Kid-Friendly Entertainment at Disney California Adventure

by Todd Pickering, contributing writer

I have just completed my entertainment touring guide for Disneyland, so now it's time to head over to Disney California Adventure and experience the offerings available at that park.

I will quickly reiterate the value of checking ahead of time on line and in your hard copy Entertainment Times Guide, which you can get at the gate or from any of the custodial cast members. On the off season some groups do not perform every day, so make sure to check the schedule before planning your day. Also, keep in mind that World of Color and Frozen – Live at the Hyperion use Fastpass and also have dining packages that give you a meal and VIP passes to the aforementioned shows. Pre-planning is always important if you want to take advantage of these two shows that are a major commitment in your day.

Disney California Adventure seems to have more kid-friendly fun, so I brought along some of my favorite younger pals to address Operation: Playtime!, Disney Junior – Live on Stage! and DJ's Dance 'n' Drive.

Operation: Playtime! Featuring the Green Army Men

"Toy Story"'s Green Army Men drive up in their trademark jeep. Photo by Todd Pickering.

The Green Army Men from the Toy Story franchise pull up at the entrance to Paradise Pier near the Little Mermaid attraction. They park their jeep and do some fun audience participation with lots of drumming. They pull out a bunch of toys that they can drum on and lead the audience in an army call and answer chant. Then they get a volunteer of troops and parade them around teaching them how to freeze like toys when the drummers stop as a boy or girl walks into the room. It's a nice live version of musical chairs. They also have the audience clap the beats as the drummers pound a rhythm. This show is quick and fun with high energy. There is something so primal about drumming that speaks to our inner rhythm and really makes this simple show a crowd pleaser.

Disney Junior – Live on Stage!

As a seasoned veteran of Disneyland Resort, I recently realized that I had never seen Disney Junior – Live on Stage! Not having kids was of course the main reason. I have only ever seen clips of Disney Jr. shows on television at my friends' houses in the background with their children watching, so I made sure to bring along three good friends—Zaida (5), Hadley, and Willa (4)—to see this show.

Mickey and the Gang celebrate Minnie's birthday at "Disney Junior – Live on Stage!" Photo by Todd Pickering.

We were able to see the 2:15 show, but when got there around 2:00 the line was pretty long. Showing up early to queue is definitely important on weekends and busier days. The theatre is set up without chairs, so floor seating with your little ones is one option. The floor is carpeted and raked. There are a smattering of benches along the side of the theatre for those guests that need a seat. We were seated off to the side and too close to the stage. Center and back is the best way to watch the show. All of the characters are puppets and for some odd reason they are mostly staged in the floor of the stage, so you cannot see them very well if you are up too close, especially for the little ones. This is done to facilitate a spinning set but I don't know why the main characters were not at least up higher for better sight lines.

There is one live performer in the show that narrates the piece and talks to the audience to get them up and participating. The loose plot is that Mickey and the gang are planning a surprise birthday party for Minnie. Everyone is in charge of something, for example Daisy is in charge of hanging up a poster but she doesn't know how. Our narrator suggests she listen to stories for inspiration and that leads us to visit Princess Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates. In each sequence the characters ask the kids to help, for example in the Jake and the Neverland Pirates sequence, Jake asks for help to find the treasure that Captain Hook stole from them. This inspires Daisy to ask her friends for help to hang the banner. [Spoiler Alert] of course the piece ends with a successful birthday party for Minnie.

In each sequence there are bubbles or confetti that fall upon the audience and the girls really loved that. The younger girls were very happy to dance and participate, but the older girl Zaida seemed to get bored with the participation during the show, and there is a lot of it. This show definitely gets the most mileage out of your pre-schooler-aged kids. I also noticed other bored older siblings, but getting the wiggles out in the air conditioning is fantastic for the little ones.

Willa, Hadley and Zaida agreed that the confetti was the best part of the show. Photo by Todd Pickering.

After the show I asked all three girls what their favorite part was and all agreed it was the streamers, which they carried around for the next hour after the show. Talking to Mom and Dad after the show they agreed the show was very light on plot and was a bit long at 25 minutes. 20 minutes would have been ideal. I have to say that I am impressed that there is a show for the little ones.

DJ's Dance 'n' Drive

On another visit after riding Luigi's Rockin' Roadsters we stumbled upon DJ. He is a car with lots of lights and music pumping all around him and he pulls up at the main intersection in Radiator Springs and spins some great tunes while his friends teach the kids to dance. His friends are Cast Members dressed like diner waitresses and car mechanics. They do all the dance moves and collect kids from the crowd. All are welcome.

All three girls loved this show, and with such tunes as Car Wash, Rock This Town, and Dancin' in the Streets the adults are happy to stop and listen too. The three girls were the perfect demonstration of something for everyone. Zaida was elated to do free form. She really was jamming to the tunes and lost in her own world. Hadley is a little more shy and was really delighted to have one of the dancers take her hand and dance along with her. Willa was really intent on learning the choreography that they teach, and was quite keen on getting each move down pat. Later in the evening when we walked back through Cars Land and we saw DJ they wanted to do it again, and they had a ball dancing the entire set.

The girls dance up a storm when DJ spins some tunes in Cars Land. Photo by Todd Pickering.

I was really happy to see my thesis that you never know what will excite your crowd and bring them to life. I truly thought that Disney Junior would go over more than DJ in Cars Land. Picking up on those signals from your little ones is so important, and little ones go through different phases. This difference is the most important thing about Disneyland Resort. There is something for everyone, and just because the last group enjoyed one thing doesn't mean your next out of town guests or kids will. I am continually surprised and delighted to see different people's reactions. We all have our favorites.

I will discuss my favorites next month as I continue to explore more of the music groups over in Disney California Adventure. See you on Buena Vista Street!