Ranked: All Things World of Color

With the debut of the new World of Color – ONE, on top of Disney California Adventure’s 22nd anniversary, I thought it would be fun to look at all the arms of one of the greatest nighttime spectaculars ever created for a Disney Park, Disney California Adventure’s World of Color.

I have tried to make a comprehensive list, ranked of course, of all things World of Color, including preshows, added segments, various versions of the show for holidays and celebrations, and even the short-lived daytime show using the World of Color infrastructure! Let’s begin!

Blizzard Entertainment Private Show

Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind video games like World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and Overwatch held a special company holiday party at Disney California Adventure, surprising their employees with a special performance of World of Color. However, as the outro played and the fountains receded back into Paradise Bay, staffers were treated to a custom, private, 6ish minute post-show featuring characters from their games.

Videos of this special performance can be found on the internet, and those present and those viewing years later online will be treated to the game characters on the mist screens while the fountain grid is seeing minimal action, with a bit of the geysers in a standing position, while the lights beneath change color. Though a minimal show, something so custom and decidedly un-Disney just for the Blizzard team is an exceptionally exclusive offering.

Though without custom animation, this same kind of grid effect can also be booked as part of a custom Fairy Tale Wedding package at the park, with the mist screen running while some fountains are lit saying Congratulations to (insert name here).

World of Color – Celebrate You! (Cast Member Celebrations)

While I never had the fortune to witness this one personally, this special performance of the show kind of falls in line with the soon-to-be-mentioned Colors of Pixar special, though this one is branded as World of Color, and it honors the Cast Members of the Disneyland Resort.

Taking place on a special night that celebrates cast members marking their milestone anniversaries, this special show is a great offering for them to enjoy thanking them for all their hard work, and serving as a reminder as to why they continue their employment at the Happiest Place on Earth. The show is a bit stock footage-y and can easily be switched out by changing the dates shown on the mist screens marking the anniversaries, but that is all overshadowed by the exclusivity of the offering in that only select cast members have the opportunity in which to see it.

Still, there is more to it than the Blizzard Entertainment tag in terms of content and animation on the fountain grid. The beauty of the water and the choreography is hypnotic to a point and helps overshadow some of the more brainwashy aspects of the show. Fans can catch it on YouTube and I have a sneaking suspicion that they will have a sudden urge to apply to work at the Disneyland Resort.

Also, this show commits what I believe to be the cardinal sin of a World of Color performance… adding fireworks. The whole idea of the new nighttime spectacular at the park was to avoid an abundance of fireworks and live performers. That way, unlike a show like Fantasmic!, it could be run multiple times per night without incurring an influx of operational cost. Though, I will be up front now, there is another offender of this rule a bit higher on this list.

Brave Add-On

To promote the upcoming release of Brave from Pixar Animation Studios, a segment celebrating the new film was inserted into the middle of World of Color. This has been done numerous times over the run of the show, but this might have been the lowest ranking version of one of these promotional add-ons, depending on who you ask. For me, it is.

Awkwardly inserted after Friend Like Me but before Pocahontas, the pacing of the show is completely thrown off by the appearance of Merida and the Scottish highlands. From there, we are treated to a portion of a song (that nobody knew at this point), before the lasers took over displaying the wisps. During the two and a half minutes or so, a parade of characters from the film goes by, and it’s something more akin to a DVD menu than a segment in World of Color. It works great as a promo piece and would be substantially better if placed after or before the show, but definitely not in the middle of it. After a mega-growl from the spoiler-free bear of the film, we fade awkwardly back into the opening of the Pocahontas segment, featuring the Sprite from Fantasia 2000. As I type this, I see how this idea looked good on paper, but its execution wasn’t the greatest.

Instant Concert Just Add Water

For a time, guests visiting DCA could catch an “Instant Concert” in the daylight hours featuring Goofy while in Paradise Gardens Park. There, our familiar canine friend would walk out in full symphony regalia and conduct a performance of one of several pieces of cartoonishly classical music on the waters of Paradise Bay.

As a big fan of the original Goofy cartoons, I love that this plays out almost like any of the “How To” cartoons with Maestro Goofy responding to an unseen narrator, stepping up to a podium in the middle of what is typically the viewing area for the nighttime performances. There, he “conducts” the fountains comedically, dancing alongside the water jets dozens of feet away in the waters of Paradise Bay.

