Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA
Cheers, friends! This update was meant to go up a week ago, but you know what I always say when things are behind schedule... real life happens. AmIrite?!
Anyway, last Friday was the kickoff of Pixar Fest, the promotional theme for the Disneyland Resort this summer season concocted by the same people who believe everything in the parks now needs to be tied to Disney franchises. It runs through Labor Day weekend and is actually a pretty extensive event, with a bevvy of specialty foods, merchandise, and entertainment, plus the permanent transformation of the back half of California Adventure's Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier.
The full extents of the Resort's "Pixarification" won't be fully seen until June 23rd, when Pixar Pier opens and the Incredibles float debuts in Paint the Night at DCA, but we can take a look at what guests can already check out right now. So here goes a pretty comprehensive photo update of Pixar Fest at the Disneyland Resort. Hopefully, that makes up for the delay in putting it up!
Downtown Disney Decorations
The planters at Downtown Disney from Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen to Naples Ristorante have been transformed into abstract tinsel bulb characters from some of the popular Pixar franchises--namely Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. The set-up is pretty darn kitschy, but kind of cute in a unique way. Check them out through the end of summer, before the place transforms into pumpkin-mania for Halloween Time.
Both parks have been flooded with red, yellow, and blue banners and bunting, which gives the area a carnival feel. I'm not the biggest fan of it, but I do get that the color scheme is straight from the Pixar ball. I just wish the decorations could have looked a little more detailed rather than go with the [too] simple scheme.
There have been other adjustments to enhance the park atmosphere for Pixar Fest, though, and those have been more positive (in my opinion). The old Muppetvision Theater in Hollywood Land is now showing a Pixar short films festival, with three Pixar shorts (the that play before their feature films) presented in a row. Cars Land also has new Buzz and Woody cars at the entrance and redone car posters across from Sarge's Surplus Shop. And the Disneyland monorails have received new wraps showcasing Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. They look pretty slick.
Disney has definitely caught onto the fact that Annual Passholders will buy limited edition souvenirs and goods that come only with the local seasonal promotions and disappear forever once the festivities end. And to that end, Pixar Fest has been an explosion of specially-created merchandise for the summer overlay. T-Shirts, bags, cups, pins, and more can be found all around the parks. For the first time in years, Disneyland and California Adventure even have new bags into which guests' freshly-purchased merch goes, and I actually really like how fun and colorful the bags are.
Out by Pixar Pier, the biggest representation of Pixar commercial content comes in the new Knick's Knacks store, across from the current Cove Bar and future Lamplight Lounge. Inside, guests can find just about anything Pixar-related they can think of. It's almost overwhelming, to be honest!
Out and about the midways, there are also plenty of collectibles to find. A Sully popcorn bucket and Mike Wazowski souvenir sipper are among some of the goodies. There are also mugs and special straws. Really, a whole bunch of cute wares from Disney created for this event. It's definitely an open play at cashing in, but if people are willing to buy, why wouldn't Disney implement this strategy?
Also patterned after the seasonal festival model (ala Food and Wine and Festival of Holidays), special culinary dishes have been prepared for restaurants and dining services throughout both parks. In this case, they are full size dishes, so the food booths through Pacific Wharf and future Paradise Park are not present (they'd get in the way of parades anyway). But there is an unbelievable amount of food that is limited time only for the summer, and a lot of it looks pretty incredible.
In addition, Redd Rockett's Pizza Port has been transformed into Alien Pizza Planet, from Toy Story fame, with the same scope of overlay that went into the Village Haus / Red Rose Taverne last year in advance of the Beauty and the Beast live action movie. This isn't an Imagineering project, but rather something from Team Disney Anaheim, so don't necessarily expect immaculate theming. But I do think that the Pizza Planet overlay seems a little less invested than last year's Red Rose Taverne redo. We'll see whether Pizza Planet sticks around past Pixar Fest or returns to Pizza Port come autumn.
