Review: Is Disneyland’s fast-moving ‘Forever’ fireworks show too complex?
It will take some time to get used to the new “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show, which pulls your attention in several directions at once to the detriment of the pyrotechnics spectacular unfolding above.
There’s just so much happening on Sleeping Beauty Castle, the Main Street USA building facades and even Matterhorn mountain that you forget to watch the fireworks exploding high in the sky.
I’m sure after a few more viewings of the all-encompassing fireworks show I’ll figure out where to look and when, but the new 60th anniversary nighttime spectacular could prove vexing for the average tourist on a day trip to Disneyland.
It may be symptomatic of our constantly distracted age that Disneyland felt the audience needed to be stimulated in more ways than one to keep their attention.
Disneyland dreamed up the multiple-point-of-view show as a way to disperse the large crowds expected for the diamond jubilee celebration. The idea was to thin the hordes by projecting video animation on the facades of Main Street USA, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Matterhorn mountain, It’s a Small World and even the “Fantasmic” stage along the Rivers of America.
Watching from Main Street USA near Coca-Cola Corner, the “Little Mermaid” scene demonstrated the complexity of the new fireworks show.
As “Under the Sea” played, bubbles percolated on the Main Street building facades, inflatable seaweed popped up on the rooftops, Nemo flew on a wire above the castle and fire erupted from the top of the Matterhorn. And then there were the fireworks. My head was on a constant swivel looking from one place to another.
Was it impressive? Absolutely. Overwhelming? At least for the time being.
I may grow to enjoy all the stimulation once I get a better understanding of the beats in the show. I may need to watch from several different vantage points to get a better perspective. Or maybe I just need to settle in and let the spectacle sweep over me.
The back story of “Disneyland Forever” takes us to a series of environments -- cloud clusters, jungle forests, ocean depths, frozen tundras and enchanted places.
From a storytelling standpoint, I appreciate that the show’s producers made as many obvious choices (“Peter Pan,” “Lion King,” “Frozen”) as they did unconventional ones (“Winnie the Pooh,” “Mary Poppins,” “Jungle Book”).
The places were interesting enough to keep me wondering where we’d go next and surprised every time we did. The best part was seeing familiar characters presented in imaginative new ways.
The show starts with 50-plus unseen spotlights aiming up into the sky to create a multi-faceted diamond. Peter Pan appears on the face of the castle to welcome us as Tinkerbell floats on a wire high above.
You immediately realize how much more integrated and prominent the music is to the overall show with the songs syncing up to the building projections.
Several of the building animations are visually stunning -- from the “Mary Poppins” chimney sweeps dancing on rooftops to “Step in Time” to the wild animals from the “Lion King” marching to “Circle of Life.”
My favorite scene involved the elephant-like heffalumps and honey-thieving woozles from Winnie the Pooh’s imagination dancing against a wildly psychedelic backdrop. At the same time, the animation was equally clever on the castle, with Pooh floating up one of the turrets and out of sight.
In many instances, it felt like the building animations were too dim, maybe because the producers were fearful of flooding too much light into the nighttime experience. Hopefully a few adjustments can be made to increase the luminosity.
As you might expect, the highlight of the show was the “Frozen” segment, with snowflakes falling on the castle, the Main Street buildings freezing over, low-level fireworks blasting overhead and the pointed roofs of the castle sparkling in purple and blue hues as the crowd sang along to “Let It Go.”
The best projections were saved for the finale as the Main Street buildings appeared to wobble and shake as if struck by an earthquake. The show concluded with the same diamond array of spotlights as the music continued to play and the castle glowed after the last of the fireworks faded from sight.
It’s going to take me awhile to truly enjoy the new “Disneyland Forever” fireworks show. I’m sure in time I’ll find a favorite spot to take it all in. For now, I’ll just have to wander around the park discovering new ways to watch the show. In the interim, I may be distracted but I certainly won’t be bored.
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