Yester California Adventure at Yesterland

Hollywood Land
Needs Help


at Disney California Adventure
Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

The land that is now Hollywood Land has changed over the years—but it still needs many large and small improvements to bring it up to the standards that Disney California Adventure guests now expect. After all, we’ve seen Buena Vista Street and Cars Land. And some of us have been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley too.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, October 15, 2015.


When California Adventure opened in 2001, here’s how the official Disneyland Resort website described the land that was then called Hollywood Pictures Backlot:

Through the enormous gates, that pay tribute to legendary filmmaker D.W. Griffith, await shimmering Hollywood Boulevard, glitzy cafés and shops, famous theaters and a real studio backlot. It’s all a bustling recreation of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and this time, you’re the star!

The gateway, with its Griffith-tribute elephants, is gone. The ride where you were “the star,” Superstar Limo, is gone. Perhaps Soap Opera Bistro qualified as a “glitzy café”—but it’s gone too.

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

With its newer name, Hollywood Land is officially no longer a studio backlot. Meticulously-themed Buena Vista Street (the 1920s) leads to Hollywood Land’s incomplete Hollywood Boulevard (the 1930s). Red Car Trolleys provide vitality and confirm that these are real streets, not studio sets. The signs and window displays that most egregiously contradicted the Golden Age of Hollywood theme have been removed or replaced.

All the improvements make Hollywood Land’s remaining shortcomings more unwelcome and more of a “bad show”—especially when you also include the part of the land where Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! is located.

Here, in no particular order, is a list of 10 wishes for improving Hollywood Land.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 1: Eliminate the elephant pedestals.

The elephants are gone. Their pedestals no longer serve any purpose, but these arched monuments still rise from the sidewalk on both sides of the street.

It could be argued that the pedestals provide a transition from Buena Vista Street to Hollywood Land’s Hollywood Boulevard. But they don’t relate to any Hollywood landmark or meaningful urban feature. They don’t tell a story.

Presumably, it was cheaper to leave the pedestals in place with just a new paint scheme than to jackhammer their foundations and rebuild the sidewalks.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 2: Dress up the “big box” show buildings.

The park’s Hollywood Boulevard has many wonderfully designed façades. The Churrigueresque “Off the Page” store is based on Chapman Market (1929) in Los Angeles. The restrooms next door are based on Frank Lloyd Wright’s four Los Angeles County textile block houses (1923 and 1924). Imagineers offer of variety of styles from the 1920s and 1930s on both sides of the street, just like a real Hollywood street of that time.

But, for some reason—probably having to do with cost—there was no effort to hide or dress up the big, cheap box behind (and above) some of these façades.

In contrast, Buena Vista Street pays attention to its details everywhere—high and low.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 3: Replace signs that clash with the period

The “Off the Page” sign does not ring true as a retail sign on a building in the 1930s. Why have such a lovingly designed façade and then obliterate it with a sign that hides the details and contradicts the era it represents?

Another out-of-place sign is Schmoozies. Neon signs were all the rage in the 1930s, so there’s nothing wrong with neon. But the lettering ignores the graphic design of the period.

No self-respecting movie art director would have such signs in a movie that’s set in the 1930s. No self-respecting theme park art director should have them in a land representing Hollywood of the 1930s.

Schmoozies also makes odd use of tiles, contradictory to the period it’s supposed to represent.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 4: Eliminate visible steel beams.

As originally envisioned, this Hollywood Boulevard was supposed to look like a real street when entered from Sunshine Plaza, but would then reveal itself to be just a movie backlot set. It never really worked—coming across as unfinished and cheap rather than as witty. It was never a good show, but now that Hollywood Land is no longer a backlot, it’s even worse.

Hollywood Land guests see steel support beams where they shouldn’t. The back of Schmoozies is only one of many instances, but it would be one of the easier ones to fix.

Keep the period façades, but finish everything around them as real buildings that provide a guest experience on the level of Buena Vista Street.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 5: Provide real entrances where it makes sense to have them.

The corner building across from Schmoozies is based on the Owl Drug Company Building (1933) at Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. The Disney version captures the Streamline Moderne design, but is just a façade. The corner cries out to be the entrance to a shop or eatery.

There are doors between the entrance to Disney Animation and the corner across from the Hyperion Theater—but they’re just for show.

Main Street, U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street never miss opportunities to use corner entrances in ways that are both architecturally appropriate and good business. Not all doors on Main Street, U.S.A. or Buena Vista Street open either, but there are no long, uninviting stretches.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 6: Fix Award Wieners and its seating

The three photos above tell the story of a sign that’s too big, a disconnect between where guests order and where they eat, an entrance to a seating area that’s just a hole in a façade, and tables among steel girders and Frozen artwork.

California Adventure originally relied heavily on puns as names of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Of these, Award Wieners was one of the more clever and agreeable ones.

A Hollywood hot dog eatery makes sense. But Award Wieners could provide a much better guest experience if it were redesigned as a true 1930s casual dining spot—with nicely “Imagineered” indoor seating. Not far away, Fiddler, Fifer & Practical Café demonstrates an enjoyable 1920s period casual eatery.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Wish 7: Invest in making the Hyperion a complete theater.

Real theaters have indoor lobbies. Real theaters provide a great experience, even before and after the show.

The Hyperion Theater is a box with clouds painted on it and a partial façade that only looks good from a distance. The Hyperion Theater makes guests wait in the summer sun.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 8: Give Disney Animation a period façade.

Instead of giving Disney Animation a true Streamline Moderne façade, its original designers gave it a Postmodern take on that style. So it looks like something from the 1990s, not from the 1930s. The lantern-like front wall even spills over onto “Off the Page.”


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 9: Keep billboards looking as they should.

Billboards on top of buildings have long been a fixture of American cities. For Disney, they can provide period authenticity, while also generating revenue if they advertise a real sponsor.

A billboard should never be neglected and faded, but the Kellogg’s billboard in the picture looked awful in September 2015.


Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure Needs Help

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Wish 10: Redo the entire “studio” on the other side of Hollywood Boulevard.

Hollywood Boulevard already has a lot going for it, but the other part of Hollywood Land looks more like a second-rate county fair than part of the world famous Disneyland Resort. Originally, this area was supposed to look like a working movie studio, and apparently that’s still the theme. But it’s really just a hodgepodge of structures that originally had other uses, with some quick Frozen overlays and a street party setup that looks sad by day.

This is from the same company—and in the same park—as Cars Land?

There have been rumors of this area eventually getting a fully immersive Marvel or Monstropolis makeover. It can’t happen soon enough.

Disney California Adventure is a much better park than when it opened in 2001. It’s taken a staggering sum of money, but it’s been money well spent. Now, let’s hope they budget some money for Hollywood Land—even if the big bucks will now go to Star Wars Land at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

 

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Updated October 16, 2015.