Welcome to Disney Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole Geryak, and this week I'll be your guide on a journey through the history of California.
Yesterday, Disney California Adventure celebrated its 16th anniversary. Over the years, the park has changed dramatically, shifting from an extreme focus on California to the theme merely enhancing the park as opposed to overruling it. It has seen its share of new attractions such as Radiator Springs Racers, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Ariel's Undersea Adventure. However, there have been a fair share of attractions that have left the park like the Maliboomer, Superstar Limo, and Tower of Terror (I'm sorry if it's still raw for those diehard fans out there).
But today we'll be looking at a Disney attraction from Disney California Adventure past that I don't know if I have ever mentioned on this blog before. We'll be visiting Golden Dreams.
Opening along with Disney California Adventure on February 8th, 2001, Golden Dreams took up residence in Paradise Pier in the San Francisco area of the land. This placement was especially fitting because the entrance to the attraction was based on the Palace of the Fine Arts in San Francisco itself.
I think that the structure was perfectly suited for the attraction because of how sleek and refined it is. Plus, I just personally think it's an awesome looking structure, and I am a huge fan of domes and pillars and how they combine to form unique designs.
As you can see, the structures are nearly identical in design, with a similar color scheme, as well. Guests would enter through the palace and walk through a short queue. Along the way, one would see a preshow of sorts in the giant mural that hung above the queue.
As you can see from the above picture, the mural featured a lot of different characters, all of whom you would see in the film later. There was no true preshow for the attraction, so it was a nice touch by the Imagineers to help place guests in the story from the onset.
Along the mural, you can see many different residents of California, all of whom make up the cohesive state that it is. Also, you can catch your first glimpse of Queen Califia, portrayed by none other than Whoopi Goldberg, one of Disney's golden gals. Surprisingly, Whoopi has not yet been made a Disney Legend, but I'm sure it will happen sooner rather than later. (She can also be seen on the Superstar Limo attraction that I mentioned earlier, so early California Adventure really loved her.)
After working your way through the queue, it was finally time to enter the 335 seat theater and watch a show that could not be found in any other Disney park.
But before I jump into some spoilers on the attraction, below is your chance to experience the film for yourself. I apologize for the quality in advance, but it's pretty cool because the video is actually from the final showing of the attraction, so there was a lot of enthusiasm in the air.
I was actually pleasantly surprised when I watched this film again because I remember not liking it very much when I was younger. But then again, I was only eleven the last time that I watched it in person, so I couldn't appreciate all the nuances that went along with it.
To start the show off, there are two statues of Queen Califia flanking the sides of the theater. As you sat there waiting for the show to start, they would come to life and begin talking to the audience. The technology behind them was pretty cool because they would project Whoopi's face onto the statues, and they actually looked convincing. (It almost seemed as if it was a predecessor to the technology used for Buzz Lightyear's face in the queue for Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters.)
Like I said earlier, I was so happy when I revisited the film for this post because I got to see how entertaining and well-made of a film it actually was. It really did a great job of showing a lot of different aspects of California's history, ranging from the settlement of Native Americans to the Gold Rush to the establishment of Hollywood. (The Hollywood scene is my favorite because it featured some "cameos" from The Three Stooges and The Wizard of Oz.)
But I have to say that the thing I loved the most about the attraction was how diverse it was. The film talked about lesser known aspects of California like the mass Japanese immigration to the state and women workers during World War 2. Those scenes combined with the female protagonist of Queen Califia made this attraction one of the most diverse in an already inclusive Disney arsenal.
Sometimes, the entertainment industry gets a bad rap for not being diverse enough, but I feel like Disney does a better job of inclusion than a lot of major entertainment companies. I mean, not many companies could make a major animated film about a Chinese princess acting as a man and pull it off with the grace and charm that Mulan had. Golden Dreams really carries along this legacy, and I am extremely proud that it used to grace the Disney parks.
Anyways, I really ended up enjoying Golden Dreams because it did a great job of educating, while still being fun to watch. In fact, it was similar in some respects to the American Adventure attraction in Epcot (which is one of my three favorite Epcot attractions).
Though there are no Audio-animatronic figures in Golden Dreams, both shows relied a lot on presenting history in a fun way. Plus, they both ended with an inspiring song that was intended to unite viewers of all walks of life. In Golden Dreams' case, the song was called "Just One Dream," sung by the actress who provided the singing voice of Nala, Sally Dworsky.
Unfortunately, not everyone saw the beauty in Golden Dreams, as the attraction never really became popular. I personally don't remember ever seeing a wait for the attraction. Disney executives clearly saw this lack of attendance too and decided to close the attraction on September 7th, 2008 (though seven years is pretty good for an attraction that almost never had a wait).
Interestingly enough, the park waited a little while to actually demolish the theater. They even let select student groups from the Disney Youth Education programs watch the film on field trips all through 2008 and the beginning of 2009. There was even a special cast member exclusive final screening on March 26th, 2009 before the building's ultimate destruction in July of 2009.
Luckily, not all of the aspects of the attraction are gone as the awesome exterior of the palace is still a part of the area's experience. The design is so reliable that it fit the new inhabitant of the area The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure perfectly.
While losing Golden Dreams was a fun short film, it needed to go because it didn't fit all of the changes that were happening at California Adventure. Plus, The Little Mermaid really is an incredible dark ride, so I think the move was ultimately for the better. But we'll always have Golden Dreams in our hearts and souls when we see the incredible palace entrance.
So now that we've finished in the past, let's look forward to what's going on next week.
- This attraction ran in only one park and had two different iterations.
- This attraction opened on the seventeenth anniversary of the park it was in.
- This attraction focused on peace on earth, featuring live performers.
I hope you all enjoyed this post. It was definitely refreshing to revisit Golden Dreams and see what I was missing out on all those years ago. It really made me wish that it's seven years had happened now, as opposed to when I was too young to appreciate it.
And with that food for thought, have a magical day!