Disney's California Adventure: The Press Gang in action (A trilogy in five or six parts). Part IIIa

Discussion in 'Disneyland Trip Reports' started by SimonV, Feb 9, 2001.

  1. SimonV

    SimonV Proud to have called Bob Varley 'friend'

    Aug 18, 1999
    (NB: Yes, I know I am behind with this instalment, but I've been a bit tied up workwise the last couple of days, plus I had an 'adventure' on the flight back to the UK I would not be keen to repeat. All will be revealed!)

    (Disclaimer: I am obliged to point out that I am fully aware I am hugely privileged to be doing this. Admittedly, I am having to leave my family behind for five days, but, as most people would probably give their right arm to be along for the ride, it is a small price to pay. So, as you read on, please try not to say 'Lucky %£"!!*&^' too many times. Those of a sensitive nature are advised not to read further).

    No better luck with sleeping. Wide awake at 4am. For half an hour I try to force myself back to sleep, but in the end I give up and decide to get up. I might as well get the lap-top out to start compiling these reports. Ho hum.

    Suitably armed with a cup of coffee (not that I need any help in staying awake, right?!) from the in-room coffee-maker (a welcome touch that not every hotel seems to provide these days), I set out on what is intended to be a relatively short series of factual reports about the new park. It quickly becomes obvious there is too much to write about, so short and snappy is out {Get on with it - Ed.}

    OK, it's time to get on the journalistic road about 8.45 this morning as we are heading over to the Grand Californian for breakfast with Chip 'n Dale at the Storyteller's Cafe. However, there is something of a snafu and there is no room at the inn for the UK press party. The Cafe is full to the brim, so we head back to our hotel.

    However, we do get our first real look inside the Grand Californian and it is immensely impressive. It has large, sliding wooden doors at the entrance that open dramatically to reveal the 750ft high lobby inside, full of grand Arts and Crafts-style architecture in best Frank Lloyd Wright fashion and featuring a monumental stone fireplace. Truly, the Imagineers have really pulled out all the stops here. For Orlando folks, if you imagine a cross between the Wilderness Lodge and Grand Floridian, you are close to the Grand Californian. It is more rustic than the GF and less rough-hewn than the WL, but it also has a much warmer and more welcoming ambience than the GF, which I always think is a bit uncomfortably formal and slightly sterile, a bit like a themed museum.

    The pool area looks gorgeous and the Cafe is very inviting - from the outside. Sorry Chip 'n Dale, you'll have to wait!

    The Paradise Pier's PCH Grill offers a breakfast buffet with Minnie and Friends, basically Minnie, Max and Daisy Duck (apparently Donald puts in an appearance instead of Daisy sometimes). The characters circulate well, and hold an impromptu limbo session with the kids that goes down well (spot the pun!). Limbo/goes down, geddit? {Groan - Ed.}. The food is good, if nothing special - cereal, fruit, omelette, bacon, scrambled eggs, Mickey waffles, etc.

    Having finally filled our faces (if there is one other thing the UK media can do well en masse after drinking, it is eating. We'd be Olympic medal contenders for sure :D ), it is time to do some real work {You're not fooling anyone - Ed.}, so we head off to the special media centre which is in the car park (sorry, parking lot :) )behind the Hollywood Backlot area of DCA. There are two huge media packs, plus a massive media sourcebook ("Facts, Figures, Trivia and Historical Highlights of the Disneyland Resort"), to provide ALL the low-down into the new development here, the park, hotel and Downtown Disney district. It weighs a ton, but we manfully struggle on under our new burden. More importantly, I can use my lap-top here to communicate with the office and ensure I will be able to file my story in due course. (In fact, it should be up on The Sun online tomorrow - Saturday - on www.thesun.co.uk)

    To get to the media centre, of course, we have to walk through much of the park, and this is a real treat. This is our first proper, up-close look at Disney's California Adventure. We enter via a Cast Members entrance in the corner of Paradise Pier, and the initial impressions of this area are extremely positive.

