I remember Disneyland’s 50th like it was yesterday. 50 Mickey’s hidden throughout the park. Golden Ears that sold out within hours of park opening. But most of all, I remember the firework show, “Remember…”. It took guests through memorable moments of each of the park’s past and present rides. Moments that many of these guests had experienced firsthand, likely that same day. And to make “remembrance” of those firsthand accounts all the more immersive and visceral, fireworks and lasers enveloped the audience standing in and around Main Street’s Central Plaza. It was awesome, breathtaking, and surprising. It was the part of the celebration that will stick with me forever.
The 60th’s Paint the Night parade followed by the Disneyland Forever firework show will not. The parade, a bombastic cacophony, flirts with the idea that it is the next evolution of the original Main Street Electrical Parade, utilizing over 1.5 million LED lights. Unfortunately, whimsy and character are stripped from the show in the name of gigantic displays, unnecessary rear projected faces (made famous by Midway Mania’s Mr. Potatohead), and a thudding and messy electronic/dub-step Owl City score. The only favorable takeaway I had was the brilliance of Mack’s (Cars) 3D LED ball trailer.
In the vein of l Remember…, Disneyland Forever kicks off before the inception of Disneyland, in the orange grove before it, and mashes a seemingly unrelated Walt quote followed by seemingly unrelated Disney films from Mary Poppins to Winnie the Pooh to Jungle Book to Lion King to Frozen into a mish-mosh arch of past to current Disney hits. The show attempts to stretch the Main Street immersion created for Remember… by projecting an ever-shifting array of backdrops on all of Main Street’s buildings. It’s is a nice gesture to the folks standing in the trench, but it ends up becoming an unfulfilling distraction from the fireworks and story as it’s truly difficult to make out the projections against the building details themselves. And then there was something about the fireworks being a goodnight kiss. No cohesion.
Not to sound like an old stickler, but back-in-my-day imagination was key. The closest equivalent I can pin this spectacle to is the Star Wars prequels and their over reliance on CG. Now it seems Disney has injected the over stimulation today’s kids have with smartphones in strollers in Disneyland right into the park entertainment itself. It’s a noisy, chaotic, and confused affair that leaves nothing left to the imagination but the wonder of how many plush toys from aging Disney franchises they can sell before the night’s end. All I wanted to do after Remember… was ride every ride again by night’s end.