This wonderful film is not visited by everyone who comes to Disney's California Adventure theme park, but it should be. In fact, I would like to suggest that the Disney folks make the viewing of this film a free field trip for all California school children. All they have to do is figure out how to keep the kids from escaping into the rest of the park. But what a great way for giving kids a "teaser" of the park, so they would get their parents to come back!
The film is beautifully made with great cinematography and absolutely wonderful sound. There is not one bad seat in the very classy theater. The wide screen is flanked by two large golden statues of Califia, the Spirit of California, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg. The statues magically come to life and introduce the film. I have an annual pass for the park and have seen the film dozens of times, and don't consider my visit complete without viewing it.
For once, the Disney folks have made a theme park attraction that is not sugar coated. It shows the good times and the hard times that people coming to California faced over the years. In fact, one scene was apparently too harsh, as it was removed after the first few months of it's opening in February of 2001. It actually showed a Chinese father and son being killed while working on a railroad. Now, it is just hinted at, without showing the huge explosion, which originally made this film a much more emotional one. I was very sorry to see that scene deleted. The explosion sound used to rock the theater and the emotions.
But still, the film is a good recap of some of the world changing events that happened in California. Whoopi Goldberg's character shows up a few times as "the Spirit of California" and helps a prospector find gold and encourages a Japanese woman to "be strong" after the woman is pelted with tomatoes thrown at her by some white men. In another scene we see Steve Jobs show off his new invention, the personal computer. He proclaims that he is going to sell one of these things "to everyone on the planet!" His partner says, "Dream on, Steve." We then cut to Whoopi who says, "Keep dreaming. Trust me on this one," and then she takes a big bite out of an apple. Isn't that nifty symbolism? I didn't get it for a while and it took me a couple viewings to figure out why some people were laughing at the apple. Each time I see it, I find something else.
A musical montage in the film with a song called "Just One Dream," shows dozens of clips of the real people who made history in California - from teachers to scientists to TV and film people. While I could recognize quite a few - some I could not. I would suggest Disney put out a list of all of those people plus what their contribution was. The song is contained on a CD you can buy in the park called "Music From Disney's California Adventure."
When I saw the film for the first time after September 11, it really choked me up. It is one of the most emotionally charged films I have seen, and I haven't tired from seeing it. It is well worth the 30 minutes it will take from your day in the park.
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