Last updated: 02:23 PM ET, Thu June 04 2015

A Diamond for Disneyland

Disneyland Resort is celebrating 60 years of Magic

Vacation Agent | Hotel & Resort | Ryan Rudnansky

A Diamond for Disneyland

PHOTO: Mickey and Minnie Mouse greeted guests at the Disneyland Diamond Celebration. (All photos by Ryan Rudnansky)

It’s hard to believe that Disneyland Resort used to be 160 acres of orange groves. Now, 60 years since its debut, Disneyland Resort spans a few hundred acres and includes two theme parks (Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park), three hotels (Disneyland Hotel, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel) and a major shopping, dining and entertainment district called Downtown Disney.

It has welcomed more than 700 million visitors from approximately 200 nations since opening on July 17, 1955, in Anaheim, Calif. Today Disneyland generates $4.7 billion annually for the Southern California economy.

To mark the theme park’s 60th anniversary, Disneyland Resort recently held the Disneyland Diamond Celebration, which included the debuts of three new shows: the “Paint the Night Parade,” the “Disneyland Forever” fireworks spectacular and a new version of “The World of Color” water show. The shows will continue until at least early 2016, according to John Addis, show director of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Entertainment.

Also in honor of the 60th anniversary, Disneyland’s iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle sparkles with more than 100,000 shimmering blue glass crystals, while Carthay Circle Theatre features a large “Diamond D” marquee whose design was inspired by the 1930s Art Deco movement. Disneyland Diamond Celebration gifts and collectibles are available for purchase through this anniversary year. Here’s a look at the three new shows:

Paint the Night Parade
The Paint the Night Parade features more than 1.5 million individually controlled lights, many of them energy-efficient LEDs.

Using the latest technology, individual lights can be controlled on the floats and characters, providing the flexibility to create patterns and designs with color. In fact, the parade features more digital information than the World of Color show, according to Steve Davison, executive of parades and spectaculars at Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment. (For those of you who have seen previous World of Color shows, you know that’s pretty hard to do).

Tinker Bell is featured on a float in the parade, along with the “Fiber Fairies,” special friends with fiber optics costumes. A light from the original electrical parade is featured on Tinker Bell’s wand.

There is also a tribute to the popular movie “Monsters Inc.,” in the form of a dance party float. The float includes characters from the movie dancing to the “Wreck-It-Ralph” song, “When Can I See You Again.” Davison said that “When Can I See You Again” was a fitting song for the tribute because of the way writer and producer Adam Young uses electronics with his music.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the parade is the “Cars” tribute.

Not only does the parade include the “Cars Crew,” but it also features a 54-foot-long tribute to the popular character Mack Truck. The Cars Crew consists of several performers, each outfitted with individually controlled lights.

The interactive costumes — courtesy of designer Marina Rada — flash different patterns and colors as the crew interacts with the audience members from time to time. The costumes themselves are works of art, and it’s no wonder why Davison continues to work with Rada on projects.

Mack Truck is a 54-foot-long moving float, complete with strings of LED lights that hang down the sides and flash a variety of patterns. Mack Truck includes more than 20,000 lights, all of which can be individually manipulated.

Fans of “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Toy Story” and the recent smash hit “Frozen” should also be fans of the Paint the Night Parade.

One “Little Mermaid” float includes Ariel and her father King Triton. Triton himself is fully animated, creating quite the spectacle, while light is used to create a wave behind the popular Disney characters.

Other costumes pay tribute to “The Little Mermaid,” including a depiction of “Coral Fish Twins.” Some lights actually spread out and flash a coral reef pattern on various costumes, exhibiting the high-level theatrics of the show.

An electric jellyfish is also a highlight in the tribute to the famous movie. The getlatinous-umbrella part of the jellyfish is worn as a hat by the subject as the tentacles hang down and surround him or her. The tentacles whirl around in accordance with how the subject moves.

Not to be outdone, the “Beauty and the Beast” tribute features Belle in a display called “Candlelight Dreams.” Colors individually flow across the popular Disney character’s dress as the story of her life is told through the use of silhouettes.

