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What would America’s ‘The Calling’ look like?

After watching “The Calling” on Netflix, I wondered what the show would look like in the U.S. First, I think there would be a lot more game playing and strategizing than there has been through the first seven episodes of the Indian incarnation of the show. That would take away from the appeal of the show because “The Calling” is at its best when the three contestants are helping each other and taking their individual strengths into consideration, rather than just focusing on winning.

However, I want to focus on the travel experiences that could be curated in the United States. Without taking time, distance or cost into consideration and following the show’s original 10 competition setup, I tried to come up with the 10 individual challenges featured at the beginning of an episode, the two curated experiences for the winner of the individual challenge, and the grand experience that ends each episode. The idea is to show the greatness of America and its culture while exploring places that may not be well known. What experiences would garner great ratings?

I tried to choose ten regions or states that made sense, had a large amount of appeal and could bring something to the table that is instantly recognizable. Here’s my list and the challenges to go with it:

Alaska and dog sled
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 1, Alaska – The competitors would be able to explore Native Alaskan Culture at the Alaska Native Heritage Center and take part in one of the games that is part of the cultural heritage of the Alaskan people. The “snowsnake” might be the easiest one for contestants to learn and compete in. They must slide a stick across the ice. The person who slides it the farthest gets the bucket list item. The other two must curate an experience.

There are many things people can experience in Alaska. Salmon or halibut fishing, salmon bake, hikes of all levels, wildlife watching, glacier trips… The two I would put on the list for curation would be a glacier tour and either Talkeetna or Valdez. Alaska’s glaciers are beautiful and cinematic. Talkeetna and Valdez offer unique glimpses of Alaskan urban life. Talkeetna with its Mountain High Pizza Pie has great food and views. Valdez has its earthquake and oil spill history. An Alaskan cabin experience could put on this list, too.

The biggest problem with Alaska’s most iconic event is the hassle people would get from PETA. Still, it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to ride in the Iditarod at the ceremonial start in Anchorage. That’s the bucket list item. Other bucket list activities could be a trip to Prudhoe Bay, staying in a Native village, going to Nome, staying in an Alaskan cabin, or flying over Denali National Park.

Seattle skyline
Photo by Sergei Akulich on Pexels.com

Episode 2, Seattle – the obvious next stop. Representing the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s skyline is recognizable and there’s no shortage of culture and outdoors people can experience from the city. The competition would be to throw and catch fish at Pike Place Market; whoever caught and threw the most fish without a drop wins.

The first of the curation events would be a coffee tasting, which could include learning to pull a perfect shot. The second of the curation events would be glassblowing: Dale Chihuly is from Tacoma. A trip to the Museum of Pop Culture may also be a part of the curated event or the bucket list. The bucket list event could be dinner at the Space Needle or a concert with a popular Seattle band.

Hollywood sign
Photo by Daniel Semenov on Pexels.com

Episode 3, California – The Golden State offers a lot of choices as far as TV shows are concerned. From the Redwoods in Northern California to Hollywood with Sacramento and San Francisco in between, California could probably host an entire season of “The Calling” by itself. For this national and international version though, I would stick with Hollywood and Los Angeles. Contestants would be given a short script and have 30 minutes to memorize it. They would perform that script from memory. The one that has the best memory or makes the fewest errors wins.

The curated events would be a Hollywood sightseeing tour and a night at an improv or comedy theater. The bucket list event would be a rodeo drive shopping spree, but it could also be courtside tickets to a basketball game.

Las Vegas sign
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 4, Las Vegas – If the first season is about iconic cities, few cities are as iconic as Las Vegas. The competition starts at the poker table, five hands, whoever has the most chips at the end wins. The competition could also be Elvis Presley karaoke, where the contestants dress up like the King and sing one of his songs. The judges would be three Elvis impersonators.

One of the curated events would feature one of Las Vegas’ most well-known restaurants. The other would be a trip to the strip; with the fountains, amusement park/hotels, and street performers, this could be really good. The Bucket List would be an “A” level backstage concert, which would probably beat the Seattle concert. A flight over the Grand Canyon could also be a Bucket List item.

Balloon Festival
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Episode 5, Albuquerque – You probably knew you should have made a left turn at Albuquerque. New Mexico would represent the Southwest. The competition would take place with the city’s minor league team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. Contestants would take batting practice, the one that hits the most balls in five minutes wins.

