MousePlanet's Guide to the World of Color

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Due to overwhelming reader request, we have written this guide to help you navigate through the variety of World of Color viewing options.

Go directly to: Non-ticketed viewing | Ticketed viewing (Fastpass option, Picnic option, Dining Package option) | I have a ticket—now what | Getting the best view | Splash zones | Tips about showtimes | Tips for parents | Tips for visitors not staying on-property | What to do if a show is canceled | Special access instructions


Introduced in June 2010, the World of Color is a larger-than-life water, laser, and fire show presented from a platform in the middle of Paradise Bay at the Disney California Adventure park in Anaheim. The show was initially scheduled for two performances each night at 9:00 and 10:15, but due to its popularity, DCA has extended its park hours and added a third show at 11:15 every night since the show premiered. The show will maintain this schedule through September 6, 2010. Starting September 7, the show will be presented on an off-season schedule of one show per night at 8:15 Mondays through Thursdays, and two shows per night at 9:00 and 10:15 Fridays through Sundays.

You have a few different options for seeing the new show, and which of these methods you use depends on how much time and/or money you're willing to spend:

  • Non-ticketed viewing – essentially a stand-by option, this has no added cost other than admission
  • Ticketed viewing – three different options provide you with various experiences
    • Fastpass ticket – another no-cost way to see the show, but with improved viewing
    • Picnic option – secure a spot in the improved viewing area, and get a box meal to boot
    • Dining Package option – offers a "dinner and show" package

Officially, Disney says you can view the show from around the entire bay, and you can see many of the show elements if you maintain line of sight with the water. However in reality, to get the full experience of the show and be able to see most of the projected images, you have to get yourself to a much smaller and specific viewing area is known as Paradise Park, located on the north side of Paradise Bay. Admission to this viewing area is currently offered by ticket only, and the capacity of the viewing area is reportedly around 4,500 people per show.

Disney has divided Paradise Park into three color-coded viewing sections: Center (usually Yellow), left of center (which includes the bridge; usually Blue) and right of center (usually Red). The color/section designations changed during the opening weeks of the show, but Disney seems to have settled on a color scheme.

To further confuse matters, each of these three main sections includes a small wheelchair section, a small section with benches for people with endurance issues (usually adjacent to the wheelchair section), and a waterfront "splash zone" where you are guaranteed to get wet, if not soaked, during the show. There are also VIP sections at the back of the viewing area, reserved for celebrities and high-profile guests, as well as a new section of bench seating available for Club 33 members to reserve.

Non-ticketed viewing

Going stand-by is what you get if you don't choose one of the three ticketed options, and it means you don't have ticket to the viewing area. You can still see the show, but you have to do it from somewhere else around Paradise Bay. Depending on where you stand, you'll have at best a side-on view of the water screen, and probably won't be able to see most of the projections. You will be able to see most of the fire and water effects, if only from the side or back of the show. This option is for you if you're only interested in getting a sense of what World of Color is like, and don't want to spend any money for a dining package, or any time waiting in line to collect or use a Fastpass ticket.

[Read our MousePad discussion on stand-by viewing.]

Ticketed viewing

To improve your viewing experience, you can obtain tickets for the World of Color viewing area. There are three ways to do this:

Fastpass option

The Fastpass option is the only way to see the World of Color from the Paradise Park viewing area at no additional cost beyond park admission. To get a World of Color Fastpass, you just go to the bank of Fastpass machines at Grizzly River Run, hand your park ticket to a cast member, and receive your Fastpass. This sounds simple, but be aware that the line for the Fastpass machines forms before DCA even opens in the morning and can stretch upwards of 90 minutes. To add to that, those who stay at the Disneyland Resort hotels get to enter the park to get into the Fastpass line 30 minutes before everyone else.

MousePlanet tip: Did you know you don't have to be an overnight guest at the on-property resorts to qualify as a "Resort Guest"? See "Tips for visitors not staying on-property" in this guide for instructions.

