February 2001 – September 2008
Paradise Pier – Golden Dreams played in a large theater on the waterfront of Paradise Pier. Today, this space has been transformed into an aquarium, which houses The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
When Imagineers began designing a park celebrating California, they wanted to include an attraction that told a sensationalized version of California’s history. They found the perfect spot in Paradise Pier, along the waters of Paradise Bay. The theater’s exterior featured a massive mural, depicting characters from the film, most notably Queen Califia, played by Whoopi Goldberg. Golden Dreams debuted on Opening Day in 2001, and played for audiences daily until 2008.
Golden Dreams began with a unique special effect: the art deco goddess statues “came to life”, projecting Whoopi Goldberg’s face. She introduced herself as Califia, the Queen of California, also known as the spirit that lives within the state.
The film covered California’s history, dating back to the Chumash tribe settlements. Califia appeared throughout the film (in disguise), offering guidance and encouragement to Californians in every era. Periods depicted in the film included:
- Chumash tribe settlements
- Spanish missionaries
- Railroad construction
- California Gold Rush
- Japanese immigration
- Great Depression
- World War II
- 50s expansion – interstates, amusement parks, suburbs
- 60s Counterculture
- 80s & 90s tech boom
After traveling through time, the film ended with a montage of notable Californians and historical events (much like the end of The American Adventure in Epcot). Califia ends the show, celebrating the imaginative spirit of California before disappearing back into the statue.
Golden Dreams never captured the imaginations of audiences. Most visitors to the park did see the show at some point, but almost never more than a handful of times. In fact, showings typically played to a virtually empty theater, even during the busy season. So when the park’s major overhaul began in the late 2000s, the show unsurprisingly drew its final curtain. The large theater came down in 2009 and the space reopened as The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure just a few years later.
Rumor has it the original show was supposed to feature animatronics, much like The American Adventure in Epcot. Sadly, budget constraints meant the show became a standard short film, but statues did come to life at the beginning of the show.
Recognize the entryway to the theater? It was modeled after the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco!
Golden Dreams featured an original song, “Just One Dream”, written by Agnieszka Holland. Heather Headley, the voice of Nala in the Broadway version of the Lion King, performed the song for the show.