EDITORIAL: Pixar Pier Should Be the Model for How to Expand Disney Parks

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Two days after Pixar Pier opened, I was able to make my way to Disney’s California Adventure. Having been a big fan of Paradise Pier, I’ll admit I was nervous. I missed the Cove Bar and I missed hearing Neil Patrick Harris announce the takeoff of California Screamin’. And yet, ten seconds after setting foot into Pixar Pier, I didn’t miss any of it.

Paradise vs Pixar

Pixar Pier is proof of what Disney does best and that’s telling a story. Paradise Pier might have been great fun, but it always lacked story. I may have loved California Screamin’ but its story was a roller coaster on a beachside pier. The story wasn’t much deeper than that.

At the moment, Pixar Pier isn’t fully open so I can’t speak for the Inside Out section (although I am a fan of the Angry Dogs stand). That’s set to open with Inside Out’s Emotional Whirlwind in 2019. Right now the sections that are open are the Incredibles and Toy Story.

The Incredibles

The Incredibles, who have been a part of Pixar since 2004 and have always had a huge following, just had their sequel after a 14 year hiatus. They’ve been around the Disney Parks for many years, but the Incredicoaster is their first ride appearance. And Disney went all out. From the Incredibles arch that’s beautifully done in comic book style to the superheroes headquarters the ride takes off from, everything feels like it popped right out of the movies. Right now the line for the Incredicoaster is rather long, as is usually the case for new attractions, so Disney smartly put Jack Jack’s Cookie Num Nums directly next to the attraction. Even with a two hour wait, it’s hard to be mad when you’re munching on the best cookies Disneyland has to offer.

The ride itself is a perfect example of Disney’s strong storytelling abilities. Although the track is very similar to California Screamin’, the ride briefly slows down in all of the added tunnels. Doing this allows the rider to hear the story and to see the special effects, like a goopy Jack Jack or a stretching Elastigirl. It’s no longer just a roller coaster. It’s a chase to find and catch Jack Jack!

Toy Story

Further down the pier, Toy Story takes over. Toy Story has been a part of Paradise Pier for several years and it fit the beachside pier theme with Midway Mania. However, the jump of suddenly being a toy on the ride and a human on the pier made for a not very smooth transition. Now Pixar Pier inherently includes a mini Toy Story Land. You slowly transform into a toy the longer you walk on the pier. All of a sudden you look around and there’s a giant Fun Meal from Poultry Palace and a Zurg toy that’s just your size! I imagine that when Jessie’s Critter Carousel opens in 2019, this effect will become even stronger.

New Land from Old Ideas

Every last detail of Pixar Pier was thought out. The construction signs for Jessie’s ride are coming soon announcements from Al’s Toy Barn. Buzz, courtesy of his Spanish mode from “Toy Story 3,” has a churro stand. The Abominable Snowman from “Monsters Inc” is selling his famous lemon snow cones. All the umbrellas on the pier are designed after the famous Pixar ball. Pixar Pier did the impossible. It tells a million stories and managed to cohesively combine them all into one place.

The most impressive thing is that these are stories we already know. Stepping into Pixar Pier feels both new and old at the same time. There’s immediately a sense of nostalgia in seeing the “Adventure is down there” poster with the Up balloons or “Find your special moment” with Wall-E and Eve.

Disney has managed to recreate so many parts of our childhood while also bringing us new stories.

The New Model

I haven’t seen Toy Story Land. I’m on the wrong coast. So I can’t speak to that. But what I do know is that Disney is planning on doing a lot more expanding even after Toy Story Land. There’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Marvel Land (which probably won’t be called that) will open in Disneyland. There are so many new things coming. And Pixar Pier is making me hopeful that Disney knows what they are doing.

It’s more than just creating something cool or something pretty or something with fun attractions. It’s about telling a story the way the new pier does. I hope that Disney doesn’t forget this in any of their new lands.