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Disney's California Adventure™:
Imagineers Design A Unique Disney Theme Park

"California represents fun, celebration, excitement, diversity, and freedom," says Barry Braverman, Walt Disney Imagineering Executive Producer for DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE park, the newest and, in some ways, most unusual theme park in the Disney family.

Located directly across from DISNEYLAND® in Anaheim, California, DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE has its own distinctive identity, separate from that of the classic original DISNEYLAND. "There's a kind of brash California attitude that we wanted to capture," Braverman says. "Much more pop culture and MTV with a little tongue-in-cheek thrown in. It's shorthand, impressionistic, and cinematic."

With a brand-new theme park, a handsome new hotel, and a new shopping, dining, and entertainment area, the DISNEYLAND Resort in Southern California is acquiring a whole new identity as a vacation destination. How did Imagineering, the design and engineering division of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, tackle the creation of the new park? "First thing, we threw out the rulebook," Braverman explains.

The park is divided into three primary "lands" -- Golden State, Paradise Pier, and Hollywood Pictures Backlot -- each layered with myriad themed experiences that celebrate the California dream. "This is a park that is very open in its views," says Braverman. "You can stand at the park's entry plaza and see the gateway to Golden State; you can see the California Grizzly Bear icon high atop Grizzly Peak; you can see the gates to Hollywood; and you can see Paradise Pier's massive roller coaster, along with so much more. Here we have a park that embraces 'visual intrusion' and turns it into an attribute that draws Guests into the environment and the excitement happening throughout." The challenges of creating such a park were formidable. "When we started working on it there was a tremendous amount of suspicion in the air because it was so different," Braverman recalls. "This wasn't to be a theme park in the traditional Disney sense."

In August 1995, Braverman, who has spent the previous 17 years creatively involved in Epcot® at Walt Disney World®, attended a high-level management brainstorming session that gave birth to the "celebrate California" theme park idea. Soon afterward he was offered the opportunity to put together a team to develop and design the park. "There had already been a considerable amount of business and master-planning work done that was carried over from the 'WESCOT' project, the initial concept for the second gate in Anaheim," he recalls. "Although that ideal was tabled, the experience taught us a great deal in spite of the major obstacles we had to overcome in designing DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE.

"Usually we're working in a completely green field situation and we locate a site to fit the idea, much like what was done for Disney's Animal Kingdom® at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In this case, we knew where we were going to build it and the space clearly has constraints such as size, configuration, and the fact that it was completely surrounded by an urban environment. We had to work our ideas inside that framework." In addition, while Braverman and his team worked on the DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE project, there was a larger DISNEYLAND Resort master plan that encompassed DISNEYLAND, DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE, hotels, and a new entertainment venue called DOWNTOWN DISNEY® District. This master plan was being simultaneously developed through a unique Disney partnership with the city of Anaheim.

"DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE required a very unusual kind of design process," says Braverman. "We knew the park could only occupy a certain amount of acreage. We knew that we needed an entrance opposite DISNEYLAND. We knew we wanted a specific-sized hotel on the property and we knew we needed to attain expansion for parking. It was an urban planning puzzle and we had to make all the pieces fit."

While DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE was designed in broad scope, it also maintained a unique intimacy, according to Braverman. "You can navigate easily in this park and, in that way, it feels intimate and understandable. Then as you wander into an area, Hollywood Pictures Backlot for example, you become immersed in that experience. There's a combination of comfortable large view and overpowering short view that happens."

He goes on to explain, "DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE was planned to enhance, not compete with, the DISNEYLAND Resort experience. Frankly, if we had tried to compete with DISNEYLAND on its own terms, we would have failed.

"DISNEYLAND is a classic, it's the original and it's had over 45 years to evolve into what it is today. We wanted DISNEYLAND's sister park to be a really different kind of place telling a different kind of story, and I think we've really succeeded in doing that with DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE."


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