The early signs of change are being noticed around Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure in the Disneyland Resort, as the land begins its theming transition to the City of San Fransokyo, from Disney’s 2014 animated film “Big Hero 6.” Construction is already well underway, and this most recent development is only another indicator of continued progress.
San Fransokyo Teases its Future
Last year at D23 Expo 2022, it was announced Pacific Wharf, a small mini-land of restaurants at Disney California Adventure based on San Francisco, would be reimagined to San Fransokyo, from “Big Hero 6.” Construction for the project officially began in January.
Right now, Pacific Wharf largely is known as the park’s food court, with a number of restaurants sitting in this small area, but the transformation is expected to bring new life to the area. Among the scaffolding and old Pacific Wharf emblems, an Imagineer could be sighted beginning the installation of signage and artwork related to Baymax and Hiro’s hometown.
Japanese characters can be seen added to the walls in real time, as well as a logo for the Port of San Fransokyo on the right with the word “cervecería” underneath — Spanish for “Brewery”. Could this be a new drinking and dining location?
Other themed notices are being propped up across the main façade, perhaps indicating this area’s re-theme will accelerate in the coming weeks and months. The San Fransokyo Gate Bridge has already reopened to guests following a several-week transformation.
As we mentioned previously, no ride is currently planned for the area, though you can experience The Happy Ride with Baymax if you’re willing to visit Tokyo Disneyland!
Disney California Adventure is Constantly Changing
California Adventure is no stranger to change, and Pacific Wharf is no exception. While the Lucky Fortune Cookery, Cocina Cucamonga, and entire Boudin section have remained relatively to their own devices over the years, longtime DCA visitors may recall visiting the old Mission Tortilla Factory, which once taught guests the process of tortilla-making and would offer free samples of corn and flour tortillas.
After being vacated, it eventually became the location of today’s Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate. Aside from this implementation of an iconic San Francisco brand, and the addition of a side entrance to Cars Land, Pacific Wharf does actually still resemble its original layout.
The park as a whole is an entirely different story. When browsing a guide map from DCA’s opening year (2001), the dramatic amount of dismantling, rebuilding, expansion, and re-theming becomes apparent. Several of these listed attractions are gone, unrecognizable today, or to many individuals, entirely unheard of. Bountiful Valley Farm, Golden Dreams, It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Superstar Limo, Jim Henson’s Muppet Vision 3-D, and Maliboomer have all ceased to exist. Other attractions, such as California Screamin’ and the Sun Wheel have been renamed and entirely renovated multiple times. The Sun Wheel alone has held three names: Sun Wheel, Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and the Pixar Pal-A-Round.
In the earliest years, Disney California Adventure — at the time known as Disney’s California Adventure Park — was divided into four lands: Sunshine Plaza, Hollywood Pictures Backlot, Golden State, and Paradise Pier. While It’s Tough to Be a Bug was an opening day attraction, the rest of what would become “a bug’s land” opened in 2002.
All four of the opening lands, and the 2002 expansion, are gone now. This map from 2012 shows the park roughly halfway through its lifespan thus far, and features the hefty amount of work done around the time of its re-dedication — the culmination of over $1 billion in add-ons when the park itself originally only cost around $600 million to create after the notion of a more expensive West Coast EPCOT fell through. Sunshine Plaza was razed and entirely re-constructed as Buena Vista Street. “a bug’s land” was replaced with Avengers Campus. Hollywood Pictures Backlot became Hollywood Land, and the Guardians of the Galaxy portion was absorbed into the aforementioned Campus. Golden State had subsections for quite some time, which eventually became lands of their own. Out of Golden State came Pacific Wharf, Grizzly Peak (previously a subsection known as Grizzly River Recreation Area), and Condor Flats (which eventually joined Grizzly Peak).
The most recent park map is depicted above. Paradise Pier lasted all the way up to 2018, until it also was re-imagined as Pixar Pier, and the portion of it that was not actually on the wooden boardwalk was separated into Paradise Gardens Park. Goofy’s Sky School and Mickey’s Silly Symphony Swings are the re-imagined Mulholland Madness and Orange Stinger. King Triton’s Carousel is now Jessie’s Critter Carousel. Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! stands where Superstar Limo stood, as The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure occupies the original Golden Dreams space. Victorian-themed restaurants line a spot that was once host to a McDonald’s and boat-themed playground for children. Mickey’s PhilharMagic is in the mix. It’s been a dizzying reconfiguration to say the least. Detailed discussion on more specific restaurants, tiny attractions, and pathways that have come and gone could continue ad nauseam.
At this point in time, Grizzly River Run seems to be the only major opening day attraction in this park that has not changed in any dramatic way that’s significantly altered its core identity or purpose. Soarin’ Around the World does occasionally revert to a throwback Soarin’ Over California experience, but otherwise, Disney California Adventure is a park on the move, occasionally subverting its own California theme in favor of expanded intellectual property offerings.
Where does it go next?
Is Pacific Wharf’s end the conclusion of an era, too? What are your thoughts on this most recent transformation to the California Adventure landscape? What new experience would you most like to see in this area when construction is over? Let us know in the comments.