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An electrifying California adventure

ANAHEIM, Calif. A project superintendent tackled a new adventure after working with Disneyland for a decade. Lynn Halliburton of Morrow-Meadows Corp., a Walnut, Calif.-based electrical contractor, helped manage the electrical installations at California Adventure, a new Disney high-tech theme park built on Disneyland's old parking lot. I've been doing work for Disney for 10 years on site, Halliburton

ANAHEIM, Calif. — A project superintendent tackled a new adventure after working with Disneyland for a decade.

Lynn Halliburton of Morrow-Meadows Corp., a Walnut, Calif.-based electrical contractor, helped manage the electrical installations at California Adventure, a new Disney high-tech theme park built on Disneyland's old parking lot.

“I've been doing work for Disney for 10 years on site,” Halliburton said. “It's pretty much the same thing that we do all the time out here at Disney, but it was just on a larger scale.”

Disney's California Adventure, which spans 55 acres, is part of a $1.4 billion expansion of the Disneyland Resort, which includes Downtown Disney, a shopping, dining and entertainment district and Disney's 751-room Grand Californian Hotel. Morrow-Meadows, the nation's 17th largest electrical contractor with 1999 sales of $137 million, had 30 to 40 various contracts totaling about $45 million worth of electrical and datacom work at California Adventure. The contractor, which has offices in San Diego, Northern California and Oregon, also installed all the backbone for the fiber optics, the copper for the datacommunications and the core and shell for all of Downtown Disney. Halliburton said California Adventure, which also has a fiber-optic backbone, is themed to the state of California rather than the Disney characters.

“You can visit California all in one day by visiting California Adventure,” said Halliburton, who has been with Morrow-Meadows for 15 years. “Every once in a while, they'll throw in a hint of Mickey Mouse, but for the most part, it's not focused on the Disney characters.”


California Adventure construction kicked off in June 1999 with the groundbreaking for a gargantuan parking garage. When the Morrow-Meadows team arrived on site, the power distribution was already in place, with eight generators supplying a high-voltage 12kV loop throughout the park.

“They had the power on before construction started, because they used the power for temporary power,” Halliburton said. “Every area has its own assigned generators. They have 12kV coming in from the city to a metering station and from there it's all Disneyland power.”

A team of 12 general contractors, four major electrical contractors and 3,000 total construction workers worked together to create Disney's California Adventure. Rather than being in a separate office building, Disney's engineers, or “Imagineers,” also worked on site in “Trailer City.”

Morrow-Meadows project executive Dennis Dugan said it helped to have the engineers on site to answer questions. “You didn't do the job and every once in a while the engineer would com to check it out,” he said. “These guys walk the job every day.”

Engineers and electricians were assigned to three different themed lands: Golden State, Paradise Pier and Hollywood Pictures Backlot.

“Teams handled individual portions of sites for the job,” Dugan said.

Morrow-Meadows completed most of the work within in eight to 12 months, he added.

“We were under total pressure and had deadlines to meet this whole project from start to finish,” he said. “The changes that were made gave us very little time to make the change, perform the work and get it done on time. We did a lot of overtime.”


Dugan, who supervised six other project managers, estimated that his electrical team put about 500,000 manhours into California Adventure. The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) rewarded Morrow-Meadows' hard work with three NECA Excellence Awards — one for Downtown Disney; another for ESPN Zone, a sports themed bar and restaurant; and a third for the “It's Tough to be a Bug” attraction, which was based on the Disney movie, “A Bug's Life”.

The “It's Tough to be a Bug” show blends neon lighting, sound and special effects into a full sensory experience. Visitors can wander through an underground ant hole, listen to an insect orchestra hum Disney melodies and slip on special “bug eye” glasses for the full 3D experience.

The project, which was directly managed and coordinated by Ken Bock, took Morrow-Meadows about six months to complete, Halliburton said.

“We did all the sound and the lighting, show controls and main power, which is part of the electrical contractor package,” he said. “There's so much work involved that you don't even think about.”

Building the theater and pre-show area demanded intensive coordination among the trades.

“They came in and started building these rocks out of rebar and lath, which is like chicken wire that you plaster over,” Halliburton said. “They molded it all into place, came in here and just started carving it to get the look they want and then painted it. In the meantime, we roughed in all our electrical and fire alarm and sound systems and our control system. This job was going day and night.”

Air quality became a major issue for all the construction workers.

