Pixar vs. Disney Animation at the Disneyland Resortby Todd Pickering, contributing writer
With Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opening soon at the Disneyland Resort we will see the biggest footprint of any film property that Disney owns with a sweeping 14 acres. A yet unnamed "Marvel Super Hero Land" is debuting its first phase in 2020 so it got us thinking over here at MousePlanet about the presence of Disney and Pixar animated films at the Disneyland Resort; we came across some very interesting findings. I have heard from many guests that they long for a new attraction not based on any films, such as The Haunted Mansion or Soarin'. I have heard from many guests that are purists, and even a Pixar presence is too much for them. If you are one of the latter you may not want to read any further. For all of you Princess fans out there, we will explore the positively perfect Princess presence presently in another article later this year.
As entertainment writer here at MousePlanet, numbers are not my thing, but I had to share some facts. When the park opened in 1955 there were approximately 20 animated features out, and six of them got opening day attractions. These films were Snow White, Peter Pan, Mr. Toad, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty.
The castle was given to Disney's third princess, Princess Aurora, from the as yet unreleased Sleeping Beauty. In fact due to Walt spending so much time in Anaheim the film fell behind and was not released until 1957. That makes Sleeping Beauty Castle the only attraction given to a film in pre-production. With the 1956 refurbishment of Storybook Land Canal Boats and the addition of Monstro the Whale, Gepetto's Alpine village, and Cinderella's chateau and castle (much smaller than Princess Aurora's) making the film presence leap upwards to eight films albeit just a nod to the latter two. The dark ride Pinocchio's Daring Journey was added in the 1980s with the Fantasyland refurbishment.
If you count the Hyperion Theater's production of Frozen and the coming soon, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind at Pixar Pier (it used to be called Flik's Flyers from the now defunct "a bug's land") there are 20 Disney/Pixar attractions represented in both parks in Anaheim out of what one source says are 57 animated films. Out of those 20 attractions, two Disney films boast two attractions apiece (one of them is Dumbo) and two Pixar films boast three attractions apiece. So that means there are 26 attractions based on animated films. If you count Princess Dot's Puddle Park, A Bug's Life (one of the least popular Pixar films ever) had a whopping six attractions in Disney California Adventure. Now you can play Heimlich's Candy Corn Toss over at Games of Pixar Pier and see him in the current show of World of Color. That is quite the demotion. So let's take a look at two properties that lost some traction at the Disneyland Resort recently before presenting the top three.
Tinker Bell may be considered the ambassador to the Disney Company, and certainly is for Disneyland. Peter's Pan's Flight opened in 1955, and its popularity has never waned. On the rare very slow days in the park it might have longer wait times than E-Ticket attractions. One of the most striking show elements in all of the parks is the pirate ship in Fantasmic!, and Peter Pan lost its lease to the Pirates of the Caribbean; I have to admit that the score now is ultimately much more exciting. It wells up inside you and bubbles forth with excitement and energy.
However, when it comes to the visuals of Peter Pan's bright green outfit, Wendy's baby blue nightgown and Captain Hook's striking scarlet coat it just doesn't stand up as well. Also the crocodile following the boat was such a great pop of color. The animated fans surely prefer the old Peter Pan version. It also seems like a while since Tinker Bell has introduced the fireworks, so hopefully we will see her this summer. You can meet her every day at Pixie Hollow and Peter Pan and Captain Hook may be seen walking about the park. Main Street USA boasts a delightful Peter Pan window that has two different scenes so wait around for it to shift. This film has a float element in Mickey's Soundsational Parade so Disney is keeping this property alive and well even with a bit of a demotion from Fantasmic!
One of Disney's most beloved properties is Aladdin. With a great score and lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Tim Rice also did additional lyrics), a strong male lead (for the boys), a pretty princess (for the girls) and one of the most hilarious and joyful performances ever in any Disney film by the late and great Robin Williams as the Genie, this film has it all. The stage show at the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure was the show that just wouldn't close. In its 13th year it was still packing audiences in but the "show that just wouldn't close," did. It often had five shows a day especially during the summer and holiday seasons. Frozen may be the highest grossing animation hit for Disney but the stage show hasn't regularly given out Fastpasses in at least a year and only has three performances a day, even on weekends.
World of Color has two songs currently from Aladdin and while the Rivers of America were closed due to construction of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge the entertainment division added an Aladdin sequence to Fantasmic! Both songs from World of Color are in Fantasmic! with the Genie singing "Friend Like Me" and and a live Aladdin and Jasmine singing "A Whole New World" heralding in the romance sequence on an actual flying carpet. Definitely a smart move having lost the stage show. Aladdin, the Genie, and Abu make a grand appearance in Mickey's Soundsational Parade. There is a nod to the flying carpets and lamps over in Adventureland at the Tropical Hideaway, and if you haven't stopped by to see the window display on Main Street USA we think it is one of the best ones offered. Is there any way to get the live action Genie from the stage show back into the parks somehow?
Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland ties with Dumbo as the only Disney animated film to have two attractions apiece. When the park opened in 1955, Dumbo had Casey Jr. Train and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The only film to have two attractions. The Mad Tea Party was the only offering on opening day for Alice in Wonderland. In 1958 with the debut of the Alice in Wonderland attraction, this film tied with Dumbo for most attractions. In the 1984 refurbishment of Fantasyland they moved the teacups directly in front of this attraction and also built the Mad Hatter Hat shop making this its own little neighborhood.
When Alice and the Mad Hatter are walking about, it is as immersive as Cars Land in its own mini way. Alice and The Mad Hatter are two of the most delightful characters walking about the park, and can be found at the entrance gate or even on Main Street USA at the Coca Cola Corner playing musical chairs with the kids. They are so much fun it may be a favorite memory of your kids to have time with these two amazing characters. The Mad Hatter also has a hat shop on Main Street USA, making that the only feature to be represented here.
The Storybook Land Canal Boats have a beautiful scene of the church, Alice's house, and the White Rabbit's rabbit hole. You can see the Alice and the White Rabbit in "it's a small world." And directly behind the attraction there is the biggest themed bathrooms in all of the resort, with the Queen and King of Hearts on the doors and cards to represent the bathroom stalls. The Cheshire Cat makes an appearance in World of Color over at Disney California Adventure.
I am going to call first place a tie here between the two Pixar properties, Cars and Toy Story. Cars Land wins the "Most Immersive" award. Walking through Cars Land* a kid looked about and then turned to his father and asked in utmost earnestness, "Dad, did they film the movie here?" This fantastic land boasts three attractions with Radiator Springs Racers definitely being an E-Ticket. You do actually feel like the movie was filmed there. Especially with Mater, Lightning McQueen, Cruz Ramirez, or Red the Fire Engine driving up and down the street and posing for photos at the Cozy Cone Motel.
This land also has three attractions that ties with yet another Pixar property. It also has two restaurant offerings (five if you count all of the cones). It appears that the car DJ has hit the highway and headed to Walt Disney World, so we no longer have that fun dance show available. Probably trying to make a bigger presence of Cars with the new Lightning McQueen Racing Academy opening this weekend at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Cars Land also has an amazing Holiday and Halloween overlay. All of the parks are magical at night, but this also wins the award for "Best Nighttime Lights." At exactly dusk they play "Sh-Boom" by The Chords and all of the lights and neon lights up in time to the beat just like in the film. Watching this one cannot help but think that maybe they did film the movie here.
*Due to a repeated typo while creating this article I think maybe we should petition for Carls Land. It can be themed to the Pixar film Up. Anyone? Anyone? Is this on? Read it again. CarLs Land. Get it? These are the jokes folks!
The newly renovated Pixar Pier createx a new "neighborhood" for Jessie's Critter Carousel, which opens very soon; we saw it spinning around this weekend and you can see the critters on board and Jessie standing in front. Toy Story Midway Mania is definitely a favorite attraction and deserves an E-Ticket rating. The Pixar Pier Games feature a Bullseye game also. Señor Buzz Churros sells... well... churros and Poultry Palace looks like a kid's meal box from the short film Small Fry complete with a mini Emperor Zorg toy.
"How can this compete with Cars Land?" you might be asking yourself now. Remember that it ties with Cars Land in attractions because over at Disneyland in Tomorrowland there is Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters. You do see Buzz Lightyear walking about also. Pizza Planet finally landed over in Tomorrowland too, but we hope that it will get a little more permanent signage soon. It's the only Pixar film to have a window display on Main Street USA. You can see Jessie and Woody in "it's a small world" in Fantasyland. You can make Woody dance over in Frontierland in the Pioneer Mercantile and often meet Woody and Jessie most likely over at the Big Thunder Trail since that new land hasn't opened yet.
Entertainment-wise you can see the Toy Story characters on the Riverboat in the finale of Fantasmic!. The Green Army Men have their own show over in Paradise Gardens that is high energy great fun and Woody and Buzz have quite the segment in World of Color. Even in Cars Land you can find a tiny little nod by looking for Buzz Lightyear inside the Cozy Cone Motel hidden under a cone just like he did in the original motion picture. You just can't hide from the Toy Story.
If you want to talk Paint the Night parade both Cars and Toy Story are still represented so the tie stands. Let me know in the comments if I missed any mention of any of these fine feature films at all around and about the Disneyland Resort.