It’s perfectly fitting that Mickey Mouse, the icon Walt Disney credits for the start of the Walt Disney Animation studios, is finally getting a ride at Disneyland just in time for Disney’s 100th anniversary. That’s not all; Disney100 is being celebrated at Disney Parks in a big way with two nighttime spectaculars that pay homage to the company’s animation legacy and its modern blockbuster franchises.
io9 was invited to attend the media preview of the festivities and to talk to the teams and Imagineers that planned the centennial celebrations.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland
Inspired by the recent Paul Rudish Mickey Mouse cartoons, the centerpiece of Disneyland Toontown’s re-imagining is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. The art style for the Disney+ series harkens back to Walt Disney’s classic cartoons—down to its star’s voice, which current Mickey Mouse voice actor Chris Diamantopoulos based on Walt Disney’s original performance. With that in mind, the whole area of Toontown is set to fit more into that animated world’s palette with Disneyland’s version of Runaway Railway. While the attraction’s first incarnation at Walt Disney World invites guests into a classic Hollywood movie theater, Disneyland’s version invites park-goers to Toontown with its own cinema, El Capitoon. “Mickey’s Toontown was the obvious choice because Mickey and Minnie shoot their movies just down the road in Mickey’s Movie Barn,” Walt Disney Imagineering senior creative director Jonathan Friday shared as we toured the queue. “So naturally they need a small town cinema or hometown theater to premiere those in.”
Walking around the entrance of the queue past the ticket taker, you see posters for films that would be canon in an alternate Disney universe, like The Feisty Ducks and Goofy Friday (riffs on The Mighty Ducks and Freaky Friday, respectively), that we wish were real. Friday explained, “It only made sense that in our world we see live action spectaculars inspired by animated classics. So of course, in the Toon world, they’re going to take our favorite live-action films and animate them in a funny way.” (We joked that we hoped these clever Toontown cinematic universe films could find their way onto Disney+; check out io9’s photo slideshow of the posters here.) And the clever delights didn’t end there: alongside amazing props from Mickey Mouse-starring films and television is a concession stand with Disney Afternoon-inspired candy favorites. Honestly, I’d be shocked if they don’t end up selling the PowerLimes or the Mallard Cups.
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Once you make your way towards the start of the ride itself, you find yourself in a retro, old-timey hall where things don’t go exactly as planned once the Mickey short begins to play and the boundary between the real world and the Toon world begins to blur. To preserve the plot of the ride, I won’t go into too much detail—but if you’re a fan of the Rudish run of cartoons, you’ll be delighted at the cheerfully chaotic nature of the family-friendly ride tied together by Mickey and Minnie’s determination to have a romantic picnic. The ride’s earworm song “Nothing Can Stop Us Now,” as well as the ride’s narrative story, was one of legendary voice actress Russi Taylor’s last performances as Minnie Mouse, and what a fitting bow. If you want to see a bit of the attraction watch our ride through the video below, provided by Disney Parks.
World of Color: One at Disney California Adventure
Over at DCA, a new version of the park’s World of Color outdoor water spectacular, which sets montages of classic Disney movie moments to dancing fountains and lights, has received a new update in time for the Disney100 event. In World of Color: Onethe show—which was previously only centered around animated films—will now include more live-action movies, with Marvel and Star Wars alongside Disney and Pixar animation. KC Wilkerson, principal media designer for Disney Live Entertainment, shared how Disney was inspired to interweave key moments from beloved Disney properties to pay homage to Walt Disney himself. “One person can make a difference. It just takes a first step. And so, in looking at all of the films that we have available to us, it was selecting the moments of what really drives that point home the best. So you’ve got moments like that Soulwhere Joe Gardner [as] a teacher affects a student. It’s how Mulan causes an avalanche,” he said, and explained how live-action made its way into the patchwork of World of Color: One. “We knew we wanted to include Star Wars. We knew we wanted to include The Avengers. And so the idea of ’one drop becoming a ripple becoming a wave of becoming an ocean’ builds throughout the show until we get to the Avengers when everybody assembles.”
It’s pretty clear that the Avengers scene is the climactic “portals” moment from Avengers: Endgame. We had to ask if Disney was inspired by the viral video of the crowd going wild on opening night when everyone returns from the Snap. “The Avengers sequence is close to my heart because I am an Avengers nerd. I immediately went to that viral video of everybody sitting there watching Endgame and all you hear is Sam Wilson go “on your left”—I’m like, ‘that’s how it has to start. Right?’. That was one of the first decisions we made.”