What follows below is just a small amount of what I sampled or spotted the first weekend. And fortunately, our friends over at Disney Food Blog have been going crazy trying out all the Pixar Fest foods. And if that isn't enough, Heather has been posting individual reviews on her Instagram in advance of what will ultimately go up onto the blog.
The Return of Blue Sky Cellar
One of the most excited attractions for Pixar Fest is the reopening of Blue Sky Cellar to feature the artwork and designs behind the transformation of Paradise Pier into Pixar Pier. Sketches, models, and a short documentary are all inside the old Golden Vine Winery building across from the Radiator Springs main entrance of Cars Land. There's a lot to take in, and even if you're not the biggest fan of Pixar Pier (recent readers know I'm not), Blue Sky Cellar does do a great job in presenting the thought and work that went into making this project a reality.
It would be great to keep Blue Sky Cellar open year-round and feature new projects from even other parks outside of California. It's always cool to get an inside glimpse at Imagineering, and these exhibitions would serve to drum up excitement and word of mouth about other parks, which in turn would generate interest and could persuade people to book trips to the more international Disney destinations. Especially in this world of social media, it would prove to be a wise decision in viral marketing. But past track record hasn't seemed to recognize this, so we'll see how long Blue Sky Cellar remains open after Pixar Pier debuts (on June 23).
And if you can't make it to the parks anytime soon but want to watch the video that plays in Blue Sky Cellar, here's a recording of it that I made last week!
Over in the Boardwalk dining area of Paradise Pier / soon-to-be Paradise Park, guests can find something called Pixar Pals, which is an amalgamation of photo ops, meet-and-greets, and an Annual Passholder Corner. This is definitely geared toward guests who enjoy the Disney park character photo experience, and while it's nothing extravagant, it's still a cute thing to have.
Finally, and we'll go more into this on our next update, the parks have some new entertainment--or some revised entertainment--as part of Pixar Fest. The old Pixar Spray (Play) Parade has moved from California Adventure to Disneyland and gained a new Inside Out float and a new Up float (though the latter has suffered from technical problems several times just in its first week+ of operation. As a trade, California Adventure now has Paint the Night--minus a Frozen float that most people will probably be happy to miss. In its place will be a new PTN float dedicated to The Incredibles, but it is currently unfinished and is not scheduled to debut until June.
California Adventure also has a really cute live music experience at the Paradise Garden Grill Bandstand in the form of the Pixarmonic Orchestra, an energetic band that mixes in great musicianship with some zany but practically-done sound effects. Their enthusiasm is really great, and they seem to already have gathered a following.
Finally, there's a brand new fireworks show, Together Forever, which celebrates the friendships and bonds forged in the Pixar films. Or at least it's supposed to. I'll elaborate more in previously referenced sequel Pixar Fest update (which will be devoted into these four entertainment options in depth), but I found the show to be lacking in heart and emotional resonance, instead feeling like a very blatant clip show with no order or synergetic theme that tied the segments together. Though the fireworks show is visually stunning, it falls a bit flat when placed against the standards of Disneyland's recent great fireworks.
And that wraps up quite a spread. There is so much to take in at Pixar Fest, and though I don't think the highest of the permanent Pixar Pier transformation at California Adventure, and I actually do like Pixar Fest as a seasonal promotion as a whole. It's clear that the Resort has gone all out to promote this and provide special items that guests can enjoy. It's also very clear that this is catering more to the Annual Passholder crowd, a group that has grown so large that it increasingly demands new features and rapid turnover of themes and novelty to justify coming back to the parks.
Based on the first two weeks of operation, though, the strategy seems to have worked. The crowds at Disneyland have surged even after spring break has passed, and I'm sure this will only continue to be the norm throughout the summer.
You have until Monday, September 3rd, to experience Pixar Fest. And then, like the house in Up, it will float away, presumably never to come again. At least that's the enticement!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.