Yester California Adventure at Yesterland

Changes to DCA in 2001

by Allen Huffman,
Guest Columnist
December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Main entrance to Disney’s California Adventure in 2001

A few days ago, while researching something else, I stumbled on a 2001 blog post by Allen Huffman. You might recognize his name as a Yesterland photographer, but he’s also a blogger, musician, pioneering podcaster, Associate Producer of the Des Moines Renaissance Faire, and man of many other talents.

Allen visited Disney’s California Adventure (as the park was originally called) during February 2001, its opening month. He returned in December 2001. In those days, Allen blogged at DisneyFans.com. (He now blogs at ParkHopping.com.) Allen blogged that Disney had already made many changes to address some of the new park’s shortcomings.

I hope you enjoy this “time machine” trip back to December 2001 as much as I did. I’ve added some of Allen’s photos from the same trip.

Disney California Adventure will be 20 years old on February 8, 2021.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, April 17, 2020


December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Attractions at Disney’s California Adventure, December 2001

Changes to DCA in 2001
by Allen Huffman, December 25, 2001

Changes!

It is amazing how much things have changed in the past ten months. There are plenty of new shaded areas, seating for the formerly standing-room-only Hollywood stage, and so much more. Here is a run down of items that I noticed:

  • Steps in Time is gone. The Hyperion now shows an abridged version of the non-Disney show Blast! It’s a great show, but has nothing to do with Disney. No Disney music, theme, or anything. It’s a high-end “professional drill team” type show with some of the most amazing marching band and flag team stuff you will see anywhere.
  • Lights, Camera, Chaos is gone. In its place is a character show called Goofy’s Beach Party Bash, where Donald Duck is directing a beach movie starring Goofy and Max. There are now benches for sitting down to watch the show.
  • Children’s areas are all over the park! Almost every section has a place where kids can do some kind of craft thing that relates to the area.
December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

One Man’s Dream at Disney Animation

  • Animation is showing the Walt Disney tribute film, One Man’s Dream, in the place of the Robin Williams/Walter Cronkite film which formerly played there (and still plays at Walt Disney World at Disney-MGM Studios).
  • The winery is no longer sponsored by Robert Mondavi, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. You can still take a wine tour, watch Seasons of the Vine, eat in the high-end restaurant, and so on. Now the cast members are 100% Disney, so the service might actually be better. The gift shop was temporarily closed, though, so there are no expensive deli sandwiches currently.
  • Wolfgang Puck is gone, but the Avalon Cove restaurant still serves and the bar is still open.
  • Rita’s Baja Blenders now serves margaritas! Huzzah! Previously it was just slushy type drinks.
  • There is a new Monsters, Inc. character show.
  • There is a new Minnie Mouse character appearance outside of Soarin’ Over California.
  • The Orange Stinger no longer has the “bee bodies” on the seats. They were there one day in February, then gone a few days later. Maybe they never came back?
  • There is a new night time lagoon show, LuminAria, which features fireworks and projection screens. Across from Golden Dreams is a building where kids (and adults?) can make cards and have them “scanned” for possible inclusion in the nighttime show. Very cool.
  • Shade has been added to some picnic tables.
  • A soundtrack CD is available!
  • Mulholland Madness was operating.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Play It! is open (and very fun).
  • A new building is going up behind the California Screamin’ queue area. It may be storage, offices, or a place for the lagoon floats, depending on who you ask.
  • …and more!
December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Backstage building under construction

This trip was cold and wet. Ironically, the weekend I was at Disneyland it was colder there than back home in Iowa. Go figure. The park was in excellent shape, as it should be since it’s not even been open a year. The numerous changes listed above were all welcome, though it’s apparent this park may need a Yesterland-type website dedicated to it to document all the things they shut down as they figure out what works and what doesn’t.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Mulholland Madness roadmap façade

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Bare bones Mulholland Madness

I took my first ride on Mulholland Madness. It was fun and short but I wasn’t blown away like I was when I rode my first Mad Mouse ride at Kennywood in Pennsylvania. Their version sits four across and the cars rotate. Theirs was also indoors and features a storyline and limited animated characters during the ride. If Disney had done as much for Mulholland as Kennywood did for its ride, I’m sure Disney fans still would be up in arms about how cheesy and tacky it is compared to Pirates or the Haunted Mansion.

It’s sad, really. It wouldn’t have taken that much to make an “off the shelf” ride like this coaster into something much more impressive. The ride itself is themed with crazy road signs and billboards, but that was about it. The cars are painted cutely—some look like highway patrol cars, others look like woodies (surf station wagons), and there was a hippy-inspired vehicle. Nice touches, but this is an attraction I can honestly say doesn’t seem to have any true “Disney touches” to it.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Scream at the Hairy Blue Monster. Yes, that was the name of the Monsters, Inc. show!

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

James “Jimmy” P. “Sulley” Sullivan and his scary tongue

The new character shows were interesting. Monsters, Inc. involves a set being driven up to an area just outside the winery and Pacific Wharf area. It appears to be part of a child’s bedroom, complete with posters on the wall and a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? lunch box on the floor (watch for those Disney Details(tm) here). Sulley and Mike come out of the closet (door), and Mike explains why they have brought this bedroom from Des Moines, Iowa (cool, but everyone makes fun of Des Moines), to California. It is hoped they can make it big in Hollywood. It’s a cute show, and afterwards they do a meet-and-greet for photos with the audience.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Announcing a new motion picture from Hollywood Backlot Pictures

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Now filming Goofy’s Beach Party Bash

There was also a very involved-looking show involving Goofy and his son Max, which was made to be a movie set for a new beach picture. I didn’t get to see it (it was canceled the one time I was there on time) but from a distance it looked pretty good. There were a lot of props.

