A Photo Essay
Yester California Adventure at Yesterland
Sun Wheel: Gone, But Not Gone

I was at Disney California Adventure this month. I was surprised to see the Sun Wheel again and again—even though it was transformed into Mickey’s Fun Wheel between October 2008 to May 2009.

Here’s an August 2010 photo tour of the Sun Wheel at Disney California Adventure.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, August 20, 2010

Let’s begin with before and after photos of Paradise Pier...

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Paradise Pier in November 2007

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Paradise Pier in August 2010

The Mickey Mouse head on California Screamin’ became a sun—and the sun on the Sun Wheel became a Mickey Mouse head. To some people, that seemed like a lot of effort (and expense) without much benefit.

I disagree.

The old Mickey Mouse head looked cold and industrial. The old sun face looked like something from a gift shop in the 1970s (only much bigger). Both detracted from the theme of the “heyday of the great seaside amusement park piers,” rather than contributing to it.

Fortunately, the Imagineers responsible for the redesign of Disney’s California Adventure—dubbed Extreme Makeover: Theme Park Edition by some—came up with a solution. The roller coaster and wheel would stay, but their look would become charming and old-fashioned. I think they were successful.

So the Sun Wheel is completely gone from the park, right?

Nope. As of August 2010, the Sun Wheel is still making a number of appearances—just not on the ride itself.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Billboard near Catch a Flave on Paradise Pier

Don’t get a sunburn from the Sun Wheel. With Carsland construction now looming behind it, a billboard promotes Coppertone—with the dog exposing less of the girl’s bottom than in traditional Coppertone ads.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Ornamental advertising on the side of Ariel’s Grotto restaurant

On the side of the restaurant that was originally Avalon Cove by Wolfgang Puck and is now Ariel’s Grotto, an advertisement calls the Sun Wheel “a Marvel of the Machine Age.” Nobody seems to be in a hurry to update the advertising. Another advertisement of the same wall still promotes Avalon Cove.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Mural behind the Disney California Adventure Guest Services counter

At Guest Services, just inside the entrance to California Adventure, Cast Members work in front of a mural showing off the great attractions of the park—including the Sun Wheel, the Orange Stinger, and even Superstar Limo.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Orange label inside Engine-Ears Toys

A faux orange crate label inside Engine-Ears Toys shows couples on an unspoiled beach with a Paradise Pier in the background—with the Sun Wheel, the Maliboomer, and the Orange Stinger. There’s no sun face on the Sun Wheel. Perhaps the artist painted the back of the Sun Wheel. Or perhaps the artist knew the sun face wouldn’t last.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Mural inside “Greetings from California” store

The park’s counterpart to the Disneyland Emporium is a store called Greetings from California. The art inside includes a mural with Donald Duck watching Daisy surfing in front of Paradise Pier. As with the orange label, there’s no sun face on the Sun Wheel.

Disney California Adventure at Yesterland.com

Bread served with dinner at Ariel’s Grotto


At dinner, I thought about all the Sun Wheel references I had seen that day. The bread arrived. I suppose it was just good, crusty pull-apart bread, and any similarity to the Sun Wheel was purely coincidental.

Or was it?

This article isn’t meant as a complaint. The Sun Wheel references are leftovers during the transition from the old Disney’s California Adventure to the new Disney California Adventure. It’s likely that the Sun Wheel references will all disappear over time.

I hope the bread doesn’t disappear. It was the best part of our dinner.

Please continue to Yesterland’s updated Sun Wheel article:

Year 2010 in Review
Jack Wrather, Legendary

© 2010-2013 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated March 1, 2013.

Photo of Paradise Pier in 2007: Werner Weiss, November 2007.
All other photos in this article: Werner Weiss, August 2010.