For 60 magical years, the Disneyland Resort has developed a rich tradition of innovation and storytelling, and exciting its guests with a world of magic and wonder. As part of the Diamond Celebration, three spectacular new shows – World of Color – Celebrate!, Paint the Night electrical parade, and Disneyland Forever fireworks – have premiered, some updates and upgrades have been made to much-loved, classic attractions, and a slew of new merchandise will be available to everyone.
Because of my job covering entertainment for Collider, I get to do some awesomely cool things, and I know just how lucky I am to do so. As someone who loved going to Disneyland with my family, as a child, and loves going even more now, as an adult, I felt both privileged and honored to receive an invite to preview the new entertainment, technological upgrades and sparkly decorations in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and can highly recommend absolutely all of it. After talking to many of the folks behind it all, during roundtable interviews held in the Main Street Opera House inside of Disneyland, we’ve compiled a list of 25 things that you should know about their approach to the 60th anniversary celebration, the new shows, the ride upgrades, the variety of merchandise, and what’s to come.
- According to Mary Niven, Vice President of Disneyland Park, they started talking about the 60th anniversary, as soon as they completed the expansion of Disney California Adventure in 2012. A lot of work goes into deciding how to position the celebration and what the feel of it will be, and then also what key experiences to create to celebrate it. They just want to deliver on Walt Disney’s original dream for a place where parents and their child could go to forget their worries of the day.
- The Diamond anniversary of Disneyland was tough to design because a diamond has no color, so they had to really think about how to reflect it in the parks. Kim Irvine, Art Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, said, “We worked together with everybody to come up with this color scheme of blue and silver. The graphics harken back to our original banner styles for Main Street. There’s a lot of light and sparkles, and diamond and jewels. The roof of Sleeping Beauty’s castle is encrusted with jewels and big diamond pieces of jewelry to really get the diamond look across.”
- Knowing that the idea of Disneyland was to make something that could constantly grow and change and be modified, they concentrate very hard on the original intent of the original Imagineers, and staying true to the lands and the stories they tell, but they add new things to them, so that they’re not so predictable. Scott Trowbridge, an executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, said, “It is a bit of a daunting task [to change or add anything] because it’s such a beloved place, but it’s the intent and spirit of Disneyland that allows us to continue to create new experiences, new moments to share, new adventures to discover, and new stories to tell. The heart and soul of the place remains constant, but the way we deliver those experiences and tell those stories allows us to keep up with new technology, to keep things fresh, and to create those new moments for our guests.”
- The world is constantly changing, and Disneyland wants to stay relevant. Disneyland is not a museum. It’s always changing, and it should be a place where there’s always something new to discover, as long as they do no harm to the existing experience. They’ve changed the color schemes on Main Street three different times. When it was first done, it was all tans and greys, very much like buildings were in the ‘50s. But as time goes on, people become more open to other color schemes, so they have to change with what people think of, as being a turn-of-the-century Main Street.
- From the style of merchandise, to the color schemes, to the way that they’ve lit the park, the 60th anniversary is totally different from the 50th They wanted to make sure that they weren’t just doing a copy of what they’d done before. They came up with some ideas, in the early days of this anniversary, that didn’t work out when they tried them. They worked in rendering and looked great in model form, but didn’t look good enough when they actually got them, so they scrapped them.
- There are over 500 items of merchandise coming in for the Diamond celebration. Michelle Harker, Manager of Merchandise Marketing and Communications, said, “We have three collections – the character collection, the castle collection, and the diamond collection.” The Character Collection will feature gourmet popcorn buckets with the Disney characters. There is a limited edition series of plush character variations that represent the first 15 years (i.e. Pinocchio, Mr. Toad, Malificent and the Genie), and those will be released approx. every six months. There are also 15″ and 9″ plush Mickey and Minnie characters available, along with special sequined versions. The Castle Collection features iPhone cases and phone holders that light up when you receive a call or text, among many other items. The Diamond Collection is a luxury collection with a higher price point, that features simple, classic and elegant designs with the black, gray and silver tones. There will be rare and special pieces inspired by actual diamonds. There is also a series of merchandise items that are “Made with Magic,” including Diamond Celebration ear hats, wands and paint brushes, that light up to accompany and interact with the new after-dark shows in the parks.