Minnie Mouse also makes an appearance now at Condor Flats for a photo session. The theme is that she’s just landed a plane (which you never actually see—they bring her in from the backlot). It is obvious that Disney has done a lot to fill this park up with character experiences. There were tons of walk-around characters throughout the park, including a disturbing clone of Goofy we saw near the Sunshine Plaza just moments after leaving him in another area. Spooky :-)

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

A new show at the Hyperion Theater

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The Power of Blast!, with no Disney content

At the Hyperion Theater, Steps in Time is gone and an abridged version of Blast! is playing. The Power of Blast! is basically high school drum core on steroids. Band instruments, percussion, flag drill teams, and more. If you hated drill team or school bands, it might still be worth a look. It’s pretty amazing.

Once again, the Disney faithful are being hypocritical—they seem to spend all their time blasting this park because it has so many “off the shelf” things that were not Disney designed. Well, previously, the show Steps in Time was 100% Disney songs. It was pretty much universally hated (though I really enjoyed it). Now Disney brings in a complete outside show that doesn’t even have Disney music in it and everyone loves it. I don’t get it. I really don’t. If it sticks around, I’d like to see Blast! put a show together that uses Disney music.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Superstar Limo at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Cindy Crawford at Dollars Scents in Superstar Limo

Superstar Limo is still running, in spite of rumors of a remodel coming soon. Cindy Crawford’s animated character wasn’t blowing perfume smoke when I rode it, though. Can things already be breaking?

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Smoothie Jones and the Mighty Angels Reggae Band at Pacific Wharf

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Rita’s Baja Blenders at Pacific Wharf

Pacific Wharf seemed to have a band playing every time I went by. Its Rita’s drink stand has margaritas now—for those who love the experience of walking around Epcot with a drink, DCA is finally starting to catch up. In spite of what people seem to think, just selling alcohol doesn’t mean you’ll put up with drunks. It’s not a bar, and the Disney prices make it very expensive to get sloshed at the park.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Festive holiday decor at the restroom building adjacent to Golden Dreams

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

LuminAria Holiday Art Card Center

The Christmas decorations were very pretty. They had a nice Santa making appearances near the foot of Grizzly Peak, and the new LuminAria nighttime lagoon show was fairly neat. The show features water-based fireworks and large projection screens which rise out of huge “presents” on the water. There was nothing ground breaking at this show, but it did have one very nice element. During the show (and on a video loop after the show ends), Christmas cards made by park visitors get shown on the screens. In the San Francisco area you could go into a building and draw a card then they would “scan” it in (through a very complete prop that was 100% Disney fantasy at its best). My card didn’t make it, unfortunately. I would imagine there were many locals who came again and again trying to get a card shown out on the water. Nice show, but I could have done without the kid video in the middle. Didn’t they try that with Light Magic a few years back?

The Rocket Rods vehicle was not sitting around at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot—did it get put to use somewhere, or is it part of the group that is supposed to be sold off for scrap metal? Ah, fun rumors.

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Golden Vine Winery, after the exit of Robert Mondavi

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The Vineyard Room on the upper floor of the Golden Vine Winery

I got to dine at The Vineyard Room. A very limited and expensive menu. Honestly, my tastes are too shallow to enjoy a place like that. Thanks to a wonderful friend, Elizabeth, the meal had a discount. It’s really great to have friends who work for the Mouse. It turns out that she is also the one who came up with the Blue Bayou birthday song which is currently being used across the way in New Orleans Square. It’s a small world, after all. (Mental note: have next birthday at the Blue Bayou to confirm her story…)

December 2001 at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

ABC Soap Opera Bistro, no longer open for breakfast

On this trip, I tried to eat at a different place each time, at which I was mostly successful. It was still impossible to get a sit-down breakfast at the park, though. The Soap Opera Bistro no longer has its wonderful breakfast offering. Pity. That was one of my all-time most favorite Disney experiences. I’ll have to try lunch or dinner there during my next trip.

More notes to be added if I think of anything later…


[Note from Werner: It’s now “later”—April 2020—and Allen has an update.]

DCA 1.0 sure didn’t last very long, and neither did DCA 1.0b. So many things came and went—some of which I still miss (even if I never knew a thing about the soap operas represented in that cool restaurant). At the time I joked that DCA would have done just fine had it been built in Florida—where they were already used to half-day parks.

But more recently, even with my love of the newer entrance and Cars Land, there are still many experiences I miss from those early visits. It was a great “hang out” park. I would walk around with a tasty adult beverage and enjoy all the areas with great details—and puzzle over the areas that lacked them. There was no pressure to get to the next attraction.

Sure, Steps in Time was weird, but that Eureka! parade was pretty spectacular. Locals might not have been thrilled to get a California history lesson in Golden Dreams, but I enjoyed it. And that wacky restaurant at the back of the backlot was a fantastic place to hunt Hidden Mickeys. In fact, the whole park was.

Even with all the changes that turned the park into Disney California Adventure, in some ways, I think there were many more changes (just smaller and cheaper ones) happening during the first few years of Disney’s California Adventure.

I’m glad I got to experience it. Heck, I even rode a bee body!

At least the latest version of DCA still lets me walk around with tasty adult beverages.


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Updated April 17, 2020.