One curated experience would involve the cuisine of New Mexico and how it’s different from the rest of the Southwest. The other curated experience would be at Petroglyph National Monument. The bucket list event would be the International Balloon Fiesta.

Cowboy Stadium
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Episode 6, Texas – Capturing America’s cowboy spirit, the Texas episode would focus on its wild west reputation and independence. The competition would be shooting at targets with a gun. This could be problematic given America’s epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings. The curated experiences would be a trip to the Alamo and learning to play the guitar in the country style. The bucket list item would be the coin flip with the Dallas Cowboys and 50-yard seats for an NFL game.

Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

Episode 7, Florida – A state all of its own, Florida gives a quick trip to the Atlantic with several opportunities for cinematic gold. The competition would be a beach cleaning; the contestant that picks up the most trash wins. The first curated experience would be an airboat trip with manatees. The second curated experience would be the Miami club scene. The bucket list experience would be a trip out to the Keys or a cruise.

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

Episode 8, Illinois – Chicago is America’s Second City. You’ve got jazz, the Golden Mile, the Sears Tower and that song by Frank Sinatra. But Illinois is also home to Abraham Lincoln, and it is with him that the episode would start. Contestants would learn to spilt rails and then compete with their newfound skill. Curated events would include a jazz night and a Lake Michigan cruise. The bucket list event would be throwing out the first pitch at a Cubs game.

Episode 9, New York – The Big Apple is on everyone’s bucket list. Here contestants would compete at shooting hoops with the Knicks as their guides and coaches. Hit the most free throws in a minute and win! One curated event would be a night on Broadway. The second event would be a historical site tour, which could include the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Central Park and the Empire State Building. The bucket list item would be ringing the bell on Wall Street.

The White House
Photo by Aaron Kittredge on Pexels.com

Episode 10, Washington, D.C. – As the nation’s capital, D.C. makes for a fitting last episode. Here contestants would have to get people to vote for them. The one with the most votes wins. One curated experience would be the Smithsonian. The second curated experience would involve a trip to Gettysburg with a possible re-creation of the event. The bucket list item would be to meet the president, which some might find controversial; alternatively, it could be the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Event. The winner of the show would get a revamped website paid for five years, a YouTube channel set up and ready to be monetized, and $100,000 for travel and other expenses incurred as a travel blogger.

It’s tough to boil America down to ten episodes in a single state. We’ve missed Hawaii, Louisiana and New Orleans, Tennessee and Graceland, South Dakota and the Black Hills, Wyoming’s west culture, Missouri’s Mark Twain and so many more. What would you have people do in your state if a show like “The Calling” was scheduled? Exercise your creativity and give us a competition, two curated events and a bucket list event for your area in the comments.

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‘The Calling’ Explores India and Competition in Reality TV Show

Netflix’ reality game show “The Calling” pits three Indians against each other in a test of skills and personal knowledge of each other as they travel India checking items off their bucket list and earning miles toward the Grand Experience and a scholarship. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are the lucky contestants who are traveling together and, at least up through episode seven, nominally competing against each other.

Each almost-30-minute show begins with a challenge related to the area they have traveled to. One show, they tied ribbons on Yak horns. Another show, they tried to steal pineapples while dodging arrows shot by local hunters. The winner of the challenge gets 1,000 points and the grand experience for that show.

The losers of the challenge must curate an experience for the winner based on two choices given them. Once the two experiences are over, the winner chooses who made the better experience. That person gets to go to the grand experience with the winner and 900 miles. The person, who’s experience isn’t chosen, gets 800 miles. At the end of the season, the person with the most miles will get a scholarship.

This show works as a quick showcase of India and the possibilities of tourist travel. It also exposes parts of Indian culture that people may not be aware of. It doesn’t work as much of a competition because the dynamics of the three travelers tends to make them friends first and competitors second. It would be difficult for three people who competed in a cutthroat manner to travel together, Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are aware of this.

However, through the course of their travels, each of them faces very personal challenges, and they need the support of their traveling companions to overcome the problem. In one episode, the support actually led to the person having the problem winning the challenge. It’s inspiring and nice, and it challenges what Americans know from their own reality shows. “The Calling” shows that people can compete and do so with integrity, respect, joy, and compassion. Preethi, Guarav, and Atmaj are enjoying each other’s company and the experience while having fun.

