#73: Mickey’s Fun Wheel

Mickey's Wonder Wheel at Disney California Adventure Park
Mickey’s Wonder Wheel at Disney California Adventure Park

In the middle of Disney’s California Adventure Paradise Pier, along the bustling boardwalk, you can’t miss Mickey’s Fun Wheel.  From a distance, the harmless Ferris wheel looks like a perfect relaxing way to catch some beautiful views of California Adventure.  But don’t be fooled; this is no ordinary Ferris wheel.  It’s an eccentric wheel, or sliding wheel that’s much different than a traditional Ferris wheel.

Before you board one of the 24 colorful gondolas (carrying up to 8 people), you’ll need to make a critical decision.  Eight of the gondolas, the Mickey Mouse themed gondolas are “Stationary” and provide a Ferris wheel like experience.  These are perfect for the little ones, offering a 150 foot scenic view of Disney California Adventure as well as views of Disneyland.  While the other 16 themed to Goofy, Minnie, Pluto and Donald are considered “Swinging Gondolas”.    The swinging gondolas glide on interior rails and sway during the trip, creating a sometimes dizzying experience.   By definition, an eccentric wheel offers some passenger cars that are not fixed to the rim of the wheel but slide on rails between the rim and the hub as the wheel rotates.  The results are a more intense experience than what you might expect from a Ferris wheel.  Motion sickness bags are located inside each of the swinging vehicles, just in case.

If you’re familiar with Coney Island in New York, the concept may sound familiar.  Mickey’s Fun Wheel is one of only 2 “wonder wheel” type Ferris wheels operating in the United States. Coney Islands original 1920 “Wonder Wheel” was the design inspiration for Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

Prior to the 2008 Disney California Adventure massive renovation, Mickey’s Fun Wheel was the opening day “Sun Wheel” featuring a massive “Sun” in the center of the wheel where the Mickey is today.  The color scheme was also changed from yellow to the mostly red you see today, with each gondola being themed to one of the fab five characters as an effort to extend the introduction of Classic Disney characters into the park.  In 2013, additional lights were installed to showcase the wheel as a part of the World of Color night time show.  For more on Disney California Adventure “World of Color” be sure to check out SamsDisneyDiary #8 for the original and SamsDisneyDiary Episode #60 for World of Color Celebrate