At D23 this summer, Disney shocked fans with the announcement that Paradise Pier in California Adventure would become Pixar Pier. But aside from some basic concept art, we had no further details or understanding of how these changes would impact the existing space in the park.
This week, Disney provided an update via the Disney Parks Blog, and the announcement once again stirred up mixed reactions among Disneyland fans. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in California Adventure, plus my thoughts on the park changes.
In Disneyland, when something new comes, it sadly means something old must go. Paradise Pier will cease to exist as a “land” in California Adventure. This space will instead split into two new lands: Pixar Pier and Paradise Park. Paradise Park will be all the space on the northern side of Paradise Bay, from the Little Mermaid to the Silly Swings. This area will be unchanged by the new theming.
The other side of the bay will become Pixar Pier, a separate land from Paradise Park. This space will have its own unique theming, with much of the design in a red, yellow, and blue color scheme reminiscent of Pixar’s mascot: Luxo Jr.
Brand new features will include:
- 4 neighborhoods (The Incredibles, Toy Story, Inside Out, and a general Pixar space)
- An unspecified “family-friendly” Inside Out attraction
A few fan-favorite attractions and dining locations will unfortunately change as a result of this re-theming. Though these plans may change, here’s what Disney has currently announced:
- The Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto will close their doors. These restaurants will likely provide similar atmospheres and serve similar menus, but the spaces will have a total overhaul to match Pixar Pier.
- Mickey’s Fun Wheel will keep its name, but each cart will be themed for a different Pixar character/film.
- The boardwalk games will be rethemed to suit Pixar characters and stories.
- And finally, California Screamin’ will become the Incredicoaster. The track will not change, but the loading area will be completely redesigned with a mid-century-modern architectural style. Disney also hinted at new “character moments” along the ride, but offered no further details.
Thankfully, it seems like most attractions and shops will be spared a tear-down, even though they may be heavily modified. But the one fatality of this transformation will be King Triton’s Carousel. From the concept image, it looks like another carousel might be replacing Triton’s sea creatures, but no official replacement has been announced.
As with most surprise Disney announcements, this one mad me really mad at first. I couldn’t believe they’d mess with one of my favorite spaces in the park! But I spent a lot of time this week in California Adventure, much of it in Paradise Pier, and I really thought through this change.
The reality is, California Adventure needs more “magic”. It doesn’t have the same fantasy worlds to explore like Disneyland does. There are far fewer characters to meet. And there’s a lot less to do; California Adventure is not a place you can spend a 12+ hour day without running out of things to do.
I know that the original intent was for this park to be a tour of California. But that theme just didn’t capture the imaginations of visitors the same way that Disneyland’s magical worlds did. The 2007-2012 transformation helped tremendously, and the entire point of that redesign was to incorporate more Disney characters and theming. There’s not much Pixar in either park right now, which is crazy. Those movies have an incredibly loyal fan base, and the characters and stories stand the test of time.
Change is hard, and at the Disneyland Resort, it usually means losing something you already love. But in the long run, boosting Pixar’s presence in California Adventure is probably a really smart idea. I’m still bummed that California Screamin’ will change, and that we’re losing the beloved Cove Bar, but I think in this case, the new experiences and character presence will be a net positive.
To read the full Pixar Pier announcement, check out the Disney Parks Blog post here.