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The Top 8 Rides to Be Stuck on For Eternity at Disneyland

In a tweeted poll, LaughingPlace.com said, “Pick a ride to be stuck on for all eternity at #Disneyland (the ride is working, you just can’t get off),” and they gave four options: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain.

Space Mountain

Anyone who chose Space Mountain was straight up tripping. If you take it at face value, there’s no good way to eat or get food while on the attraction – and you’d be eating on a roller coaster. Probably not the smartest decision. If you take it at fantasy value, there’s no place to get food in space. While Disney would switch it up and you could experience Ghost Galaxy, HyperSpace Mountain and that strange but cool 1970’s disco version of the attraction. It would still be difficult and horrible to be stuck on it for eternity. And how would you go to the bathroom? In space, no one can hear you scream, but if someone started tossing the accumulated waste into the travel areas, you might find reason to scream, or keep your mouth shut tighter.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride – I feel like this attraction is one that is under the strong possibility of getting removed from Disneyland soon. There’s nothing keeping it there. The Wind in the Willows animated film isn’t exactly in the top 12 of Disney films. There aren’t any sequels or (more) live action adaptations in the work. There isn’t a lot of merchandising. The only things that the attraction has going for it are it’s a classic and you get to drive to Hell! That’s pretty amazing in Disneyland. As far as food and bathroom go, there aren’t a lot of nearby options.

However, in terms of the fantasy realm. Moley is eating a fine meal. You can go to the bar and get a root beer float. There are pies on the journey, and there is never a shortage of adventure. Hell might be a little scarier though…

Buzz Lightyear score
To Infinity and Beyond…

Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters – Spend enough time on the ride, and I might finally be able to get to 3 million points, even if they reset after every pass. Food would be hard to come by, even in the fantasy version of this – unless you can eat batteries, aliens, or dinosaur eggs.

its a small world facade

it’s a small world – I actually like the song, so that wouldn’t be a huge problem for me. At face value, you’d have a pleasant rip around the world, you come out into the fresh air, people can deliver food to the boat as you pass by the dock, and it would be a great place to stretch out and sleep. Sooner or later, you would also master the lyrics to the song in at least 5 languages. The scene would change as the Christmas season rolled around, so there would visual appeal beyond what a chiming clock on the outside could bring. Waste could be thrown over the side if there’s no bucket.

Heading into the fantasy realm, it’s a small world could provide you with amazing cuisine from all over the world. You’d meet friendly people and enjoy their hospitality all while floating by on your boat. If you want to travel to new countries and enjoy other cultures, an imaginary trip through it’s a small world eternity would be amazing and never boring.

Disneyland Train Station
Disneyland Train Station

The Disneyland Railroad – It’s outside. You’d be able to switch seats, and if you were lucky, you could ride in the comfort of the Lily Belle. You also get to pass through the Grand Canyon and the time of the dinosaurs. Food can be delivered at any of the stops, including beignets and mint juleps or possibly something from the Blue Bayou or Club 33, and you get to watch as the core elements of Disneyland change. You’d probably need a bucket or you could eliminate waste over the side of the train cars or out the back.

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion

The Haunted Mansion – it’s my favorite attraction and one that I’ve been dying to join ever since the idea of a death certificate occurred to me. However, as a living person the complication that exists is whether or not we would have to remain seated in our… Doom Buggies. If so, then we would miss out on the Stretching Room, the Portrait Gallery with its staring busts, and Little Leota on the way out. The Haunted Mansion would never be able to have the last laugh again. At least it’s dark, so using the bathroom would be less embarrassing and buckets could be exchanged at either the loading or the unloading zone. Just be sure to go at a time when you won’t have to face the downhill out of the attic.

In the realm of fantasy, the whole tour really is a swinging wake, and as long as we can avoid the axe of Constance, we should be okay. The food might be a little old, but the Christmas Overlay would see fresh gingerbread!

