The history of Disney’s California Adventure Park through six refurbishments

The Hollywood Tower of Terror (Left) was replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! (Right) in May 2017. Harshlight/Alex .R.D.

Nearly 46 years after the opening of Disneyland, its sister park California Adventure Park opened on Feb. 8, 2001. Modeled to resemble the Epcot Theme Park in Florida’s Walt Disney World, California Adventure was initially planned to become ‘WestCOT,’ which would be a replica of Epcot. The original plans were shelved in 1995 due to budgeting and planning complications, which led to the development of a unique Disney park, which ended up being California Adventure. 

Despite the rocky start during its opening months, the specific park has evolved into a melting pot of fan favorites over the last 20 years. Join us as we celebrate California Adventure’s 20th birthday this year with six of the park’s biggest refurbishments and additions. 

Cars Land | June 15, 2012

With a budget of $1.1 billion, this expansion debuted in 2012, which is inspired by Pixar’s 2006 film, “Cars.” Cars Land replaced Bountiful Valley Farms, a portion of A Bug’s Land, and the Timon Parking Lot. Upon opening, the new land soon became a hit amongst families due to its heavy theming and family-friendly rides.

Cars Land opened with three main attractions: Radiator Springs Racers, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires, where all three attractions have different ride styles. From a thrilling slot-car-inspired racing ride to a whip ride accompanied with Mater’s signature junkyard jams, there is bound to be something for the whole family to enjoy. With an assortment of merchandise and restaurants to visit, Cars Land is a huge part of Disney’s California Adventure. 

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! | May 27, 2017

Inspired by the Marvel Comics’ superhero team, Mission: Breakout was a highly controversial decision. To keep guests engaged in the attraction, Disney decided to replace The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in California Adventure’s Hollywood Land with a more modern theme painted after the 2014 film. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was a fan favorite among guests but was closed down on Jan. 2, 2017, to enter the refurbishment process.

Mission: Breakout kept the same ride concept in terms of a fast-dropping dark ride. The theme of the ride changes to fit with the superheroes, where guests are on a mission to free the Guardians of the Galaxy from Collector Taneleer Tivan’s collection. Scenes of the movie’s superheroes and music complete the ride, transforming it into a light-hearted thrill.

Incredicoaster | June 23, 2018

In an effort to revise the theme of Paradise Pier completely, the steel coaster on the pier officially changed from California Screamin’ to the Incredicoaster. With inspiration from Pixar’s 2018 sequel, “Incredibles 2,” the Incredicoaster chases Jack-Jack while he uses his powers to travel along the track. 

While the roller coaster track itself does not change, the theme changes significantly. The ride includes an audio track of the family on their mission to catch Jack-Jack and features a cookie-scented tunnel at the highest point of the ride. From the scenes within the track’s shading tubes to the audio itself, the Incredicoaster completely nails Paradise Pier’s re-theming. 

Pixar Pier | June 22, 2018

Replacing Paradise Pier, an original California Adventure Park attraction, Pixar Pier draws the Disney theme back into the park. The original Paradise Pier resembles the California Coast’s laid-back lifestyle with attractions such as the Golden Zephyr, Maliboomer and Mulholland Madness. The attraction opens with an assortment of Pixar-themed merchandise shops, restaurants and attractions.

Opening in the summer of 2018, Pixar Pier essentially divides into four different sectors, Incredibles Park, Toy Story Boardwalk, Pixar Promenade and the Inside Out Headquarters. The Paradise Pier rides were overhauled and turned into new attractions such as Jessie’s Critter Carousel, Incredicoaster and Pixar Pal-A-Round. Midway Mania remains the same as opening day, accompanied with the addition of the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind ride, which opened in the summer of 2019, after the opening of Pixar Pier.

Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! |  Jan. 23, 2006

Mike & Sulley to the Rescue opened in 2006, following Mike and Sulley as they chase Boo through the Monsters, Inc. universe. Replacing the poorly performing Superstar Limo dark ride that debuted with the opening of California Adventure, the ride is based on Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” film from 2001. Superstar Limo was closed in less than a year of opening due to the poor ride pacing and low quality theming.

Soarin’ Around the World | June 17, 2016

While Soarin’ has had multiple refurbishments in the past, Soarin’ Around the World replaced Soarin’ Over California in the summer of 2016. Soarin’ Over California focused on California’s highlights, while Soarin’ Around the World took guests to locations such as Fiji and Paris. 

Though Disney’s California Adventure park has only been open for 20 years, there has been a handful of significant refurbishments and additions to Disneyland’s sister park. A future of new possibilities and projects are still to come. 

Already in the works, the new Marvel Land’s Avengers Campus was initially set to open in the summer of 2020. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Disneyland and California Adventure Park are closed indefinitely. While the official opening date remains unknown, a new adventure is waiting to be discovered by fans and guests from around the world.