Disney California Adventure

Sun Wheel

February 2001

Sun Wheel

The Sun Wheel is one of the most visible attractions at California Adventure. Named to commemorate the late, great California entertainer Sonny Bono, the Sun Wheel is 160 feet tall, has 24 cars, and, like its namesake, inexplicable popularity. The wheel, designed independently of the rest of Paradise Pier, turned out to be much larger than Imagineers had thought it would be, necessitating its installation in the lake instead of on the pier itself.

Two thirds, or roughly 16, of the Sun Wheel's cars are not firmly attached to the wheel, allowing them to rock violently while the ride lifts guests high into the air above the park. The "seasick" feeling experienced by riders proved popular with guests who were too smart to board the attraction and fit in well with Paradise Pier's watery theme, so these cars were never made fast.

The Sun Wheel is technically not a Ferris wheel but a "wonder wheel," as in "I wonder why they didn't do a better job of attaching those cars to that wheel?"

Trivia: Original plans for the Sun Wheel involved a central "sun" decoration that actually spewed gigantic tongues of flame from its edges, but it was feared that there would be a significant chance of broiling guests alive. Also, natural gas is expensive.

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