Nearly two months after after Anaheim kicked off its Diamond Celebration, Disneyland‘s 60th birthday has officially arrived. By now, several members of the Touring Plans team — including Seth Kubersky and Guy Selga — have had a chance to experience the new anniversary nighttime entertainments from multiple angles, so in honor of Disneyland’s big day we’re sharing a sneak preview of the new reviews that we’re including in the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016. If you missed our previously published Paint the Night coverage, check it out now. Then read on for our in-depth review of of the all-new Disneyland Forever fireworks:
Authors’ Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Disneyland Forever Description and Comments
As part of its Diamond anniversary celebration, Disneyland retired the popular Remember…Dreams Come True fireworks spectacular (originally created for the park’s 50th birthday) in favor of the all-new Disneyland Forever show. Created by extravaganza expert Steve Davison, who designed Wishes and World of Color, his latest production runs the full gamut of special effects: a rousing score, castle lighting, lasers, and an impressive flight from the fairy Tinker Bell – not to mention spectacular fireworks effects. After an introduction evoking the orange tree groves that originally covered Anaheim, the show sails through memorable musical vignettes from beloved Disney movies.
A major feature of this fireworks show are the immersive projections mapped onto Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Main Street buildings, the facade of ‘it’s a small world’ and mist screens on the Rivers of America, creating amazing visual effects. Digital imagery paints landmarks around the park, transforming them into coral reefs, jungle forests, or an African savannah. Via the projections, Main Street buildings may be covered in honey during the Winnie the Pooh segment, or look like they’re submerged in water during the Little Mermaid segment. It’s a beautiful effect that works well.
This pyrotechnic tribute to Disney’s films also features a fly-by from Nemo the fish as he “swims” his way towards the Matterhorn, which appears as the smoldering volcano known as Mount Wanahakalugi. Disneyland Forever also features an obligatory upbeat theme song, “Live the Magic.” A second original song, an inspirational ballad called “Kiss Goodnight” was composed by Disney Legend Richard Sherman; it was supposed to play as guests exited, but seems to have been cut because crowds lingered too long listening to it.
Disneyland Forever is a fantastic finale to your day in the park, particularly if you can see it from the proper perspective (see below). For some lifelong Disneyland devotees, it won’t have quite the same resonance as the 50th anniversary spectacular (watch World of Color next door if you want vintage attraction references), and a number of the featured songs are already overused around the resort. But if an eye-popping aerial extravaganza of Disney standards what you seek, Disneyland Forever more than fits the bill.
Disneyland Forever Touring Tips
We rate this show as “not to-be missed,” but seeing it poses some serious challenges that you should be aware of.
Without a doubt, the area around the central hub is the best vantage point for watching Disneyland Forever. For the most immersive impression from the projection mapping effects, you’ll want to be standing in the middle of Main Street, from the Carnation Café up to the Coke Corner. Get too close to the castle and you’ll have to turn around to see the animated shopfronts; stand in Town Square at the flagpole or train station, and the castle projections will be just postage stamps.
Unfortunately, every guest in the park won’t fit in that sweet spot at the same time. If you want the ideal view, you’ll need to camp out on the curb (possibly for hours) before the evening’s first Paint The Night performance, then claim your fireworks position as soon as the parade passes. Alternatively, slowly browse through Main Street’s candy shop while the parade is concluding, or linger on the Adventureland side of the hub (where the parade does not pass) and slip into the street following the finale float. Be warned, the crushing crowds can make this aggravating for adults, and almost impossible with stroller-bound kids in tow.
Luckily, Disneyland Forever was designed to be seen from multiple places around the park, even if none of the secondary watching spots are as good as Main Street. That’s good for locals who can experience repeated viewings, but tourists with only one chance to see the show will have to decide whether to prioritize a comfortable viewing experience over aesthetic quality.
The same projections displayed along Main Street, but on a smaller scale, can be seen when viewing the fireworks in front of ‘it’s a small world.’ You can face the attraction façade, then turn around to catch the Matterhorn effects. You’ll be missing out on the bevy of fireworks and flames that shoot out of Sleeping Beauty Castle. But ‘it’s a small world’ will be your best option if Main Street is full.
Your third option is viewing from the Rivers of America. Fireworks similar to those launched around the castle are shot from Tom Sawyer Island, and projections are mapped on to the mist screens used in Fantasmic!, but they’re not as sharp as the ones projected on to the other two locations. You’ll also miss most or all of the flames and flying figures. The benefit of viewing from the Rivers of America is that, if you have a FASTPASS for the first showing of Fantasmic!, you can stay in your spot (seated even, if in the right section) through the fireworks. Though you get the least impressive view from here, it’s the least stressful way of experiencing Disneyland Forever, and can be very enjoyable you haven’t already seen it from a better location.
Finally, be forewarned that the Disneyland Forever fireworks may be canceled for safety reasons with only a few minutes notice if there are stiff winds at upper altitudes, even if the air at ground level seems calm. During one of our week-long visits, the fireworks were nixed a full 40% of the time, which is a fairly frustrating percentage; you’ve never hear a collective groan like 50,000 people learning they’ve waited for nothing. For this reason, we don’t recommend you build your night around the fireworks – as wondrous as they are – if you only have one night at the resort.
Disneyland Forever Video
It’s impossible for any video to truly capture the experience of seeing Disneyland Forever in person, but this video by Guy Selga is the next best thing: