Something borrowed

It's Florida to the rescue ... again.

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It's an all-too-predictable pattern these days, folks, whenever the Walt Disney Co. has trouble with one of its Anaheim attractions. This time around, it's Disney's California Adventure (DCA), the Mouse's newest theme park, which isn't even coming close to meeting its projected attendance levels.

To turn around the situation, the company raids Walt Disney World's cupboard for a hot new ride or show.

So which attraction is heading west this time? It's Disney/MGM's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire -- Play It!" Though the theme-park version of this hit TV quiz show opened in Florida just two months ago, it's already be being viewed as a potential savior for the California theme park.

It's easy to understand why the Mouse might think this way. Just look at the hundreds of park guests who happily queue up every day for their chance to experience a version of "Millionaire." It's been reported that some folks are so eager to get their shot at the fabled hot seat that they're spending their entire day at this Mickey Avenue attraction, exiting the "Millionaire" theater and then getting right back in line for the next show.

It's even been alleged that some tourists are making trips to Disney/MGM just to try their luck at "Millionaire." This is music to DCA's managers' ears. So, provided that contractors can meet the attraction's insanely accelerated construction schedule, the Disneyland Resort version of "Millionaire" could be up and running by mid-August.

Why all the rush? Well, first of all, there are those low attendance levels. DCA, which opened in February, was designed to hold 30,000-35,000 guests. On average, the park has only seen 10,000-15,000 visitors daily.

Then there's the dairy-product factor: Many folks within the Walt Disney Co. view the whole "Millionaire" phenomenon as a dairy product -- you know, something with a very limited shelf life.

Last year, the TV quiz show was a huge success, driving Disney-owned ABC to the top of ratings heap. Now it's Regis and his production staff who find themselves in need of a life line.

The folks at Walt Disney World also seemed to be highly aware that "Millionaire" is losing its appeal. That's why, instead of spending big bucks to change out one of Disney/MGM's show buildings to serve as a permanent home for the quiz-show attraction, they opted to set up "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire -- Play It" inside Soundstages 2 and 3. That way, when the attraction loses its appeal, Disney can just strike the set.

Will the DCA version of "Millionaire" also be of the "here today, gone tomorrow" variety? Well, given that the Mouse isn't really even building a building to house it (instead erecting a large tentlike structure in the Hollywood Studio Backlot area), you be the judge.

This isn't the only piece of Disney's Florida magic that's headed out west to try and help DCA. Just three weeks after the Main Street Electrical Parade made its final trek through WDW's Magic Kingdom on April 1, the Mouse announced that this night-time spectacular -- now renamed Disney's Electrical Parade -- would begin offering nightly performances in DCA starting July 4. (Disneyana purists will probably point out that the different parades have been relocated several times, with the official WDW version sent to Disneyland Paris in 1992.)

So what other chunks of Walt Disney World will start turning up in Anaheim in the near future? Well, Disney's Imagineers had hoped to acquire two of the Magic Kingdom's most recent additions -- "Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin" and "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" -- to Disneyland's lineup over the next year or two. But budget cuts at WDI have put these plans on the back burner.

Likewise, WDI had wanted to build two of Disney/MGM's most popular rides -- "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" and "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" -- in DCA's Hollywood Studio Backlot area. But the money crunch has postponed these projects as well.

It's worth noting that by borrowing so many attraction ideas from Walt Disney World (DCA already features bargain-basement versions of Disney/MGM's "Muppetvision 3D" and Animal Kingdom's "It's Tough to Be a Bug"), Disney's actually hurting its Florida resort. Why would tourists from the West Coast want to fly 3,000 miles to Orlando just to see rides and shows that they can easily experience in Anaheim? For that matter, why should East Coast folks want to head out to Anaheim?

What's the answer to Disney's dilemma? I don't know. Maybe we should poll the audience at Disney's "Millionaire" attraction.