May 21, 2013

Disneyland entertainment bubbles with joy

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Travel at 9:04 pm by dinaheng

The magic of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure lies in their ability to take you out of the everyday world, and transport you to a place where surprises put a smile on your face at every turn. Chief among those surprises is a delightful array of live entertainment offered throughout the day.

There are street musicians who perform everything from rock to country, comic storytellers, musical theater, parades and more. At night, there are fireworks at Disneyland and a spectacular multimedia water show called World of Color at California Adventure.

On May 25, Disneyland will premiere its first new musical show in nearly a decade, “Mickey and the Magical Map” at the refurbished Fantasyland Theatre, featuring live and “virtual” interaction with Disney characters, music and dancing.Dinah Eng

“We want all our live entertainment and experiences to resonate with our guests, and shows can last six months to 10 to 15 years,” says Kevin Eld, head of creative entertainment for Walt Disney Imagineering. ”I have a feeling ‘Mickey and the Magical Map’ will be a long-running guest favorite.”

The new musical, which features special visual effects and musical mash-ups, tells the story of the apprentice Mickey, who yearns to be a mapmaker in the Sorcerer’s workshop. When Mickey sets off to finish an unfinished spot on a map, the spot takes him on a madcap journey, foiling his every attempt to finish the spot.

“The spot is imagination,” Eld reveals. “Mickey discovers his own power of imagination, and learns it’s important for imagination to exist in the world, and maybe the spot should never be finished.”

“Mickey and the Magical Map” joins an impressive lineup of live entertainment at the Anaheim theme parks. Many of the shows run around 20 minutes, drawing young and old alike to sit back and relax in themed venues.

At Disneyland’s Royal Theatre in Fantasy Faire, there’s “Tangled,” featuring two comic actors — Smythe and Jones — who narrate the familiar Disney tales, with a twist. While Rapunzel and Eugene participate in telling their story, the two who do the singing are the narrators. Youngsters sit on carpet circles up front, while the adults get the benches in back.

“They’re a little like Abbott and Costello, and the show has something for adults and children,” Eld says.

Kevin Eld, head of creative entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering; Photo courtesy of Disney

Kevin Eld, head of creative entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering; Photo courtesy of Disney

If you visit the Golden Horseshoe Revue in Frontierland, a saloon with eats ranging from fish and chips to ice cream sundaes, you can catch Billy Hill and the Hillbillies strum their guitars, bass cello and banjos to rollicking country tunes with a little stand-up comedy mixed in. This long-running act, which first performed in the park in 1987, is a crowd pleaser, so if you want a good view, be sure to grab a seat up front by the stage or in the balcony above.

At California Adventure, pre-schoolers through age 10 will love Disney Jr. Live on Stage! where favorites from the Disney Junior Channel — like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Sophia the First and Doc McStuffins — make an appearance in an interactive show that will have the kids dancing and laughing throughout.

A long-running favorite for children and adults alike is “Disney’s Aladdin — A Musical Spectacular” at the flagship Hyperion Theater, which features a multicultural cast and a Geni whose dance moves and witty comments will have you laughing whenever he appears. This 45 minute production, staged in a 2,011 seat venue, offers what you’d expect from a Broadway show, with material that’s updated with pop culture references to keep it fresh.

“We initially thought ‘Aladdin’ would be there three to five years, and 10 years later, it’s so beloved by the guests that when it comes time to change the show, whatever goes in there will have big shoes to fill,” Eld says. “It’s luxurious and the music is incredible. This cast of color also represents a broad spectrum of our guests, which we’re very proud of.”

"Aladdin" genies at Disney California Adventure; Photo courtesy of Disney

“Aladdin” genies at Disney California Adventure; Photo courtesy of Disney

The parades, which feature characters from Disney TV shows or movies, feature music with each float that makes you want to dance with the characters going by. (If you happen to be on the sidewalk when the Pixar Play Parade passes by, be prepared to get wet as the floats spray water into the crowd — a welcome special effect on hot days.)

Those are just a few of the live acts to be found in the two parks, all designed to delight the young and the young at heart.

“Everything we do, from the intimacy of a guest meeting Mickey to the theater productions to the big night spectaculars are meant to surprise,” Eld says. “The theme parks are fantasy worlds we create, telling a story with the buildings, the rides, and the characters. Everything that happens in those land needs to enhance that experience. Seeing the guests enjoy it all really puts a smile on our faces.”

For more information on entertainment at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, check out


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