Unlike most previous tweaks to California Adventure's nighttime fountain and projection show, Winter Dreams is a completely new production, featuring Olaf, the snowman from the upcoming Disney animated film Frozen. Olaf serves as host for the show, which kicks off with a new song, "Glow," written for and performed by a 150-member "Virtual Honor Choir" of online fans who recorded their parts separately, to be edited together for the performance.
After this rather earnest introduction, it's Olaf's turn. After a quick welcome ("I love warm hugs!"), the silly snowman turns it over to Bambi and Thumper on that frozen pond, before Olaf's co-star Elsa the Snow Queen (voice of Idina Menzel) appears to belt her show-stopper "Let it Go."
A montage of Christmas cards (some created by fans) follows, along with the fountains' turn in the spotlight. But most of that's forgotten when the Toy Story characters appear to steal the show.
"Toy Story Nutcracker" blends Tchaikovsky's enduring ballet music with all the cheeky mayhem you'd expect from Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and the gang. Sending up Disney's classic Fantasia treatment of the ballet as much as the original itself, the Little Green Men take the place of the dancing mushrooms for the (Chinese) Tea Dance, then Jessie and Buzz blend genres by getting their Tango on for a wild Waltz of the Flowers.
Olaf tries his darndest to follow, with a wistful ballad about getting to enjoy the summer ("Winter's a good time to stay in and cuddle. But put me in summer and I'll be a — happy snowman!"), then by leading a wacky audience sing-a-long ("just follow my bouncing butt!"). Disney tries to push its multicultural buttons here, including the Dreidel Song and Feliz Navidad, along with Jingle Bells. A rousing finale completes the show, which is punctuated by the addition of 600 lights on the California Screamin' track and elsewhere along the Paradise Pier promenade.
One might expect a holiday show to tug at the heartstrings, especially when its the younger sibling of the original World of Color, which offers its share of gut-wrenching and tear-wringing moments. But, like its host, Winter Dreams gets more laughs than warm fuzzies. This is World of Color's funny younger brother, cracking up the family around the Christmas dinner table.
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