Bring Coco to California Adventure!
This last February, a rumor circulated on the internet that set die-hard Disney fans into a frenzy. The word on the street was that The Haunted Mansion in Florida's Magic Kingdom was going to be permanently converted into a new Coco attraction. The rage was palpable. If true, there was a very real possibility that a Gaston-like mob would have put a stop to the proposed displacement of 999 'grim grinning ghosts'.
It didn't take long for the rumor to be dispelled, like so many other hoaxes that are often found on the disinformation highways of the world wide web. I and my fellow Disney park geeks breathed a sigh of relief. But I was also a bit disappointed. You see, I love Coco! And I certainly was not alone as the 2017 Pixar entry scored a hansom $800 million globally. The downside, at least in the eyes of Disney CEO Bob Iger, was that the film was "not a franchise". FYI, that's code for it not lending itself to multiple sequels and therefore less money. I truly hope that Disney doesn't limit their imagination for new e-ticket attractions to franchises at the expense of stand-alone films like Coco. For me, this movie felt like a truly special addition to the Disney/Pixar collection of stories, and both critics and audiences felt the same way. As such, I think a Coco-themed dark ride is well deserved...as long as it doesn't require the death of a beloved attraction like The Haunted Mansion.
That's where Disney California Adventure comes in. As I have covered in both a previous piece on the upcoming Marvel-themed land along with another one I wrote on my ideas of a re-imagined Hollywood Backlot, the massive DCA course correction has opened up the best available space for new attractions. No Disney fanatics were going to riot over gutting the original disaster of a theme park as it launched in 2001. So in came the stunning Buena Vista Street, an incredibly immersive Cars Land, and a more subtle but effectively redesigned Grizzly Peak Airfield, just to name a few examples from the world's greatest and most expensive extreme theme park makeover.
So what other piece of real estate in DCA could be used for Coco? With Pixar Pier's launch last month and Marvel's claim on the soon to be extinct Bug's Land and adjacent backstage area, there are three remaining areas of the park that could easily be re-purposed without any shedding of tears. One I already mentioned, the Hollywood Backlot. I just don't think that area is the best fit for Miguel and Co. The other two are the Pacific Wharf district and the western half of Paradise Gardens Park (the eastern half is The Little Mermaid and the viewing area for World of Color). Of these two, I think the Paradise Gardens space is the ideal fit.
Its location allows for a more subtle transition and the most secluded environment to, with proper design and sight-lines, create a mini-land. This would require demo of just about every ride and structure in the area. So say goodbye to the Golden Zephyr, Jumpin' Jellyfish, Goofy's Sky School, and the Silly Symphony Swings along with the current food and beverage options.
While I'll leave it to the professional Imagineers to iron out the details on this new Coco-themed area, I'd like to share a few broad concepts to kick-start the conversation.
First of all, Disney has already been warming up the place with their special Plaze de la Familia, which they rolled out last fall with the release of the film. This space should similarly include a robust schedule of highly interactive and family friendly character meet-and-greet, arts and crafts, and live performances that draws upon both the unique musical, artistic, and storytelling expressions of Coco alongside the universal themes that it so brilliantly illustrated.
The physical design needs to incorporate elements of Miguel and his family's village including the residences, shoe shop, square, and cemetery. The cemetery would be on a rising hillside and serve as most of the ride queue. Ironically similar to The Haunted Mansion, this would lead to Ernesto's mausoleum, where park-goers would enter in groups and be lowered in an elevator to the remainder of the indoor queue and ride itself. This would mean a significant amount of excavation. But with The Little Mermaid's queue and show building as an approximate footprint, there is plenty of space for such an attraction that leaves room for all the other amenities you would expect. As for the ride itself, it would transport guests to the Land of the Dead. Here there are so many story directions one could go in. Just re-watch the movie and let your imagination fly. As far as the platform, Imagineers could choose to employ anything from the classic Disney dark ride systems to the more cutting edge virtual reality simulations like Pandora's Avatar Flight of Passage. Perhaps switch out banshees for Alebrijes?
Last but not least, we need to talk about the FOOD! Disney, please do your best to provide some ethnically faithful cuisine. Many of us who have not grown up in that culture have been woke by enjoying 'the real deal' in contrast to Taco Bell and Tex-Mex. So for those of us who have come to love Mexican food along with those for whom it is an important part of their heritage, we are going to need something better than a cheap, quick-serve knock off. We know you can do it. Think traditional recipes and methods of preparation, like you do with candy on Main Street.
what say you
So there you have it Armchair Imagineers! Do you think Coco should come to California Adventure? If so, what do you like about my ideas or what would you do differently? Share your thoughts down below.