If you are:

  • A Resort Guest – congratulations, you get to enter the park half an hour before everyone else, via the Grand Gate, which connects the Grand Californian Hotel to DCA. This gate opens a full hour before the park opens, at 9:00 a.m., but beware: The line starts earlier than that. To gain access to the park from the Grand Gate, you must have both your park ticket (admission media) and room key, and every member of your party must be with you. Once inside DCA, the Grizzly River Run Fastpass machines are on your right—just follow the crowd.
  • Not a Resort Guest – you must enter the park through the main entrance, which opens half an hour before the park opens, at 9:30 a.m. (but 30 minutes after resort guests have already made their way in via the Grand Gate). The queue forms earlier than that, however, and you must have your valid admission media, and every member of your party present. Once inside DCA, follow the signs, cast member instructions or (more likely), crowd of running people to get to the Grizzly River Run Fastpass machines. On busier days, the queue is wrapped around the back side of Grizzly River Run, and waits can exceed 90 minutes.

Once you reach the machines, one member of your party (the rest of your group will likely be asked to wait to the side) will hand all of the tickets for your entire group to the cast member stationed at the machine. The cast member will run your tickets and issue your Fastpasses. Cast members tell us the tickets are issued starting with the 9:00 show, then moving to the second and third shows as each previous show sells out. Your entire group should get your tickets at the same time, otherwise you risk being issued tickets to a different section, or even a different show.

MousePlanet tip: In order for the Fastpass machine to dispense a valid show ticket for you, you must first scan your park admission ticket (or annual pass) at the entrance turnstile to activate it for the day. This is how Disney prevents you from "cheating" by heading into the park alone with your entire party's annual passes or admission tickets (while everyone else eats breakfast, or during the day while the kids are still in school or your spouse is still at work). Don't get burned; make sure everyone in your party is with you when you get in line to enter the park. Once everyone's through the gate, though, you can gather up everyone's passes and head to the Fastpass machine by yourself.

[Read reports from readers who have used the Fastpass option.]

Picnic option [Discontinued June 1, 2013]

Dubbed the "$15 Fastpass" by some readers, each World of Color picnic comes with your choice of seven entree options (four for adults, three for children), a bottled beverage, and a Fastpass for the World of Color. All kid's meals come with a glow bracelet. If you reserve your meal online, you'll also receive a World of Color tote bag with each meal, though we've heard that Disney is also giving the bag to walk-up customers. There are two ways to purchase a picnic, and how you buy the meal determines which show you will see.

If you:

  • Buy online – Online reservations are available up to 30 days in advance, but must be made at least one day in advance of your preferred show date; same-day online reservations are not accepted. If you purchase your picnic online, you will receive tickets to the first World of Color showing.
  • Buy in-park – If you forget to reserve your picnic in advance or if the show date you wanted is already sold out online, you can purchase a same-day picnic once you arrive in DCA, at a counter near the Wine Country Trattoria. The location opens around 11:00 a.m. each morning. Picnic choices are first-come, first-serve, so you risk not getting the meal you wanted if you wait to purchase your picnic later in the day. If you buy your picnic in the park, you will have to take your meal with you when you buy it, so most people make this their lunch for the day. Picnics purchased in-park come with tickets to the second showing.

MousePlanet tip: Many dietary issues can be accommodated with advance notice; call 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463) for assistance before you order.

[Read detailed reports from readers who have purchased picnics.]

Dining Package option

For those who want the full "dinner and a show" experience, Disney offers a dining package at two table-service restaurants: Ariel's Grotto, and the Wine Country Trattoria. Both restaurants have a special menu for this package.

You can phone in your reservation request up to 60 days in advance of your visit, and request a seating for either the first or second World of Color show. You will be dining before the performance regardless of which show you get.

To be clear, you will not actually view World of Color from the restaurant. At the conclusion of your meal, your server presents each member of your party with a ticket granting you access to a reserved viewing area within Paradise Park.

