With the Little Mermaid ride less than two months from opening, it may be somewhat appropriate to look at its predecessor before all the hoopla takes over. Though it’s only been a couple of years since its closing, Golden Dreams is not often remembered. Often referred to “the Whoopi Goldberg movie”, or “the California movie thing”, it was an opening day attraction that lasted 7 years. I was fortunate enough to be at the final public showing of the movie, and even got video of the event (as showcased in the Youtube link).
Golden Dreams showcased the history of California through the struggles of some of the more famous residents. The entrance to the attraction is a replica of the Palace of Fine Arts, which is in San Francisco (and the replica is still the only thing standing of the attraction). The theater had murals lined on the outside depicting historical scenes, that were also featured in the film. Inside was a fairly standard Disney theater, with one added feature…or I should say two. Statues were on either side of the screen, and strangely had the visage of Whoopi Goldberg. As the movie begins, we see why the statues had such similarity: a great effect enabled the statues to come alive as Califia, the spirit of California and our host.
This particular projection was a reason why I liked going to this attraction. Though simple, it was always a great way to start the show, taking our simple surroundings and then transforming it into something magical. Very much a Disney experience. Though it was, in essence, a movie, this attraction was not a bad experience. Unfortunately, in a park that didn’t have much to offer at the beginning. It was just another film attraction in a park that featured 2 others (3 if you count the inside of the Animation Building), and not enough variety of exciting attractions. It got lost in the crowd, and seem to only offered respite from harsh summer weather.
A Halloween makeover to the theater was featured during that holiday season, and to help add something to the ailing park. But the film was not themed to California, but rather the Disney villains. Golden Screams featured a live host, a live character, and audience participation while it went through famous Disney villain scenes from their respected animated features. Audiences voted on which was best to win the Golden Scream. Although this helped up attendance for the attraction, because it was seasonal it didn’t last in the regular time.
When I saw the final showing of Golden Dreams, I knew I would miss the attraction. Though some of the depictions were not great, and Whoopi Goldberg may not be the best host, it was always a good reminder of where California has been and where it could be headed. But, probably what helped bring its downfall was just that: it was all about California and how great the state and its people are…not all of America. If I could compare it to another Disney attraction, it would be The American Adventure in Epcot. It’s hard to really compare and contrast, as American Adventure was made to be a grand, anchor attraction, and Golden Dreams is just an attraction. Plus, no audio-animatronics in Golden Dreams. But, for this Californian, I was always inspired by how diverse and rich California’s history is, and with that wonderful montage…even if it felt repeated from other patriotic Disney attractions.
On the final night, it was nice to watch the film one more time with a packed out theater where people even stood to watch. It was touching to see that others had enjoyed it as much as my family and I had. And even the cast member that introduced it one last time did it in a dignified manner, even as she had done since the opening. When “Just One Dream” ended, there was just one tear shed.
Though I will miss it, I look very much forward to The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.