Taking the California out of Disney California Adventure
San Fransokyo coming this summer, and Disneyland Hotel to expand
When Disney California Adventure first opened (back when it was known as Disney’s California Adventure), it was presented as an ode to the Golden State. The idea was that visitors could get a one-stop taste of the vast, eclectic state without actually having to travel far and wide. It was an appealing concept in theory, especially the notion of getting to enjoy what California has to offer without having to contend with its godforsaken freeways. But DCA was rightly ridiculed for having been built on the cheap, and it initially paled in comparison to Disneyland, its crown-jewel sister park across the plaza.
Disney owned up to the error of its ways and has since expanded the park and invested lots of financial and creative capital. In doing so, however, the company has walked back a lot of DCA’s original vision and replaced California-centric lands and attractions with intellectual property themes. The Golden Dreams theater attraction became The Little Mermaid ride, for example. And Paradise Pier, the ode to California’s seaside parks, transformed into Pixar Pier.
Now, DCA’s Pacific Wharf land is getting rebranded San Fransokyo Square and will be inspired by the mythical locale featured in “Big Hero 6.” The makeover, which Josh D’Amaro, Disney parks chairman, announced at last year’s D23 Expo, is underway and should be completed this summer.
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Pacific Wharf is relatively small and doesn’t offer a heckuva lot of things to see and do. Other than The Bakery Tour, which largely promotes its sponsor, Boudin Bakery, there are no attractions. The land is mostly a collection of dining spots, including Pacific Wharf Café (which offers soups and salads served in bread bowls made by, you guessed it, Boudin Bakery) and the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, which serves many of the yummy items found at the San Francisco landmark.
It would seem there aren’t big plans for San Fransokyo Square either. There will be a meet and greet with Baymax, the inflatable, computer-powered robot from Disney’s animated feature. An amalgam of San Francisco and Tokyo, the fictional land will also increase the number of Asian-influenced dishes available at its eateries. According to Disney, a new restaurant, the multiculti Port of San Fransokyo Cervecería, will feature Spanish, Japanese, and Bay Area items on its menu.
The reimagined land, which is set in the near-future, will also include a pedestrian walkway that depicts the San Fransokyo Gate Bridge. It’s likely that eagle-eyed visitors will be able to spot other, more subtle details from “Big Hero 6.”
I’m all for expanding and improving Disney California Adventure, but the San Fransokyo update seems like a throwback to the park’s original shortcomings: halfhearted and underwhelming. A “Big Hero 6” E-Ticket ride? Bring it on. But a superficial update to provide the setting for a character meet and greet? Meh.
New Disneyland Hotel tower to open in September
The Disneyland Hotel, which dates back to the park’s earliest days, will be getting a decidedly modern upgrade when the new The Villas at Disneyland Hotel starts welcoming visitors this fall. The stylish 12-story tower will be geared to members of Disney Vacation Club, the company’s timeshare division. It will feature 344 units, including studios and one- and two-bedroom villas.
The rooms will be themed to Disney films, such as “Fantasia,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Moana,” and “The Princess and the Frog.” Especially ritzy Grand Villas will span two floors and include three bedrooms, full kitchens, and double-sided fireplaces that extend to outdoor balconies. Sounds…expensive.
While the new tower will be primarily intended for timeshare members, DVC properties are also made available as hotel rooms to the general public based on availability. Expect the same policy to apply at The Villas at Disneyland.
And in other Disneyland Resort news…
The huge Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure has been dark since the park shuttered for the pandemic in 2020. A “Frozen” production had been playing at the time of the shutdown. Now, the resort has revealed that “Rogers: The Musical” will be staged at the Hyperion for a limited-time engagement starting this summer.
The show will be based on a scene from the Disney+ MCU series, “Hawkeye,” which depicted a fictional Broadway musical about Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. With the opening of the Hyperion, everything will be more or less back to pre-pandemic conditions at Disneyland’s two theme parks (save the pesky park reservation requirements).
The resort shared very few details about the new show, although it did release this enigmatic tweet and teaser video.
What are your thoughts about San Fransokyo Square? Are you looking forward to the new DVC Villas coming to the Disneyland Hotel? And, while there isn’t much to go on, what do you think about bringing a Marvel-based musical show to DCA?
I agree with Arthur. If Disney is going to the effort of remaking a land, why not go all in and add something truly impactful? I don't really get this update.
I recently watched Encanto at the Hollywood Bowl on Disney+. While watching it, I thought this would make a great show for the Hyperion Theater. My family and I enjoyed the Frozen show there back in 2017.