San Fransokyo

You don’t have to know much about Disney Parks history to know the story of Disney California Adventure. Opened in 2001, this “next generation” Disney Park placed just opposite the original Disneyland fell well short of matching its older sister in esteem and attendance. In fact, "DCA 1.0" is remembered as a park with few rides, almost nothing for families, and a serious attitude problem.

The story of Disney’s California (mis)adventure is one we told in an epic two-part special feature; a multi-decade tale of transformation from a park that was “too much California, not enough Disney” to one with precisely the opposite problem. In its so-called “DCA 3.0” phase, the park has been crammed (sometimes inelegantly) with Disney + Pixar + Marvel. Fans have come to expect the unexpected as Imagineers just can’t seem to stop tinkering with California Adventure.

Now, a final space in the park remaining from its opening day is officially under the knife to receive its mandated IP overlay. Like Pixar Pier before it, some fans suggest that this transformation amounts to a “label slap” – a stickered-on franchise tie-in; an IP for the sake of having an IP; corporate synergy that ultimately signifies nothing… So after we walk through the details of this quickly-assembling project together, tell us in the comments below – do you think Disney California Adventure’s San Fransokyo Square is a plus, a minus, or something in between?

Big Hero 6

Image: Disney

It all started when Disney purchased Marvel in 2009 for $4 billion (a sum that we can all agree in retrospect was money well spent). As part of the transaction, Disney inherited well over 7,000 characters that inhabit the panels of Marvel’s comic book empire, and CEO Bob Iger reportedly encouraged divisions across the company to dig deep into the archives and find ways to use them. That’s when director Don Hall stumbled on a relatively young and obscure series that he liked the name of: Big Hero 6.

Only loosely based on its comic book origin, Disney’s Big Hero 6 follows the adventures of a young tech whiz kid named Hiro Hamada and his inflatable “healthcare companion” robot Baymax as they assemble a team of tech-powered teen heroes to take on a masked, nanobot-wielding villain. The film debuted in 2014 to both commercial success and critical acclaim – eventually winning the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.

But beyond its characters and its anime-influenced style, one of the greatest triumphs of Big Hero 6 was the world it’s set in: San Fransokyo.

San Fransokyo

Image: Disney

In 1906, the city of San Francisco was struck by a cataclysmic earthquake. (That’s true; it’s remembered as one of the most disastrous geological events in recorded human history.) In the world of Big Hero 6, though, that earthquake was a nexus event yielding a brighter future.

After all, the mythology of Big Hero 6 tells us that it was San Francisco’s Japanese immigrant community that stepped up in the wake of that earthquake, integrating Eastern architectural methods to bring seismic stability to a reborn city. The result is that in this alternate universe, San Francisco was officially renamed San Fransokyo as both a tribute to the Asian citizens who saved the city and to symbolize the influence and connection between America and Japan.

Image: Disney

When we see San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6, it’s perhaps in a “near-future” as opposed to our own world… And in this multiverse, well over a century after the earthquake, we see a modern, technological metropolis born of two worlds. San Fransokyo is a breathtaking city retaining the eclectic, nautical, clapboard, Victorian influence of Europe and the wood, hip-and-gable roofs, shoji doors, and torii gates of Asia.

This is a true pan-Pacific port; one rooted in the past, but set in the future. Wind turbines float over the city, tethered to skyscrapers; a multiversal variant of the Golden Gate Bridge instead adorns the 8,000-foot-long crossing with torii gates; high-tech video screens and efficient mass transit carry young students to the glass and steel campus of the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology while tourists hop aboard Asian-style streetcars.

Image: Disney

San Fransokyo is a vividcolorfultechnological world; a fast-paced, epic city of high-tech wonders, skyscrapers, and authentic Asian influence. It’s rich, historic, futuristic, and cultural. It’s also (and this is true!) set in California. Which begs the question, why would anyone object to seeing San Fransokyo brought to life in California Adventure?!

But in this case, naysayers may have some reason to be disappointed… Read on…


Add new comment

About Theme Park Tourist

Theme Park Tourist is one of the web’s leading sources of essential information and entertaining articles about theme parks in Orlando and beyond.

We are one of the world’s largest theme park guide sites, hosting detailed guides to more than 80 theme parks around the globe.

Find Out More About Us...

Plan Your Trip

Our theme park guides contain reviews and ratings of rides, restaurants and hotels at more than 80 theme parks worldwide.

You can even print them.

Start Planning Now...