The Walt Disney Co. will do a major overhaul of its disappointing California Adventure theme park to add more attractions based on Pixar animated movies and to draw closer ties to Walt Disney, the company said Wednesday.
Disney CEO Robert Iger and other executives would not disclose the cost of the project, but it will exceed $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly about it.
The figure eclipses the original cost of California Adventure, which opened in 2001.
The overhaul is designed to bolster lagging attendance, which in some years has barely reached half the numbers of neighboring Disneyland.
In 2005, Disneyland drew 14.5 million visitors, an 8.5% increase over the previous year, while California Adventure drew only 5.8 million, a 3.6% increase. Figures for 2006 were not immediately available.
Disney executives acknowledged the need to rethink and expand attractions at California Adventure to lure new visitors.
They pointed to growing attendance at Disneyland as proof that a similar approach would work at California Adventure.
“If you build it right, they will come,” Iger said during a news conference. “Disneyland is telling us that loud and clear these days.”
Erin Willis, 28, of Cincinnati was visiting Disneyland on Wednesday with her husband and toddler son. She said she found California Adventure to be “kind of boring” on previous visits.
“The rides were fun, but it didn’t have a lot of the excitement Disneyland had,” Willis said.
Poor attendance forced Disney to tweak California Adventure almost from the time it opened.
Tourists balked when Disney initially charged as much to attend California Adventure as it did for Disneyland, which had many times the number of rides and attractions.
Since then, California Adventure has largely failed its initial purpose of making the Anaheim parks a multi-day destination. Eventually, Disney had to offer discounted admission packages known as “park hopper” tickets.
A single day’s adult admission to either park is now $66. A “park hopper” ticket that allows visits to both parks on the same day is $91.
A sampling of guests at the Anaheim complex said they preferred Disneyland but would give California Adventure a second look after the renovation.
Dave Hall, 58, said he was a Disney fan and had visited Disneyland at least 20 times but never been to California Adventure because it didn’t appeal to him. He said the renovations, particularly the Pixar-themed rides, might lure him to California Adventure.
As part of the overhaul, Disney will expand the park with a 12-acre section based on the Pixar film “Cars.”
It will also replace some of the park’s less popular sections with new attractions based on the Disney film “Little Mermaid” and the Pixar film “Toy Story,” the company said.
The project will also include a new plaza greeting guests that more resembles the iconic “Main Street” at Disneyland, and a new interactive attraction will also tell the story of company founder Walt Disney.
The overhaul will begin next year and take until 2012, Disney executives said.
California Adventure was the brainchild of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner and includes sections dedicated to various California attractions.
The famous Disneyland monorail travels over a reproduction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and other sections evoke the memory of 1940s Hollywood.
The park was originally designed to appeal more to adults and included a restaurant sponsored by a winery. None of the iconic Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, made appearances in the park at first.
The park was also built with economy in mind, importing several rides and attractions that had already debuted at Walt Disney World in Florida.