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 are including in the upcoming Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2016. If you missed our previously published Paint the Night coverage, and Disneyland Forever Fireworks review, check them out now. Then read on for our in-depth review of of the newly revamped World of Color show:
World of Color Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney
Authors’ Rating: 4 stars
World of Color Celebrate! Description and Comments
The 1,200 high-pressure water nozzles installed under the surface of DCA’s Paradise Bay are the infrastructure for Disney’s $75-million attempt to keep guests in the park (and spending money) until closing time. If you’ve seen or heard about the spectacular fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, World of Color – Celebrate is similar but larger, with more special effects and themed to Disney movies.
Though the original version of World of Color was still wildly popular, in honor of Disneyland’s Diamond Anniversary it was completely overhauled and given the new subtitle ‘Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.’ This new ‘special edition’ of World of Color is explicitly a tribute to Walt Disney the man and his “dreams of Disneyland,” and incorporates classic animated images with live-action footage of Uncle Walt and a new musical score, along with clips from dozens of Disney films, attractions, and characters in its 22-minute performance.
The show’s backdrop includes Mickey’s Fun Wheel, which was fitted with special lighting effects for use in the show. Giant projection surfaces sculpted by sprayed water—even larger than those used in Fantasmic!—display custom-made animations, and flamethrowers spew almost enough heat to dry off guests standing in the splash zones. What’s most remarkable about the show is how the flashing colored lights and pulsating fountains combine to look like low-level fireworks. The effects are astounding, the colors are vibrant and deep, and and the music includes some beloved Disney songs.
World of Color – Celebrate is hosted by stage and screen star Neil Patrick Harris, and boy did Disney get their money’s worth with him. NPH (as he’s known to his fans) is in almost every scene of the show. If we had to rank the top four things you’ll see and hear in the show it’s 1) water, 2) color, 3) Neil Patrick Harris, and 4) the word celebrate. Unfortunately, even if you’re a huge fan of his work as Doogie Howser, Barney Stinson, and/or Hedwig, Harris’ presence crosses the line from conducive host to obtrusive interloper, as he’s awkwardly inserted into stiffly animated sequences and made to sing a mediocre new theme song that isn’t nearly as catchy as the old “Wonderful World of Color” tune.
Rather than individual films getting their own segments as in the original World of Color, this version of the show is broken up into thematic sections including “It Was All Started by a Mouse,” “The Golden Age of Animation,” “Dream of Disneyland,” and “A Celebration for Years to Come.” The show starts strongly with representations of the early Mickey Mouse cartoons, Fantasia, and Snow White, before detouring into Frozen territory with the Diamond Celebration’s third reprise of “Let It Go” (provoking equal parts groans and cheers from the assembled masses). A sing-along medley of theme park attraction tunes – from “Tiki Tiki” to “Yo Ho” – culminates in a Force Awakens-flavored Star Wars tribute; you haven’t teared up until you’ve heard Han Solo say “Chewie, we’re home,” while skyscraper-high flames singe your eyebrows off.
Just as it’s gaining momentum, the production derails with a saccharine DisneyParks advertisement full of frolicking families from central casting, set to an insipid arrangement of Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Harris returns, natch, to wrap everything up with a musical reprise, and while the finale fountain frenzy is certain to silence (or at least soak) the stanchest critic, the new show never quite matches the emotional throughline of the original incarnation, which was itself admittedly a bit flawed. While World of Color – Celebrate! Is a “not to be missed” element of any first-time visitor’s day, we’re looking forward to the hopeful return of the original World of Color, perhaps with some new upgrades, at the end of the Diamond Celebration.
Disney may temporarily swap in new sequences from time to time, depending on what Mickey’s media machine needs to market at the moment. For example, for the 2014 holiday season a special “Winter Dreams” edition of World of Color was shown, hosted by Olaf the Snowman and featuring songs from Frozen. The presentation’s highlights — Olaf’s ‘follow the bouncing butt’ sing-along, an uproarious Toy Story reinterpretation of the Nutcracker Suite, — made this seasonal spin on World of Color a worthy substitute for the standard show.
World of Color Celebrate Touring Tips
Entertainment value aside, World of Color – Celebrate is an operational nightmare. The effects were expressly designed to be viewed from Paradise Park, the tiered area along the lagoon in front of The Little Mermaid attraction. Unfortunately, only about 4,500 people—barely a quarter ofthe park’s average daily attendance—are permitted to stand there for each show. Getting a decent view for World of Color requires time, planning, and/or money, and therefore can almost seem to be more trouble to see than it’s worth, but we still consider it not to be missed. A couple from San Jose writes:
Although the [World of Color] FASTPASS line was horrible and waiting for the show was horrible, the show itself was simply amazing.
An Austin, Texas, mom found World of Color challenging:
World of Color was fantastic but hard for kids and shorter adults to see unless they are standing right in front facing Mickey’s Wheel. My son could not see the preshow at all, and I had to put him on my shoulders for the [entire] production. My back has not recovered. They need amphitheater reserved seating. We arrived 90 minutes prior to DCA opening to get a FASTPASS and waited 90 minutes for the show to start when admitted.
If you want anything approaching a decent view of World of Color, you’ll need a special FASTPASS, the securing of which can be an annoying adventure in and of itself. Here are your options for obtaining FASTPASS tickets, beginning with the easiest (and most expensive) method:
World of Color – Celebrate meal packages are offered by Wine Country Trattoria, Ariel’s Grotto, and Carthay Circle Restaurant. The fixed-price dinner runs $41.99 per adult ($21.99 for kids) at Wine Country Trattoria and Ariel’s Grotto, and $59 per adult ($20 for kids) at Carthay Circle Restaurant. Lunch packages (not available at Ariel’s) are $30 per adult ($18.98 for kids) at Wine Country Trattoria, and $39 per adult ($18 for kids) at Carthay Circle. (The above prices do not include tax and tip.)
