An Insider's look at Disney's upcoming Pixar Fest and Pixar Pier

March 12, 2018, 12:01 AM · The former California Screamin' is getting more than a new name — it's getting an Incredibles-themed storyline and animations. And the former King Triton's Carousel is transforming into Jessie's Critter Carousel as part of Paradise Pier becomes Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure this summer.

Disney invited me and a handful of other reporters for a multi-day, multi-resort preview last weekend of its upcoming Pixar-themed attractions at the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts. At Disneyland, we saw the progress of Pixar Pier and tasted some of the speciality food that will be coming to the resort for its upcoming Pixar Fest, which starts on April 13. We also saw a rehearsal performance of the new Together Forever fireworks and projection show that will show in Disneyland during Pixar Fest, which runs through September 3.

Let's start with the Incredicoaster on Pixar Pier. Disney has retracked the loop at the heart of the former California Screamin' and now is extending and fully enclosing the "scream shields" that blocked sound from Disney's neighbors to the south of Katella Avenue. Those now are going to be show tunnels surrounding the track on Incredicoaster, within which story elements from the new narrative will play.

Incredicoaster model

It all starts innocently enough, as you enter the new mid-century modern entrance for the updated ride. Jack-Jack and Edna Mode are too short to ride, so they will await your return in a lounge to the side of the track. That's an actual show scene that Disney is building in a new structure between the dispatch and the ride's launch. Of course, something goes terribly wrong, and Jack Jack's run away.

So it's up the rest of the Parr family (aka the Incredibles) to use their various powers bring the baby Jack Jack safely home. It starts with Dash at the launch and continues in those new show tunnels. Of course, Jack Jack has powers, too, some of which we will see for the first time on the ride. And that makes things complicated for the rest of the Parrs, who pursue Jack Jack around the track.

Inside an Incredicoaster tunnel
An Imagineering model of Elastigirl inside one of the Incredicoaster show tunnels.

At Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, we were invited to experience the Incredicoaster in "The DISH," a room at Imagineering that I best can describe as a real-life version of the Star Trek holodeck. Instead of experiencing virtual reality through personal headsets, in the DISH, the VR media is projected onto the four walls of the room, with the orientation of the imagery moving in conjunction with whoever is wearing a control hat within it. No headsets required. Imagineers loaded their CGI imagery of the Incredicoaster for us to take a virtual ride.

I won't spoil the contents of the show scenes, except to affirm that you probably will need multiple rides to catch everything that happens between the characters. The character appearances will be split-second brief on a fast-moving coaster, but that just reinforces the breakneck speed of an Incredibles action sequence, anyway.

Jessie's Critter Carousel
All concept art courtesy Disney

Next door, the carousel is becoming part of the Toy Story neighborhood in Pixar Pier, becoming Jessie's Critter Carousel. In Glendale, we saw Imagineers sculpting maquettes for the nine characters that will become the new "critters" to ride on this carousel.

Sculpting maquettes

If you've paid attention on the carousel's other next-door neighbor in the past, you might recognize these critters. They're the virtual "prizes" that you "win" on Toy Story Midway Mania, now rendered IRL for you to ride.

The critters

Jessie's Critter Carousel won't open with the rest of Pixar Pier on June 23. Since the critters aren't even built yet, June 23 would be too much of a stretch for even Elastigirl. A Disney spokesperson said that the carousel will open next year.

Instead opening on June 23 will be the Pixar Fun Wheel, the repainted and rethemed Mickey's Fun Wheel, which still will have the classic Mickey head on the center, even though the individual cars now will be themed to various Pixar characters.

We've mentioned the transformation of Ariel's Grotto and the Cove Bar into the new Lamplight Lounge, but Disney during the event also revealed the other food and beverage changes they will be making in Paradise Pier.

The soft serve location between the former Cove Bar and California Screamin' get a retheme to the Abominable Snowman from Monsters Inc., becoming Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats. (Hey, that's his preferred name.) He will be serving his speciality yellow ("he promises it's lemon!") ice cream, along with the traditional chocolate and vanilla soft serves.

Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats

The churro stand become Señor Buzz's Churros, with multiple flavors of churros available, to honor Buzz's multiple language settings, from Toy Story 3.

Senor Buzz's Churros

The hot dog stand becomes Angry Dogs, themed to Inside Out. ("Hot," "Angry"... get it?)

Angry Dogs

And Disney isn't just theming to the Pixar features. It's throwing some love to a short with the new theme for the turkey leg stand, which transforms into Poultry Palace from the short "Small Fry."

Poultry Palace

Speaking of food, Disneyland chefs talked us through some of the speciality items that they will be debuting for Pixar Fest.

We sampled a few of the items during a hosted breakfast on Friday morning, and the Little Green Men macaroons were my favorite, with a blend of lemon and berry flavors that paired wonderfully. But I have to admit a strong curiosity to try the most bougie TV dinner ever created, which we did not get to sample. (Seriously, watch the video.) In addition to the dishes describe there, Coco-inspired items will take over the menu at Paradise Garden Grill during Pixar Fest.

