Disney unveils billion-dollar theme park redo
By Ryan Nakashima, AP
June 15, 2012, 12:11 am TWN
ANAHEIM, California--Disney is done with its do-over of Disney California Adventure.
Wednesday marks the end of a five-year, US$1 billion-plus overhaul to correct problems at the park. The venue, which was supposed to turn the Disneyland Resort into a multiple-day destination like Walt Disney World in Florida, had become a source of embarrassment for the company almost from the moment it opened in 2001. Visitors grumbled that it had little connection to Disney and complained that it seemed built on the cheap.
Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger recently admitted the park had been “a brand eyesore.” He told investors the revamp will fix what was “clearly a problem” and lift business across the resort area, which includes Disneyland next door.
Theme parks are more than just fun and games for Disney. Five park locations, including Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, along with cruise ships and vacation time-shares generated US$11.8 billion in fiscal 2011, almost 30 percent of the company's US$40.9 billion in annual revenue.
Disney had expected California Adventure would lead people to stay in its hotels, extending their stays in Anaheim. Instead, it became a place for adults to get an alcoholic drink, or kids to spend a few hours on generic-themed rides, before going back to Disneyland.
The park's revamp has debuted in spurts since 2008. Most of its new features rely on characters that come from Disney's US$7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, the studio behind “Cars,” “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.” and “A Bug's Life.”
The park is now “a worthy companion to Disneyland at this point,” said Al Lutz, a hard-nosed critic who is editor of the Disney blog called MiceAge. Lutz credits the overhaul with boosting attendance at Disney California Adventure, which is estimated by the Themed Entertainment Association at 6.3 million last year, up about 12 percent from 2007.