Still, without the queue, its comforting atmosphere, the Hearse, the various cemeteries, and the not-smiling faces of the hosts and hostesses, the Haunted Mansion might be missing something as a complete experience. You really need to be able to get the whole experience from the unexpected outside to the foyer and beyond. (If you like the Haunted Mansion, get a copy of “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”)

Bertha in the Elephant Bathing Pool
Bertha in the Elephant Bathing Pool

The Jungle Cruise – It’s never a bad day for a good pun. The Jungle Cruise will have you laughing again and again, especially as they change riverboat skippers. You’ll get to hear old jokes and new jokes while relaxing outside and passing by the most dangerous part of the journey – the return to civilization. If you get hungry, the Tropical Hideaway may be able to throw you a Dole Whip or Bao. Those are pretty good (and reasonably priced). Waste can be tossed overboard if there’s no bucket available.

In the fantasy realm, you get a tour of the greatest rivers of the world. The adventure of a lifetime that includes seeing animals in the wild and avoiding the perils of a dangerous jungle. You might even get to meet the head salesman of the jungle. Business is shrinking, so he’s offering a deal: two of his heads for the price of one of yours. There’s plenty of vegetation and animals to eat if you can catch them from your boat, and the skipper has a gun, so you’ll be protected from that tiger that can jump over 50 feet and go right over the boat.

Pirates fountain
Pirates fountain

The Pirates of the Caribbean – It would be a cold day for compassion if you couldn’t get someone to toss you some food form the Blue Bayou. It’s a part of the attraction itself and has some of the best food at Disneyland. The adrenaline drops, the amazing effects, and the storyline all add to this attraction to make it one of the best and possibly the one that you should ride for eternity if you had to choose. The boat benches are spacious enough to sleep on. Waste can be dumped overboard if there’s no bucket available.

In the fantasy realm, you would still be able to get food and rum, lots of rum, so if that’s your thing, Pirates makes a good choice. Plus, pirates don’t make such bad companions, do they?

Mark Twain
Mark Twain

The Mark Twain – Spacious, luxurious riverboat travel down the Rivers of America! This is the attraction that is the best choice for a ride that lasts eternity. Walt Disney had his anniversary party in 1955 on the Mark Twain, in part. There’s a place for a bar, and musicians like Louis Armstrong have performed on the main deck. The leisurely ride has enough nature and sun, and when the weather gets inclement, there are areas that remain dry. Food can be delivered and prepared on board, and if there isn’t a bathroom on board already, one can easily be installed. Need a place to sleep? There’s a bunk in the wheelhouse. And you get to be in Fantasmic!

If you want to read more analysis of the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” For more on Disneyland’s structure and its application to creativity, check out “Disneyland Is Creativity: 25 Tips for Becoming More Creative.”

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Our Traveling Penguins: Penny and Patch

My wife and I love to travel. We don’t get to do it as often as we like, but when we do, we make sure to take along our two traveling penguin companions – Penny and Patch. They’ve help us meet other people who are bringing their own stuffed friends along, and we’ve found adventures and fun in the most unexpected places, inspired by our penguins.

Penny Penguin in Hawaii
Penny Penguin in Hawaii

Penny has been traveling with us the longest. The problem is that she likes to fly. It’s okay if it’s in a plane, but it’s much better if it’s under her own power. Fortunately, she’s tough, and she hasn’t flown too far away from any of the photo sights. We have to keep an eye on her though because she won’t miss an opportunity to leave the ground.

Patch Penguin The fish was this big!
Patch Penguin The fish was this big!

Patch is our hungry penguin. He loves to eat almost anything, but he always has his eyes set on fish “this big.” Patch is also telling the other penguins in our rookery stories about what he’s seen, what he’s done and what kind of fish he wants most.

You can see the adventures of Penny and Patch on our Instagram. Or you can check out, Checkers Penguin who has his own Instagram; he’s into food, fingernails and lives in New Zealand.

If you want a traveling companion, you can get one of our handmade stuffed penguins. They’ll come with a passport, so their ready to go anywhere. If you want more penguins in general, join our Patreon or you can give the gift of a penguin with our Pay-It-Forward Penguin program.

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Heroes of the Haunted Mansion: X. Atencio

Perhaps the most famous story involving X. Atencio and his creativity comes from his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean. In an interview with ParkHoppinPartyGuys, Atencio said that he was brought in by Walt Disney to write the script for the attraction. Atencio had no experience writing scripts, but he said “All right, Walt, whatever you say.” He wrote the auction scene first and showed it to Walt, who told him to continue. However, this wasn’t Atencio’s last or most well-known first.

