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World of Color marks a new generation in theme park entertainment

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Published: June 11, 2010 at 1:54 AM

Remember that Best Theme Park Attraction tournament we had earlier this spring? The one where you voted Fantasmic! and Mickey's PhilharMagic as the best theme park shows in America?

You want to take those votes back now. Trust me.

World of Color at Disney California Adventure

Disney's World of Color marks the next generation in theme park entertainment, a visually stunning and musically engaging 25-minute celebration of animation art. The show reviews the best of the past 20 years in Disney animation, but in doing so delivers animation from the film screen into the elemental media of water, fire and light.

Ariel and Flounder in World of Color

World of Color extends one concept from Fantasmic! - film clips projected onto "screens" of water mist - and fully realizes it. World of Color is Blu-Ray to Fantasmic's VHS. Images fill the Paradise Pier lagoon, bursting from the mist in coordination with fountains of water that alter the canvas upon which the scenes unfold. John Lasseter meets Marshall McLuhan: The medium becomes another part of the message.

Watch "Act II" of World of Color, as a passage of the Fantasia 2000 treatment of Stravinsky's Firebird melts into Disney's Pocahontas. Keep your eyes open for what might be the most impressive screen wipe I've ever witnessed: [*Updated with higher quality video.]

In World of Color, water whip fountains coordinate perfectly with mist and light to create an illusion that columns of water are painting brushokes of color that float in the sky. From these broad strokes build the images within each section of World of Color, starting with The Little Mermaid and continuing with scenes from Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Toy Story, Up, Aladdin, Pocahontas, a bug's life, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lion King.

The show opens with an upbeat and engaging original theme from Disney Legend Robert Sherman. But Steve Davison and the team at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment wisely have chosen to build the second half of the show around a Firebird motif. Stravinsky's classic delivers an emotional and melodic gravitas that powers the narrative of the show, delivering it to a classic Disney finale. Heroes and heroines kiss as water, light and flame swell, immersing the audience in visual delights.

Take care while watching, though, for a stray gust of wind can immerse the audience in a wall of water, as it did near the end of the premiere performance. Disney cast members scurried to provide soaked celebrities and executives with complimentary beach towels. You won't be so lucky.

As much as I adored this performance, I hesitate to recommend it too vigorously. Hundreds of thousands of Disney annual passholders will be cramming into the park to see this show over the next few months, and prime viewing areas won't accommodate them all. Disney's distributing FastPasses for World of Color at Grizzly River Run each morning, but those will go early in the day, with no guarantee of getting one of the better viewing spots.

I'd recommend simply reserving one of the World of Color picnic dinners or dining packages, which come with a reserved spot for the show, if you want to see it this summer with minimal fuss. (You can call 714-781-DINE in advance for the dining package at Ariel's Grotto or the Wine Country Trattoria. Picnics may be ordered online at Disneyland.com or the day of the show in the park at the Golden Vine Winery.)

To make room for World of Color, Disney shipped its Electrical Parade back to Walt Disney World. I hope that the tourists in Orlando are enjoying the nostalgia. But if they want to see the future of nighttime theme park entertainment, they should have booked a trip to the west coast instead. We'd already had the better version of Fantasmic!, and now we've got an even better new show to go with it.

Update: If anyone's interested, I've uploaded some photos I took during the "blue carpet" celebrity arrivals to Theme Park Insider's Facebook page.