“You couldn't breathe in this building from the smoke,” Halliburton said. “They had to bring in huge fans to exhaust the building.”

And that was just for the pre-show area. In the actual theater, Halliburton said the theater had four levels of catwalk above the stage area as well as fiber-optic and neon lighting illuminating the “anthole.”

“In the little niches, you can see the red light — that's the fiber-optic lighting,” he said. “It will change colors throughout the show. Every little inch has got it. It's all special effects.”

Dimmers controlled all the lighting throughout the park, he said.

“Entertainment has full control over everything,” Halliburton said. “Every light fixture out here is controlled by a dimmer and is timed together via a fiber-optic backbone.”


The Morrow-Meadows team of 300 electricians discovered that on every job the electrical work encompassed more than just simple wiring.

“For Disney, an electrical job is not just a plug, light and switch,” Halliburton said. “There are so many different systems besides just power such as the control and energy management systems.”

All the electrical work also had to be deeply concealed, especially in themed attractions.

“For the most part, a lot of it is normal construction, but there are areas where Disney will come through with their painters and paint it or theme it out with rope so it doesn't stand out,” he said. “Some areas are wide open to the public, so it has to be a clean installation and good craftsmanship.”

Morrow-Meadows completed many diverse jobs on the theme park, from the main entrance complex to the Golden State area, which included the winery, parade route and a whitewater rafting attraction.

“We did a lot of attractions, but the only ride we did was Grizzly River Run,” Halliburton said. “For the most part, the ride is a built-out package by somebody else and you just hook it up, but there's a lot to it. It's not like hooking up an extension cord.”

Along with working on some rides and attractions, the contractor also did Fast-Passes parkwide.

“With Fast-Pass, you take your ticket, validate it in the machine and it will tell you when you can come back at a certain time to go right on to the ride or attraction,” he said. “They have these in six different locations throughout the park — pretty much anything with high-volume.”

Morrow-Meadows also rewired a 3D attraction called Muppet Vision 3D after another contractor tangled up all the wiring in the theater. As he slipped on his plastic 3D glasses before the show, he pointed up toward the ceiling to explain what happened.

“They brought the right amount of home runs up, but they just brought them all into a can and then took off for the gutter all the way to the sides,” he said. “It was a mess. A lot of it was marked, but they combined the emergency and normal power. Disney requires all your systems to be installed in separate raceways. It all had to be torn out and re-pulled.”

Morrow-Meadows performed an additional $2 million in repair work in rewiring and completing others' uncompleted work in order for Disney to make the February opening date. Muppet Vision 3D became one of many unexpected new projects.

“Every project had extras on top of it,” Halliburton said. “We were working day and night and had double shifts going. It was very fast-track and hectic. The schedule started and it never changed. It's just that they added a lot of extra work in the same time frame.”

Because of the amount of construction workers and simultaneous projects, logistics became a major challenge for not only Morrow-Meadows, but also for the rest of the companies. For example, they had a rigid time frame to pick up their materials.

“We had to send in a delivery notice daily to Disney to tell them that we were expecting a delivery from a certain vendor,” he said.

Disney had an off-site yard where contractors would check in, get a pass and then go to the assigned location to pick up their materials.

“You could never have your materials delivered directly to the job site,” he said. “They had strategic locations throughout the park and you'd have to manhandle it to each area. It got so bad that we had to do our deliveries at night because there was so much traffic.”

Halliburton said it was essential to stay on top of the delivery notices.

You did them daily, but they were for two-days in advance,” he said. “We originally had a 30-minute window we had to hit. They got lenient on that because that was almost impossible with all the different trades.”

The reason for the daily pickups stemmed from the lack of space.

“There was no storage,” he said. “You might get lucky to get a haul away container or a roll-off container on a couple of jobs, but for the most part, there was no lay-down. We had to have it delivered pretty much every day. You had to stay on top of it. That was probably the No. 1 killer out here — the logistics.”

Due to the lack of space, Morrow-Meadows shared its trailer with two other jobs and assigned all of its project managers to an office a few blocks away from California Adventure. A few weeks after the park's grand opening, Dugan and Halliburton were catching up on all their change orders and wrapping up the mounds of paperwork at their office.

“We're still fighting change orders and trying to close them out,” Halliburton said. “We still have about a dozen electricians on site inside of California Adventure who are working from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. That changes daily. It depends on what Disney asks for.”

