Given that Disney World is wrapping up its own 50th Anniversary, it makes sense that Disneyland is serving as the company's central campus for the Disney100 celebration in the parks. And even though Disney California Adventure's Buena Vista Street is (literally) recreating the Los Angeles Walt stepped out into in 1923, it's Disneyland Park that's serving as the real hub of the celebration. In any case, between both parks, no less than three significant attractions co-debuted on January 27, 2023.
Unlike Disney World where we aren't sure when, how, or even if the Disney100 celebration will have much of a visual presence, Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle received a wonderfully pleasant Platinum overlay of iridescent silver and purple banners, new fountains in the moat, and a "Wishing Star" topper (which will also tie in nicely with Walt Disney Animation's 2023 release, Wish, which is meant to reveal the origin of the Wishing Star seen in so many Disney films).
Speaking of the Castle, Disneyland also debuted two nighttime spectaculars in January, including Wondrous Journeys. This projection & fireworks show (projected on the Castle, "it's a small world," and the Rivers of America's water screens) is notable for its ambition. Between the three viewing areas, it features allusions to every single animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios from Snow White to Strange World – yep, even the stinkers.
The show's original song, "Wondrous," was previewed at D23 Expo in September 2022... But the real show's debut really cemented it as a new classic in the Disney Parks songbook. Actually, Wondrous Journeys is an incredibly spectacular show, beginning with Mickey Mouse, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty and growing into a crescendo of that includes Baymax from Big Hero 6 flying over the castle. A catchy, emotional, and celebratory tribute to Disney Animation over the last century, Wondrous Journeys just might've broken Disney's recent nighttime spectacular curse, becoming a new fan favorite.
At Disney California Adventure, the hardware that powers World of Color has again been co-opted by a promotional overlay, becoming World of Color – ONE. Frankly, every time Disney has tried to use World of Color to play any show except the original World of Color, the results have been... well... mixed. It's hard to beat the original show's slow reveal of the fountains' abilities, the iconic intro and outro created by the classic "World of Color" theme song from Walt's television show, and the embrace of the water show's abstract, emotional, and non-narrative form.
"World of Color – One" tries once more to create a show worth losing the original for, this time via a custom-made new song called "Start a Wave." Working off of the idea that one person can create ripples of change, the sentimental show again leans heavily into Disney Animation from the last decade but will notably include Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars – the first time all of Disney's four anchors will be part of the same nighttime show.
To be sure, World of Color – One is a good show, and proves just how far Disney Animation has come since the original World of Color debuted in 2010. The new show manages to include references to Coco, Moana, Encanto, and other recent flicks that simply didn't exist back then, not to mention references to Avengers: Endgame and The Force Awakens, neither of which existed in 2010. "Start a Wave" is a nice enough tune, and makes the new World of Color a softer, subtler, more reflective show compared to the upbeat, jangling, and high-energy Wondrous...still the replacement of the iconic "World of Color" song is something like replacing the intro and outro of Fantasmic, meaning Disney can and should rotate out some of the clips within World of Color, but should probably keep the theme song in any future renditions of the show.
Our only other issue is that both Wondrous Journeys and World of Color – One both feature many of the same recent animated features, giving the same "samesies" vibes that made Disney Enchantment and Harmonious such oddly overlapping shows to have likewise debuted together back in 2021. At least franchise-focused, character-centric shows make more sense in a company-wide Disney100 celebration than they did with Disney World's 50th...
Otherwise, Disneyland used the 100th to debut its version of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, launching January 27th (the same exact day as "Wondrous Journeys" and "World of Color – One"). Even though it probably would've made sense to add the trackless dark ride to Disney California Adventure, it made its debut in the already-stuffed-with-E-Tickets Disneyland, even though the land that it's inside of – Mickey's Toontown – was still in the midst of a massive refurbishment lasting until the spring.
Speaking of which, that revitalized land – with fresh new play areas, all-ages-and-ability-levels interactives, and a lightly re-themed coaster (Chip & Dale's Gadget Coaster) – will debut later in March, also part of the Disney100 celebration. (At least Mickey & Minnie-themed attractions feel like fitting pieces of the Disney100 puzzle given their focus on Walt's original 1920s characters.)
Then, on February 24, Disneyland will welcome back Magic Happens – a parade that debuted at the park in (gulp) March 2020. Yes, after having run for the public for less than two weeks, this parade will return in grand form for the Disney100 celebration. Thankfully, the parade is already decked out in iridescent platinum!
Co-produced by Todrick Hall, the hip-hop-pop score intertwines with Disney soundtracks, exploring how "Magic Happens" when you learn how far you can go (Moana), when you remember those you love (Coco) and when you step into the unknown (Frozen II). It's a surprisingly poignant parade with 21st century music and costumes, and seeing it return (or really, for the first time) is a huge plus. (That recurring, echoed chorus "That's when / magic / happens / whoa / that's when / magic / happens / whoa" is a real ear worm.)
(It should be noted that fans have also caught glimpses of the beloved "Paint the Night" parade being tested outside of its storage space at Disney California Adventure. While it could be for routine upkeep or a move out East, the parade's return to California Adventure would give each of the California parks a nighttime spectacular ["Wondrous" and "One"] plus a day-and-night parade ["Magic Happens" and "Paint the Night"], not to mention "Fantasmic," really beefing up these parks' entertainment lineups ahead of the Disney100 summer season.)
Disney100 inside and outside of the Parks
There's no question that if you're looking to bask in the Disney100 celebration in a Disney Park, your best bet is to head West to Disneyland while Disney World tries to figure itself out after the 50th. With new parades, new shows, and new rides on the docket, this will be a banner year for Disneyland.
But we still need to acknowledge that this is a celebration planned in the reign of Bob Chapek, and despite his surprising dismissal in November 2022, the finance-and-franchise-focused CEO's fingerprints will remain on the company (and especially this promotion) for years. It's no surprise that in the parks, Disney100 is shaping up to really be a celebration of Disney+ and the last ten years of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars... but we hope and believe that especially at Disneyland (where nostalgia actually sells), we'll actually hear about Walt and the first 50 years of Disney animation that often fail to find their way into nighttime shows.
Disney100 is also unique, though, in the way it'll extend beyond the parks... Check back at Theme Park Tourist this winter as we unveil our Disney100 Road Trip – a must-see, cross-country list of destinations for Disney fans outside the theme parks this year.