All viewing package meals include an appetizer, your choice of entree, dessert, and nonalcoholic beverage; selections are from a limited list that is separate from the restaurant’s a la carte menu. After your meal, you’ll received special Fastpasses for each member of your party, permitting entry into a Preferred Viewing area reserved for dining package patrons. Note that you don’t actually watch the show from the restaurant, so you’ll want to eat early enough to make it to the viewing area. The viewing section for premium dining patrons is dead center along the waterline. Those standing at the front railing are likely to get soaked; we recommend finding an elevated step in the rear of the dining section (just in front of the Blue section) which will afford a better (and drier) view. To enter the dining FASTPASS area, look for the illuminated white entrance signs between the blue and yellow sections, directly across from the Little Mermaid ride. Though expensive, this is the only way to be guaranteed a central viewing spot with minimal crowding. On nights when there are multiple World of Color – Celebrate performances, early eaters receive passes to the first show, while those eating later get tickets to the later viewing; be sure to confirm when booking your meal which showing you’ll be scheduled to attend.
Free FASTPASSes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis from the Grizzly River Run FASTPASS machines (tickets are available early to Disneyland Resort hotel guests during Extra Magic Hour). Make sure that you get passes for your whole party at once, or you may end up in different sections or showings. These machines are disconnected from the rest of the park’s FASTPASSes system, so your World of Color – Celebrate ticket won’t interfere with other attractions. On busy days they may all be claimed by early afternoon. If seeing the first World of Color – Celebrate show of the night is a priority for you, we suggest getting a FASTPASS within the first 30 minutes the park is open. When a second show is scheduled, FASTPASSes for the late performance can often be had well into the afternoon.
Once you have your FASTPASS, you’ll notice that you’ve been assigned one of two color-coded sections. Yellow is the most central viewingarea and stretches to the right side (near the Golden Zephyr), and blueincludes the left side and and bridge. A special section is available uponrequest for disabled guests, and a prime area in the middle is reservedfor VIPs and dining package purchasers.
Your FASTPASS also includes a return time window. You won’t beallowed into Paradise Park before the start time, but the best viewingspots will all be claimed shortly after opening, so don’t be surprisedto see people lining up an hour before the area opens. Once insidethe viewing area, try to move to the front of an elevated area. You’rebest off at the front of an elevated tier farther back, rather than atthe rear of a lower section, as these readers from Langley, BritishColumbia, discovered:
World of Color was great, but even with FASTPASS it was hard for meto see (wearing flat shoes and being 5’5″). My husband, who is 6’4″, alsofound himself bobbing around trying to see. When we got there, we hadgood line of sight, but as people stood up and put their kids on theirshoulders, it became difficult.
A word to the wise: the new World of Color is even wetter than the original. If you stand anywhere near the railing, pay attention to the splash zone signs; on a calm night, you’ll be seriously spritzed. When the wind blows the wrong way (which is pretty much always), even those several steps back will get soaked.
If all else fails, it’s theoretically possible to view the show from variouspoints around the park, but employees with flashlights will vigorouslyshoo you away from all the obvious vantage points. The bestticketless viewing spot is next to the Golden Zephyr, to the right of theyellow section. Unticketed viewing is also available immediately in frontof The Little Mermaid attraction. You can see many of the fountain andlighting effects from the opposite side of Paradise Pier, near the basesof Mickey’s Fun Wheel and Silly Symphony Swings, but the mist projections are illegible from that angle, so we can’t recommend it for first-timeviewers. On nights when there are multiple performances, youhave better odds finding a good spot for the last show.
You can also watch World of Color – Celebrate from the Cove Bar. The view of the projections is less than ideal, but no reservations arerequired, and you can sit down with an adult beverage during the show.
If you choose to invest $25 in Made with Magic merchandise (mouse ear hats, headbands, gloves, and wands), their lights will illuminate in sync with the show. Better yet, stand toward the rear and freeload by eyeballing others who bought them.
While waiting for the show to start, connect your smartphone to the park’s free “PierGames” Wi-Fi network and launch any web browser to join in the Fun Wheel Challenge. Follow the pattern of flashing colored lights on Mickey’s Fun Wheel, and duplicate them Simon-style on your device; points are awarded for speed and accuracy, with the winner of each round awarded 30 seconds of control over the giant wheel’s light display. The games start 45 minutes prior to the evening’s first World of Color show, and stop about 7 minutes before the performance.
After the show, if you are headed to the hotels or Downtown Disney, you can bypass the crowd at the main entrance by exitingthrough the Grand Californian.
By the way, it is possible (if extremely exhausting) to experience all three of Disneyland Resort’s Diamond Anniversary nighttime spectacular in one evening, provided that you have a parkhopper ticket, and both World of Color and Paint the Night are giving multiple performances. First, secure FASTPASSes for the later World of Color show. Then stake out a spot on along Main Street for the first parade. Watch the parade and the fireworks, then immediate exit Disneyland for DCA in time to find your World of Color viewing section.
World of Color Celebrate Video
It goes without saying that seeing World of Color on video is a world away from experiencing it in person, but this video by Guy Selga will give you a taste of the music and visual effects: