Most casual theme park fans would agree that checking out a major new ride is a great reason to travel. Are you such a Disney die-hard that you feel the same way about shows? Disney has also introduced a brand new nighttime spectacular, Wondrous Journeys.
We’ve long since passed the point of calling Disney’s popular after-dark presentations mere “fireworks.” Now the almost-nightly shows include digital projection mapping on building facades throughout the park, lights, flames, and even characters flying on wires. Wondrous Journeys, which was designed to honor a century of Disney animation, deploys trick after trick to wow the crowd, and it succeeds.
During a a frenzy of color and light, you’ll hear bits of 18 songs that include some inspired musical sleight of hand—at one point, Belle, Hercules, Moana, and Quasimodo simultaneously perform their signature songs in a deftly arranged quartet—building in crescendo after crescendo. Midway through, an aerial appearance by Baymax of 2014’s Big Hero Six sent the crowd I was with into rhapsodic screams. It’s easily the best nighttime show at Disneyland in a decade, if not longer.
Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, which wraps up this year in Florida, was widely panned for virtually ignoring the rich history of Disney parks, and the two major evening spectaculars created for it have already been cancelled by the company.
Wondrous Journeys, though, proves either that Disneyland simply does these things better or that the company has learned a painful lesson. The cornucopia of heritage referenced in Wondrous Journeys takes fans to the opposite extreme as WDW50, packing in a little something from every single film ever released by Walt Disney Animation Studios—yes, even 2003’s Brother Bear and 2007’s Meet the Robinsons. (To identify as many clips as you can, watch the show from Rivers of America, where they read the clearest.)
But even considering its strengths, would you get on an airplane and fly to Disneyland just to catch it? That depends on how much you love the Mouse.