The decade-long Pixarification of Disney California Adventure will continue in 2018 with the conversion of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier and new attractions based on “The Incredibles,” “Inside Out” and even more “Toy Story.”
The Pixar makeover of Paradise Pier will replace or rebrand a majority of the last original attractions remaining from California Adventure’s opening day in 2001.
Nearly half of the 72-acre park will be Pixar-themed once Pixar Pier joins the existing Cars Land, A Bug’s Land and the Monsters Inc. dark ride.
Much of the project remains cloaked in secrecy, but that won’t keep us from making some educated predictions and speculating about the possibilities for the reworked themed land.
Let’s take a closer look at what we know, what we don’t know and what to expect when Pixar Pier opens at Disney California Adventure in 2018.
What we know
The details were sparse when Disney announced the transformation of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier during the D23 Expo in July. The renovated land will be home to the first Disney attractions based on “The Incredibles” and “Inside Out” as well as more “Toy Story” attractions.
The sole piece of Pixar Pier concept art reveals several other clues: The marquee to a Pixar Pals Theater, an archway leading to the Pixar Fun Wheel, a candy shop themed to an “Inside Out” character and a kugel water fountain with a Luxo Jr. ball.
The former MuppetVision theater will screen Pixar short films. A Pixar-themed musical troupe will perform at the Paradise Gardens bandstand. Pixar characters will pose for photos at a nearby meet-and-greet area.
Curiously, the Pixar Play parade will move to Disneyland instead of staying close to Pixar’s new home in Disney California Adventure. Likewise, Disneyland also will play host to a new Pixar-themed fireworks show.
The Pixar Play parade will add “Inside Out” and “Up” characters along with a Pixar lamp lead float. The “Together Forever” fireworks show will feature projection mapping throughout the park and Buzz Lightyear flying over Sleeping Beauty Castle in place of Tinker Bell. The parade and fireworks show begin April 13 as part of Pixar Fest.
What it means
The rapidly approaching 2018 opening date means Pixar Pier will be more of a quick reskin with a limited budget than a full-scale new themed land like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or Pandora: The World of Avatar. The fast turnaround also suggests only a portion of Paradise Pier will get the Pixar makeover, leaving some attractions untouched for now. The short time frame also could force Walt Disney Imagineering to clone some existing Pixar rides already in operation at Disney theme parks around the world.
Of course, Pixar Pier could never be home to every Pixar ride in Anaheim. It’s unlikely Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters or Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage would move from Disneyland to Pixar Pier. And there’s zero chance of Disney building a “Cars” ride at Disney California Adventure outside of Radiator Springs.
It’s best to think of Pixar Pier as DCA’s version of the Toy Story lands at Disney parks in France and Hong Kong and under construction in Florida and China. The on-the-cheap Toy Story-themed lands have been criticized by Disney fans for their over-reliance on off-the-shelf carnival rides like the RC Racer shuttle roller coaster, Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin caterpillar ride and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. The Toy Story Land coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida will include a Slinky Dog Dash family coaster built by Germany’s Mack Rides.
This isn’t the first time Disney has tried to fix Paradise Pier. California Adventure opened in 2001 to dismal reviews, low attendance and bad word of mouth. The Paradise Pier area of the park was the chief offender, leading some to dubiously dub the park “Six Flags California Adventure.” The seaside amusement park-themed land originally included a wave swing inside a giant unpeeling orange, a sunglass shop inside a towering dinosaur and a McDonald’s restaurant inside a hamburger-shaped spaceship. A three-year makeover of Paradise Pier completed in 2011 removed several of the offending rides and much of the pun-filled pop culture veneer.
A majority of the previous makeover efforts were aimed at the north side of Paradise Bay. Expect the initial Pixar Pier renovations to focus on the south side of the man-made lake.
What to expect
Phase 1 of the Pixar Pier face-lift is expected to stretch from Ariel’s Grotto restaurant to the old Maliboomer drop tower location, according to a MiceChat report. California Screamin’ would get a backstory based on the Dash character from “The Incredibles,” while the eastern helix of the coaster would become home to a spinning ride themed to the Pixar superhero movie, according to MiceChat. The “Turtle Talk with Crush” show in Hollywood Land would be relocated to a purpose-built theater in the new Pixar Pier area, according to the Disney fan site. Ariel’s Grotto restaurant and adjacent Cove Bar would get a Pixar makeover.
The renamed northern side of the bay would remain home to Goofy’s Sky School, Golden Zephyr, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Silly Symphony Swings and Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure — for now.
There are plenty of possibilities for a Phase 2 expansion of Pixar Pier if the new land proves popular. Jumpin’ Jellyfish could become the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop just like the existing Disney rides in France and Hong Kong. Goofy’s Sky School could be transformed into a Crush spinning coaster similar to the one at Walt Disney Studios Park outside Paris. Disney already has developed concept art showing conversions of the Silly Symphony Swings into the Claw from “Toy Story” and giving the Golden Zephyr an Emperor Zurg theme. The ultimate Pixar prize: a cloned version of the Ratatouille: Remy’s Totally Zany Adventure trackless 3-D dark ride.
What we don’t know
The Pixar Pier makeover raises several questions that remain unanswerable at the moment:
Will King Triton’s Carousel be transformed into a Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin caterpillar ride?
What attraction goes into the former Maliboomer location?
What kind of “Inside Out” attraction has Walt Disney Imagineering dreamed up?
Will the Paradise Pier Hotel get a Pixar makeover?
Will the rise of a new Marvel themed land mean the end of A Bug’s Land and Monsters Inc.: Mike & Scully to the Rescue? Or a relocation to Pixar Pier?
With a new land dedicated to the animated movie studio, will Disney eventually locate all Pixar attractions around Paradise Bay?
With all the new lands in the works, what becomes of Tomorrowland with its attractions based on Pixar, “Star Wars” and Marvel characters?