While a fun daytime offering, it did take a lot of the magic away from the evening spectacular, as the full fountain grid is plainly visible during the day, turning the park’s main lagoon into something more reminiscent of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. As far as I can tell though, this is the only regular show and offering that ever used the fountains alongside an actual character or performer, which itself makes it worthy of mentioning.

World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney

The first major World of Color show (not just an addition or special presentation) to appear on this list proves that you can’t do a narrative style story using World of Color. In fact, if you really want to get into it, that could be why the original concept of the show was abandoned, but more on that later. One version of the show that is a fantastic example of how not to use this multimedia showpiece is World of Color: Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney.

Opened at the park as part of the festivities for Disneyland’s 60th Diamond Celebration, this show was about as aptly titled as the neighboring Disneyland Forever, in that it had very little to do with Walt Disney himself aside from using it as a device that loosely tied the show together, recounting the dreams that Walt had and had achieved. Most of the show takes place on the center mist screens with the full tableau of fountains and geysers that creators had at their disposal playing background to a suited-up Neil Patrick Harris doing what Steve Martin did better at the 50th anniversary celebration in the Main Street Opera House. The mist screens would run continuously for minutes at a time while we saw the host lead sing-alongs of Disneyland classics while awkwardly telling us why we loved the park we were currently in, also while showing stock footage of families enjoying their time as seen in Vacation Planning Videos of years past.

While yes, the original World of Color does use the mist screens, they are a part of a fully controlled scene that typically fade away and let other show elements take over, making the jumping and animated water be the real star of the show. In fact, there are only a handful of moments that keep this spirit alive during Celebrate, and those were mostly used to peddle the new Mickey Mouse shorts and the then-hugely anticipated and unreleased Star Wars: The Force Awakens. A moment that celebrated “The Golden Age of Animation” (read: all of Disney and Pixar Animation according to show designers) plays nicely and uses the space brilliantly but fades into a full rendition of “Let it Go” From Frozen, still at the height of its popularity. You know Star Wars and Frozen, right? All part of the dream of Walt Disney.

World of Color fans typically agree that this is definitely on the lower end of the different shows and variations, but will appreciate the infrastructure installations that came with it. Celebrate! Allowed for the ability to use Mickey’s Fun Wheel as a projection surface and cryogenic blasts in the viewing area of Paradise Gardens Park, as well as a now signature effect – a massive fireball that was also responsible for numerous UFO sightings at the Disneyland Resort.

The highlights, like the Mickey Mouse, Animation, Frozen, and Star Wars bits were the definite stand-outs but oddly Celebrate!’s greatest moment came AFTER the show, and it just might have had the single greatest outro out of all the World of Color shows. As people linger in Paradise Gardens Park to a full rendition of “Forever Young,”  Walt Disney himself (appropriately) from Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color’s 1962 special, Disneyland After Dark, personally says good night from the center of Mickey’s Fun Wheel before the waters move in tune with a song from Howard Ashman’s musical, SMILE, aptly titled “Disneyland.”

World of Color – Winter Dreams

The first real special holiday layover of World of Color took over Paradise Bay back in 2013 with World of Color – Winter Dreams. Hosted by Olaf from the hit Frozen franchise (that had just been released), we see favorite Disney characters in holiday and winter settings. A moment with Bambi and Thumper steals the show as they ice skate, and a good portion of the show is dedicated to a rendition of The Nutcracker as told by the characters from Toy Story.

However, the holiday layover was more about Frozen than the holidays, even to a point where the traditional opening of the show that proclaims “Walt Disney Presents” was replaced by “Olaf Presents.” In between more traditional holiday fare, full renditions of the songs “In Summer” and “Let It Go,” while Olaf interjects in nearly every sequence, and leads a full holiday sing-along, marking the second time a sing-along has made an appearance toward the bottom of this list. Coincidence? I Think not. In 2014 and 2015, the show was altered to allow for more Frozen content. Namely, the songs that were missing like “Love Is An Open Door” and “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?”