Dietary issues can be accommodated with advance notice, but the restaurants will not make any preference-based substitutions.

To make a reservation, call 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463).

[Read detailed information including menus, and reader reports.]

I have a ticket—now what?

Where you go and what you do depends on which ticket you possess. If you have a:

  • Fastpass or Picnic ticket – you will be assigned to one of the color-coded viewing areas in Paradise Park and told when and where to line up before the show. The earlier you join the line, the earlier you will enter the viewing area, and the better your chance of grabbing a better spot.
  • Dining package ticket – are not color-coded , but do include instructions on where to line up. Once you approach the viewing area, you'll be directed to a specific white sign where you can enter your reserved section.

MousePlanet tip: Don't be fooled by the "return time" printed on your ticket, nor the claim that "early arrivals cannot be accommodated." The lines start to form anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes before the stated time, and if you wait until your official "return time," you will wind up at or near the back of the line for your section. It's up to you to decide how much time you want to invest in line.

Getting the best view from Paradise Park

Once you've been shuttled into Paradise Park area before the show, the real challenge is to find the best place to stand to see the show. Despite a claim on the Disneyland Web site that says "Paradise Park was expertly designed to provide stunning views of World of Color from all areas," the most common complaint about the show is that it's hard to see if you get a bad spot.

When choosing your spot, remember that:

  • Even though Paradise Park faces California Screamin', the "center" of the show is actually closer to the Fun Wheel.
  • You want to be able to see the surface of the water if at all possible. The show includes quite a number of water-level effects.
  • You want to be in front of or above the rest of the crowd—avoid standing behind someone if you can, especially in the flat central fountain area.

Use the following photo for a bird's-eye view of the best and worst viewing spots in Paradise Park (beware that the colors we use in this photo do not coincide with the colors of the viewing sections, as the section boundaries are still shifting):

  • Blue – great spot if you're willing to get soaked.
  • Purple – good spots, but you may get wet.
  • Green – good spots if you want to remain mostly dry. You will still get a little damp from the mist
  • Red – spots you absolutely do not want because of obstructed views, such as the back half of the central fountain circle; behind the oddly placed trellises; at the back of any flat section.
  • Yellow – spot that some people consider to be the "sweet spot" for the show because the show control trailer (still visible in this photo) was located while the show was being programmed. This is a nice spot, so long as you aren't directly behind the light fixture (which was actually removed during programming).

A bird's-eye view of Paradise Park, showing the best and worst places to see the World of Color. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Your goal is to be at the front of a section against a railing, or on the top level of one of the steps. Your next best option is a place along one of the rope barriers that define the walkways, where you won't have anyone to your side, and you'll probably have a better view than being in the middle of the crowd.

The good news is that most of the people watching the show with you will not have done their research, and will follow the crowd pushing to get as close to the water as they can. If you don't want to be in the splash zone, grab a top step and just let the crowds pass.

Disney's designated Blue section includes the bridge, which some people consider to be a prime location if you can get a spot along the railing. If you want to stake your claim on the bridge, veer to the left as you enter the viewing area, and look for the cast members directing guests into that section.

Most people consider Disney's designated Red section to be the worst of the three sections. If you pull a red Fastpass ticket, get as close to the center of Paradise Park as possible, as close to the designated Yellow section as you can.

MousePlanet tip: If you have more than two layers of people in front of you, find another spot.

The top step shown here offers a good view of the show, but avoid the back of the flat fountain section. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix

Splash zones

Each section of the viewing area includes a splash zone—strip of the boardwalk that offers a waterside view of the show and a guarantee that you will leave the show wet, if not soaked. Most folks avoid these sections and it's not necessarily easy to spot the access point, so ask a cast member for assistance getting through the crowds. Depending where you stand, the closest fountain in the lagoon may be less than 15 feet from you. It's a completely immersive experience—in more ways than one—so come prepared. Be sure to protect any electronic equipment as you would from an intense rain storm.

