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Sue Kruse
LuminAria? No thank you.
LuminAria? No thank you.

After viewing the first performance of LuminAria, itís my job to tell you, Dear Readers, what I thought of it. So, while I gather my thoughts on the subject, Iíll give you a topic to discuss.

LuminAria, it contains neither luminarias nor an aria, so why is it called LuminAria?   


Okay, Iíve got my thoughts together now. My first impression after watching the show was, "What the (expletive deleted) was that?" The two friends accompanying me and I discussed the show, we concurred, none of us liked it.

Then, Al called me, "Sue, what did you think?"

"Iím stunned," was about all I could say.

At that point, I started to mentally write this column. I tried to find good points to temper the bad. Writing something negative about LuminAria is not what I wanted to do. Then, I ran into a couple other MousePlanet columnists. We discussed. They liked LuminAria, sort of. Apparently, it photographs well. They also said that the show was missing several effects and that it would be a good thing to hold off writing about LuminAria until the "real" (my words, not theirs) show debuted.

LuminAria? No thank you.

I agreed that would probably be fair. I want to be fair to the show. Lord knows, Disneyís California Adventure does not need any more negative publicity. But, after giving it a good nightís sleep to ponder the question of what do I write, I have to defer to that old adage, You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. LuminAria did not make a good first impression. A few more added effects will not make LuminAria a good show. LuminAria has huge problems. I donít think I ever need to see it again.

Iím not sure what LuminAria is about. I remember listening to Creative Director Steve Davisonís description of the show during his presentation at the Disneyana Convention last September. He had me all excited to see it. In fact, to say I couldnít wait to see it would be an understatement. Steveís the guy who brought us Small World Holiday and this yearís Haunted Mansion Holiday. Anyone who can take an attraction that I absolutely loathe and detest (Small World), turn it into a giant, delicious confection of twinkling, pastel lights, and make me want, yes, want to ride it, is a-okay in my book. And, weíre not even going to discuss what he did to the Haunted Mansion. I love that so much Iím practically living there.

Well, the LuminAria presented on November 9th, is not the LuminAria described by guy who did those other wonderful things. Either that, or I was spacing out and donít remember correctly.

So what happened?

Budget cuts?

Things went awry?

Sueís lost her mind?

I donít know and can only speculate, so I wonít, but I donít think Sueís lost her mind is the answer.

LuminAria? No thank you.

So what exactly is the show? I canít even begin to describe it for you. It has some very pretty pyrotechnics that are too big for the size of the lagoon (and made me feel in danger ó if the wind was blowing just right, I suspect a portion of the audience could go up in flames), in fact I think the show is too big for Paradise Lagoon, period. It struck me that they were trying for a show like Walt Disney Worldís Illuminations, but it just doesnít fit here. The show has some cute kiddie- drawn Christmas cards which I actually liked. The draw- back to these is that you canít see them too well and if your child draws one, I sure hope youíre sitting on the right side of the lagoon to see the magic moment it appears on one of the too-small screens placed in the lagoon.

LuminAria features a horrible, and dare I say it, Light Magic-like kids- play- in- the- snow video, which I guess is supposed to make the audience feel all warm and fuzzy, it just made me want to puke. I guess they didnít learn much from Light Magic. You cannot force your audience to feel false warm- fuzzy emotions with Stepford Children videos. It simply doesnít work.

LuminAria? No thank you.

LuminAria also sports several big screen TVs (for screening the aforementioned kidís cards) that at points during the show masquerade as giant presents. What they really look like is blight on the once pretty lagoon and coupled with all the other visible junk (there is no other word for it) in the lagoon, it just adds up to an ugly mess.

There also is an interesting thing that I guess is supposed to be a Christmas tree, and it has lots of pretty twinkly lights. I kind of liked that too.

Most of all, what LuminAria has is has smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. The gorgeous pyrotechnics spew out so much smoke, at times it looks like Mt. Vesuvius just erupted. If youíre sitting up wind of it, no big deal. If youíre sitting down wind, good luck. Youíll see the smoking version of the show and youíll stink like last yearís 4th of July when the show is over. The odor lingers too. Oh, and if you wear contacts, bring some eye drops, youíre going to need them.

LuminAria? No thank you.

What LuminAria doesnít have is a story, no beginning, no middle, no end. Again, and I hate to say it, but didnít they learn anything from Light Magic? That thing didnít have a story line either. I know LuminAria has something to do with Christmas, but I canít honestly tell you what. Unlike Disneylandís Believe! fireworks show, where you walk away with the feeling that your Grandmother was speaking to you (reminding you of all the good things there are at Christmas), and you watch all the little children delight in the snow (the big ones too), and you just want to hug everyone and give them hot chocolate and cookies andÖ. LuminAria unceremoniously begins, blows tons of fireworks, and then just stops, leaving the audience to wonder, "Uhhhh, is that it?"

