwing away the beautiful billion dollar fix they had done of DCA, but I have to admit that as a fellow east coaster I was more concerned with beating back the same thing happening to the beloved Tower attraction in Florida. Now they're pushing GotG into Epcot and I'm not sure we won that one.

Thankfully I got my Disneyland trip in over last summer and I don't need to go back to something that isn't as good anymore. I will continue to go to Florida's parks for a while and keep my fingers crossed that 'my Disney' doesn't fully disappear there. The fix of DCA and the pretty darn good New Fantasyland had raised my confidence in the company's understanding of their parks - - but this really makes me wonder.

Personally, I'm a fan of change. I may not like every single one, but I like change in general. I trust Disney enough to believe that if they really were "out of touch with the fan base" that a drop in attendance would quickly become evident. Rather, perhaps, they have a constantly evolving fan base.

I am not personally attached to any given iteration of Disney. I have been going to Disneyland since the 60s. I've been going to Disney World only since 1997, but that was long enough ago that Animal Kingdom wasn't open, yet, River Country was skill open, and all the parks have significantly changed. I always enjoy what they have. I might miss what's no longer there, but that leads me to cherish my memories all the more and to truly savor every experience because one never knows when it might no longer be there.

I call it "different kinds of awesome." One year in particular, we had been to Disneyland and California Adventure so many times that we'd done the highlights again and again. So on one trip, we changed the theme of the weekend to "things we haven't done" and actively sought out attractions and experiences we normally skipped. On another trip (just adults), we made it a photo-safari of looking for interesting shots of architectures, flowers, decor, and more. There's always SO much to enjoy.

The last Orlando trip, we quipped "how do we get to everything we want to do in a two-week Orlando vacation? Simple:Add a third week."

I can talk fondly of Rocket Rods, of Alien Encounter, of Mission to Mars, of Journey to Inner Space, to the days of actual tickets when a ride was an E-ticket ride because I actually had an E-ticket to hand over when I got on.

I love the Disney of my youth. I love the Disney of my adult years. I love the Disney of today. I'm sure I'll love the Disney of tomorrow. Why? Because I love Disney - and I recognize that as times change, Disney will change with them, and if times change back, Disney will change back with them.

On the other hand, I would love to see a whole new park of Disney Classic with the old rides installed over there and many of the vintage things to be experienced by generations to come.

Brian, I empathize with you and whole heatedly agree. Being from Ohio my Disney is in Florida so Disneyland never was my Disney, but I did visit Disneyland and California Adventure with my wife and children in 2007 and very much enjoyed it. It was exciting to see the differences between attractions from the Florida park that even bear the same name, and the chance to visit an entirely new park with a new theme really made us love the Disney ingenuity even more. With this in mind I began to immediately question the rumors that California's Tower of Terror would be no more in favor of Guardians of the Galaxy. "Had Disney abandoned reasoned for madness." Like you stated Guardians belongs in Tomorrowland, not Hollywoodland, but it would seem the Disney execs would disagree. When it comes to Disney I think that we all become disappointed when we lose something that we have cherished. You lament over what once was and is now no longer. I lament over what has never been and will likely never be. When Animal Kingdom opened in 1998 it was to be a celebration of life, all life. Animal Kingdom was going to effortlessly incorporate the prehistoric with the modern and the modern with the mythical. The marquee above the entrance even reflects this with images of dinosaurs, giraffes, elephants, griffins, and unicorns. Alas, the long circulating rumors that Disney's Beastly Kingdom expansion to the existing Animal Kingdom have been all but quelled by the announced Avatar expansion. Instead of dragons we will now be graced with blue cat people from an intellectual property that currently exists as a singular film with long standing plans of sequels that have yet to happen. The mythical earth creatures have given way to mythical alien creatures. Why did it happen this way? I am not completely sure. Does Disney want to capitalize on the IP that they have purchased, or does the success of Harry Potter in Universal Studios just down the road, which already incorporates mythical creatures, make Disney want to go in an entirely different direction? Again, I just don't know. Either way, like your concession that Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout will be a fun and exciting attraction I, too, concede, that Pandora in Disney's hands will come alive with its floating islands and beautiful forests. It just won't be my Beastly Kingdom.

Wait a minute. You are telling me that Disney is a for-profit company that can do whatever they want with their park and ensure a continued profit?!?!? *shock* *dismay* Get over yourself. I love Disney - we are proud DVC members and go multiple times a year. Embrace the changes. Love the new rides. Realize Disney is far bigger than you.

Hello! I am in a research marketing class this summer, and my group has chosen to research Star Wars land and how it will effect attendance at the park! If you can, we would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time and help us out by answering a few short questions. The survey will take no more than 5 mins! Take the survey and feel free to share it! Thank you!

I appreciate the eulogy to Disneyland 90's, and you should take a moment to mourn the loss of your park. I think we all have those moments. In fact, I didn't like the addition of a second gate AT ALL when DCA came online. I felt like it was a slap in the face to all things that made Disneyland great. Why would anyone want to walk off the streets of California and into California? Why build a park that felt like the Santa Monica Pier when that very pier was just up the road? Who's dumb idea was this anyway? But, as will all things Disney, you give it time to breath, time to find legs, AND time to correct mistakes.... and look what you get! So... please take your moment and grieve, but take months, not years as you state. The next Disneyland is yours too.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for saying so eloquently what I have been feeling ever since they announced the change.

Great article. I have been reading articles on Theme Park Tourist since I was a lot younger, and this is my very comment since I created my account on this site a few seconds ago. Great to hear your opinions on this.

Just adding to the lose of "my" Disney; I think the sadness we feel at the news that one of the classic Disney attractions from our childhood is closing forever is so much deeper and intense because it reminds us of our own mortality. It's not just the closing of a ride but the closing of our childhood, a time in our life we can never go back to, experiences we will never have again. The building of new attractions symbolizes that life goes on and with every year that passes there's a new generation and parts of the world that we are less and less connected to.

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