That said, the show brought us additional lighting infrastructure to California Screamin’ (Now Incredicoaster) and around Mickey’s Head on the iconic Mickey’s Fun Wheel (Now Pixar Pal-A-Round). It was also hilarious to watch the crowds kind of passively watch the Olaf-led sing-alongs, but would belt out their finest karaoke voices when any Frozen song would play. Lasers were also used to great effect in this show, as they are with most, but combined with the winter-esque wisps in the orchestration, it works beautifully well.

World of Color – Winter Dreams also snuck in something that fans had wanted to see in a nighttime spectacular at the Disney Parks since 2010: A moment featuring “I See The Light” from Tangled. Funny to think about now, considering its prominence in latter day spectaculars like Disneyland Forever at Disneyland, and Happily Ever After and other projection based castle shows at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Plus, the later years of this show also saw a segment featuring winter themed Disney moments alongside Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” serving as a launching point for holiday content to come.

World of Color – Villainous!

We’ve had some exclusive World of Color content already on the list, but World of Color – Villainous! Was exclusive to a much larger audience – anybody who secured a ticket to Oogie Boogie Bash, the after hours, separately ticketed, Halloween event at Disney California Adventure.

Once again, we find ourselves following a narrative story – this time telling the tale of Shelly Marie, a young girl who would rather embrace her inner villain this Halloween instead of dressing up like a princess. As such, she embarks on a journey where she encounters pretty much every Disney villain you can think of up to that point, though not all.

The show features special animation created just for the new presentation, as well as a new style that looks fantastic on the water. Eric Goldberg, widely known for his work on Aladdin’s Genie, oversaw much of the artistic efforts of this show, including the design of the new character, Shelly Marie. Unlike the other narrative forms of the show we’ve seen on the water, this one actually has segments similar to the original World of Color productions, this time with each villain taking center stage. Standout moments include Hades introducing Chernabog, which itself leads to a villain roll call finale, The Skeleton Dance earned the show big points but a promising moment with Ursula that would have brought this show maybe a peg or two higher was brought down again thanks to the high pitched singing by her victims.

Also, in an odd twist, this show was grossly overshadowed by a controversial moment with Guardians of the Galaxy director, James Gunn and his friend Bobcat Goldthwait. At the time, Gunn and Disney weren’t on the best of terms, and the controversy had nothing to do with the content of the show, but rather stemmed from Goldthwait defending his friend on social media asking to be removed from the new World of Color he lent his voice to (reprising the role of Pain), which had not been publicly announced at that point in time.

Overall, the use of space with the show works fantastically, but again, the idea of a plot on infrastructure meant for spectacle hurts the show more than it helps.

Prep and Landing Preshow

The first taste of holiday layovers that World of Color received was a preshow based around the animated short film, Prep and Landing. The special preshow would launch and segue into regular World of Color, and used the space and the water quite well, at one point building a christmas tree out of the giant fountains. Prep and Landing also features a large amount of scanning and spy-like activity, which also used the lasers and lighting to great effect. The moment was short, especially for a holiday bit, but that would later give way to full holiday shows.

The only downside with the Prep and Landing Preshow was that it showed off the full scope of what World of Color was about to do, still in its early years, that wow moments later in the main show weren’t as stunning as they had already been seen earlier, before the main show actually began.

Carnivale Of Color Pre-Show

Building up the anticipation for the new nighttime spectacular at Disney California Adventure, Carnivale of Color was a lively preshow led by two live performers who would lead the growing crowd for the show in some rousing activities.

The 15ish-minute show would lead the crowd in two songs, one of which might have been a bit familiar to long-time Disneyland fans as the music from Party Gras, the park’s 35th anniversary celebration. Though, the lyrics have been changed from “Party Gras” to “Carnivale.” The real highlight though were the towering, glowing puppets of favorite characters who lead their appropriate color sections. Mike Wazowski for Green, Tigger for Orange, Sebastian for Red, Genie for Blue, and Lumiere for Yellow.

The show was a fun offering and gave those who had been camped out for a lengthy amount of time some entertainment. While no official reason has ever been given for why the show is gone, aside from a passive “It was for Summer Nighttastic,” Cast Members over the years (who know and remember it) have all said it was primarily removed because crowd control in the Paradise Gardens park became even more nightmarish than it already was, especially since pathways had to be closed so the performers with the puppets can make their way through the audience.


