We used our resident 2-Fer pass at Disneyland’s California Adventure park over the weekend. After we broke the story that the park may be transformed into “Pixarland,” we figured we’d take a visit. Entrance was free because we’d visited Disneyland two weeks earlier, so we took our time and drove down Saturday afternoon. The place truly is a California Adventure. Like San Pedro. Without the magic.
We don’t expect a theme park to be as magical and historic and culturally significant as Disneyland across the way. But California Adventure (DCA) is kind of a drag. It’s crowded. It’s noisy. It’s not special. And it’s too— California.
Too many of the workers—the park’s ambassadors—are businesslike, annoyed, bullying-- maybe in training for the Big Show, maybe overworked. We found out soon enough.
The little one wanted lunch at Ariel’s Grotto, the restaurant on the water where Disney characters come to the tables. The hostess, a young Shirley Stoler-type with similar commandant demeanor, asked if we knew the rules (22 dollars for adults, 14 for kids for Marie Callendar quality-- you’re paying for the characters), and finally got us to a table outside. We waited about another fifteen minutes and made a couple of pleas to busboys for service, before a waitress showed up and cheerily told us the restaurant wasn’t serving food because there was a “sewage backup in the kitchen.”
She didn’t tell us to leave, or say the place was closed. She left us there. Out front, Shirley sighed in exasperation when the little one ran over to the woman dressed as Belle, then told us we could wait because there was a possibility the sewage backup in the kitchen could be repaired in five minutes. “If there’s a sewage backup in the kitchen,” we suggested, “we'd hope you'd close the kitchen for 24 hours and bring in the hazmat suits!”
We got the kids to Strips, Dips ‘n Chips, the place where the phenomenal Disney invention, the ketchup sauce-dipping trough, was apparently intoduced. And still hidden. It’s under the roller coaster. Busy. Like the Santa Monica Pier. Without the magic.
The dipping troughs were in use at every table and bench, but the lines were long, the food with the dips not as appetizing as the troughs. We moved on, and somewhere near the fake California vineyards, were intimidated by a female worker in sunglasses who directed us away from one of the “party zones” that materialize in the middle of the street. She windmilled her arm like we were in the middle of a freeway and glared until we were out of the funzone.
We headed to the newest attraction, the Pixar Monsters Inc. ride, and on the way over fed the kids at Award Wieners in the Hollywood section (like Universal Studios without the studios. Or the magic). Fries and hotdogs on our laps. And no dipping troughs!
Another encounter with a dumb employee in the gift shop: a should-be-retiree behind the counter who scared Sam by telling him a kid had gotten dizzy on the Monsters Inc. ride. Then he told the little one that the wait was an hour and a half. He was right about the wait. The sign at the door said the wait was 65 minutes from the door (the Disney folk are very good at getting the exact times down-- and keeping guests moving throughout). And it was at least another half hour to get to the door. No Quick Pass. No go.
The kids played in the Bug's Life area, which is like a playground in a park. Without the magic.
It was time to hit Downtown Disney. Most anything worthwhile in the park was Disneyland-related, anyway, like Disney Animation (and its store, Off The Page, with Disneyana, art, and a kind and knowledgeable staff), which was fun for the kids, but similar to what you’d find in a big Disney Store in a shopping mall. Without the— you get it.
Disneyland, we’ll be back soon. Pixarland, here we come.