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Troubled Production: Theme Parks
Sometimes, creating a theme park attraction — or even a whole park — is no walk in the park!

Individual Attractions

  • Captain EO, the first attraction at the Disney Theme Parks launched under the Michael Eisner/Jeffrey Katzenberg regime at the Walt Disney Company, quickly got out of hand. To summarize the articles: The company's famed Imagineers weren't happy that outside creators and companies were contributing so much to it, and it was greenlit on a premise rather than a full-fledged script. The three weeks of principal photography under Francis Ford Coppola were followed up with six months of second unit work — that both Coppola and executive producer George Lucas moved on to other projects by that time didn't help — partially to address story problems in a film that was only 17 minutes long! And the final cost was more than double the initial budget.

Theme Parks

  • The first years of Disney's California Adventure theme park were rife with troubles.
    • At the time, the Disney Theme Parks (aside from those in Japan) were prone to penny-pinching by higher-ups. Upon its opening in early 2001, this sister park to Disneyland primarily consisted of "off-the-shelf" rides (roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, etc.) with little of Disney's legendary theming, a few imports from the Florida parks, and corporate-sponsored exhibits and walkthroughs on winemaking, construction machinery, etc. Worse, many of the off-the-shelf rides had height restrictions, giving little kids virtually nothing to enjoy. Longtime Disney park fans, well-aware of much more elaborate concepts for a second park (such as a West Coast version of Walt Disney World's famed Epcot) that were scrapped in favor of this project, were key to the bad online buzz California Adventure received in advance of its opening.
    • Disney went into damage control mode upon poor public response — which only got worse after the 9/11 attacks crippled tourism — with a series of quick "fixes". Attempts at a summer concert series and a Christmas-season fireworks show (LuminAria) on Paradise Bay were crippled by a lack of infrastructure. An additional pavillion themed to A Bug's Life went up but featured nothing but more off-the-shelf rides — albeit ones that little kids could ride. Controversially, Disneyland's much-loved Main Street Electrical Parade was revived here, to the disgust of fans who'd patronized it in its much-merchandised "final year" next door. (That attraction's very short-lived replacement, Light Magic, was a Troubled Production all its own.) Even the addition of the popular Florida ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was greeted with yawns. (It's telling that, to date, only one of the charter California Adventure attractions — Soarin' Over California — has been exported to other Disney resorts; elements of the Disney Animation exhibit were also duplicated in Florida.)
    • In the meantime, highly-hyped adult-oriented restaurants ABC Soap Opera Bistro and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's Avalon Cove were closed, owing to a lack of visitors in the park by dinnertime. Even the musical revue Steps in Time and the dark ride Superstar Limo didn't last the first full year of operation, cutting into the park's already weak attraction lineup.
    • Eventually changes in management at Disney's theme park division paved the way for a massive, five-year overhaul of the park that brought it up to the standards expected of the world's most famous theme park operator, with attractions like World of Color and Cars Land providing fun-for-the-whole-family appeal.
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