Blogger Cabel Sasser recently purchased a document from a Van Eaton Galleries auction titled “Paradise Pier Imagineering Project Scope” and shared his findings on his blog. The document, dated November 21, 2006, includes some Paradise Pier projects that never came to fruition — namely a Disney Villains ride.
Paradise Pier Overhaul
By 2006, Disney California Adventure was five years old and still not the big-ticket theme park that Disney had been hoping it would be. Major improvements were needed and would come over the next few years. Paradise Pier would get some IP touches with Toy Story Midway Mania, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Silly Symphony Swings, new Games of the Boardwalk, and Goofy’s Sky School, all before a complete redesign turned a large portion of it into Pixar Pier in 2018.
This concept art from the document obtained by Sasser shows a few of the blue sky concepts for Paradise Pier, which would have turned the area into Bayside Boardwalk:
- A giant mechanical Mickey hand turning the Sun Wheel / Mickey’s Fun Wheel / Pixar Pal-A-Round
- A Shoot the Chute water ride that splashes into the lagoon
- Parachutes replacing the Maliboomer towers
- Pizza Planet replacing Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta/Pizza Oom Mow Mow
- A Toy Story Little Green Men swing ride
- Several other flat rides which are hard to identify at the distance drawn
Sasser spoke to former Imagineer Jim Shull about the overhaul and concept art:
I was honored to work on the redo of Paradise Pier and Cars Land which resulted in changing guest perceptions about Disney California Adventure. As an Imagineer and as a designer I learned early in my Disney career to do my best while acknowledging that no matter how good an idea was for various reasons the idea might never be built.
That big piece of blue-sky concept art for Paradise Pier was created by Ray Cadd who worked as an Imagineer for years and drew many pieces of concept artwork. And the ‘Shoot the Chute’ ride is a carry over from the early concept days for Paradise Pier. The chute [also] appears on art produced by Tim Delaney.
Villains Funhouse Coaster
Guests would enter the re-imagined Paradise Pier through the gaping mouth of Ursula from “The Little Mermaid,” who was just the first of several Disney villains whom they would soon encounter.
A quick walk around Paradise Bay (here Bayside Boardwalk) would lead guests to the “Villains Funhouse Rollercoaster,” an attraction that Sasser describes as a “[combination of] a classic boardwalk/midway fun house with a high-speed coaster.” This would have replaced California Screamin’, which ended up getting minimal work done during the park’s expansion from 2008-2012, but became The Incredicoaster in 2018.
After walking underneath a large depiction of Cruella de Vil adorning the attraction’s entrance, guests would enter an interactive queue that featured playable games. According to Sasser, one such game would’ve allowed riders to “slide ‘coals’ into the boardwalk-style, cut-out mouths of Pain and/or Panic (from Hercules).”
Guests would board their coaster car (at least one of which was inspired by Hades from “Hercules,” according to the concept art) and be released by an animatronic version of The Hag (the disguise the Evil Queen adopts to gift Snow White the poisoned apple in “The Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”) into the mouth of Chernabog (a demonic figure from the the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of “Fantasia”).
The car would be lifted up a hill before entering the mouth of Jafar in snake form, replacing one of the scream tunnels.
Sasser also spoke to Shull about the coaster concept:
The idea driving the queue design for the Villains Funhouse coaster was to build a covered conditioned queue and merge that with elements of a classic funhouse. Research into classic funhouses revealed that due to guest capacity and safety issues building a true funhouse would have been impossible. However, taking elements of funhouses and fusing those in a queue was possible. The budget to re-do DCA was large, but simply not large enough for every idea. Cars Land and Buena Vista Street would take up the bulk of the money.
More Concept Art
Also included in the concept art acquired by Sasser were plans for a “Derby Ride,” a “sand-theme play area,” and the addition of a “boardwalk and a tidepool-themed zone to the World of Color viewing area.”
They Toy Story area of the boardwalk is again made clear here with the “LGM Swinger”. LGM stands for Little Green Men, and Disney has even showcased art for the this project before at the Blue Sky Cellar in Disney California Adventure. The ride instead was turned into the Silly Symphony Swings.
The entire document is available to view here.
What Was Ultimately Built at Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure has changed significantly since both its opening in 2001 and the 2006 date attributed to this concept art. Paradise Pier was shown some love and received a decent chunk of the over $1 billion used to revitalize the park between 2008-2012.
The entire park entrance was reimagined into a new area called Buena Vista Street. The land was inspired by 1920s Los Angeles and was meant to invoke memories of the city from when Walt Disney himself first arrived. The street replaced Sunshine Plaza as the park’s entryway and opened in 2012.
Opening at the same time as Buena Vista Street was Cars Land, an area inspired by the Pixar franchise “Cars” that had, to that point, grossed over $435 million at the worldwide box office. The land opened with three attractions: Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Luigi’s Flying Tires, and Radiator Springs Racers, an attraction that utilizes the same ride technology as Test Track at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. Luigi’s Flying Tires closed in 2015 and was replaced by Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters.
Additional changes were made to Disney California Adventure in subsequent years beyond the initial expansion. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror closed in January of 2017 and reopened in May of that year as Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT, an attraction featuring characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Paradise Pier ultimately did ultimately receive a revamp, becoming Pixar Pier in 2018. California Screamin’ was rethemed as Incredicoaster, inspired by The Incredibles films, in 2018, and the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, a spinning ride based on the 2015 Pixar film, opened in 2019.
Changes continue to be made at Disney California Adventure. Pacific Wharf is in the midst of being re-themed to San Fransokyo Square, inspired by “Big Hero 6.” San Fransokyo Square is set to open on August 31.
How do you feel about the unused concept art for the Villains Funhouse Coaster? Let us know in the comments.