Once upon a time, Disneyland built innovative, exciting attractions that helped make it the world's most popular and beloved theme park. Today, many of its former designers are out of work, laid off from Disney's kingdom. Some did go on to design other companies' parks, such as Universal's spectacular Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla. Those who remain work with meager budgets, turning out retreads of previous designs. To further slight local fans, much of what Disney executives do approve goes first to Walt Disney World in Florida before appearing in Walt's original park.
The latest attraction to be cloned in Anaheim is "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," a ride that East Coast visitors first saw in 1999. "Pooh" replaces the Country Bear Jamboree, a once-entertaining show that in recent years became little more than a cool, dark place to catnap.
"Pooh" transports riders in gently rocking beehives through a blustery day in the Hundred-Acre Wood. A breeze rustles riders' hair in the opening scene, and hanging lights simulate falling rain in the next. Tigger then appears briefly to point riders into Pooh's home, where they witness the slumbering bear's innocently psychedelic dream of Heffalumps and honey. To finish, Pooh awakens to find his friends throwing him a birthday party.
The pleasant and innocuous "Pooh" should captivate the toddlers for whom it was designed. But it offers little improvement over the limited-motion characters and familiar dark rides of Fantasyland. "Pooh's" colors are vibrant, their freshness unintentionally revealing Disneyland's slipping maintenance standards elsewhere.
At least Disneyland has found a timberland setting for the Hundred-Acre Wood, unlike the ride's Florida installation, which clashes dreadfully with the medieval tournament design of Disney World's Fantasyland. Still, the location of the Disneyland "Pooh" may trouble sharp-eyed visitors. After all, the very British Pooh ought not be living on the banks of the Rivers of America. Disneyland's west side used to flow smoothly, from the western frontier along the river to New Orleans and then into the Bayou. Now you step from the Deep South of Splash Mountain into ... rural England?
Ultimately, "Pooh" gives the toddler in the family something nice to do with Mom or Dad while the older kids ride the adjacent Splash Mountain.
The "Pooh" ride and the upcoming clone of Florida's "Tower of Terror," now under construction at California Adventure, were the last West Coast attractions approved under the leadership of former Disney theme park chief Paul Pressler. Today, local theme-park fans eagerly await a sign that his replacement, Jay Rasulo, will do better than the modest "Pooh" and restore Disneyland to its traditional position as the standard for the world's theme parks.
'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh'
Where: Disneyland Park, 1313 S. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. Call for operating hours.
Times guidelines: A gentle dark ride, suitable for any child
Park admission: Adults, $47; ages 3-9, $37; 2 and younger, free
Info: (714) 781-4565Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times