The planters conceal additional fountain jets. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The show also incorporates fountains concealed within the planters separating the terraces of Paradise Park. These fountains are used during the show, and may be an unwelcome surprise to unsuspecting guests leaning against a railing. Water from the fountains can blow into the crowd on windy nights, or splash and spray as it lands. If you take a spot along a railing, check the planter for one of these concealed fountains (pictured above), and move if you really don't want to get wet.

MousePlanet tip: Although helpful Disney cast members come by to sell you a plastic poncho for $7, you can save some money by bringing your own disposable poncho.

Tips about showtimes

Just like Fantasmic at Disneyland, the different showings of World of Color has certain advantages and disadvantages.

The 9:00 (first) show

The earliest show is most popular with families with children and those who just don't like a late night in the parks. It's also the only performance with a pre-show of a brief song-and-dance procession with oversized character puppets. This showing also feels like (and likely is) the most crowded. The lines form earlier, the wait seems longer, and the added pre-show means you'll be standing more than you will for the later shows.

To see the first show, you'll either need to get to the park right at opening to get a Fastpass, purchase a picnic package online, or book a World of Color dining package for the first seating.

The 10:15 (second) show

The second show is less crowded, and the wait is shorter simply because the lines can't form until the audience has been let in for the first show. The bad news is that you'll probably be standing in line throughout the first show, and won't enter the viewing area until the entire first audience has cleared the area. The good news is that the queues for the second show seem to be much better organized than the general melee that characterizes the line for the first show.

To see the second show, you'll either need to wait until all Fastpasses have been distributed for the first show (wait until the cast members say they've started issuing tickets for the red section for the first show before you get in the Fastpass line), purchase a picnic package online, or book a World of Color dining package for the second seating.

MousePlanet tip: If you're booking a dining package, try for the earliest seating available to you—some people report having to skip dessert to make it to the show on time.

The 11:15 (third) show

The appeal of the third show is the smaller crowd—even though the same number of tickets are distributed, the return rate is much lower for an 11:15 show. There are fewer children due to the late hour, which means less chance that the dad in front of you will plunk his child onto his shoulders just as the show starts, and since there are no dining packages offered for the third show, the section reserved in the first and second shows for dining package guests is turned over to Fastpass holders. This is the only show where you might—depending on crowds—be allowed to grab a spot in the viewing area without a ticket right before the show starts.

To see the third show, keep tabs on the Fastpass distribution rate—ask the cast members when they think you should return.

Tips for parents

If you're this far into this guide, you've probably recognized that your 42-inch-tall child is going to have a very hard time seeing the show unless you get a spot along a railing or on a top step. If you arrive too late to get a good vantage point, your child is likely going to spend the entire show staring at the posterior of the person in front of you. This is not an ideal situation for you or your child, so be aware of the issue in advance so you can pick a good spot for your family.

Anyone who has seen World of Color knows that the moment the first fountains come to life, parents standing in a bad spot will raise their children onto their shoulders, effectively blocking the view of the entire show for the people behind them. Unlike a fireworks show, much of the "action" takes place at or below eye level, so children sitting on their parent's shoulders can block the view for a large section of the audience behind them.

Initially when the show first premiered, cast members were instructed to tell parents not to place their children on shoulders during the show. This was quickly abandoned as the problems with the viewing area became clear. The issue of "shoulder children" has sparked some very heated debate on these message boards.

If you are a parent or the tallest member of your party, it is imperative that you take into consideration the view from your children and the shorter members of your party and consider arriving early so that your children can see the show without sitting on your shoulders. If you arrive too late to get a spot along the railing, please show courtesy to the people behind you.

MousePlanet tip: If you must hold your child up to see the show, pull your child up only to where their head is level with yours. This will let you enjoy seeing your child's face as show unfolds, and will prevent everyone behind you from throwing objects at you for blocking an already bad view with a view of your child's back.