At the last script meeting, Atencio said he thought that the pirate attraction needed a song. He told Walt his idea, and Walt thought it was great. He said do the music with George Bruns. Atencio had never written a song before, but he came up with “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).”

His next Disneyland project was the Haunted Mansion. He worked with Marc Davis and Claude Coats to come up with a script. He also wrote “Grim Grinning Ghosts.”

When someone asks you to do something outside of your comfort zone, especially if it’s creative, do what X. did, say “yes” and get to work.

Sources: “The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic” by Jason Surrell.

“Disney Legend Interview: X. Atencio” by ParkHoppinPartyGuys at https://youtu.be/QeDH9S17WzU

For more on creativity and the Haunted Mansion, get “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity” online or at the Candy Cane Inn in Anaheim.

For more on Disneyland and Creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” For deep thinking about the Disney Company, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

You can also find more articles about Disney, Disneyland and creativity at our archive website, www.penguinate.weebly.com, and on our blog. If you would like to get even more articles about creativity, join our Patreon and become a Penguinator.

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Layover at JFK? Problem solved with TWA: Photos from the Hotel

The post-modern, 1960s’ style TWA hotel is an oasis of comfort for travelers who have a layover of 5 hours or longer. Rooms are available in 4-hour increments on scheduled times. From check-in to check-out everything is almost completely automated. The beds are comfortable. This is the place to stay for JFK layovers.

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Southwest Airlines Shows the Luv on ‘The Kindness Diaries’

On “The Kindness Diaries” season 2 episode 5, traveler Leon Logothetis is faced with a decision. Several government websites have issued travel advisories for the road he wants to use to head from Mexico to Costa Rica. It’s unsafe because people have been robbed, kidnapped and worse. This place may be the best area to test his theory of kindness in, and Logothetis says he would do it if he were alone. However, he has his camera crew to think about.

Logothetis doesn’t just rely on the government for information; he asks the locals about the area and traveling there. The answers are a mixed bag. Some people believe it’s safe enough. Others say it’s not safe at all. One goes so far as to say that Logothetis would probably have his vehicle stolen.

Since he is trying to rely on the kindness of others, Logothetis is worried that if he returns to the U.S., his trip will be over. The only other ways to get him and his vehicle to Costa Rica are by plane or by ship. Still, the safety of his crew wins out. He goes back to San Diego where he meets teachers Peter and Paul, who allow him to stay at their house while he tries to find transportation.

A couple days in to trying every avenue possible to get the transportation he needs, Logothetis is left with a long shot. It pays off. True to their Luv reputation, Southwest Airlines offers to cover the costs of transportation for Logothetis and his car. Not only was this kind to Logothetis, but its ripple effects could be felt immediately in Houston where Logothetis has a long layover and highlights the work of a veteran nonprofit that helps people in disasters – Team Rubicon.

Southwest’s act of kindness will continue to pay off as Logothetis continues to make his way south. Prior to the transportation donation, Logothetis had helped a young woman in Utah start a nonprofit, and his gift to a family in Mexico resulted in the family giving away tamales that they normally used to pay their rent. Perhaps, the best part of Southwest’s gift was that it allowed the show to continue. It’s the shows inspirational message that will make the largest difference. Though you may have to go a little out of your way to be kinder, you don’t have to travel across the world to affect others in a good way.

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An In-Depth Look at the Biggest Problem of Disney California Adventure

As a Penguinator, does it make sense to be critical of Disney California Adventure (DCA)? No one at the Disney Company is likely to read this post and think, “Oh, yeah, we did forget that,” or “Schnikey! We need to fix that ASAP,” especially if I were to leave this post private and for Penguinators only instead of giving you an advanced viewing opportunity. I don’t have any Disney employees on my Patreon list that I’m aware of, and I’m decently certain there aren’t any that visit my blog. Even if there were, the company is notorious for not accepting unsolicited ideas from outside.