Where are those puppets now? Three of the four (Lumiere, Tigger, and the Genie) have appeared in the Paint The Night Parade at the Disneyland Resort, behind the opening drum unit featuring Tinker Bell and Peter Pan. So really though, where are they now?

As for World of Color pre-show entertainment, aside from a special game that you can play on your phone, this was about it. The game, which would allow lucky players to control the lighting on Mickey’s Fun Wheel/Pixar Pal-A-Round, has also since been removed, leaving fans to (literally) their own devices before the show begins.

Hurry Home – Lunar New Year

A perfect example of how World of Color can be implemented into a park’s annual festivities without tampering with the main show, Hurry Home, the story of a little lantern is typically a part of the park’s Lunar New Year festivities. Celebrating the holiday and its tradition as well as implementing characters from Mulan in a unique way, we see the little lantern make its way home, passing Mulan, Mushu the dragon, and a plethora of food along the way.

The show is done beautifully, and is the strongest example of a narrative story though it is more premise than plot in this instance.

At the end, we see “Happy New Year” projected in a layered effect on the water in different languages before launching a few fireworks (which yes, is a bit of rule breaking) before fading away into the main show.

This pre-show is widely adored, and is welcomed back year after year since its debut, changing only the featured animal at the end of the show, indicating whatever year it is. IE Year of the Rabbit, etc.

This segment is so good in fact, that it overshadows a Mulan segment in World of Color – ONE. Normally, that Mulan moment in that show is so good, it’s a standout moment in that show, but after playing almost immediately after Hurry Home, it seems redundant.

The Pre-Premiere Version

Now, I’ve heard it before. “Tony, you can’t include something people have never seen before.” Ahhhh but they have seen it. Originally presented alongside the announcement for the new show at the D23 Expo, Steve Davison basically recreated his pitch and story outline for the new nighttime spectacular that would relaunch Disney’s California Adventure.

On top of that, concept art that showed many of the sequences for the show also popped up around Paradise Bay during construction, AND videos of the show as it was being tested made it to YouTube as well. Fans can also find the original soundtrack with a simple internet search fairly easily to see how similar and yet, drastically different, the original form of the show took.

Telling the tale of “Little Squirt,” a fountain who couldn’t jump as high as the others, the audience would have followed this new liquid character into the colorful worlds of the Earth, Sea, and Sky. Acting as the playful spirit of Walt Disney himself, Little Squirt would take us into segments based on Disney and Pixar films, including Alice in Wonderland, Hercules, Wall-E, Pocahontas, and Fantasia 2000. From there, Little Squirt would basically disappear as glowing liquid beauty and music took over.

Featuring a completely original soundtrack recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios that was heavily marketed, legend goes that CEO Bob Iger was in attendance for a test of World of Color, and Iger remarked that the show was not “Contemporary” enough. Much of the soundtrack was scrapped in favor of soundtrack lifts from the source films, and the segments were played in different orders to assess pacing issues. A sequence featuring Alice in Wonderland was cut (now only appearing as a moment in the finale), as was an extended villain portion of the show. Villains did appear in the actual premiere, but nearly half the length of the original intent, and without an entire rig that would build Chernabog out of water. At the tail end of the promo below, you can see part of this rig sticking out of the water, launching fire in different angles at a slightly higher elevation than the fire fountains at water level.

Specialty animation in various media, like sand and paper, was created by independent artists for the show, much of which was cut down to blink and you’ll miss it moments when the show debuted. Obviously, the show never saw a public debut for a reason, but even still seems better put together than some of the other incarnations of World of Color performances that actually did grace Paradise Bay publicly. While this is not the primary view, you can see much of what the show entailed in our video from Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel below.

Colors of Pixar – Pixar Nite

Fun fact: the 1200 fountains and lights of the World of Color infrastructure and show platforms can be controlled and programmed with just an iPad. So it’s a bit surprising that special event shows – even without the full creative endeavor required for something like Celebrate or Villainous – don’t occur more frequently. Colors of Pixar is a great example of what could be done for special events that are only held on one or two nights. Yes, it’s missing the World of Color branding, and it doesn’t go into the full scope of what a World of Color show can do, instead turning Paradise Bay and Pixar Pier into a spectacular showplace with familiar tunes that are appropriate for the occasion, in this instance, Disneyland After Dark: Pixar Nite. The show, though brief, includes familiar scores from Pixar classics like Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Inside Out, Ratatouille and more as the fountains come alive and alight for the specially ticketed event.

