Yesterland

The Mickey Head
on California Screamin’

The biggest not-so-hidden Mickey
at Yester California Adventure
The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2002


Would you like to take a roller coast ride with a loop around a silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head?

Don’t worry. It’s a single loop. You don’t loop around Mickey’s ears too. (Now that would be a jarring ride!)

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

Similar views on a calm day (top) and a windy day (bottom)

Befitting the Golden State, the Mickey head silhouette is golden. It’s simple, clean, and industrial.

Paradise Pier represents “the heyday of the great seaside amusement park piers.” Judging by the contemporary design of the Mickey head silhouette, that heyday must have been quite recent.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

A closer look at the loop

A view from the side reveals that you don’t actually loop within the silhouette of Mickey’s head. The loop is in front of the circle representing the head.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

View across the lagoon

Who says that Mickey Mouse doesn’t have a big enough presence at this park? Just look at just how big this Mickey Mouse is.

Along with the giant sun on the nearby Sun Wheel, the giant Mickey head dominates the view across the lagoon. These are the two main icons of Paradise Pier.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2008

Souvenir t-shirt

You can buy a t-shirt with the Mickey head silhouette on the tallest roller coaster hill. It also has Mickey and his pals. All of them (except Pluto) are terrified by the ride.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Better at night

At night, the golden Mickey head silhouette fades into the darkness, replaced by lights forming the same shape.


When Disney’s California Adventure opened in February 2001, the new park’s big thrill ride was California Screamin’—an “‘E’ ticket” attraction (except that California Adventure opened long after the Disneyland ticket system was retired).

From a distance, it appeared to be a wooden roller coaster. The Mickey head silhouette on the coaster’s highest hill called attention to a 360-degree loop—but wooden roller coasters don’t have loops.

A closer look would reveal it was a steel roller coaster designed to look like a “woodie.”

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 1999

Mickey head silhouette being built (beginning with the ears), September 18, 1999

Here’s how the official website described the ride:

Imagine a roller coaster modeled after the traditional wooden coasters of the 1920’s. Now add a launch that takes you from 0 to 55 miles per hour in under five seconds, a loop-de-loop around a glimmering silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head, over a mile of track reaching heights of 120 feet, and a 108-foot drop at 50 degrees—and you’ve got California Screamin’, the adrenaline rush of the century!

In a park initially criticized for having too few worthwhile attractions, California Screamin’ was one of the high points—at least for guests who enjoy thrill rides.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2009

Mickey head silhouette being removed (beginning with the ears), March 3, 2009

As a popular, major attraction, California Screamin’ survived the $1.1 billion makeover of Disney’s California Adventure, which was announced in October 2007 and completed in June 2012.

But what about the “industrial” Mickey head silhouette?

No. The Imagineers responsible for the massive makeover must have recognized that the vaguely 1990s-style Mickey head silhouette on California Screamin’ and the vaguely 1970s-style sun-with-a-face on the Sun Wheel both contradicted the early 20th century amusement pier theme of Paradise Pier—on a grand scale.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

The California Screamin’ loop before (top) and after (bottom)

In 2009, instead of just replacing the Mickey head and the sun face with old-fashioned versions, the Imagineers also swapped the Mouse and sun between the two rides. The circle which had been the Mickey head on California Screamin’ now contains a simple, painted sun whose colors echo Toy Story Midway Mania! below. A broadly smiling Mickey Mouse face, reminiscent of the face at the beginning of the original color Mickey Mouse cartoons, is now on the former Sun Wheel, renamed Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The Mickey Head on California Screamin' at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Toy Story Midway Mania! and the loop above it

There was a surprising amount of controversy on MiceChat and other Disney fan forums when the changes were first announced—some liked the Paradise Pier skyline as it was; some objected to the Paradise Pier sign on Screamin’; some thought the changes were a pointless waste of resources; some objected to “slapping a Mickey face” on the Sun Wheel; some surmised that the only reason WDI would do such a thing would be if the updated icons would have a role in the new water show; and some wondered why any amusement pier rides would be kept as part of the $1.1 billion redo of the park.

Once these and many other changes around the Paradise Pier lagoon were completed, park guests saw the reason. Paradise Pier now has charm that was sadly lacking when it opened.


Two other Yesterland articles provide information and additional photos of the Sun Wheel and California Screamin’:


Click here to discuss this page on the Yesterland Discussion Forum at MiceChat!


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Updated May 31, 2013.