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New look for California Adventure

Disappointed Disney to revamp park to boost attendance

GLENDALE, Calif. — Out with the Golden Gate Bridge and in with "Cars."

Beset with lukewarm attendance, The Walt Disney Co.'s California Adventure theme park will be getting a major overhaul, the company said Wednesday, replacing California-based themes meant to attract adults with ones based on Pixar animated movies and closer ties to Walt Disney.

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 attendance that in some years has barely reached half the numbers of neighboring Disneyland.

In 2005, Disneyland drew 14.5 million visitors, an 8.5 percent increase over the previous year, while California Adventure drew only 5.8 million, a 3.6 percent increase. Figures for 2006 were not immediately available.

Disney executives acknowledged the need to rethink and expand the 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 had 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 multiday 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.

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.