“Steve Rogers is who we see first and then once the music really kicks in, that’s when we see Black Panther. We knew we had to include Black Panther for so many reasons,” Wilkerson detailed. “When Black Panther appears, he’s doing this sort of great action pose and then the lasers behind him are etching the Black Panther masks. It’s just such a cool moment and I love it. The Star Wars sequence has so many little things that it’s hard to catch them all in one viewing. I’m a total nerd and when we started working with Lucasfilm to obtain clips that we wanted to use, they started playing with them and modifying them and they’re like, ‘Wait, we get to make the Millennium Falcon fly across an enormous screen?’ We’re like, ‘Yes, you get to do that.’ And so they were just as happy as they could be.”
It’s a good thing the water show mists the audience in case you wanted to hide that you were moved to tears (like I was!), especially when it brings in the emotional heavy hitters like Encanto and Coco. “We went back and forth Cocoespecially, trying to figure out what was the key moment—and we figured it out when Miguel realizes that Hector is [his] grandfather and sings ‘Remember Me’ to Coco.’ And that’s the one moment in that movie that we really want.” Thanking Wilkerson for the tears, we laughed about how the show runs the gamut of emotions to bring it back to Walt Disney’s first idea of ”just getting started.” Wilkerson agreed. “It sort of encapsulates kind of what we do, especially in live entertainment. But really the resort as a whole, it’s like you always feel like you’re just getting started and that’s his quote, At the end of the show, if you think this is great—we’ve got so much more that we want to do.”
The tears don’t stop at World of Color. Over at Disneyland, iconic wishes from Disney classics come true in the other nighttime spectacular: Wondrous Journeys, which depicts the trials and tribulations in making your dreams come true. “When we started constructing Wondrous Journeys, we approached our friends, families, and colleagues and asked them what they thought of when they pictured their favorite moments in Walt Disney Animation Studios history,” shared Jordan Peterson, show director at Disney Live Entertainment. “The beauty of Walt Disney Animation Studio films is that there is something special for everyone. Each had their own movie that they identified with for very personal reasons that would not match anyone else’s emotional footprint.” The show features characters from all 100 years of Disney animation at various vantage points around the park, like It’s a Small World and Rivers of America.
Wondrous Journeys is the show to watch—an instant new favorite that’s finally stepped up Disneyland’s screen projections game to meet Happily Ever After levels (the massive montage spectacular at Walt Disney World due back this year), with a Blue Fairy flying over imagery from Disney’s upcoming animated feature wish and Baymax from Big Hero Six getting his own action sequence across the sky. “Constructing Wondrous Journeys was about laying out the intentional story we wanted to tell—in this case, the journey of the creative process, then combing through and deciding which moments in our characters’ personal journeys were emotionally reflected. The Blue Fairy represents the purity behind a simple wish. Baymax represents the indomitable spirit of creatives and their willingness to fight for those dreams,” Peterson said. “Let’s be honest: is it cool to fly a giant robot in the sky? Yes? Then let’s do that!”
I noticed that the biggest response of the night came with Treasure Planet‘s use of John Silver’s quote: “You got the makings of greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it no matter the squalls.” Peterson responded that was exactly the intention—to shout-out even the underrated characters people connected to. “We were able to curate the right emotional beats for the show and know that no matter what, we would hit someone in the feels. Treasure Planet ended up featured in that moment because John Silver’s words, while immortal, are also exactly what our characters needed to hear at that moment in the show.” Personally, I was looking out for Meet the Robinsons and Peterson affirmed, “The Robinsons are certainly there!” Great, now I have to go back!
Wondrous Journeys is a riveting show filled with Disney’s biggest dreamers. There’s a huge moment where Hercules, Moana, Quasimodo, and Belle have their “I want” songs arranged as a quartet that nearly broke me. More cathartic is that the show makes the bold choice not to have a “villains” moment, but instead explore hardships that our heroes go through, showing what they must overcome; a particularly empowering moment came with the performance of “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto. And this is just one resort’s part of the celebration! There’s more to come at Disney Parks around the world. So yes, expect more tears.
Disney100 at the Disneyland Resort is happening now.
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