Besides, anything I say has already been said by someone else and probably thought of by the imagineers. Still, as a mental exercise to improve creativity, looking at DCA provides the opportunity to unleash the judge, find what’s wrong with the current park, and figure out how to make it better. Imagineers can talk about the idea of Blue Sky thinking where everything goes and there are no rules, but in the end, they are constrained by the park’s current footprint and the bean counter’s budget, which would include the opportunity cost of any major renovation that would significantly change the park. We have no similar constraints if we choose to offer up possible solutions to the DCA problem. We can truly engage in Blue Sky thinking without reference to financial consequences, thinking only about what’s wrong with DCA and what would make the park better.

Where’s the Theme, Park?

Disneyland changed the amusement park industry by, among other things, theming itself and its lands. Walt Disney established early on that spacemen and cars don’t go into Frontierland, and the cowboys stay out of Tomorrowland. The sightlines were created so that people viewing a building on Main Street, U.S.A. would see a different roof than they would see when viewing the same building from Adventureland.

The berm with its train and trees was devised to keep the rest of the world from interfering with the guests’ ability to suspend disbelief. When coupled with the negotiated rules that Anaheim passed for buildings outside the park, guest don’t see anything that Disney doesn’t want them to see (beyond the occasional plane or helicopter flying overhead). Even with Tomorrowland’s current shortcomings (there are plenty of them) and the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, Disneyland is all about theming – right down to the dolls making the popcorn in the popcorn carts.

As ill-conceived as it may have been to put a theme park about California in California when a majority of Disneyland visitors are from California, DCA was themed appropriately when it opened. The Sunshine Plaza was upbeat and California themed through and through. Hollywood Backlot Studios had the glamour of the 1930s. Golden State celebrated the architecture of the Bay Area, and Paradise Pier took its cue from the Beach and Boardwalk parks. Condor Flats took on California’s aviation history, and Grizzly River Peak with the neighboring Redwood Trail were a tribute to California’s north. The park may not have been good when it opened, but it was themed.

Unfortunately, the theme wasn’t the right one, and the Disney Company had to come up with ways to get people to spend their money to go over to their second gate. Bug’s Land was added to appeal to youngsters. Not really California themed, but it didn’t intrude on the rest of the park, and there were bug’s in California. “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” was built in the backlot; the perfect place for it. As a hotel from Hollywood’s glamor days of the late 1930’s, the Tower of Terror fit in with the rest of the theme.

When “Monsters, Inc.: Mike and Sulley to the Rescue” opened in 2006, it signaled the beginning of the end for DCA’s theming. Placed in Hollywood in the same area as the defunct Superstar Limo ride that lasted less than a year; Mike and Sulley weren’t (and still aren’t) Hollywood themed. Still the monsters occupy a prominent place in Hollywoodland as one of the two rides in the area – the other one being the Tower of Terror.

In 2008, Paradise Pier saw the opening of the beloved Toy Story Midway Mania. Set within the games of the pier, Midway Mania could be forgiven its intrusion; even if its story, guests being shrunk down to the size of toys so they could play the game, didn’t fit with the theme, the game element of the attraction worked. With Mr. Potato Head playing the Midway Mania Barker, the Toy Story characters didn’t do much to detract from the theme though no self-respecting boardwalk would have such a sophisticated game during the time that Paradise Pier was supposed to reflect. (And let’s face it, Midway Mania is one of the best attractions in either park.)

Other rides on Paradise Pier were rethemed over the next three years to include Disney characters. Mickey’s Fun Wheel received a new paint job and a giant Mickey Head. The Orange Stinger became the Silly Symphonies Swings and Mullholland Madness became Goofy’s Sky School. Within the singular concept of the ride, the retheming of the last two was brilliant. The Silly Symphony Swingers opens up to reveal a painting of Mickey Mouse conducting the band from “the Band Concert,” which isn’t from the Silly Symphony series (highlighting the theming problem again). Still, the use of the whirlwind cartoon on the swings support pole is a great idea. Goofy’s Sky School is just “plane” fun. The problem is that none of the changes align with the area’s theming at the time, and these rides are exactly that – rides – not attractions. These are off-the-shelf, experience-them-at-your-local-carnival rides.

While hyped tremendously as a new attraction for the park, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure quickly became DCA’s version of Snow White’s Scary Adventure. At seemingly twice the size and half the fun, this show-stopping, audio-animatronic disappointingly doesn’t carry the story far enough or strongly enough. Still, it’s routinely 5-minute wait time makes it a nice place to take a break from the heat, and it features some interesting advances – the descent into the sea and the Ursula figure. It’s still in the wrong place. The Little Mermaid has nothing to do with California or Paradise Pier.