One fascinating float includes Slinky from “Toy Story,” complete with his accompanying coils, each of which rotates at approximately 120 miles per hour.

“Frozen” fans will be happy to know that there are special “Frozen Fractals” characters that do nothing less than shoot light beams out of their costumes, creating a dazzling light show of sorts.

Heck, Disney has even tapped into the dance club scene these days. LED balls found in many high-tech dance clubs are juggled and manipulated by characters in the parade.

Last but not least, there’s “Mickey’s Lighttastic Finale,” featuring a 12-foot sphere boasting 17,000 lights. Mickey is adorned with the most lights he’s ever been dressed in, according to Davison.

PHOTO: Disneyland Diamond Celebration souvenirs will be available at the resort’s shops throughout the annviersary year.

Disneyland Forever
Disneyland Forever” is a fireworks spectacular that has to be seen to be believed. Taking place across Disneyland Park, the fireworks show/light show features an opening sequence, several themed sequences and a finale.

The opening takes onlookers back to Disneyland Resort’s beginnings, as projection technology “paints” orange groves on the sides of buildings. A new song, “Live the Magic,” is introduced as trees begin sprouting oranges while a story is told. The oranges eventually turn into pixie dust. The pixie dust eventually helps morph the themed sequences of the show.

There are several themes throughout the spectacular, including “Clouds,” “Enchanted Places,” “Jungle,” “Sea” and “Snow,” each telling a different story about a variety of Disney productions.

The clouds-based theme pays tribute to “Mary Poppins.” The pixie dust transforms oranges into a London scene, featuring the famous song “Step in Time” as characters hop about the rooftops. The one and only Dick Van Dyke appeared in the opening event in May. The kites swirling around eventually turn into pixie dust.

There’s also a tribute to the 2010 Disney film, “Tangled.” Gold fireworks explode above the diamond-encrusted Sleeping Beauty’s Castle during the segment. Lanterns rise up around the audience to add to the brilliant display.

The Enchanted Places theme pays tribute to the famous Disney character Winnie the Pooh. Created to reflect a childlike, playful atmosphere, the sequence includes Heffalumps and Woozles via projection technology on the sides of buildings. The scene is mystical and calm before the next sequence.

The Jungle-themed sequence could turn out to be a favorite of Disneyland visitors. It includes a vibrant depiction of “The Lion King,” featuring characters from the movie and African scenery, before transitioning to a “Jungle Book” scene that includes Angkor Wat. Rainstorm effects and waterfalls are created using projection technology.

There is also a sea-themed sequence paying tribute to “The Little Mermaid” and “Finding Nemo,” as well as a snowy sequence featuring scenes from “Frozen.” The Matterhorn actually turns into Elsa’s Snow Palace at one point.

During the finale, the orange groves are introduced again, while Tinker Bell (complete with “When You Wish Upon a Star”) paves the way for a futuristic scene. Main Street USA, the Matterhorn and the It’s a Small World attraction are all painted with projection technology.

The finale also includes another original song, “Kiss Goodnight,” written by Richard M. Sherman and sung by Ashley Brown (star of the Broadway production of “Mary Poppins”).

World of Color
The World of Color water show has been a hit ever since it was introduced, using a submersible platform bigger than a football field that features 1,200 fountains of color.

The new version of the spectacle — “World of Color-Celebrate!” — is even more magnificent than the original.

During Disneyland Diamond Celebration 60th Anniversary Event at Disney California Adventure Park, World of Color was hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse — two well-known figures in their own right.

The show is all about paying tribute to the creator of Disneyland, Walt Disney. It includes animated imagery, live video of Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse short films, fountains, lasers, special effects and music (including the original song, “Celebrate”).

One noteworthy sequence: a steamboat comes out and churns up the water, eventually producing a “storm” that morphs into a tribute to the 1940 classic film “Fantasia.” Projection technology tells the stories of Walt Disney and Disneyland on Mickey’s Fun Wheel at the park.

There is also vintage video of Walt Disney voicing his famous quote, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.”

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Vacation Agent Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the June 2015 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.