Soarin' Over DCA
March 16, 2001
There have been many complaints about Disney's California Adventure on the Internet. One of the common ones deals with the fact that the new theme park was not built with a berm to hide the outside world. Disneyland Park, for instance, has a wall all around the park which prevents guests from seeing any of the surrounding city. Even from the highest public spot in the park, Tarzan's Treehouse, you can not see any of the outside world beyond the magic kingdom.
DCA does not have a berm, but it does have high fences and buildings surrounding it. Still, certain large structures such as power lines and the Anaheim Convention Center can easily be seen from inside the new park. In some areas it makes sense -- the Paradise Pier Hotel makes a wonderful backdrop from inside the Paradise Pier section. In fact, many of the views from the pier seem to work since an amusement park such as that would likely have a city as a backdrop.
There are many worse outside world intrusions that plague the Disneyland Resort and even affect Walt Disney World and its 43 square miles of private property, yet no one seems to be complaining about this on the Internet.
While visiting DCA for the first time we noticed one of those annoying airplanes circling around overhead pulling a banner. We couldn't make out what it said, but it appeared to say "BETTER PARK, BETTER PRICE" and a phone number. Surely some competing theme park wouldn't stoop that low and take advantage of the poor reception Disney's California was getting from visitors. And surely they didn't (though it would be a clever, if not mean, idea). Thanks to the zoom on my camcorder we captured the following image:
It turns out it was just a local pizza place, "What A Lot A Pizza", promoting their food much to the annoyance of guests below. Do folks who have just spent $43 to get in to a theme park and escape from their daily routines really want to hear an airplane buzzing overhead? Do they stop and write down this phone number and order pizza from the hotel later? Can they even read the message or see the logo? Perhaps those who are local recognize the shape of "What A Lot A Pizza" and would then look up the number? Frankly, neither of us could make out the writing or logo without the use of a camcorder's digital zoom lens.
During visits to Walt Disney World I saw similar displays of promotion flying around the Magic Kingdom. Church Street Station is a high energy nightspot in Orlando and planes promoting it have often been seen flying around the Florida theme parks. Other airborne ads have also been spotted which, personally, annoy me much more than looking across a theme park and seeing power lines.
According to rumor, Disneyland once was protected by a restricted airspace ordinance that prevented such things from happening. Another rumor says a deal was made between Walt and the city of Anaheim to prevent any buildings from being constructed so tall that they could be seen from inside Disneyland. If true, the parking lot was probably never part of the deal which gives DCA less "line of site" to work with.
The real world will always find a way to sneak in, whether it be McDonald's french fries or pizza promoting airplanes. Trying to change the direction of a major corporation such as Disney or McDonald's isn't that easy, but one could certainly call up What A Lot A Pizza and ask them to stop interfering with your vacation...
Disneyland has always been an amazing accomplishment in theming. In the early days, before the vegetation grew in, you could see outside the park but since the surroundings were mostly orange groves it didn't really matter. After decades of maturing it is now practically impossible to tell that the park sits within a very congested city (ignoring the fact that there is one spot inside Tomorrowland where you can see the McDonald's over on Harbor).
Why, then, did the Disney company build hotels so large that you could see them from inside Epcot? There is more Disney owned property in Florida than the city of Manhattan has, yet stepping under the train station at the Magic Kingdom brings you face to face with busses and lets you hear the nearby race track when it is in use.
The Disney company has long been going into a direction very different from the one Walt put in place back in 1955. Disney's California Adventure simply continues in this new direction so it is unlikely it will change.
Maybe we should think about those airplanes next time...
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