The prior evening, we stopped in Disneyland to watch a rehearsal of Together Forever - Pixar Nighttime Spectacular. The show starts with a familiar character flying above Sleeping Beauty Castle. Of course, since this is a Pixar show, it's not the traditional Tinker Bell. Who is it? I will let you guess, but it shouldn't take you to infinity and beyond to figure it out.

And that's not the only Pixar icon fans will see floating above the castle during this pyro-and-projection show.

Together Forever

Like the 60th anniversary's Disneyland Forever show, Together Forever plays not just on the castle, but all the way down Main Street, on water screens in Frontierland and on the Small World facade. We saw only the projections on the castle during the rehearsal, buy they might have been the best I've yet seen on that facade, with Disney promising even more detailed and immersive projections on the much larger facades of Main Street. Look high above the street during the Coco segment of the show, for residents of the Land of the Dead making an appearance.

Together Forever Coco

Like all of the Pixar Fest celebration, the theme of Together Forever is the bond of friendship that drives so many Pixar stories... and so many visits to theme parks. Together Forever takes us through many familiar story beats from Pixar's top franchises, from the chance encounters that bring our heroes together, the adventures that challenge them, and the triumphs they achieve together. It's not as personal as Disneyland Forever was, as that show aimed at your relationship with the park over the years. Here, you're the third wheel — the audience watching these Pixar characters' relationships. But they are relationships that many of us have invested in over the past 20 years, so these story beats still resonate.

"If we do our job right, when the movie ends and the credits roll, the audience will believe that the world goes on," Roger Gould, Creative Director, Theme Parks, for Pixar Animation Studios, said at WDI Thursday. "And that's what we are doing in the parks."

Together Forever debuts in Disneyland along with the return of Paint the Night to Disney California Adventure when Pixar Fest starts April 13. Pixar Fest also will include the return of an expanded Pixar Play Parade, which moves over to Disneyland. Pixar Pier opens June 23, with the Incredicoaster, Lamplight Lounge and Pixar Fun Wheel.

Next: A preview of Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World, and a trip behind the construction walls.

Replies (9)

March 12, 2018 at 8:10 AM ·

Thanks for the detailed article. The only time i've been to disneyland, etc was when cars land was under construction so most of that park was walled off.

Maybe one day I'll make it back...

March 12, 2018 at 10:38 AM ·

Much as I enjoyed California Screamin, the new effects for the Incredicoaster sound impressive and can't wait to see it.

March 12, 2018 at 12:09 PM ·

Did Disney indicate the technology they were going to use on Incredicoaster? Are they projections, LCD screens, practical effects, or some combination? Will they be changing any of the ride programming to accommodate for the re-skinning (i.e., will trains hold longer at block brakes to allow for scenes to play out)?

March 12, 2018 at 2:25 PM ·

The show elements are a mix of static installations and lighting. (Tunnels of nextgen Disco Yetis?) The coaster is getting the latest upgrade to its launch system but the ride profile and timing will not change. They would not show us the final scene and asked us not to mention details of Jack Jack's powers that are depicted on the ride.

March 12, 2018 at 1:10 PM ·

" asked us not to mention details of Jack Jacks's powers that are depicted on the ride."

That makes sense, since it's probably straight out of the new movie, and may spoil important plot points the film marketing division might not want leaked.

So no mention of LED/LCD screens or projections? Just lighting and static props? Interesting. Sounds like the updates done for the launch tunnel on Hulk, and not a jump in technology or how current technology is applied.

March 12, 2018 at 1:22 PM ·

I hate to sound like a nerd, but Spanish Buzz is from Toy Story 3, not Toy Story 2.

March 12, 2018 at 2:27 PM ·

Getting any tech details out of WDI requires more bandwidth than mining Bitcoin. So when they say "lighting," that can mean a whole range of things - pretty much anything that emits or glows light. So maybe it's LED panels, screens, or who knows what?

And you're right, Randy. Fixed that.

March 13, 2018 at 10:39 AM ·

A little underwhelmed, but we also had low expectations of the GOTG Tower, which turned out to be great. Nine critters on the carousel - one complaint I always had with King Triton's carousel was the obvious repeating of the animals. It just made it look cheap and not unique. Western critters sounds even less interesting.

Abominable Snowman - don't eat the yellow snow. Making a joke out of it and saying, 'hey, it's lemon, I promise" is kind of lame.

Is that a plywood cutout of Buzz at Senor Buzz Churros? Cheap, cheap, cheap.

Angry Dogs - with that firey logo, it better be BBQ grilled hot dogs, but it probably won't be...

Poultry Palace - is it in the Toy Story neighborhood? Because it's an oversized Happy Meal box.

March 14, 2018 at 8:45 AM ·

Doesn’t matter if Poultry Palace is from some obscure Pixar short or not, to the average guest it looks like cheaply-themed, pun-ridden eye sore - not unlike the installations that plagued DCA at its initial opening. Not really a fan of any of this. Just because an area is ‘loosely’ tied to the work of a specific studio, the visuals themselves come off as a disjointed mess with virtually no juxtaposition or continuity from ‘scene’ to ‘scene’

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