    While it may look a bit two-dimensional and perhaps even garish from the 6th floor of the hotel, when you are surrounded by it, it is a very different story, and this is where the park's critics will have to eat a little humble pie. The whole effect of Paradise Pier is immensely eye-pleasing; it is a complete and well-filled entity, and it envelops you thoroughly and convincingly. Yes, it is 'only' a fairground theme, but then the Grand Canyon is 'only' a hole in the ground :D This has to be the ultimate fairground IMHO, and the effectiveness of all the elements goes way beyond being just a collection of rides. The whole is distinctly greater than the sum of the parts in this case, and the superb detail everywhere (plus the large-scale grandeur) makes this section of the park rise above the 'only' accusations. It is also great fun, pure and simple. The Boardwalk has a terrific authenticity about it that will surely thrill fairground afficiandos and convert those who have never visited one.

    My one reservation is with Mulholland Madness, the 'crazy mouse' coaster in the corner by Burger Invasion (McDonald's by a different name). There is basically no theming at all here, save for a few hoardings on the back and front, one of which has an amusing cut-out as if a coaster car has gone straight through it. Over here in the UK, we have a zoo-park called Chessington World of Adventures which has a c-m coaster called The Rattlesnake. It is bigger, more dramatic and properly themed (although not faster - see Day Four), and I am left with the distinct impression someone has not thought this through here. If the idea is just to present a basic steel-structure fairground coaster, fair enough, but when it is called Mulholland Madness, then let's find out a bit about Mr Mulholland and his Madness (OK, I know it's named after Mulholland Drive, but you get my point. It is meaningless to anyone who has no idea of what Mulholland Drive is).

    This one point aside, Paradise Pier is a lovely creation, and the music is a hit, too. Not at all cheesy, it is bright and fresh, yet still upholds the fairground feel.

    After collecting our 'homework' at the media centre, it is then open house around the park's Golden State district until the rides open up at 1.30pm. The Bountiful Valley Farm and Farmers Market are open to wander around, as are the Mission Tortilla Factory and the Sourdough Bakery in the Pacific Wharf and the whole of the Golden Vine Winery, with a special dedication ceremony at the Mondavi-sponsored Vineyard Room and Golden Vine Terrace restaurant with Robert Mondavi himself. There are free samples ( <IMG WIDTH="15" HEIGHT="15" SRC="/infopop/emoticons/icon_razz.gif" alt="razz"> ) of Mondavi wines and a selection of Italian delicacies at strategic points around the terrace. And, if this is a good representation of the kind of food on offer here, it will be a real mouth-watering treat and a welcome change from usual park fare. One sample, a wild mushroom risotto with truffles, is simply to die for. The Deli at one end of the terrace also offers a good-looking selection of salads at around $3.50 each, and the whole place just smells divine.

    This latter idea, the aroma of the park, seems to be a regular feature as there are notable points where the scent of fresh bread/coffee/pastries/etc is almost overwhelming. So, not only does the park look good and sound good, it even smells good too! I can't think of any other park where you are hit by such an array of enticing aromas, and the Deli here is worth visiting for this alone :)

    However, odours and appetising food aside, this is still an area of the park that looks weak. It is a fairly bold, imaginative and even artistic step to try to present the foods and wines of California as a kind of attraction, but they simply do not amount to very much at all. The eight-minute Bakery Tour is quite amusing, with its special TV presentation starring Rosie O'Donnell and Colin Mochrie, but the Tortilla factory is pretty uninspiring for non-food buffs (for those who really enjoy their cooking, there is a How To Make demonstration on various tortilla dishes at the end), and the wine-making film is hardly thrilling. In all honesty, you can take theme park edu-tainment only so far, and, if I am going to shell out 50 bucks on a day at the park, I don't do it to go and watch lettuce grow. I'm sorry if that sounds a bit unkind, but, especially for folks from the UK where we are fairly farm-conscious already, there is very little merit in looking at tractors, grape vines, bee pollenation and lemon trees.

