If you missed the news, the other night Disney announced on their Blog that the long-running (since 2003) Aladdin show at the Hyperion theater at Disney California Adventure would be closing in January to make room for a ... you guessed it, all new Frozen musical.
This article started out as a commentary on Frozen and Aladdin, but quickly turned into a look at DCA 1.0, which we've wanted to do for awhile anyway. =)
Written by Gregg Condon
(Click on any of the pics below to see a larger version of just how bad DCA 1.0 was)
If you think this article is just going to bash Frozen coming to the theater, you've come to the wrong place. There are PLENTY of reasons both for and against Frozen, which we will of course outline. This could quite possibly be the first misstep in the post DCA 1.0 world.
But this is really about lost opportunity for this area of DCA which has really turned into the worst area of the park since the parks re-do. Read on to see why we feel this way.
Travel back in time with me if you will ... the year is 2000, the new millennium, Disney is about to open up their all new flagship park, themed to California ... in California. All the hopes and dreams of those who made California what it is. It's a different kind of park. No Disney characters, not a whole lot of family rides, the first looping coaster at a Disney park on the west coast, lots of shows, themed eateries and Rosie O'Donnell.
The park was to be so successful that Disney actually cut off the ability for Annual Passholders to add DCA to their pass.
And then nobody came ...
Our first visit to this park was on the Annual Passholder preview day. It was a very warm February day. I remember how excited we were. We actually arrived at the park an hour before the posted opening and were pleased to see they were already letting people in.
The first ride we came to was Soarin' over California. We were blown away. If this was going to be what we could expect from this park it was going to be amazing.
Next stop, Grizzly's River Run. Sure it was 7:00am, it was still chilly but we figured the wait would be long later in the day. So we rode, and loved it.
And then we headed back to Paradise Pier, see, we love Roller Coasters and were so excited for California Screamin'. And then, of course, it didn't work.
The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I remember waiting 90 minutes for Superstar Limo (yeah) and seeing the Tortilla and Bread tours (what), heading back over to Disneyland in the afternoon because the park was so busy (madness), Soarin' catching on fire (yes, it happened) and finally getting to ride CA Screamin' as the park was closing (phew).
I don't remember if we saw the show in the Hyperion theater called Steps In Time or not.
Our first "family" visit to the park came a few weeks later, on a Saturday in late February, for my son's birthday. He was turning 3, my daughter was 4. It was raining, bad. We had to actually buy tickets to the park because our AP's didn't work at the park yet.
We arrived at the park at opening, there was no reason to. If there were 100 people in the park I would be surprised.
Again, this day is kind of a blur, mostly because we were at DCA for approximately an hour. At this time there were only a couple of rides children under 42" could ride. This was Superstar Limo, Sun Wheel, King Triton's Carousel and I think the Golden Zephyr. The rest were 3D shows, stage shows, movies with exploding railway workers and the tours.
After our brief time in the park we got a refund. You could do that back in those days as if you'd just walked out of a crappy movie, and that's exactly what it felt like. We wouldn't return to the park until AP's were added, for free ... which probably came a short time later. To say the park was a failure would be a huge understatement. But we all know that story.
But in reality, we spent a lot of time at DCA 1.0 and did enjoy many of the things there. But mostly because we could go into the park and pretty much have it to ourselves.
One of the big things the park promoted at the time was this theater, it was beautiful ... on the inside. The Hyperion Theater. The first show in here was called Steps In Time. Horrible previews plagued this show from day one, it was re-worked but it ended up closing in October 2001, 8 months after the park opened.
The replacement to Steps In Time would become one of the early crowd favorites at DCA, The Power of Blast. We loved it and saw it every visit to the park ... which at that time was almost weekly.
There were some who saw it who got crazy with it, trying to get to know certain cast members, that wasn't us. We just enjoyed the music and the fun of the show.
The show ran for about 11 months. We were sad to see it go, but we figured this was about the right amount of time for a show to be in the theater. Rotate a show out every year or so, take a month to re-do the stage and bring in the next show.
And then Aladdin came, opening on January 16, 2003 ... and it's been there ever since. When Aladdin closes in January of 2016 it will have run for almost 13 years. A stage show, for 13 years.
I don't dislike Aladdin. It's a fun show, but in those 13 years we've probably seen the show half a dozen times at most. Mostly on busy days when we want to escape the heat or on rainy days when we need to dry off for a bit.
So finally Disney announces that Aladdin is closing ... to be replaced by a Frozen musical.
This is fine, it's not surprising at all, it's also not very original ... but if they want to put Frozen in the Hyperion for a year or so, so be it.
Problem is, it's not going to be there for a year or so. Of course it's open-ended. If Aladdin was there for 13 years I think it's safe to say that 5-10 years from now, Frozen will still be going on in the theater.
The problem is, the music in Aladdin is timeless, the story is timeless, the music can translate directly from the film to stage and be a crowd pleaser. I don't think the same can be said about Frozen.
Yes, it's the "most popular Disney movie ever" ... since when did "most popular" and "quality" ever go hand-in-hand? Just listen to popular music today and you'll have your answer.
There are a LOT of Disney musicals out there. There are a LOT of other "Family Friendly" musicals out there. The Hyperion is a state of the art facility. There are also touring companies for all of these musicals that come to local theaters yearly.
Why shouldn't the Hyperion be one of those theaters?
Wouldn't you buy a separate ticket to see the Broadway Production of The Lion King or Mary Poppins at the Hyperion theater? If you don't have an AP wouldn't you buy a Park/Show combo ticket to spend a day at the park and then see a show in the evening?
Disney is throwing away a golden opportunity for up-charge events (and we all know how much they love those) by not having these shows in the theater.
If they want a Frozen show, fine. Put it in Fantasyland Theater. That's where something like that belongs. Not in a State of the Art quality theater like the Hyperion.
One great benefit of this is the possible return of MuppetVision 3D which has been closed for the existing Frozen show. Or, the long-rumored re-do of this corner of the park could be coming which would be a great thing in bridging the gap between now and Star Wars Land.
This area of the park seems to be the one that's been most neglected with the DCA Re-Do. Many things were promised or rumored for this area of the park, none of them delivered.
Tower of Terror is great, but has been running the same drop program since it opened. This ride is designed to be able to have the random drop sequences like the FL version. It's time to turn them on. Sure it's not going to bring in a lot of new people, but the fans of the ride deserve this.
Will the Monsters Inc coaster ever be built? Why haven't they built Harryhausen's from Monsters Inc in the food court building (no brainer)?
And if you think Frozen After Dark or whatever it was called isn't coming back when the new musical opens ... think again.
It's time for Disney to put some thought and resources into this corner of the park and not just cheap overlays and re-tool's of terrible dark rides or temporary shows in warehouses.
So what do you think? Is Frozen the right step for the park? Is this possibly the first big misfire of DCA 2.0?