When Disney announced that Disneyland would become the Disneyland Resort, and welcome a second park, the new park had huge expectations to meet. Aside from interest in new attractions and dining, the look and feel of the park would be hugely important. Being just a few steps away from Disneyland’s main gate meant the new park, California Adventure, would have to match the magic and detail of its older sibling.

 Source: Jim Hill Media

And the symbol of Disneyland is, of course, Sleeping Beauty Castle. The structure serves two purposes: 1) it serves as a marker right in the center of the main lands, and 2) it’s an easily identifiable logo/branded image connected to the park. From the beginning, California Adventure would never have the same layout as Disneyland, but it did need its own icon. The pressure was on.

The Counterpart Problem Source: 1 BP

California Adventure’s entryway land, Sunshine Plaza, became the obvious choice for an icon. So at the end of the main walkway, opposite the gates, Imagineers designed a huge sun statue above a fountain.

 Source: Weit Kamp

Unfortunately, this initial plan didn’t really work. Guests didn’t pay much attention to the sun statue, and were much more interested in the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, Grizzly Peak, or the ferris wheel in Paradise Pier. Before long, Disney California Adventure’s official logo completely disregarded the sun, and instead featured Grizzly Peak.

 Source: SMG PhotoBucket

To add to the problem, California Adventure’s initial reception was a little icier than expected. (You can read more about the park’s early problems here). Disney announced plans to do a near-complete overhaul of the park, building new lands and rebuilding existing ones. Which made many fans wonder…is the park going to get a new icon?

 Source: Vignette 2

The short answer is…not really. California Adventure has never really found its castle counterpart. Some promotional images still use Grizzly Peak. Some prefer Mickey’s Fun Wheel. Others still use Carthay Circle, the building at the corner of Buena Vista Street. But there is no icon that matches Disneyland’s castle, or even Epcot’s Spaceship Earth or the Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life.

But to be honest, I don’t think it needs one. There’s never going to be another building or statue or image that is as recognizable as a Disney park castle. And California Adventure is its own park, with its own identity. Rather than trying to mimic its neighbor and falling short, California Adventure instead takes a more collective approach. The park’s theme is a collection of the best of California, and its “icon” is a collection of icons: Grizzly Peak, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Carthay Circle, even the Radiator Springs mountain range.

 Source: WD Pro Media

Do you agree with my thoughts about California Adventure’s icon? Let me know in the comments!

2 comments on “The Counterpart Problem: California Adventure’s Search For An Icon”

  1. I tend to think the icon is still Grizzly Peak. But I agree that it’s nowhere as consistent as Disneyland, and people kind of associate the park with whatever they want. Interesting thoughts.

    • Thanks, Greta. I think the image I see the most might be Mickey’s Fun Wheel, but you’re right. It’s different for every person you ask!

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