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World of Color Nighttime Show at Disney California Adventure

Wonderful, Wonderful World of Color

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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World of Color Nighttime Show at Disney California Adventure

Colorful fountains paint Paradise Bay during the World of Color show.

© Arthur Levine, 2010. Licensed to About.com.
The world my be a carousel of color, but there was a time not all that long ago when the world was broadcast in glorious black and white on television. Starting in 1961, those fortunate enough to own a color TV gathered around their sets on Sunday evenings to watch Tinker Bell spray splashes of colorful pixie dust at the start of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color (and spurred the children of color TV-deprived families to nag their parents for one of the newfangled sets). The program heralded the emergence of color television technology and helped forever change the entertainment medium.
Similarly, World of Color (whose name is inspired by the iconic TV program and whose soundtrack includes its theme song) takes the concept of a monochromatic dancing fountains show, such as the one presented at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, infuses it with dazzling color, overlays a judicious selection of colorful Disney and Pixar animated scenes, and creates a production that trumpets new technology and heralds a new era in nighttime spectacular shows.

Up-Front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 1.5
    Some of the scenes are a bit menacing and so much larger-than-life, they may scare very young children. Also, the flame effects are quite intense.
  • Fastpasses required for prime "Paradise Park" viewing area. They are distributed early in the day for that night's shows.
  • Guests can also reserve a viewing spot by purchasing a dinner/show package with both table service and picnic meal options available. Info about the packages and how to make reservations is available at Disneyland's Web site.
  • The show can be seen from other (non-reserved) spots around the bay, but they do not offer ideal viewing.
  • Depending on the time of year, one or two shows are scheduled nightly. Based on that day's demand, Disney California Adventure may add a third show. (Fastpass-only prime viewing available for the third show.)
  • Note that audience members may get wet depending on wind and weather conditions.
  • World of Color Photo Gallery
  • World of Color Video

Luminous Palette of Colors

The sheer scale of the presentation is massive. About 1200 fountains span 120 yards across Paradise Bay and shoot bursts of water up to 200 feet skyward. A water screen that measures 380 feet wide and 50 feet tall serves as the backdrop for the projected film sequences. Dozens of fire cannons fill the lake with intense blasts of heat and light. A slew of lasers mix intense colors into the show. Six technical directors run the whole shebang from a command center that can adjust color intensity, fountain movements, and other show elements using 18,000 points of control.

Like all great attractions, however, the technology largely fades into the background, and the story takes center stage (although the wow factor is ever-present). Unlike Fantasmic!, the nighttime spectacular at Disneyland Park and Disney Hollywood Studios in Florida, World of Color doesn't tell a linear story. It's more a hodgepodge of classic scenes loosely grouped around broad themes such as love (the WALL-E scene is a gem), friendship, and danger--and all showcasing a luminous palette of colors.

The clips aren't necessarily lifted directly from the original films. The Toy Story scene, for example, shows the first time that its characters, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, meet. "When you actually watch the film, there are a number of cuts and shots," says Sayre Wiseman, Director, Show Production for Walt Disney Imagineering. "What we needed was a one-shot, so we had to reanimate it from scratch."

The show's designers also had to develop new animation for scenes from other films, including Finding Nemo, Aladdin, Up, and Pochohontas (that film's "Colors of the Wind" song was a natural). Wiseman says that music drove a lot of the clip selections.

But World of Color is more than a series of clips projected onto a water screen. By cleverly incorporating the fountains, lights (Wiseman calls the LED technology "liquid paint"), lasers, and other show elements, the presentation is a dazzling tapestry of color and spectacle. The animated scenes set the tone, but the fountains grab the spotlight. Using a variety of fountains, the show's designers have them gently swaying, soaring high in the air, playfully whipping to and fro, or performing other synchronized movements to stunning effect. The unsung heroes of the production may be the lasers. They imbue the fountains with rich hues of color and make them sparkle and shimmer.

Surprising Degree of Depth

The precision with which all of the elements interact is quite remarkable. For example, plumes of water shoot impossibly high while bathed in color and punctuated by lasers. On a dime, they stop, and menacing flame projections overtake the bay with blasts in sync to the clips' music. The combination of elements gives World of Color a surprising degree of depth. With the action happening on a variety of shifting planes, the show pops in a way that no 3-D film could ever hope to achieve.

World of Color is able to deliver its considerable wow factor without relying on the go-to attention-grabber, fireworks. "We wanted to keep [the presentation] organic," explains Steve Davison, Vice President of Parades and Spectaculars (such a title!), Walt Disney Imagineering, about foregoing the pyrotechnics. "We wanted it to be pure and simple."

Simple? The presentation is majestic, inspired, and eye-popping, but not simple. It took months for programmers to learn how to use the sophisticated control center that stitches all of the elements together--"how to make it sing" as Davison puts it. He says that the designers discovered a lot of happy accidents during the testing phase, and made alterations to take advantage of those discoveries.

The system is nimble enough to quickly make changes to the presentation. According to Davison, it's possible to program multiple shows and run, say, two different productions on consecutive days. He hinted that Disney might consider developing limited-run shows to tie in with themes such as Halloween or Christmas. That would give you all the more reason to nag your family and friends to accompany you to Disneyland for some wonderful, wonderful color.

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.
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