Yesterland

Sunshine Plaza

Sun Icon and Wave Fountain
Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Please don’t call it the Hubcap. Sure, it’s at the hub of this theme park, and it’s a bulging, round, decorative object, much like the bowl-like disks that hide the lug nuts on old automobile wheels.

But it has a real name. It’s the Sun Icon.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Don’t call it the Hubcap.

And please don’t confuse it with the other big sun at this park. The other one is the Sun Wheel, which is bigger, has a face, and is part of ride.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

“A California Postcard”

The Sun Icon is part of something bigger too—the California Postcard entrance to Yester California Adventure. Huge letters spell the name of the state in front the largest ceramic mural in the world and the Golden Gate Bridge. The California Sun shines at the center of the “postcard.”

More accurately, the Sun Icon is supposed to shine. However, the Sun Icon faces north, so it’s backlit by the real sun.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Reflectors

The Sun Icon in its own shadow would not look good, so there’s a solution. Giant reflectors follow the real sun and reflect sunlight onto the Sun Icon. Pretty cool idea, eh?

Too bad it usually doesn’t work.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Wave Fountain between waves

There’s a fountain at the base of the Sun Icon, and it’s really a terrific fountain.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Wave crashing at the Wave Fountain

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Your money will go to good causes.

Throw a coin in the fountain and make a wish. Your money will be put to good use.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

An X for the X Games Xperience

You never know what you’ll see in Sunshine Plaza.

Perhaps you’ll see a big letter X advertising the X Games Xperience, an extreme sports demonstration.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Chef Showcase Stage for the California Food and Wine Festival

Or maybe you can catch a culinary demonstration in the Chef Showcase Stage tent during the California Food & Wine Festival.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

High School Musical 3 Pep Rally

Would you like to see a live show based on High School Musical 3: Senior Year? Just follow the incredibly loud music.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Glow Fest

If it’s around dusk during Glow Fest, catch a colorful, high-energy show.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Side photo of the Sun Icon

The photo above is a rare side view of the Sun Icon. But the next photo will make you say “ooh!” and “ahh!”

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for... the amazing... the colossal... the stupendous... the eighth wonder of the world... the backside of the sun!

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

The backside of the sun!

Yes, just head around the corner to Bountiful Valley Farm. From here, you can see the other side of the Sun Icon, or at least the top of it. And because this side of the Sun Icon faces south, you might even see it bathed in sunlight.


The Sun Icon and Wave Fountain at Sunshine Plaza lasted from the February 2001 opening of Disney’s California Adventure until their removal in September 2010 to make way for construction of the Carthay Circle Theatre.

Here’s how the official website for Disney’s California Adventure described Sunshine Plaza when the park opened:

The portal to all the major areas of Disney’s California Adventure park, the Sunshine Plaza is also a prime location for guests to rest or catch a parade. The plaza’s centerpiece is a 50-foot-tall sun (sitting atop a perpetual wave fountain), which glistens during the day and is lit by a dazzling spectacle of red, orange and yellow lights at night.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Concept art for the “California Postcard” entrance to Disney’s California Adventure

The “California Postcard” was an interesting concept, but it’s questionable how many guests realized they were walking into a giant postcard. Regardless of whether they understood the Imagineers’ intent, Sunshine Plaza failed to resonate with guests on either an emotional or aesthetic level. The unremarkable Sun Icon was “nice,” but hardly an iconic centerpiece for a Disney theme park. The more remarkable Wave Fountain might have worked well in another setting, but was lost in the hodgepodge of Sunshine Plaza.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Concept art for the Sun icon

The Sun Icon lacked the charm of Sleeping Beauty Castle, the splendor of Cinderella Castle, and grandeur of Spaceship Earth, the authenticity of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, or the creativity and artistry of the Tree of Life.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Sunshine Plaza, the original “hub” of the park

After website editor Al Lutz previewed the new park in January 2001, he wrote, “The icon for the park, their Castle I guess, is a giant metal sun that looks like either a rather glitzy hubcap—or as one older couple I overheard say—like a jumbo-sized old radio microphone.”

From that point on, “the Hubcap” became a common nickname for the Sun Icon. It was short, catchy, and descriptive. Many of the people who called it that probably had no idea of its real name.

In the same article, Lutz also offered his opinion of the Wave Fountain: “The one really outstanding feature of the Sun Icon area is the fountain under it—it creates waves that are shot up behind it in patterns. I liked this a lot.”

original logos for Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland Reosrt

Original logos for California Adventure and the whole Disneyland Resort

Although the Sun Icon had Icon as part of its name, it was not used as the icon of the park. That honor went to the Grizzly Peak—the mountain that looks like the head of the extinct state animal of California, the California grizzly bear (Ursus californicus). The original logos for Disney’s California Adventure and the two-park Disneyland Resort both featured Grizzly Peak. Although both logos included a sun, there was no attempt to make it look like the Sun Icon.

Grizzly Peak survived the $1.1 billion makeover of the park and should remain part of Disney California Adventure well into the future. But Grizzly Peak is not part of the current park or resort logo.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Dismantling the Sun Icon

Sunshine Plaza and all that surrounded it—including the Sun Icon, the Wave Fountain, the California Zephyr, and the Greetings from California souvenir store —did not survive the $1.1 billion makeover.

Sunshine Plaza at Disney's California Adventure

Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Carthay Circle Theater

The 89-foot-tall Carthay Circle Theater at Disney California Adventure is a perfect complement to the 77-foot-tall Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park.


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


California Zephyr
Golden Gate Bridge
Home


© 2011-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated March 20, 2014.

Photo of Sun Icon with fountain: 2002 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Sun Icon “hubcap”: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of California Adventure postcard entrance © Disney.
Photo of reflectors in Sunshine Plaza: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Wave Fountain without wave: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Wave Fountain with wave: 2009 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Disney Hand brass plaque: 2007 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Sun Icon with X for X Games Xperience: 2003 by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore.
Photo of Chef Tent in Sunshine Plaza: 2010 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of High School Musical 3 rolling stage in Sunshine Plaza: 2009 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Glow Fest stage show: 2010 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Sun Icon from the side: 2008 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Sun Icon from the back: 2002 by Allen Huffman.
Concept art for California Adventure postcard entrance © Disney.
Concept art for Sun Icon and Wave Fountain © Disney.
Photo of Sun Icon with planters: 2004 by Allen Huffman.
The original California Adventure and Disneyland Resort logos are trademarks of The Walt Disney Company.
Photo of Sun Icon being dismantled: 2010 by RW.
Photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle by Werner Weiss.
Concept art for Carthay Circle Theatre © Disney.