- When they knew that the 60th anniversary was coming up, they looked at multiple attractions to decide where they could increase the storytelling in new ways and with technology. They wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary by going back to some of the classic attractions, but in taking an existing and beloved attraction and tweaking it, they go through a lot of iterations and designs.
- Larry Nikolai, Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, has been going to Disneyland since 1956 and he’s been riding Peter Pan since he was a little kid, so he knows all of the scenes. For this update of the attraction, which will open on July 1st, they’ve kept some things from all the way back to 1955, and it is still mainly the 1983 version, just with brand new special effects. “It’s enormously respectful of all the iterations of the attraction,” he said.
- Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz, the producer at Walt Disney Imagineering who is responsible for the updates to the Matterhorn and Hatbox Ghost returning to the Haunted Mansion, said, “The 60th anniversary is a great time to be able to go in and add a new little touch to these classic attractions.” The Hatbox Ghost is one of the most beloved characters in the Haunted Mansion, but he hasn’t really even existed there, except for opening day. Bringing him back is a great way to honor the Imagineers and the fans, and do the effect that everyone has been waiting for 45 years to get to see.
- The Hatbox Ghost has been such a legend for so long that there were many Imagineers, over the years, who looked into bringing it back, but the time was finally right, with the technology that’s now possible. The technology that they can use now allows them to be able to bring the Hatbox Ghost to life in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to, even 10 years ago. Said Shaver-Moskowitz, “We can make the animatronic do, in our minds, what he should be doing.”
- The Matterhorn is a great classic Disney attraction that they wanted to take to the next level. The Abominable Snowman is bigger and scarier now, and much more imposing than he used to be. They can bring him to life in multiple ways and really enhance his story. Said Shaver-Moskowitz, “We don’t want to use technology for technology’s sake. We want to really enhance the storytelling, and tell stories, in new ways, that we weren’t able to do before.”
- In regard to updating the look of Peter Pan, Nikolai said, “The technology is always in support of the storytelling, especially in the Fantasyland attractions. They’re smaller, they’ve been there a long time, and they’re classic Disney stories. We don’t let the technology show in a way where you’re aware of it. It’s just there to enhance and maybe create a little bit of magic where you can say, ‘How did they do that?’ In 1983, when they opened the new Fantasyland, we rode Peter Pan for the first time and said, ‘Wow, that’s something new!’ We had never seen that kind of stuff before, and we didn’t know how they did it, in some cases. We’ve done the same thing here, again. We’ve taken advantage of the new technology, in support of the storytelling.”
- Peter Pan is all about magic and Pixie dust, and going magical places, so they’ve enhanced the natural features of Neverland and the Island with some new effects. The kids in the nursery are now flying, which they never were before. They always just watched you go by, but now they’re embarking on the journey with you. And they’ve added Tinkerbell in more places, throughout the attraction, because they have some new ways of showing her that evoke that magic. The updates are more magic-based than technology-based.
- When asked about why they decided to do a new World of Color show, a new fireworks show and a new electrical parade, Sayre Wiseman, an executive for parades and spectaculars at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, said, “We never sat down and said we should do all three, honestly. It happened over time. The fireworks is historically the kiss goodnight. World of Color is its own thing. And then, bringing back the electrical parade to Disneyland’s Main Street was so important. It just evolved. About 18 months ago is when we finally said, ‘Oh, we’re actually doing three at once. Okay, let’s go!’ We’re excited. I hope each one stands on its own, and I think they really do.”
- The new World of Color – Celebrate! show is very much about Disneyland’s 60th anniversary, and the whole show has a focus on Disneyland and the Diamond Celebration. They call the show Celebrate because they’re celebrating Walt and his vision, and where they’ve gone since then. The show and system can be reprogrammed to show a lot of different kinds of effects, but it also sparkles bright, like a diamond.