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on June 11, 2010 at 3:20 AM
Wow! Glad you were able to attend the opening. My jealousy is matched only by my envy. Thanks for the review! And hopefully the crowds will be more under control by the time I hit SoCal in...hmmm...2012!
From Brandon Grayson on June 11, 2010 at 3:41 AM
Yea, I saw the live broadcast of it on Ustream, and it was amazing!!! Can't wait to see it in August!!
From James Koehl on June 11, 2010 at 4:49 AM
I also watched it on Upstream (Robert, thanks for letting us know about it!) and was also extremely impressed with the visuals. I'm sure it was 10x more so live. One thing did bother me, though, and perhaps it was because it was midnight here and I'd been up since 5am, but the scene from Lion King where the lion is thrown from the cliff seemed to be shockingly out-of-place, almost disturbing in this up-beat and inspiring show. I'm sure I heard a child scream "NO!!" when it happened- with so many uplifting scenes to choose from that film, why that one? Why not add Bambi's mother dying and other famous Disney deaths? OK, that's the only one I can think of this early, but it still seemed at best unnecessary. An earlier review of the production mentioned that any original story line had been erased, and that was spot-on. It reminded me of a Disney-animation greatest hits where someone hit the "random select" button.
One thing that I did find amusing was mentioned in Robert's review- the splash zone! I thought it was very amusing to see Teri Hatcher soaked to the skin after the show! Honestly, though, I really don't think I'd enjoy ending my day at a park by being soaked to the skin, then having to spend how long driving home. At Blizzard Beach perhaps, but not at DCA. If some day in the distant future I get to see WOC I hope I can find the dry zone (or remember to bring a poncho).
It's early here, and rereading my comments I do seem to be coming off a bit snarky. I really did enjoy the production, and give it the recognition it deserves as being the new standard in light/water/visual projection entertainment. If "Dancing Waters" is the Model T, then World of Color is the next generation Space Shuttle. Beautiful show, amazing visuals. I wonder how much tweeking, if any, will be done in the future to adjust it to public commentary.
From Mark Hollamon on June 11, 2010 at 5:06 AM
Extremely breathtaking!
From Anthony Murphy on June 11, 2010 at 5:28 AM
Fantastic! I was ticked that I missed it by a week and I hope Disney copies this somewhere in FL.

As for Fantasmic, I see how this is 2.0, but Fantasmic, after seeing both DL's and DHS's, is better at DHS (except for the Dragon). DL's is shorter and you have to stand the entire time.

Speaking of that, while I loved my Disneyland stay and while they do have stuff much better than WDW's (Pirates for example),some of the cast members were very defensive about their park saying that they do everything better than WDW's, especially Fantasmic. So much so that the guy giving out beer on the Beer Walk started arguing unprovoked with me about Fantasmic, a show I dragged my family to see just for the dragon.

There is no comparision for Mickey on a mountain vs on top of a house!

Sorry for the ranting! This show exceeds my expectations since usually videos do not do nightime shows justice. I find myself watching your clip over and over again!

Question: Do they close Paradise Pier down (especially the Fun Wheel)? It probably would be a good view from the fun Wheel, but it looked closed! Could this be the first time a ride is closed due to a show?

I will tell everybody tomorrow about Glow in the Parks since I will be visiting SFGA. I think World of Color wins!

From 66.120.226.92 on June 11, 2010 at 7:47 AM
I saw the show on the 8th. We won tickets from radio ststion MY FM. It was great. There was a breeze so we did get a little wet. And we were not that close. The flames at the end did seem to dry us off though.
From Nick Markham on June 11, 2010 at 8:47 AM
It was very amazing! I wondered how the show would be without fireworks, and it was even better than some firework shows! I loved the parts not just when the fire went off but when it burst into columns much like the water. The lighting and projection onto the water was so vivid!
From Beth Olliges on June 11, 2010 at 11:43 AM
I watched the live Ustream simulcast last night, too (thanks for the link, Robert!) and I thought World of Color was amazing! If a show can give me chills in a video, I can only imagine how I'd feel seeing the show in person! (I need to plan a trip!)

But I do agree with James about the Lion King sequence. With all the decades of wonderful Disney animation to choose from, why in the world would they choose to show Mufasa's death?!? That nearly ruined the entire show for me. (Or, if they're going to include that part, they could've at least followed it with the part where Mufasa talks to Simba from the stars... and maybe end with Simba taking his rightful place on Pride Rock. Don't just kill Mufasa and leave it at that!)

From Jason Read on June 11, 2010 at 1:02 PM
@ Anthony -- they close down Fantasyland and Toontown for the fireworks show every night. I've heard it was even more severe for the 50th anniversary show where they launched fireworks from around Mainstreet USA as well.
From Russell Meyer on June 11, 2010 at 6:19 PM
I also watched the world premier online, and was very impressed. The technology of projecting on water screens has come a LONG way since Fantasmic first debuted. The most impressive sequence to me was the Firebird sequence from Fantasia 2000.

I do worry about the park's ability to handle crowds for the show because of the limited areas the show can be viewed from. Apparently, they are going to try to use Fastpass to prioritize viewing, but I just see BIG problems similar to what Disneyland sees with Fantasmic on really busy days.

From JL Salaz on June 11, 2010 at 9:21 PM
Does this mean the 4 hour tour is in for an overhaul?
From Robert Niles on June 11, 2010 at 9:58 PM
Yeah, I need to overhaul the whole series now.

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