Review: Disappointing Goofy’s Sky School coaster marks end of Paradise Pier makeover at Disney California Adventure

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The Goofy’s Sky School makeover of an off-the-shelf roller coaster at Disney California Adventure amounts to little more than a Band-Aid meant to hide an unseemly scar that earned the Anaheim theme park its on-the-cheap reputation.

I took a spin on the “refreshed” Wild Mouse-style coaster over the weekend and found little has changed from the previous Mulholland Madness version of the ride. The minor cosmetic surgery performed on the coaster amounts to nothing more than a fresh coat of sky-blue paint, a few Goofy billboards and a propeller slapped on the front of the cars.

Photos: Goofy’s Sky School at Disney California Adventure


Goofy’s Sky School will officially open Friday, along with the Paradise Garden Grill and the Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta restaurants as part of a $1.1 billion makeover of Disney California Adventure.

Inspired by the 1940 cartoon short “Goofy’s Glider,” the remade ride’s new flying- academy back story follows the clumsy anthropomorphic dog’s attempts to teach a group of novice pilots how to fly. Naturally, things go awry.

I didn’t expect much from the re-imagineered ride, found at any freeway fun park or traveling carnival. But I could not have imagined much less from the team at Walt Disney Imagineering.

An ordinary Wild Mouse coaster doesn’t belong in a Disney park and is an embarrassment compared with the Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Matterhorn coasters across the way at Disneyland. Simply put, the ride should have been removed rather than remade.

The best thing that can be said about Goofy’s Sky School is that the modest makeover successfully integrates the ride into the 1920s and ‘30s seaside amusement park motif and Victorian and Craftsman architecture of the re-imagined Paradise Pier.

The removal of the Caltrans maintenance-yard theme of Mulholland Madness eliminates the final eyesore from a Paradise Pier landscape that once included the Orange Stinger wave swinger, the Maliboomer drop tower, the Burger Invasion fast food stand and Dinosaur Jack’s Sunglass Shack.

The transformative change of Paradise Pier accomplished over the last three years has been both striking and essential. The addition of the Toy Story Midway Mania, Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and “World of Color” attractions, along with the retheming of the Silly Symphony Swings ride, the boardwalk games and the updated restaurants, have turned Paradise Pier from an industry laughingstock into a symbol of Disney’s commitment to reinventing the park.

While Disney will declare the makeover of Paradise Pier complete, much of the themed land still needs attention. The queues of Mickey’s Fun Wheel, the California Screamin’ coaster and King Triton’s Carousel still don’t match the 1920s and ’30s seaside amusement park motif. Likewise, the Man Hat ‘n’ Beach and Point Mugu Tattoo retail shops retain the old strip-mall architecture and bad California puns that typified DCA circa 2001.

Maliboomer’s merciful removal has left a gaping hole hidden by a “park” that’s more smoker’s lounge than inviting respite. And the promised conversion of the Jumpin’ Jellyfish parachute ride to a Green Army Men theme has yet to materialize.

Long-term plans, still in the embryonic stages, call for a D- or E-Ticket ride to one day occupy Maliboomer’s space, according to Blue Sky Disney, with a second attraction envisioned for the unoccupied eastern helix of the Screamin’ coaster.


Similarly, Blue Sky Disney suggests the Goofy makeover is merely a placeholder for a true E-ticket-type attraction when money frees up for future expansion. Let’s hope that’s the case.