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• an expansion of Hong Kong Disneyland opened in November 2011;
• the Disney Fantasy cruise ship launched in March;
• the first phase of an expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., opened in April.
Disney is also building a new theme park in Shanghai.
In an interview with The Associated Press in March, Iger said that even though the parks and resorts division doesn’t make as much in profit as the company’s TV properties like ESPN and Disney Channel, they are a link in the Disney ecosystem that connects people back to its characters, movies and shows.
"It’s not just about being in the media business. It’s about being in the Disney business," he said.
The investment in parks and resorts has hit $10.5 billion since Iger became CEO in October 2005, significantly more than the $8.2 billion predecessor Michael Eisner spent in the last seven years of his tenure.
Over the same time, Disney’s stock has nearly doubled from $24.13 to $46.24.
"They’ve set themselves up for long-term growth in the parks business through these strategic investments," said Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Capital Markets. "I would have thought it was a pretty mature asset but they’re managing to squeeze some real growth out of it."
California Adventure visitors will now enter through a mini version of Buena Vista Street, where Disney set up an animation studio after arriving in 1923. It bears clues to the company founder’s roots. A market named "Mortimer’s," for instance, bears what might have been the name of Disney’s mouse before his wife Lillian came up with "Mickey."
The new Carthay Circle Theatre restaurant pays tribute to the movie premiere of Disney’s "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937. It has an upscale decor and high-end dishes like "Cavatelli pasta with a Tuscan-styled braised lamb."
Slightly raised roofs on the street now hide jarring views of the Anaheim skyline.
In Cars Land, the Cadillac Mountain Range with its tail-fin peaks covers up what once were exposed power lines. Other attractions from the movie like Flo’s V8 Cafe and the Cozy Cone Motel round out the fantasy.
"They’re trying to impress upon you the environment and the immersion," said Lutz. "That’s the key."
The land adds three new rides, although that still means California Adventure has around 35 attractions and rides compared to 60 at Disneyland.
Radiator Springs Racers pits riders in a side-by-side race through the mountain range. Luigi’s Flying Tires lifts riders off the ground on an air-hockey-like arena, and Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree swings riders side to side in a salvage yard "tow-si-do."
Jalynne Tapia, a 32-year-old baker from Modesto, Calif., is one of the many who weren’t persuaded to spend a full day in the park before the final makeover. She said her family was a little turned off by the outdoor drinking and cigarette smoke, which is prevalent in a beer garden area by the Pacific Wharf at California Adventure.
By the second day of a three-day trip, her family had only spent a couple hours in the park, compared to more than a full day at Disneyland. She hoped the new Cars Land area would give her 5-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy more to do next time.
"We’re willing to try it again next year to see what happens," she said. "They’re both ‘Cars’ freaks."
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