In 2012, DCA attempted to keep with the California theming and connect to its mythical beginnings. Missing a golden opportunity to capitalize on its largest changes, the park turned the Sunshine Plaza into Buena Vista Street of 1923, the time when Walt Disney arrived in California with a suitcase and a dream. The Carthay Circle Theater was opened and fit in with the Tower of Terror in the background, but Cars Land with its decidedly Arizona feel debuted at the same time. Arizona isn’t California. How is Cars Land a part of the California Adventure? It’s not, thematically speaking.

In 2016, the popular Soarin’ Over California was replace with Soarin’ Around the World. California is not the world, and the world is not California. In 2017, the Guardians of the Galaxy took over the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and, in one fell swoop destroyed the themes of Hollywoodland, Grizzly Peak Airfield and Buena Vista Street. These are both popular and fun attractions, but popular and fun aren’t a theme, and the original versions were just as popular and fun.

Pixar Pier
Pixar Pier

In 2018, Paradise Pier became Pixar Pier. Pixar isn’t a theme. It’s a collection of (if the Internet is to believed) vaguely related films with different settings. Even if Pixar properties were relegated to Pixar Pier, the them wouldn’t work. Mixing the superheroes of “The Incredibles,” the shrinking you down to toy size of Midway Mania and Jessie’s Critter Carousel, and the Inside/Out characters of the mind isn’t a theme; it’s a cacophony. Add to it that Mickey’s Fun Wheel and Flik’s Flyers just received paint jobs, with no significant changes otherwise, to go along with the Pixar theme and it looks like Disney has just decided to throw in the towel. They probably could’ve left Flik’s Flyers alone since it was a Pixar film and the theming would’ve worked with Midway Mania, but “A Bug’s Life” has other problems when it comes to theme parks.

Leftovers from Paradise Pier, the Golden Zephyr and Jumpin’ Jellyfish make no sense in terms of theming. They aren’t related to Pixar or Disney characters and only represent the former California Beachside aesthetic. With all of the incohesive changes, Disney California Adventure doesn’t really celebrate Disney or California. Instead, it focuses on providing Pixar a place to put its movie franchises. Things won’t be much better when Marvel joins the scene with its own land. Marvel Land will be able to adopt Guardians of the Galaxy, but this will leave the Red Car Trolley out in the cold and gut the main attractions of Hollywoodland – the Marvel Meet and Greets.

This mishmash of rides and attractions keeps DCA from achieving greatness through theming. Instead it’s a great example of what Disneyland never wanted to be – an amusement park (except DCA is clean and the cast members are friendly).

Why Bug’s Land Had to Change

While the new Marvel Land may not fix DCA’s theming, it does address another relatively small problem: the relevancy of A Bug’s Land. Based on the 1998 Pixar film “a bug’s life,” the land opened in 2002. The land itself was made to be attractive to the younger set, except the 4D film experience “It’s Tough to Be a Bug,’ which was terrifying for some adults. It’s environmental and educational feel was a welcome respite from some of the larger areas of the park, but there was no way these bugs could survive.

The film itself was not one of Pixar’s best. It earned $363 million at the box office, but without a sequel, TV shows, or a cuddly, iconic character, the film has no relevance to today’s children. How many people even remember the film without confusing it for “Antz”? Disney’s classic animation fare has been able to remain relevant through marketing (specifically, the creation of the Princess line, which keeps all of the princesses in the public light as long as new princesses are added every couple of years or so) rereleases and remakes. These movies hold up even through the changing times, and the theming of the lands act as a crutch.

Attractions at Disneyland also remain relevant through the sheer size and scope. The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are iconic, beloved attractions that create their own atmosphere and fans. Flik’s Flyers? Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies (which were not bumper cars)? Francis Ladybug Boogie… Does anyone even remember this ride? These were all rides with no real creation to them and without a Dumbo to keep them aloft. Only Heimlich’s Chew Chew Train seemed to make an effort to provide something akin to a new place to visit.

With nothing new on the bug front, DCA needed to come up with something new. Marvel provided the answer. As long as they stay away from the now deceased Iron Man, the land will remain relevant for the next few decades.

