Last week, Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort finished a 5 year, 1.2 billion dollar reimagining that transformed DCA into a park that’s truly worthy of bearing the Disney name. I was able to visit the park this week, and I am beyond impressed. The empty, poorly themed park that opened in 2001 is gone, and in its place is a vibrant, detailed park that is a joy to be in. The changes have been so successful that DCA has been welcoming record crowds over the past 6 days, and guests seem to love everything that’s in Buena Vista Street and the little town of Radiator Springs.
With this massive project finally done at Disneyland, the attention of Disney fans has now turned to Walt Disney World. Speculation has run wild of if New Fantasyland and Avatar Land will match DCA’s makeover, or if Disney is going to bring Cars Land to Orlando. While it would be years for any of those giant projects or rumors to come to fruition, here are five great aspects of the new California Adventure that Disney could easily put in the parks at WDW in the near future. These additions are small in comparison to a $300 million E-Ticket ride like Radiator Springs Racers, but they would add up to create a more unique, more Disney experience at the parks.
1: An In-Park Newspaper
The first addition Disney could make to WDW is very simple, but could have a big impact. All along Buena Vista Street, guests can receive a complimentary edition of “The Buena Vista Bugle.” This in-park newspaper is a throwback to “The Disneyland News,” a monthly newspaper that was released monthly from 1955 to 1957. The first edition of the Bugle features attraction and entertainment overviews, food reviews/recommendations, era appropriate ads for DCA and Disneyland, and even a wedding announcement for Prince Eric and Ariel. Written in the style of a 1920s newspaper, this free souvenir informs guests about the new DCA in an entertaining way, and it helps tell the story of being in the Los Angeles that Walt arrived to early in his career. Also, it’s great to see guests perusing the paper while in line (a stark contrast to seeing everyone on their phones).
It’s easy to imagine implementing in-park newspapers at each of Disney World’s parks. Guests could pick up their copies of the “Main Street Monthly,” “The World Showcase Gazette,” “The Echo Lake Times,” or the “Animal Kingdom Tribune.” Each would be written in a style appropriate to the park, and would be a fun way for guests to find out what’s new at Walt Disney World.
2: Surprise Fastpasses
Early Friday morning, some guests at California Adventure started reporting on Twitter that they had received a bonus Fastpass for Ariel’s Undersea Adventure with their Fastpass for Radiator Springs Racers. It seemed that the Fastpass machine at Radiator Springs Racers would randomly dispense a “Surprise Fastpass” in addition to the regular one. This idea is fantastic on a few levels. First of all, it’s another little way to make someone’s day at the park feel special. Secondly, it’s a great way for Disney to move crowds to other parts of the park or highlight other attractions. While Disney is overhauling the Fastpass system at Walt Disney World, it would be great if they brought these bonus “Surprise Fastpasses” to Orlando.
(Editor's Note: A Guide2WDW reader has informed me that Disney World already dispenses some Surprise Fastpasses for Mickey's Philharmagic in the Magic Kingdom. I've never been lucky enough to get these, but I'm keeping this on the list because I love the idea so much, and I think Disney should utilize them on more attractions).
3: More Themed Street Performances
One of the aspects of the new California Adventure that I absolutely love are all the small live shows that take place along Buena Vista Street, Cars Land, and throughout the rest of the park. These shows include the Newsies-style Red Car News Boys, the “hepcat” jazz band Five and Dime, DJ’s Dance n Drive at Cars Land, and the charming “Instant Concert!… Just Add Water,” which features Maestro Goofy conducting the Paradise Pier fountains. Each one of these even incorporates Disney characters in unique and appropriate ways, such as a Hollywood bound Mickey Mouse singing with the Red Car News Boys, or a Zoot Suit wearing Goofy dancing along to Five and Dime. These short shows are all in addition to DCA’s usual lineup of dance parties, stage shows, and parades. With so much going on at the park, it’s easy to stumble upon one of these shows as you’re going through DCA. While on our way to Tower of Terror, the car from Five and Dime drove by with the five piece band playing and the amazing Dime singing her heart out. The net result of all these shows gives the park a feeling of a vibrance, and California Adventure is now a joy to just walk around.
The Red Car News Boys at Disney California Adventure
Disney Channel Rocks at Hollywood Studios
With the Dapper Dans in Magic Kingdom and all the bands and performers in the World Showcase, Disney World definitely has its fair share of live entertainment. However, walking down Buena Vista Street and seeing a jazz band playing by the Carthay Circle Theatre completely sells the era and the mood of the street. In contrast, the Disney Channel Shows that perform by the Hat at Hollywood Studios undercut the feeling of being transported to another time and place. While the Citizens of Hollywood and streetmosphere characters at DHS are great, Five and Dime and the Red Car News Boys shows that there’s definitely more that could be done to give Hollywood Boulevard the feeling of “The Hollywood that Never Was and Always Will Be.”
4: The Red Car Trolley
Speaking of Hollywood Studios, here’s another great addition for this park: The Red Car Trolley. OK, of these “small” additions I'm highlighting, this one would definitely be the biggest investment for Disney to implement into Walt Disney World. But I love the Red Car Trolley too much to not mention it on this list. Much like Buena Vista Street’s entertainment options, the Red Car Trolley gives the street a kinetic and lively feel and completely sells the era. As you ride down Buena Vista Street in the Red Car Trolley, a guide tells you about the significance of what you’re seeing and passing. The Trolley would work perfectly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Imagine riding from the entrance of the park all the way to the Tower of Terror. Sunset Boulevard currently has an immobile red trolley car acting as a souvenir stand. Disney should remove that and replace it with the real thing. It would be a real plus to the park.
5: Red’s Apple Freeze
All of the new food I tasted at California Adventure was amazing. From the Dill Pickle Flavored Popcorn at the Cozy Cone Motel to the Ugly Crust Apple and Cheddar Pie at Flo’s V8 Cafe to the Firecracker Duck Wings at the Carthay Circle Restaurant, DCA now rivals Epcot as Disney’s best U.S. park to dine at. However, one treat completely blew me away, and I hope Disney brings it or something very close to it to Walt Disney World. Available at the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land, Red’s Apple Freeze is a frozen apple juice drink that’s fat free, 190 calories, and completely delicious. Some people have even called this Disney’s response to the insanely popular Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Apple Freeze has an amazing flavor that’s reminded me slightly of a frozen cream soda, and it was completely refreshing on the hot summer day in Anaheim. This quickly became tied with the Dole Whip as my favorite treat at Disneyland, and that was before I heard that it was fat free. With the oppressive heat in Orlando, Red’s Apple Freeze could be a great frozen treat to have at Walt Disney World.
While I think each Disney park needs to have a unique identity, there’s a lot Disney did right with California Adventure, and it would be great to see some of the new DCA emulated in Orlando. The park is amazing, and it’s a bright indicator for what Walt Disney Imagineering is capable of. It’s a very exciting time to be a fan of Disney theme parks.