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Toy Story ride debuts at California Adventure

With typical confetti-and-fireworks fanfare, the Walt Disney Co on Tuesday opened the first new attraction of a $1 billion, five-year push to draw more visitors to its underperforming Anaheim theme park, Disney's California Adventure.
Image: Costumed characters from Pixar's \"Toy Story\"
Director John Lasseter speaks in front of costumed characters from Pixar's "Toy Story," during the grand opening ceremony of the "Toy Story Mania," ride at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., on June 17.Nick Ut / AP
/ Source: Reuters

With typical confetti-and-fireworks fanfare, the Walt Disney Co. on Tuesday opened the first new attraction of a $1 billion, five-year push to draw more visitors to its underperforming Anaheim theme park, Disney's California Adventure.

In Toy Story Mania, visitors ride in swiveling cars through a 3D animated landscape populated by characters from the groundbreaking computer-animated Pixar film "Toy Story," and shoot at targets for points.

While an identical attraction opened last month with little fanfare at the company's biggest park in both size and revenue, Walt Disney World in Florida, Toy Story Mania signals a new chapter for the seven-year-old Anaheim park, whose attendance numbers have never measured up to expectations.

"This is a big step for us, particularly in the summer," Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told reporters at the ride's debut. "This should be very popular for us."

The upgrades to California Adventure, announced late last year, "are just getting under way" and will conclude with the opening of Cars Land in 2012, Iger said.

He did not disclose the cost of the ride.

California Adventure ranked 13th in attendance last year among U.S. theme parks, with 5.7 million visitors, according to the Theme Entertainment Association's 2007 attendance report.

Its sister park, Disneyland, ranked second in the United States with 14.9 million visitors, behind the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida with 17 million visitors in 2007.

Improving the return on invested capital at California Adventure is "a complicated question," Iger said on Tuesday.

"Obviously what we are doing with expansion and change is to significantly improve return on investment," he said. "The return on invested capital for the entire Disneyland Resort has been getting better for the last three or four years."

Iger declined to give an update on the overall performance of Disney's parks business, which analysts are closely watching for signs that U.S. economic woes are curtailing consumers' vacation spending.

"We are certainly cognizant of what is going on in the economy," Iger said. We just have to give them a great product and hope people believe it is a real value for the money, which we believe it is, and keep on going."