It’s Time to Book a Trip to Disneyland
When’s the last time that you visited Disneyland? The world’s first theme park is holy land to Disney fanatics. All of us should return to this mecca every few years. That’s just common sense. If you don’t have a trip planned for 2018, however, you need to start making plans. The Happiest Place on Earth is evolving, and you will want to bear witness to the amazing changes in store for it next year. Here’s a quick guide on the huge changes coming to Disneyland.
The Origin Story
When Disney California Adventure (DCA) debuted in 2001, it had a simple theme. The California theme park embraced the beauty of the Golden State. Roughly 46 years after Disneyland opened to the public, the complex received its largest expansion. The additions included the 300,000-square foot entertainment district, Downtown Disney, and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which remains the most luxurious Disney hotel onsite.
Unfortunately, the expansion plan depended on the popularity of Disney California Adventure. The new gate at Disneyland Resort didn’t sell like The Walt Disney Company expected. According to their numbers folks, it didn’t even sell half as well as they expected. DCA earned only five million visits during its first year, and while you may think that it was due to the park opening toward the end of the year, that wasn’t the case. Opening day was February 8th, one of the earliest ever for a Disney gate, and attendance actually declined in 2002, the first full year, when only 4.7 million guests entered DCA. The park wouldn’t reach the projected eight million guests until 2013.
The honest evaluation is that the opening of DCA is probably the biggest disaster in the history of Disney’s Parks & Resorts division. And in a strange way, that failure has led to one of the most intriguing theme park evolutions that anyone has ever seen. Starting in 2008, Disney worked to improve DCA, adding Toy Story: Midway Mania! and then expanding it much more in 2012 with Cars Land.
Learning from the Competition
The surge in attendance directly corresponds to these additions. Disney took notice of the instant popularity of Pixar attractions. It mirrored something happening at a different theme park. In Orlando, Disney’s ostensible competitor, Universal Resort Orlando, had never been viewed as a threat. Their two themed gates there had combined attendance of 10.1 million in 2009. By 2012, those numbers had increased almost 40 percent to 14.1 million.
What changed? Come on, we all know the answer to that one. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter drew crowds from around the world, Muggles embracing a theme park realm of magic. Disney had long ago mastered the art of theming, but they felt a bit of embarrassment as a minor league squad beat them at their own game. The Pixar expansion was Disney’s way of mimicking Universal’s success…with an idea Walt Disney invented. To Disney’s pleasant surprise, customers embraced the change. Attendance rose dramatically, and all the Pixar rides at the park quickly proved popular.
Pixar by the Pier
Now, let’s fast forward to the D-23 Expo in July of this year. Disney confirmed that they were going all-in on the premise of a third land, adding to the current ones of Cars Land and A Bug’s Land (you forgot about that one, didn’t you?). The surprise part of the announcement was that Disney wasn’t constructing a new part of DCA. Instead, they’re repurposing a current one. And that is AMAZING news for Disney fans.
The current Paradise Pier, a section of the park with a vague theme, will tighten its structure with a Pixar focus. This reboot effectively changes the core concept of DCA. The Golden State is out, replaced by Pixar and Marvel. The first major change happened last year when The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s run ended, and Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! debuted. If you haven’t ridden this rock ‘n’ roll version of the attraction, think of it as another great reason to head to Disneyland in 2018!
The main reason is the one that D-23 revealed, though. Paradise Pier is out, and Pixar Pier is in. This future version of the most prominent part of DCA will see changes big and small. The most recent huge change is the re-theming of California Screamin’. Like Tower of Terror, it’s ending so that a stronger theme may take its place.
That theme is The Incredibles. Disney’s favorite animated crime-fighting family will combat evil in a movie sequel in June of 2018, and DCA will give them a roller coaster around the same time. The Incredicoaster is its name, and it will have a clever theme. Dash Parr, the oldest son of Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, is a speedster in the films. This coaster will celebrate The Dash’s need for speed. It’s also projected to take up less space than California Screamin’, eventually allowing for a second Incredibles attraction in the same vicinity.
The Incredicoaster is the anchor part of The Incredibles neighborhood at Pixar Pier. Disney will unveil three other neighborhoods in 2018, with Toy Story and Inside Out the basis for two neighborhoods. The final one is a combination of all other Pixar characters.
Pixar Pier and Beyond
If you shut your eyes, you can easily imagine the new look of Pixar Pier. All the shops and dining options will receive new theming to match the various neighborhoods and beloved movie characters. A band will play Pixar soundtrack music and classic songs from the films, and the former Muppets Theater will exhibit Pixar shorts instead. Disney’s also altering Mickey’s Fun Wheel so that each of the 24 carts has a specific Pixar theme. Whether you love Dory and Nemo, Remy, or Dug, you can pick the gondola themed to your favorite Pixar character.
Disney has even promised the return of the Pixar Play parade, albeit in a surprising location. It’s going to be stationed at Disneyland, along with a Pixar fireworks display. In other words, Disney’s vision for the Pixar brand is so comprehensive that they can’t fit it all at DCA.
The plan is to return Pixar Play for Pixar Fest on April 13, 2018. So, if you don’t have firm plans for your next Disneyland visit, that’s a great target date for a trip. As part of the new version, Up and Inside Out characters will join the show, and the adorable Pixar Lamp that you’ve seen in all of the films will get its own parade! For Pixar Fest, Disney’s even giving Tinker Bell a few days off. Buzz Lightyear will soar across Sleeping Beauty Castle in her stead.
Perhaps the most interesting question about the impending changes involves a hotel. When you visit Disneyland, you have a choice of three wonderful Disney resorts. One of them is named…Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. It overlooks DCA’s Pixar Pier, which means a re-theming of the hotel seems likely at some point. When you go to Disneyland in 2018, it’s probably the ideal location to appreciate fully the improvements that Disney’s made to DCA.
As you can see from all the changes listed here, you REALLY need to go to Disneyland in 2018. In April of next year, Disney California Adventure is going to level up into its final form as an amazingly detailed, lovingly themed park full of new features. Embrace the change and go early. That way, you can brag for years to come that you were there the week that DCA finally became a worthy sibling to Disneyland.