World of Color’s and Incredicoaster’s Footprints

The World of Color, which debuted in 2013, is arguably the best show in DCA. The fountains are spectacular, the water screens are amazing, the pyrotechnics are amazing, and the show is flexible enough to be changed almost on the fly to advertise new movies subtly and include new animated sequences. One Christmas show featured the magic of snowflakes a foot in diameter that floated up into the sky. Even the dining options and the viewing areas that go with them are incredible.

The investment in the equipment that Disney made and the popularity of the show make changing the venue area around the show basically impossible. Imagineers are constrained by the World of Color’s space needs.

Just as constraining is the space required for a lesser attraction, the now-called Incredicoaster. Wait times for this attraction hover around 25 minutes, but it is still large enough and technically advanced to warrant protection by the bean counters. It’s change over from California Screamin’ is also an advance in storytelling, especially when it comes to roller coasters.

By Any Other Name

When it first opened, the park was called Disney’s California Adventure. Ironically, it didn’t include Buena Vista street, but was more the company’s interpretation of what California was. Wine country, the Bay Area, the Redwoods, these were all represented. Yes, critics wondered why people would want to see the Disney version of the Golden Gate Bridge when it was just a seven-hour drive up north or a 2-hour flight. Still, that’s what Michael Eisner and his team came up with.

It changed its name to Disney California Adventure in 2010. Linguistically, this could mean that this park is an adventure in California Disney-style. Something along the lines of “have yourself a Disney California Adventure.” It doesn’t have to have the California theming in order to work, except it’s already associated with its first incarnation, and the California parts haven’t been drummed out of it. Choosing another name might work better as far as managing expectations, but it doesn’t change the fact that the park has no cohesive theming.

People come to Disneyland and its related theme parks for the cleanliness, the wonderful cast members and the theming. In its effort to cash in on its acquired IP, the Disney Company has forgotten about the theming at least as far as Disney California Adventure is concerned. Maybe they’ll get it fixed sometime in the future, but for now DCA will suffer from its continued lack of relevance and inability to inspire people to come for more than a day.

It’s our turn for Blue Sky thinking! What could Disney do to make California Adventure better?

If you would like more of this type of discussion, check out “Penguinate! The Disney Company.” Join our email list and Patreon!

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Find Relaxation and Luxury at the Riverside Hot Springs Inn

The Riverside Hot Springs Inn in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, is an all-inclusive vacation destination in the guise of a historic hotel. The staff is helpful and friendly. The Port-Neuf Grille and Lounge restaurant is a gourmet foodies heaven; the cashew and almond butter stuffed avocado is amazing. The historic building is filled with character and comfort.

Most importantly, if you come to Lava Hot Springs for the hot springs, the Riverside Hot Springs Inn offers the opportunity to take advantage of their on-site hot springs privately. Sign up for a time, include the number of people joining you, and the indoor hot springs, or the outdoor hot tub filled with hot springs water, is yours. I recommend the outdoor option for its view; watching the train on the hill as it goes by just improves the experience.

The Riverside Hot Springs Inn was built in 1914. If you’re looking for a peaceful getaway in a small town, this hotel should be among your first choices. If you choose to leave the hotel, you can visit the Sunken Gardens, and walk along the sidewalks of a town that caters to upscale tourists looking for the better things in life.

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Things to Like about Independence, OR: The Independence Cinema

Few small towns can claim a valuable gem like the Independence Cinema. With eight screens, people who live in Independence or Monmouth, OR, have a variety of films available to see (not just one or two).

However, the biggest advantage of the Independence Cinema for those nearby is the price. With tickets at major chains running upwards of $10 for matinees, the local cinema is offering Super Tuesdays: all films, all ages, just $5. On Tuesday, every theater should be filled with people who love movies. People from Salem and Dallas should be making their way to Independence for a cheap date night. Take it one step further and be sure to get a rewards card. Then every movie you see and every combo you purchase gets you one step closer to free admission to a movie not exempted by the star policy.

 You can get a great deal on concessions, too. Popcorn and soda are still unreasonably high for any place but a movie theater. However, the pizza and the chicken basket are killer deals costing about the same price as a fast food restaurant. At Independence Cinema, dinner and a movie don’t cost an arm and a leg!