Yesterland

California Screamin’

The steel roller coaster that looks
like a classic wooden roller coaster
California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2002

California Screamin’ entrance

“Imagine a roller coaster modeled after the traditional wooden coasters of the 1920s. Now add a launch that takes you from 0 to 55 miles per hour in under five seconds, a loop-de-loop around a glimmering silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head, over a mile of track reaching heights of 120 feet, and a 108-foot drop at 50 degrees—and you’ve got California Screamin’, the adrenaline rush of the century!”

— Official website of Disney’s California Adventure, 2001


It’s a fun thrill ride. It even looks like a wooden roller coaster, at least from a distance.

But the 1920s? Not so much.

If Walt Disney had visited one of Southern California’s amusement piers after he arrived from Kansas City in 1923, he would have seen many architectural styles and construction materials, but nothing like California Screamin’. The style of its queue and load area can best be described as “late-20th-century cost-effective.” Its neon sign suggests the 1940s or 1950s.

But don’t worry about that. Just enjoy the ride!

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

California Screamin’ entrance

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

FASTPASS distribution

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Unthemed queue

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

“Smile when you scream!”

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Load building

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2003

Loading on both sides of the platform

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Shoulder harnesses in place, and ready to go!

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

A salute to stucco?

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

From water level to the highest hills

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Ready to launch, front seat view

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Ocean waves, just as at a real amusement pier

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Heading up the first tube

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

A tube with a view of the Timon parking lot

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

The looping track in front of the Mickey Mouse head

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

The loop!

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2002

Above the games

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Above the food counters

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2002

Across the street from the Convention Center

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

California ScreamCam photos

California Screamin’ at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony “WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

At night

You’ve finished screamin’ on California Screamin’. What are you going to do next?

The old song says, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” So go next door to Catch a Flave Ice Cream for some California ice cream.


California Screamin’ was an opening day attraction at Disney’s California Adventure. (The photos above are all from 2001, 2002, and 2003.) Located in the park’s Paradise Pier section, it was one of the bright spots at a park that was short on “hit” attractions.

Monica Zurowski, reviewing the new park for the Calgary Herald and other Canadian newspapers on February 10, 2001, identified the ride as one of the park’s three “don’t miss” attractions (along with Soarin’ Over California and Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3-D):

California Screamin’ salutes the favourite thrill ride of the amusement park—the roller-coaster. But this is no ordinary roller-coaster. The ride takes off from zero and goes to almost 100 km/h in four seconds flat, before heading through a series of turns, twists, drops and loops that can make even the most brave of heart let loose with a few screams.”

When Paradise Pier opened, it was supposed to put guests into the “heyday of the great seaside amusement park piers.” With a hodgepodge of styles, it was unclear when that “heyday” was supposed to be. Over the years, Disney added Queen Anne-style (late Victorian) structures around the shore of Paradise Bay, including Toy Story Midway Mania. This established the early 20th century as the time period of the pier.

But California Screamin’ did not change much from 2001 to 2018. It never received an early-20th-century makeover. A few things did change.

The biggest change involved the decoration behind the loop. In 2009, a painted sun whose colors echoed Toy Story Midway Mania! replaced the silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head, along with a Paradise Pier sign where Mickey’s ears had been.

In 2010, recorded announcements by Neil Patrick Harris replaced the original ones.

The waves that once crashed near the coaster trains seldom worked. The view from the ride changed considerably, including such major changes as the Timon parking lot becoming Cars Land and the Maliboomer disappearing.

As the park’s collection of attractions and themed areas improved significantly, California Screamin’ continued to be one of its most popular and repeatable attractions—because many people like roller coasters.

Artist Concept for Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure

© Disney-Pixar – Artist Concept Only

Artist concept for Pixar Pier, bird’s-eye view

California Screamin’ closed permanently January 8, 2018. That meant the end of the name. And it meant the end of the theme—or, more accurately, the end of the lack of a theme (beyond “steel pretending to be wood” or, perhaps, “Disney pretending to be Six Flags”).

It didn’t mean the end of the roller coaster itself. Paradise Pier would become Pixar Pier, featuring four Pixar “neighborhoods.” The roller coaster would continue to be the anchor attraction of the re-imagined “pier”—retaining the thrills, but adding a story. A Disney press release in December 2017 provided details:

The first neighborhood is inspired by Disney·Pixar’s The Incredibles and will open in summer 2018 with the Incredicoaster. Permanently transformed from the attraction that is now California Screamin’, Incredicoaster will invite guests into a mid-century-modern-style loading area inspired by the Parr family home. A super combination of character figures, lighting and special effects will bring the action to life as the Parr family races alongside guests in an attempt to catch baby Jack-Jack. The new character moments, scenes, special effects and exciting musical score will connect the attraction’s story to Pixar’s Incredibles 2, which opens in theaters June 14, 2018.

In other words, the effort to establish a consistent early-20th-century style for the entire shore of Paradise Bay has ended. At the same time, the Incredicoaster with its story, is an improvement over California Screamin’. And the mid-century-modern-style is consistent with the setting of The Incredibles.

The only people who have lost out in the process are those who love The Incredibles, have longed for a ride based on the movie, but who can’t or won’t ride roller coasters.

Artist Concept for Incredicoaster at Disney California Adventure

© Disney-Pixar – Artist Concept Only

Artist concept for Incredicoaster

The Incredibles “neighborhood” at Disney California Adventure

© Disney-Pixar – Artist Concept Only

Entrance to The Incredibles “neighborhood” (Detail from bird’s-eye view)

That leaves the question, is Pixar even a legitimate theme for a land? After all, Pixar is not a genre, a location, or a particular period of time. It’s an animation studio that has made a lot of very good movies, each with its own setting.


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Updated January 19, 2018.