- In talking about the Disneyland Forever fireworks spectacular, Steve Davison, an executive producer at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, said, “With today’s world of interactive media, we wanted to tackle that in a nighttime spectacular. It’s a huge experiment to see if we can immerse you in a way that takes you away from all of that. It’s worked great, so far. The whole focus of the show is to show you how magical the Magic Kingdom can be.”
- The Disneyland Forever fireworks show pays homage to Walt Disney, starting out by projecting orange grove trees all around you, to remind you that the property started out as an orange grove before Disneyland was brought to life. They also worked with Dick Van Dyke on the “Step in Time” portion of the fireworks show, so that he could redo all of the chants. He was there when Disneyland opened, so they wanted him to be a part of this show, celebrating that. But, it’s a definite mix of the old and the new.
- This fireworks show really pushes the boundaries. It has to be a fantastic fireworks show, first and foremost, but the immersion adds to it tremendously, from anywhere in the park. You get one perspective of the show at Sleeping Beauty’s castle, another at Small World, another on Main Street, and yet another at Fantasmic. You can’t take it all in from one location, at once, because there are a lot of different things happening at each location, and each one had a very different quality about it.
- The fireworks show has become much more of a sing-a-long experience than they ever imagined it would be. When they get to the Frozen portion with “Let it Go,” they bring in the snow to accompany it, along with the visual projection of the snow. And Richard Sherman has written a new song for the show, called “A Kiss Goodnight.” He wrote the piece as his love letter to Walt Disney.
- Having worked on the return of the electrical parade to Main Street for over two years, it is all very exciting that it’s now at Disneyland. It pays homage to the original, but is also very new and is a great parade, in its own right. Said Randy Wojcik, Creative Director of Parks and Resorts, “What I love about the Paint the Night parade is that we’ve raised the bar, in a whole new way. That said, we are definitely finding ways to create some subtle nods and to pay homage to the iconic Main Street electrical parade. We’d be remiss, if we didn’t try to tie in subtle nods. The iconic bass drum that is featured, at the beginning of the parade with Tinkerbell, that features Peter Pan high atop it, is a subtle nod to the Main Street electrical parade. We also fly Tinkerbell in a way that’s never before been seen in any of our parades. Tinkerbell’s wand features one of the original lights from the Main Street electrical parade.”
- From a technology standpoint, there are over 1.5 million LED lights featured in the parade, not only on the units and costumes, but also on the video screens. From a musical perspective, there are subtle nods to “Baroque Hoedown” that are part of the new soundtrack. The soundtrack is relevant and fresh while paying homage to the original parade.
- There were a lot of challenges with creating the eight stories featured in the Paint the Night parade. Initially, 65% worked really beautifully, out of the gate, but the team had to go back to the drawing board for what wasn’t working, in order to make it a really magical experience from the guests. Said Wojcik, “We went through different incarnations of how it would flow, always trying to get it just right. We wanted to feature classic Disney and Pixar stories. Frozen is featured, and we wanted to make sure that franchise was part of the experience. But as part of the Diamond Celebration, we wanted to have nods that celebrate classic Disney, from Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, to Ariel and Belle.”
- With four nighttime spectaculars now, the timing for them all is a puzzle. You can’t run anything else against the fireworks because they’re so big and present. They can run Fantasmic and World of Color against each other, or the parade and World of Color, but the fireworks is too all-encompassing to run it against anything else.
- When asked about whether they’d be doing something on the actual opening date anniversary of Disneyland, Niven said, “You can’t celebrate the anniversary and not do something on July 17th. We’re not ready to talk about it yet, but it will be a very special day.”
- Looking to the future of Disneyland, Niven said, “We are just getting started. I’m so excited for the plans that we’re not going to talk about today. We have lots of great plans for what we’re gonna be doing, in the next five years. The future is so bright for the Disneyland Resort that I really can’t wait to unveil that.”
Check out my full collection of photos from the event (over 100 in all) below.
All photos by Christina Radish.