Tips for visitors not staying on-property

Disney states that the early entrance to DCA is available to guests staying at the three Disneyland Resort Hotels (the Disneyland, Paradise Pier and Grand Californian hotels). However, we've been told that you don't actually need to book a room at one of the hotels to use this entrance—you just need to be a "guest" at the hotel. What's the difference, you ask? Simply put, Disney considers anyone using a service of its on-property hotels to be a "guest," including shops and restaurants. Although there are numerous places to shop and dine on hotel property, in order to be a "Resort guest" on the morning you want to use the entrance, we can think of three places specifically:

  • Have breakfast with Chip and Dale at Storytellers Cafe
  • Make a purchase (of, for example, a bottle of water) at Whitewater Snacks
  • Pick up a small item at Acorns Gifts & Goods

Cast members should accept your same-day receipt in lieu of a hotel room key and grant you access through the Grand gate, but this is another one of those policy-versus-practice matters. Several readers have reported success gaining entry to DCA with a receipt (though one said the cast member was clearly not happy about it), and I've personally done it twice.

What to do if a show is canceled

As of this writing, only four performances of World of Color have been canceled; one due to a water main break, and three more following an earthquake in Southern California. Following each canceled show, DCA's guest relations department had to deal with thousands of disappointed and upset customers.

If you have a Fastpass ticket to World of Color and the show is canceled, there's not a lot Disney will do for you. In Disney's view, this is akin to a Fastpass for Space Mountain, where the ride breaks down for the rest of the day, the most you'll usually be able to do is explain the situation and use that Fastpass on another ride. However, Disney's new push to sell World of Color picnics and dinners changes the equation for the thousands of people each night who shell out $15-$40 per person for what Disney advertises as a dining "package."

If the show is canceled:

  • Before you eat – If you learn that your show has been canceled before you pick up your picnic meal or check in for your reservation, you have some options. You can simply walk away from your dinner reservation with no penalty, although it would be polite to let the restaurant know you're canceling the reservation. If you pre-ordered a picnic, instead of picking it up you can request to have your purchased transferred to another night instead of picking up th. You may even be able to request a refund, but that outcome is less likely. Whatever you do, make your decision before you dine. As one cast member said, "It's a lot easier to refund an uneaten meal."
  • After you eat – If you learn that your show has been canceled after you've already dined, Disney can offer a few alternatives, though personal experience says that they're reluctant to do so:
    • Passholders and local residents – your best bet is to wait and contact Disney's Guest Relations department the next day for assistance. If you rush straight to Guest Relations that night, you'll spend a lot of time in a very long line, and will probably encounter some very frazzled cast members and managers. Instead, enjoy the rest of your night in the Resort, and then contact Disney by phone or e-mail. Disney usually will not offer a refund for meals that were already served, but they can issue you a replacement viewing ticket to allow you to return to DCA and see the show another night.
    • Vacationers and those don't want to wait to resolve the matter – go ahead and join the line at Guest Relations, but be realistic in your requests. Disney isn't going to refund your admission tickets, hotel room, and plane fare because of one canceled show.

[Read reports from readers who were at the cancelled June 27 show.]

[Read reports from readers who were at teh canceled July 7 show.]

Special access instructions

If a member of your party uses a wheelchair, check with the cast members at the Fastpass machines for specific instructions. If you are purchasing a dining package or a picnic, cast members at each of the queues will direct you to a special line for each viewing area. Each section of the viewing area has a section set aside for wheelchair users, and these are positioned at a forward position, usually against a rail. There won't be anyone standing directly in front of this section, but the view may be otherwise slightly obstructed by planters, walls, light fixtures, and the heads of the people in the section below. Companions can stand behind the person using the wheelchair.

Endurance issues are a tougher problem. Again, if a member of your party cannot stand for the 25-minute performance, you can request a seat on one of the few benches placed throughout the viewing area. Check with a cast member for assistance, and plan to arrive early.

MousePlanet tip: Disney prohibits guests from bringing their own folding chairs or stools and has recently begun cracking down on the use of cane chairs, so avoid the bother of having them turned away at the security checks by leaving them behind.