Halliburton held up a to-do list for ongoing projects at the park.

“We'll be involved for the next year because of warranty work,” Halliburton said. “We pretty much do all of Disneyland's work, so if they have something that comes up, they call us and we go over there and take care of it. We're here to back up the maintenance electricians.”

After working at Disneyland for a decade and California Adventure for about two years, Halliburton enjoyed his team's handiwork at the “It's Tough to be a Bug” attraction. He slipped on his 3D glasses and laughed at the cartoon bugs “hovering” during the 10-minute movie.

“I want someone to appreciate all our work,” he said. “It's good to see people actually enjoying the park instead of just a bunch of workers. It's an awesome park with quality throughout it.”


California Adventure, a 55-acre theme park, is located 27 miles southeast of Los Angeles on Disneyland's old parking lot. Here are some facts and figures on the project.

  • 3,000 construction workers were on site during construction including 12 general contractors and four electrical contracting firms.
  • 300 Morrow-Meadows electricians worked on California Adventure.
  • 500,000 manhours were put in by Morrow-Meadows.
  • 36 miles of wiring run through the roller coaster, “California Screamin'.
  • Eight substations are strategically located throughout the park to provide a 12kV loop.


Lynn Halliburton, project superintendent for Morrow-Meadows Corp., took us on a tour of California Adventure. Here are some of the highlights of the high-tech, California-themed park.

GOLDEN STATE. This land, which celebrates the heritage of California, has six themed areas, such as Soarin' Over California and It's Tough to be a Bug.

It's Tough to be a Bug. Based on the movie, “A Bug's Life,” this attraction features a 432-seat theater wired with the latest special effects and lighting. Visitors put on 3-D glasses to see the movie characters, Flik and Hopper, come to life.

Grizzly River Run. Eight passenger rafts are lifted up a 300-foot conveyor and then carried down through the rushing waters, waterslides and through caverns and mineshafts. “This is the whitewater rafting ride. It takes you up and drops you off in a round tube and takes you down through the mountain through different scenes.”

Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. Real redwoods are planted in this kids' play area, with a ranger station and three lookout towers.

The Wine Country. The Golden Vine Winery, sponsored by Mondavi, features 350 grapevines and a Mission-style building. “It looks just like a building, but you should have seen the underground conduit beneath it.”

Soarin' over California. Visitors hang beneath “glider wings” as they are swung to the middle of an 80-foot, dome-shaped movie screen for a glimpse of California's natural beauty. Halliburton said the screen is similar to an IMAX screen, but it is rounded. “It's a flight simulator — you get on it and it's like you're on a plane. It takes you into this big, huge, three-story screen and flies you over the state of California. You smell the oranges in the groves; you feel the mist from the waves and ocean. It's probably the best attraction here.”

Sunshine Plaza. The 50-foot sun icon in the center of the Gateway Plaza faces away from the sun. To solve that problem, Disney engineers installed six heliostats, which reflect light onto the sculpture. “They collect natural sunlight onto the sun icon. In the daylight, they attract the sun and make it sparkle. There is no lighting in it, but there is lighting down below that lights it up. This place is gorgeous at night.”

PARADISE PIER. This themed land was inspired by California's beachfront amusement piers.

California Screamin'. This roller coaster catapults six passenger cars from 0 to 55 mph in four seconds. Unlike the other attractions, the roller coaster has a hint of Disney with a glowing outline of Mickey Mouse's head on the roller coaster. “The roller coaster is really smooth. They start you off from a dead stop and then shoot you out.” Morrow-Meadows recently completed the Kodak Capture location at the roller coaster and added some new controls.

HOLLYWOOD PICTURES BACKLOT. Visitors can pretend they're Hollywood celebrities in this themed land, which is inspired by a backlot movie set.

ABC Media Café. “It is based on ABC soap operas, with sets from different soap operas.”

Disney Animation. “They have four different theaters that you can go to learn about the concept of animation.”

Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3D. Morrow-Meadows had a $2 million contract in repair work to get this attraction ready for the California Adventure opening. Like “It's Tough to be a Bug,” this attraction is also in 3D, with special effects and familiar characters, such as Kermit and Piggy.

Hyperion Theater. This 2,000-seat theater at the end of “Hollywood Boulevard,” was inspired by historic movie palaces.

Source: Lynn Halliburton/Morrow-Meadows and Disney Media Sourcebook 2001

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