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'World of Color' steps up Disney's nighttime spectacular game
World of Color could be described as "The Bellagio Fountain on Peyote": The lagoon in front of the Mickey's Fun Wheel was rebuilt to accommodate nearly 1,200 moveable and synchronized jets, which volley water between 30 and 200 feet high while ever-changing LED lights saturate them with vibrant hues. Meanwhile, as a crisp new sound system rocks the park, classic Disney clips (what else?) are projected onto 19,000 square feet of "water screens." And of course, some climatic streams of fire. If the 20-ish minute show can't hold your attention, you may have other problems.
Although it's hard to describe, the nightly event is undoubtedly spectacular, absorbing, and as colorful as advertised, although contrary to the P.R., it isn't as gawp-inducing as the fearsome fire-winged dragons of BraviSEAMo, which ends a long run this fall at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan.
But World of Color's premise, novel for a theme park, may provide the biggest entertainment payoff of any of Disney's current Stateside night spectaculars, and from an industry standpoint, it gives California Adventure a much-needed after-sunset show to complement the fireworks and Fantasmic!, often held simultaneously at Disneyland across the plaza. That solves an infrastructure problem for the previously under-developed California Adventure, but for now, while the show is new and at its most popular, it also creates new ones for guests.
Disney fans' curiosity is so high, and demand so strong, that securing a viewing spot requires guests to register early in the day and obtain a Fastpass. Once that's in hand, they must queue starting in early evening to get into their designated section. Then they have to wait for the show itself. The whole process can chew up a few hours. Meanwhile, the attractions around the lagoon are closed during the shows. That puts some of the park's best sights out of commission at dusk: Toy Story Mania, the California Screamin' and Mulholland Madness coasters, that ferris wheel, and the other upgraded carnival-style diversions.
It's tempting to think of everything Disney does as being part of some grand design, and if you subscribe to that cynical (but possibly realistic) perspective, then you might suspect the hassle of seeing the new show, and the early closure of some marquee rides, is part of a fiendish plan to force guests to spend hours of their touring days in the pursuit of a decent viewing spot. After all, if you don't see all of California Adventure in one day, you have to spend the money to return.
It's probably more likely that Disney, having not originally designed the theme park to accommodate this sort of extravaganza, is having trouble coping with the giant crowds that demand to see it during its maiden season.
If you can't stomach the ordeal of jockeying for a position, you can see the show from a bird's eye view if you're staying in a park-facing room in the tower of Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. The lagoon is so close that the climactic inferno will illuminate your darkened room, and you'll gain the best appreciation of the careful choreography of the many water jets, but you won't be able to make out the projections on the water screen or hear the soundtrack clearly.