LuminAria has no memorable music. Music is so important to a show. It aids the direction of the audience along their journey. It sets the scene, takes you for a ride, takes you to a peak and then drops you down again for the calm before the last big storm, at which point, Bam! Big finish, you know the show is done. In other words, the music of a show needs to aid in telling the story of the show. Fantasmic (which has been cancelled for Christmas due to budget cuts. Can you say LuminAria went over budget and money had to come from entertainment somewhere?) does this. Do you remember the first time you saw that show? I do. I wanted to see it again immediately and I couldnít wait to buy a recording of the music so I could relive the show over and over again. Heck, I wanted to run into the nearest shop and buy anything Fantasmic related. I can honestly say that ten minutes after I saw LuminAria, no not even that long, 30 seconds after I saw it, I could not hum one single snippet of the music I heard.

LuminAria? No thank you.

With a name like LuminAria, I expected a lilting, gorgeous, aria. Thatís logical, no? Evidently itís not logical, because you never hear anything remotely resembling an aria. With the loud blasts the pyrotechnics make, itís hard to even hear much of the sound track. The pre-show announcements begin with a computer generated/Main Street Electrical Parade tone that is just grating and, well, scary. If that was meant to set up what was to come, it did a spectacularly poor job of it all around.

I donít think theyíll be selling a lot of LuminAria CDs, if they even make one (which I highly recommend they donít).

The most important thing LuminAria is missing is magic. It has no magic, not one iota. Now, magic is an indefinable thing. What you can count on, is that even though you may not be able to pin it down in words, you know it when you see it. It surrounds you and grabs hold of you and you are completely powerless to resist it. Magic gives you a wonderful feeling. It makes you think you have seen something of greatness. It puts you into a place where all is right with the world and nothing can ever go wrong.

LuminAria? No thank you.

Disney magic is the best of the best, itís like no other magic on this earth. It makes you smile the biggest smile. It makes you feel good when you want to cry. Itís the joy of seeing the smile of a child meeting their favorite Disney character. Itís a cup of hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows bobbing on the surface. Itís a cast member going out of their way to help you with something you didnít even ask for. Itís the smell of vanilla wafting from the Candy Palace. Itís listening to the Baker sing "Iím gettingí nuttiní for Christmas," in the old Carolerís show on Main Street. Itís seeing Nightmare Before Christmasí Behemoth come to life and say, "Bunny," at a Haunted Mansion event. Itís a freshly made caramel apple on a balmy autumn afternoon. Itís the back side of water spiel on the best Jungle Cruise ride ever. Itís hearing Mickey Mouse say "Some Imagination, huh?" Itís listening to the Dapper Dans blend their marvelous harmonies as they entertain on Main Street. Itís watching the lights come on at Small World Holiday. Itís Tinker Bell flying from the Matterhorn, igniting fireworks on a hot summerís night.

Itís walking down Main Street and knowing that Walt Disney walked there too.

Need I go on? I could fill pages talking about Disney magic and never completely define or describe it, but I know what it is. You know too. LuminAria doesnít have one ounce of it. Itís too bad you canít buy magic, because LuminAria needs to put in an order for a good healthy dose of it and make that a rush order. If thereís anything the show needs it badly, itís magic.

LuminAria? No thank you.

Despite feeling that I never need to see LuminAria again, I will give it another go. As my fellow MousePlanet columnists reminded me, the performance I saw was missing something. I hope the fine Disney folks find what is missing. Iíll see the show again when itís more complete and if things change, Iíll be right back here telling you the new tune. But, at this point, Iím not too terribly optimistic things will be so vastly improved that the show will be worth recommending, which leaves me feeling so bad for Disneyís California Adventure. It seems like the park is cursed. Can they get anything right there?

When DCA first opened, I had such optimism. If you read what I had to say, then you know I really liked the park. But as time wore on, the glittering new jewel quickly tarnished and lost most of its sparkle for me. It has become increasingly hard for me to find something of joy in DCA. And, itís hard for me to enjoy being in a place that feels like it is dying, which is exactly what it feels like to be there. Itís almost as if the Disney Company has become the athlete who stayed in the game too long past his prime and is painful to watch as he struggles to accomplish what once came so effortlessly.

LuminAria? No thank you.

To be sure, there are a few good things about DCA, but so much is either closed or just plain gone, itís depressing. I hoped LuminAria would change that feeling. It didnít, it enhanced it. For me, it hammered a nail in the coffin. As the time quickly approaches to renew my two park pass, a decision must be made. LuminAria made it for me. I donít need to set foot in Disneyís California Adventure any more.

Iím going to Disneyland.

You can drop Sue Kruse a line at:


Al Lutz also reviews the new show

MPEG VIDEO CLIP ONE (5 mg - broadband access is suggested)

MPEG VIDEO CLIP TWO (5 mg - broadband access is suggested)

Photos for this review were taken by Adrienne Vincent- Phoenix, Bruce Bergman & Al Lutz

MPEG video clips by Bruce Bergman


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