(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Campbell Hall School

Column: Bidding the Disneyland of my childhood farewell

September 9, 2016: Disney announces that another classic ride, “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” will be closing down. The sorrow I felt at hearing those words felt like a piece of my childhood being taken away from me. And, in a way, it was.

The closure of rides at Disneyland to make way for new Marvel and superhero attractions has greatly frustrated me. Especially in California Adventure, it hardly seems fair to call it “California” at all now.

Once adorned with giant, blocky and decorative letters spelling “California” at the entrance of the park, now lies a corporate, unexciting and drab remnant of its glory days. The red, boring letters evoke no feeling of whimsy that the life-size letters did, and it is impossible to sit and pose within the “O” and lie against the “C.”

Soarin’ Over California, an attraction that displayed fascinating views from around the state, has morphed into Soarin’ (Over the World). While I do appreciate being able to see the Sydney Opera House and Great Wall of China, I miss being able to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge or smell the unforgettable scent of the citrus groves and celebrate the variety of activities that California has to offer.

Soarin’ Over California captured many elements of the Golden State — from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite Falls that makes it unique and honored its diversity.

California Screamin’ was my first upside-down roller coaster. I remember getting off the ride, dizzy and disoriented about what I had just gone on. I never truly understood the theme for the roller coaster — and this is what made it so great: it didn’t need a theme.

The carnivalesque music at the beginning and end of the ride and the loud rock music throughout, combined with views of California Adventure made the experience exhilarating. When it closed in 2018, I was beyond devastated. 

The new Incredicoaster (based on the Incredibles) obscures the see-through tunnels that Screamin’ had, so it is nearly impossible to look at the views of the park. The energetic soundtrack is now gone.

I’m dismayed that Disney wants to add a sub-theme to everything: I enjoyed how California Screamin’ was a “theme-neutral” ride. I suppose my dislike for the remodel stems from my passive interest for the Incredibles — I’ve watched the movies but I’ve never been a huge fan.

It hurts to see an opening-day attraction for the park close down, but I realize that as I am growing older The Incredibles will be the face of the new generation.

The Hollywood Tower of Terror Hotel offered a spooky element to the park that contrasted with nearly every ride. The ominous entrance contributed to the story that there was a tragedy at that hotel: I even remember considering asking the bellhop-dressed ride operators if the horrific story was true.

Though I had been on the ride countless times, each time I would board the service elevator and “wave goodbye to the real world,” I would feel a sense of timidness and uncertainty about what would happen. This enthusiasm ended in 2017, when “Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT!” opened. 

Similar to the Incredicoaster, I was not a huge fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy series.  I never truly understood the plot of what was happening in the ride, although I found the soundtrack to be moderately reasonable, which included songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

For me, the replacement ride made it far less entertaining. I suppose this is because the Tower of Terror was at least more realistic: one could pretend that they were checking into a hotel and imagine themselves in that elevator.

I find myself rewatching old videos on YouTube of the ride now, longing for the simpler time when I could step into the Twilight Zone.

A bug’s land: I never spent too much time there, although it was a peaceful shortcut between the Tower of Terror and California Screamin’.

One of my favorite rides there was called The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar and I enjoyed how the line was never outrageously long, like every other ride at Disneyland. The caterpillar zigging and zagging its way through watermelon and candy while exclaiming, “Oh, my stomach is so empty!” was a good break from the fast-paced and crowded areas of the park.

It was definitely disheartening to see the area be re-themed as a Marvel area. As mentioned before, I never really cared for Marvel or superheroes, but I do not doubt that Disney will make it great nonetheless. 

This article would be incomplete without mentioning Splash Mountain, located in Disneyland. Splash Mountain has long been my favorite ride before I was aware of its history.

The ride always made me cheerful, but when Disney announced that they would be re-theming it to Princess and the Frog, I learned that Splash Mountain was based on a racist film, entitled “Song of the South.”

While it pains me to see this ride disappear with the rest in California Adventure, I completely understand the need to re-theme it. I appreciate Disney’s efforts to rectify this mistake, and the remodeled ride looks like it will be a lot of fun.

I think that this remodel exemplifies how rides are a reflection of our social and political climate, and how they may need to be modified due to the fast-changing times.

While I feel nostalgic for my childhood when looking back at these rides being restored with new ones, I understand that Disney is gearing their rides towards the next generation.

I’m sure for many people, it is upsetting to see these attractions being replaced with more contemporary versions. And while Disney claims that the only part of the ride that is changed is the theme and that the ride will still be the same, it feels like a completely different experience in the ghostly shell of an extracted attraction. 

 I suppose this is how it is meant to be, and as Walt Disney said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

The Happiest Place on Earth, in this case, should always be evolving and changing with the times. And so, while I am disappointed that these rides are being taken away, for the next generation these rides will provide memories for them, as they once did for me.