Yester California Adventure at Yesterland

Condor Flats Air Tours

and the “Bear Left” Billboard
Condor Flats Air Tours Billboard

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2002

You’re at the place where Condor Flats and Grizzly Peak meet. A billboard advertises “Condor Flats Air Tours.” An airplane features the same brand on its tail.

Is this air tour a park attraction?

No. The airplane is just here to let guests know that Condor Flats is an airfield. The billboard is another opportunity for a pun. After all, Yester California Adventure is the Punniest Place on Earth.

There’s a backstory. Here’s the modified Yesterland version of it.

Condor Flats, an airfield in California’s high desert, is one of the birthplaces of the state’s aerospace industry. From its narrow runway, pilots risked their lives to test new aviation designs—from the earliest propeller-driven flying machines to experimental supersonic jets. Eventually, even rocket engines were tested here.

Then, Condor Flats was a victim of the aerospace layoffs of the 1960s.

Condor Flats Air Tours aircraft at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman 2007

Condor Flats Air Tours airplane

A pilot—who called himself retired but had actually lost his job in the layoffs—returned to Condor Flats to start Condor Flats Air Tours.

Restroom “hangar” at Condor Flats

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Restrooms in an old airfield hangar

Condor Flats Air Tours sign

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2013

Condor Flats Air Tours branding

Running his business out of the old hangars that dated back to the earliest times of Condor Flats, he offered scenic flights to tourists. One hangar became the restrooms. An even older hangar became a gift shop, complete with a fancy lighted sign.

Fly ’n’ Buy store at Disney Califrnia Adventure

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2001

Fly ’n’ Buy Souvenirs and Scenic Aero Tours

Condor Flats Air Tours shirt, 2001

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2001

Flying over Paradise Pier

The pilot dreamed of some day buying Howard Hughes’ H-4 “Spruce Goose,” the largest airplane ever built, and using it for sightseeing flights along the California Coast. He had shirts printed for his souvenir shop, but that’s as far as that dream ever got.

He had a small, single-engine propeller plane for his business. He needed passengers more than he needed a larger plane.

Condor Flats Air Tours billboard

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2010

Condor Flats Air Tours billboard.

To draw tourists, the pilot erected a billboard. For some inexplicable reason, Condor Flats Airfield is right at the base of a mountain, despite the vastness of California’s high desert. That mountain, Grizzly Peak, looks like the head of the extinct California Grizzly Bear, so it made a striking sign.

After a few years, the pilot figured out that he could make more money from the billboard by occasionally selling the space to a movie company—even if it meant that nobody would see his logo in the lower left corner. He always insisted on retaining Grizzly Peak as part of the billboard image, a familiar landmark near his hangars.

Brother Bear billboard

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2003

Brother Bear billboard

The first movie advertised was Brother Bear. The 2003 release from Walt Disney Feature Animation was “the story of a boy who became a man by becoming a bear.” Rutt and Tuke, the two comic-relief Canadian moose from the movie, were perched at the top of the billboard. Nearby, bears Kenai and Koda apparently mistook California’s Redwood Creek Challenge trail for the Canadian Rockies.

Planes billboard

Photo by Chris Bales, 2014

Planes billboard

The pilot was eager to earn more movie advertising revenue. Sadly for him, Disney movies such as Meet the Robinsons, The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Wreck-It Ralph didn’t lend themselves to a Grizzly Peak billboard treatment. For almost ten years, he just advertised Condor Flats Air Tours.

Then the perfect movie came along, Disney’s 2013 Planes. Some people mistook it for a Pixar movie because of its roots in Pixar’s Cars franchise. Dusty Crophopper, a cropdusting plane with a fear of heights and a dream of racing, looked good with Grizzly Peak.

Planes: Fire & Rescue billboard

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2014

Planes: Fire & Rescue billboard

The pilot didn’t have to wait as long the next time. In 2014, Disney released Planes: Fire & Rescue, the second movie in what was expected to be the Planes trilogy. Although the movie’s aerial firefighters protected Piston Peak, not Grizzly Peak, it was another good fit.

Disney cancelled the final movie in the Planes trilogy. By then, the “Bear Left” billboard had gone to Yesterland.

The “Bear Left” billboard was a fixture of Condor Flats since the opening of Disney’s California Adventure on February 8, 2001.

The backstory above begins with the actual premise of Condor Flats, but then continues as a fabrication for this article.

Condor Flats billboard, aircraft, and Monorail

Photo by Tony “WisebearAZ” Moore, 2001

Desert airfield with a Monorail

Condor Flats was supposed to look like a high desert airfield. Despite landscaping that included boulders, cacti, and palm trees, the space was too constrained and built-up. It did not make a convincing desert. The elevation and tall trees of Grizzly Peak did not help. It felt more like a mountain valley than the wide open spaces of Edwards Air Force Base or other desert airfields.

Grizzly Peak Airfield construction wall

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

Construction wall with signs in the classic National Parks style

Condor Flats closed January 7, 2015 to begin an extensive renovation. When the area reopened in stages through mid-May 2015, it had become Grizzly Peak Airfield. Although keeping its airfield theme, the Condor Flats name and high desert setting were gone.

Grizzly Peak Airfield under construction

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2015

View from the Monorail, February 2015

With new landscaping, the valley-like setting became more convincing as a mountain airfield than as a desert airfield. Existing structures were re-skinned to fit into the new setting. The airfield ties together seamlessly with Grizzly Peak as parts of the same land. The most industrial-looking features, such as those related to rocket engine testing, disappeared.

Grizzly Peak billboard

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Now a Park Service airplane

Grizzly Peak billboard

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

The proud bird with the golden tail

The airplane and hangars survived, but without the Condor Flats Air Tours branding. Fly ’n’ Buy became Humphrey’s Service & Supplies—with Condor gas pumps, a nod to the original theme.

Grizzly Peak billboard

Photo by Chris Bales, 2015

Billboard art since 2015

The billboard survived with a new image—a fisherman at a mountain lake below Grizzly Peak, with the text “Grizzly Peak, Land of Scenic Wonders, Yours to Enjoy.”

A billboard really doesn’t belong in a setting that takes its inspiration from National Parks. Then again, Grizzly Peak doesn’t claim to be a National Park.

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Updated February 18, 2022