No parades at Disney’s California Adventure for most of 2011

Disney California Adventure no parades in 2011

One classic part of the Disney theme park experience – the afternoon parade – will be missing from Disney’s California Adventure for most of next year.

The Pixar Play Parade can be seen at the park through Jan. 3, but then it’s not expected back until November. The hiatus is a result of a major overhaul of Disney’s second California theme park.

The Orange County Register reports that Disney will have roaming street shows, called Pixar Pop-Ups, in the parade’s place. The mini-shows will feature characters from popular Pixar movies such as The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc.

The overhaul at Disney’s California Adventure is expected to be complete in 2012. Disney is spending $1 billion on the project to makeover the theme park. For most of next year, the major projects will be worked on.

What does that mean for visitors? Lots of construction walls, and temporary closings of corridors, eateries, shops and other venues at the park. While Disney regularly closes rides and venues for refurbishment, these kinds of major interruptions are always a risky business, because many potential visitors may decide to delay a trip to Anaheim until they can see the finished project.

[Image credit: Flickr user HarshLight]

Duffy the Disney Bear – New face to see (and buy) at Disney Parks

Duffy the Disney Bear at Walt Disney WorldIf you are planning at trip to Disneyland Resort or Walt Disney World at the holidays, you will likely encounter Duffy the Disney Bear.

And when you do, I imagine you will likely think, “Hey, who the heck is this?”

No, you’ve never seen Duffy in a Disney movie. He’s never been in a Mickey Mouse cartoon or a Pixar animated short. And he’s not the star of a new series for preschoolers on the Disney Channel.

Duffy the Disney Bear is the first character conceived and introduced solely in Disney Parks. That’s right – Disney made him so that they could sell you another souvenir.

Duffy’s “backstory” is that he was sewn by Minnie Mouse as a present for Mickey, to accompany him on his travels around the world. We here at Gadling told you this summer how many grown men take teddy bears on business trips, I suppose grown mice need a stuffed animal to cuddle on their business trips, too.

Duffy was introduced as a costumed character at Epcot and Disney’s California Adventure this fall after six years of popularity at Tokyo Disneyland Resort. In Tokyo, Duffy is such a craze that young women line up outside Disney stores when a new Duffy outfit is released.

And just in time for Black Friday shopping, he is being sold in three sizes at Disney’s Florida and California theme parks, along with a variety of outfits, Duffy keychains and other souvenirs. The Orlando Sentinel reports that about three dozen Duffy items are expected to arrive in the coming year.

In addition to his souvenirs, Duffy has a shiny new Facebook page with more than 5,000 fans.

‘World of Color’ steps up Disney’s nighttime spectacular game

Disney’s theme park shows are often over-hyped and underwhelming (remember Cinderellabration?), but at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, the amusement titan recently premiered a new show that really does step up the stakes.

World of Color could be described as “The Bellagio Fountain on Peyote”: The lagoon in front of the Mickey’s Fun Wheel was rebuilt to accommodate nearly 1,200 moveable and synchronized jets, which volley water between 30 and 200 feet high while ever-changing LED lights saturate them with vibrant hues. Meanwhile, as a crisp new sound system rocks the park, classic Disney clips (what else?) are projected onto 19,000 square feet of “water screens.” And of course, some climatic streams of fire. If the 20-ish minute show can’t hold your attention, you may have other problems.

“World of Color” could be described as “The Bellagio Fountain on Peyote.”

Although it’s hard to describe, the nightly event is undoubtedly spectacular, absorbing, and as colorful as advertised, although contrary to the P.R., it isn’t as gawp-inducing as the fearsome fire-winged dragons of BraviSEAMo, which ends a long run this fall at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan.

But World of Color‘s premise, novel for a theme park, may provide the biggest entertainment payoff of any of Disney’s current Stateside night spectaculars, and from an industry standpoint, it gives California Adventure a much-needed after-sunset show to complement the fireworks and Fantasmic!, often held simultaneously at Disneyland across the plaza. That solves an infrastructure problem for the previously under-developed California Adventure, but for now, while the show is new and at its most popular, it also creates new ones for guests.

%Gallery-98676%Nabbing a spot in the very front section of the lagoonside amphitheatre is imperative, because the further back you are (and the VIP section is all the way in the back), the less you will see of the splashes of underwater color that accompany every giant spray. In the back, your field of vision can absorb the big pictures, but in the front, you’ll most feel the mist and the thunder.

Disney fans’ curiosity is so high, and demand so strong, that securing a viewing spot requires guests to register early in the day and obtain a Fastpass. Once that’s in hand, they must queue starting in early evening to get into their designated section. Then they have to wait for the show itself. The whole process can chew up a few hours. Meanwhile, the attractions around the lagoon are closed during the shows. That puts some of the park’s best sights out of commission at dusk: Toy Story Mania, the California Screamin’ and Mulholland Madness coasters, that ferris wheel, and the other upgraded carnival-style diversions.

It’s tempting to think of everything Disney does as being part of some grand design, and if you subscribe to that cynical (but possibly realistic) perspective, then you might suspect the hassle of seeing the new show, and the early closure of some marquee rides, is part of a fiendish plan to force guests to spend hours of their touring days in the pursuit of a decent viewing spot. After all, if you don’t see all of California Adventure in one day, you have to spend the money to return.

It’s probably more likely that Disney, having not originally designed the theme park to accommodate this sort of extravaganza, is having trouble coping with the giant crowds that demand to see it during its maiden season.

If you can’t stomach the ordeal of jockeying for a position, you can see the show from a bird’s eye view if you’re staying in a park-facing room in the tower of Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. The lagoon is so close that the climactic inferno will illuminate your darkened room, and you’ll gain the best appreciation of the careful choreography of the many water jets, but you won’t be able to make out the projections on the water screen or hear the soundtrack clearly.