Disney California Adventure extreme makeover to transform entrance

Disney California Adventure extreme makeover to transform entrance

An intense, 16-month construction project designed to transform the

entryway from a nondescript strip mall into a circa-1920s

Los Angeles

streetscape will begin in earnest Jan. 4.

As part of an ongoing, $1.1 billion makeover, the sweeping and extensive reimagineering will wall off 4 acres of the main entrance between the C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters, Sunshine Plaza, Grizzly Peak and


Studios Backlot. The remade entryway, dubbed


, will be designed to evoke the era when a young

Walt Disney

first arrived in Los Angeles.

After the winter holiday season ends, construction walls will go up around the iconic C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I-A letters Jan. 4 so that crews can turn the plaza area into Streamline Moderne turnstiles modeled after the former Pan-Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles.

The most disruptive phase of the project will start in August, when retheming work will begin on the shops just inside the entrance. On Aug. 1,

Engine-Ear Toys


Bu-r-r Bank Ice Cream


Baker's Field Bakery

will close on the right side of the entrance. Then on Aug. 29, the

Greetings from California

gift shop on the left side of the entrance will close. If all goes according to plan, the new Pan-Pacific-style turnstiles will also open Aug. 29.

But construction will force Disney to route visitors through a 500-foot-long backstage pathway running behind Soarin' Over California. The temporary entrance/exit route is expected to remain in place through spring 2012. Another pathway carved through the Sunshine Plaza construction zone will allow visitors to travel between Condor Flats and Hollywood Studios Backlot.

The undertaking is so massive and unprecedented that DCA Vice President Mary Niven has taken to a

in an effort to convince visitors the


theme park will remain open for business once the front gate turns into a construction zone.

"While we're adding all these new attractions, our guests' favorite attractions are still open," said Niven, who faces the daunting challenge of building


operating a theme park at the same time.

Indeed, all major attractions and shows will remain open during construction.

By spring 2011, virtually all the areas of


Pier currently behind construction walls will reopen to the public – including the

dark ride, the

wild mouse coaster, the

Paradise Garden Grill


Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta

restaurants, the

Corndog Castle

take-out stand and the

SeaSide Souvenir


The 12-acre

addition is expected to make its debut with three new rides in spring 2012.

The ongoing expansion, which some have derisively dubbed "Disney's Construction Adventure," has proven to be a continuing nightmare for DCA planners. They were forced to ship the

to the Magic Kingdom when earlier construction shrank the parade route and cancel the

for 2011 and 2012 when logistical hurdles became evident.

In addition, the

Pixar Play Parade

will go on hiatus after Jan. 3, with the parade characters continuing to appear in pop-up "dance parties" throughout the park.

"The Incredibles"

mini float will begin appearing at various locations throughout the park on Jan. 7,  with

"Toy Story"


"Monsters, Inc."

pop-up parties making their debuts over the ensuing weeks. The full Pixar parade is expected to return in November.


Playhouse Disney

theater will also close after Jan. 23 for conversion into the

Disney Junior

theater in spring. The rethemed theater will feature a new show segment based on the upcoming

Disney Channel

cartoon "Jake and the Never Land Pirates."

Additionally, the

Blue Sky Cellar

preview center will add a more elaborate display on the Little Mermaid ride beginning on Jan. 27.