Image: California adventure
Scott Nelson  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Disney unveiled its California Adventure theme park in 2001. Now it plans a $1 billion overhaul to add more attractions based on Pixar movies.
updated 10/17/2007 4:28:02 PM ET 2007-10-17T20:28:02

Beset with lukewarm attendance, The Walt Disney Co.'s California Adventure theme park will be getting a major overhaul, the company said Wednesday, replacing 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.

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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 Disney to California Adventure but would give California Adventure a second look after the renovation.

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.

The park 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.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Walt Disney World at 40

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  1. 40 and fabulous

    Fireworks explode above Cinderella Castle as dancers and Disney characters perform while taping a segment of "Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade" at the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 3, 2010, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 40th anniversary of the opening of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort will be celebrated in 2011. (Mark Ashman / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Star power

    Musical artist Yanni, right, plays the piano as the "Yanni Voices" perform an arrangement of "O Holy Night" at the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 3, 2009, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Yanni was taping a segment for the "Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade" holiday TV special. (Mark Ashman / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'I'm going to Disney World!'

    Tom Brady, quarterback of the Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots, signs autographs at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Feb. 2, 2004, one day after leading the Patriots to a 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers. (Gene Duncan / Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The first 25 years

    First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd as Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner applauds Oct. 1, 1996, during the rededication of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World on the 25th anniversary its opening. (Tony Ranze / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Royal fun

    Prince William, right, grimaces after he and friends of the royal family finish their ride on Splash Mountain Aug. 26, 1993, at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Harry Soames, left front, was the prince's companion on the three-day vacation. Other passengers are unidentified. (Bob Pearson / AFP-Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Celebrating two decades

    The 20th anniversary rededication ceremony of Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1991 brought legions of Disney cast members onto Main Street, U.S.A. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A world-class welcome

    Roy O. Disney, brother of Walt Disney, is joined by the beloved Disney character that started it all, Mickey Mouse, in welcoming the first guests to the grand opening of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Oct. 1, 1971. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Cinderella's future home

    In 1971, a blue-spired castle -- destined to become one of the world's most-photographed buildings -- rose in central Florida as the iconic centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom, which opened on Oct. 1, 1971. In the 40 years since guests first strolled down Main Street, U.S.A., Walt Disney World Resort has blazed brave new entertainment trails based on its founder's fertile imagination and vision that the resort would forever continue to evolve. (Disney) Back to slideshow navigation
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