Disney unveils a 1920s theme for California Adventure

The Walt Disney Co. today unveiled details of its extensive $1-billion make-over of Disney's California Adventure, as it seeks to give the troubled theme park the one thing it now lacks — an emotional connection that will keep people coming back.


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An earlier version of this article said visitors could view plans for the make-over today. They will not go on display until Monday.


The sweeping overhaul will transport visitors to the California of the 1920s, when Walt Disney first arrived in Hollywood. In the same way that Disneyland's Main Street evokes Disney's hometown of Marceline, Mo., at the turn of the last century, the new California Adventure will follow the young animator on his journey to Los Angeles.

Instead of Sleeping Beauty's castle, California Adventure will feature a towering structure reminiscent of Hollywood's golden era: a recreation of the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles where Disney premiered the movie " Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937. A Red Car trolley, recalling the Pacific Electric Railway, will clang through the new entrance area, conjuring up the bygone era — and winking at Walt's love of trains.

Also on the drawing board is a 12-acre expansion of the park that will bring to life the town of Radiator Springs, the setting for Disney/Pixar animated film "Cars," with three new attractions including the E-ticket "Radiator Springs Racers."

Sketches illustrate the planned changes for the Paradise Pier, which will take on a nostalgic feel and feature classic Disney characters in new boardwalk games re-themed as attractions, such as Mickey's Fun Wheel (now the Sun Wheel.) One highlight is the planned "World of Color" nighttime display of water effects, color lighting and music to bring new energy to the pier.

Disney's sizable investment, to be spent through 2012, comes atop the $1 billion the entertainment giant committed to build the park, which opened in 2001, and $100 million more spent on new attractions. The stakes for Disney are higher than boosting anemic attendance at California Adventure, which has always been overshadowed by Disneyland.

"What's at stake for Disney is their reputation," said Gary Goddard, head of Gary Goddard Entertainment.

Visitors to Disney's California Adventure will get their first glimpse of plans for the reimagined park Monday, when the Walt Disney Imagineers put dozens of working models, concepts and sketches on display in the Golden Vine Winery.

The designers will afford a window into the creative process in a converted wine cellar renamed the "Blue Sky Cellar."

 
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