For what seems like ages, I’ve been hearing all about this amazing new water show coming to DCA. The Blue Sky Cellar sure made World of Color look fabulous. I loved looking at the paper cutouts designed for the show (only one briefly makes an appearance) and was enthralled watching the video of show designer, Steve Davison talk about what was coming.
And for the past couple of weeks, every Disney site, official or unofficial, has pretty much talked about nothing else. It’s been Twittered, it’s been Facebooked, it’s on television, in print ads, on billboards ... I think it’s fair to say that World Of Color has been hyped to death. It’s a good show, to be sure, but is it amazing, the best thing ever, does it live up to all the hype?
Well, yes. And no.
Maybe it was all the hype surrounding the show that boosted my expectations too high and left me feeling kind of underwhelmed at the close of last night’s first official public showing of Disney’s new spectacular, World Of Color. As a water show, it is simply stunning. The fountains are amazing. They dance, and twirl, and fly around, doing things you could never imagine water would do. To say it’s beautiful doesn’t do it justice, and as a show, World Of Color is at its very best when it simply lets the fountains play and do their thing.
All throughout the show, there are moments when the fountains are made to look like someone ran a magical paintbrush over all that water, filling those amazing streams of water with gorgeous saturated color. Okay, that’s a horrid sentence, but really, there’s water flying everywhere in ways you cannot begin to imagine and it’s not just water, it looks like liquid paint flying around. I mean really, how did they get water to look like that? Then you get the sparkly stuff. At some points during the show, the water literally looks like someone sprinkled tons of glitter onto it and then the sparkly bits weave and intersect with the walls of water streaming into the night sky. It literally leaves you asking, “How on earth did they do that with water?”
If you’ve been around the Disneyland Resort for any length of time though, comparing Fantasmic! to World Of Color is going to be inevitable. And I think that’s the problem with World Of Color. Both shows involve water, fire, lasers, and Disney characters. Even the announcement made just prior to showtime, “In just a few minutes, the lights surrounding Paradise bay will be dimmed ...,” sounds pretty familiar.
While World of Color has it all over Fantasmic! employing the latest technology to make those fountains beautiful and colorful, what it lacks is the one thing it really needs, and that one thing is a cohesive storyline. And really, I’m not even talking real storyline when you get right down to it; there is simply nothing in World Of Color to tie each vignette together. As I understand it, at one point there was a thread that wove through the show binding each segment together, but it’s gone now. As a result, World of Color seems disjointed.
The show starts off with the music from the old television show, World Of Color. You hear the announcer say, “Walt Disney presents,” the chorus sings, “The Wonderful World Of Color,” and then the music mutates into the pop-style tunes Disney is currently so fond of, a distinctly Disney sound. While the introduction music is playing, the fountains start to do the thing they do so well and it’s all stunning and gorgeous.
But then ... Projections of The Little Mermaid pop onto the water screens and from there on in the show turns into Disney’s greatest hits interspersed with a few really cool fountain moments. Disney film after Disney film shows up. And this is where the show falls flat. It’s a shame really because I had the feeling that at one point there was a storyline, something to bind all those “great moments with Disney films” together to make the show cohesive, make it all make sense. You can see traces of a storyline in moments like the transition from the Finding Nemo into Fantasia 2000. Dory and Marlin are talking. Dory is, of course, talking Whale. A whale sneaks up behind her and Marlin, and the next thing you know the whole thing has smoothly turned into The Pines Of Rome sequence from Fantasia 2000, and it’s beautiful.
Most of the time though there’s no segue from sequence to sequence. It’s like they threw in every moneymaker they ever had just cuz, you know? Here’s Toy Story, here’s Little Mermaid, here’s Wall•E, here’s Aladdin, here’s Pocahontas, here’s Lady and the Tramp (one of the very few older films), here’s Bug’s Life, here’s Captain Jack (really odd moment because everything is animated and them bam! Johnny Depp’s face is there – it doesn’t really fit), here’s Chernabog (What the heck??? It sounds like Fantasmic! It looks like Fantasmic! Why is that in there when it’s in a show across the esplanade and it’s done so much better in that other show?), and on and on. You get the idea.
These great moments with Disney films are projected onto huge water screens à la Fantasmic! Now I don’t know if the atmosphere was wrong when I saw it, or wind was slightly blowing and throwing things off kilter, or maybe the fountains around the water screens move the air just enough to disturb the screens, but those projections of Disney films were all out of focus and at times the tops of some of the heads were cut off, like the water screen wasn’t high enough. It was all a little disconcerting. But then, I’m trying not to make a judgment about that that because it could have been a tech thing at that particular performance. But, then again ... I’m just sayin’.
That’s World Of Color in a nutshell. A few words to the wise for those of you preparing to see the show ... and you should, by all means, see the show. At least once. I had to stand a couple hours to wait to see the thing, which is nothing compared to what folks will be going through in a couple of days, and it was kind of tiresome. Be prepared to wait. Be prepared to stand a lot. You’re definitely going to have to put up with that. Be kind to the cast members directing you where to go. They know what they’re doing and they’re there to help you.
As for where to stand, and you probably won’t get much choice in this for a while – but if you do, a middle upper tier is definitely the best viewing area. The show is a spectacle and a very large spectacle. If you’re close up, you can’t really take it all in. And don’t believe those signs on the boardwalk that say, “You may get wet.” You will get wet. Outdoor Vending has ponchos on sale for you to keep you dry. Outdoor Vending also has glowy things (necklaces, Mickey heads, swords), sodas, balloons, and cotton candy. They walk through the crowd just like at a baseball game, so they come to you, you don’t have to go to them. There are designated viewing places for folks in wheelchairs and if you’re not able to stand for long periods, there are also benches situated in the wheelchair area. Ask a cast member, they’re there to help you. There are also designated walking areas within the viewing space. You can’t stand there. Don’t even try.
You want to be in place no later than a half hour prior to showtime (let’s get real ... you’re actually going to need to be there way earlier than that) because there is a cute pre-show to keep you amused and get you all fired up for World Of Color. Two performers on raised platforms act as ‘cheerleaders’ getting the crowd warmed up and they introduce puppeteers very cleverly costumed in giant puppets as Lumiere for the yellow section (loved this costume), Mike Wazowski for the green section, Sebastian for the red section, Tigger for the orange section, and Genie for the blue section (Genie’s costume even sported the magic lamp!). Together this energetic group gets everyone singing, “Do Bop She Do,” (think Tarzan) and they let you know you’re in for, “Something good. Something real good!” It’s fun, peppy, and makes the half hour go by real fast. And ... it’s full of color.
World Of Color is an amazing and stunning water fountain show with some Disney movies projected onto the water, completely interfering with that amazing and stunning water fountain show. World Of Color is definitely worth the effort to see but I don’t think it’s worth the effort if you have to wait all day, I don’t even think it’s worth the effort of several hour’s wait time. It’s a good show but it’s not a great show.
If someone visiting the resort posed the question to me, “I have only today. I can see only one show. What show should it be, Fantasmic! or World Of Color,” my answer would not take but a moment. Fantasmic! That’s still the show to beat. Fantasmic! may have opened in May of 1992 and it may lack the latest in water show technology, but it has heart, it has story, and it’s still, after all these years, thrilling.