    The two saving graces of the Bountiful Valley farm area are the water splash area, where any opportunity for kids to get wet is usually popular, and the transplant of the It's Tough To Be A Bug 3-D show. It is a faithful copy of the one from DAK in WDW, and those who haven't seen it (and even those who have), will really enjoy this fun-filled eight-minute special effect extravaganza (although it is still likely to scare young children as it is so dark, and features a LOT of creepy-crawlies!).

    The fact that we are also just killing time until 1.30 and the start of the rides doesn't help the overall impression of this area, but I do definitely feel there is an over-emphasis on food and beverage outlets and merchandise in this case. However, if you are looking for a time out from all the rides (and, probably, the crowds), this looks like the area to visit.

    Right, I will call a halt here due to the fact I am severely jet-lagged. Next - The Rides (it gets better - MUCH better!).


  2. disney13

    disney13 DIS Veteran

    Jan 7, 2000
    Once again a fine report. I really look forward to reading more about the new DCA in tomorrow's Sun.

    Andy :) :) :) :)

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  4. Mickey Nut 50

    Mickey Nut 50 <font color=blue>Loves to find Hidden Mickeys<br><

    Aug 23, 1999
    Simon, I so enjoy reading your reports. I've been a fan of yours since you started posting! For these reports, however, I'm not reading them on-line. I print them off, get ready for bed, and snuggle down for a "fine read".
    I can easily relate to the weather in England - your "grey" references in your first report. Seems the weather here in central Ohio has been just about the same "greyness" this winter.
    I'm looking forward to the rest of your report. :D
  5. WebmasterPete

    WebmasterPete Grand Administrator Administrator

    Jun 1, 1997
    Oh Simon, by the way....

    If you don't bring back presents for EVERYONE, I might have to dig into my videos from the Cruise during the Around the World Tour. You know what I mean...Mr. Travolta?? :)


    Pete Werner
    My motto...why sleep when you can work?

    Unofficial Disney Information Station - http://www.wdwinfo.com
    Unofficial Universal Information Station - http://www.usfinfo.com
    Dreams Unlimited Travel - http://www.dreamsunlimitedtravel.com

  6. SimonV

    SimonV Proud to have called Bob Varley 'friend'

    Aug 18, 1999
    Oh sure, Pete, tell me now I'm back home!! I'll have to dig through all my official souvenirs to ensure THAT video never sees the light of day :eek:

    PS: If you are able to find The Sun article online, you need to look up the Life section to get to Travel. And I have to say, I am very disappointed at the way it has been edited. They have missed out whole chunks and badly mangled other parts, and I certainly did not write that DCA is a 55-acre 'extension' to DL. Sheesh. What a mess.

  7. luvdsny

    luvdsny Homeschool Mom Extraordinaire Go Broncos!

    Jan 31, 2000
    Another awesome report, Simon. :)

    As I read, I keep asking myself; "why don't I ever notice any of this stuff?" <IMG SRC="/infopop/emoticons/icon_confused.gif" alt="confused"> I am too shallow I guess... ;)

    Oh well, thanks to your reports I will definitely be looking, (and smelling :D ) for these things when I go in May. :)

    <font color=red size=4>HAVE A DISNEY DAY</font>

    <font color=navy size=3>M-I-C...see you at The DIS Convention, K-E-Y...why? Because we LOVE Disney, M-O-U-S-Eeee...</font>
  8. snuggles

    snuggles <font color=blue>A good day with short lines...wha

    Aug 18, 1999
    Ok Now I want to go!

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  9. teri

    teri DIS Veteran

    Aug 22, 1999
    How about next weekend, Snuggles? :D

    "My brain takes a vacation just to give my heart more room..."
  10. Marla Hellwig

    Marla Hellwig I'm not lost, it's called creative exploring

    Mar 25, 2000
    Thanks for the describtions - I almost can smell the bread right now. Thanks for posting!

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