World of Color – ONE

The newest presentation of World of Color, currently running at Disney California Adventure, is part of the 100 Years of Wonder celebration at Disneyland, marking the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company. The show is a beautiful look at characters from all arms of the Disney company (Read: Lucasfilm and Marvel) that have made an impact and changed the world that they live in for the better. Moana, Luke Skywalker, Simba, Remy, Mirabel, Mulan. and a number of others take center stage on the water in a spectacular display that takes everything learned from previous shows and rolls them into a visual feast that had frequent viewers, including myself, saying “I never knew they could do that that way.”

Standout moments use the full space allotted by Paradise Bay in spectacles that look great up close and fantastic from afar. Sound systems have also been upgraded and allow for full use of surround sound, so moments really hit the emotional chord that they need to.

A fine example of this is a moment in which Simba appears with Rafiki from The Lion King, and just like the film, a storm comes along. The sound was so convincing upon the show’s debut, that crowds near the back of Paradise Gardens Park literally looked around as the storm sounds grew as though a real storm was forming right above them.

Luckily, unlike other anniversary/celebration shows, this one isn’t a montage or sensory overload trying to figure out where to look and instead keeps the idea of World of Color being an anthology, with individual stories taking over the lagoon for a few moments at a time. Lessons in effects have also been learned and are on full display, especially with the aforementioned Mufasa scene, Marvel’s portals opening, and a fun moment when Mulan creates the avalanche by launching a rocket.

However, ONE isn’t perfect. Its pacing is a bit off, focuses more on the somber moments from the stories, and has little transition effort between the scenes. While the Star Wars bits and Marvel moments are fun and spectacular, they are forced in, almost feeling like an afterthought and a different show director came along and said “nope. Just put this here and that there” before debuting the show. Also, despite an intro from Walt Disney himself and the logo for the original The Wonderful World of Color television series, the World of Color theme is noticeably absent from the show, leaving only the mellow sounds of the song “Start A Wave” which was created for this show. Even just the traditional opening with “COLOR!” repeated would have kicked ONE up a notch or two, but the lack of the World of Color theme in a World of Color branded show keeps this ranking here.

World of Color – Season of Light

Everywhere World of Color – Winter Dreams went wrong, World of Color – Season of Light goes right. Channeling the original form of World of Color, with no narrative sequences or introductions for each segment, Season of Light brings the water to life in brilliant sequences all choreographed to classic and modern Christmas tunes. Whether it’s Sadness from Inside Out appearing on the lagoon while crying laser tears to Elvis’ “Blue Christmas,” or seeing all the Disney couples pop up while the waters surrounding them dance to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” performed by Michael Buble and Idina Menzel, each sequence is a visual treat.

Using a plethora of familiar holiday tunes, both slow and upbeat, we get to see each sequence and song play out across the bay with care taken to the animation and visual spectacle of each one.  However, while sentimental and charming through most of the show, the World of Color spirit pushes holiday spirit aside and shows the true power of the water and fire jets during the “stand out” moment of the show— when Goofy and Max string up lights (to terrible yet highly entertaining results) backed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Similar to moments in World of Color – ONE, during the Goofy bit of this show, it's hard to believe you're standing in one spot as chaos surrounds you and makes you feel like you’re moving through this landscape of water and light.

TRON – Core

Say what you will about the film this is peddling (one of my personal favorites, regardless),  The TRON-core (a play on the word, “encore”) was a masterful display that used the main shows infrastructure to surprise and delight viewers.

Inserted AFTER the show (where others were pre-shows, or in the middle of the show), the finale concludes before the grid takes over. The way the show is electronically interrupted with the blue-hues signature to the film, complete with hexagonal patterns across the water and mist, it’s a perfect fit for the show, yet takes place as people were beginning to turn around and leave.

The added piece uses the full space, and not just movie clips on the mist screens (cough cough 60th cough) but full use of the lasers and projections as well. This also uses then-Paradise Pier as a stunning backdrop, with faux lightcycles running the course of the California Screamin’ track and projected circuitry crawling across the support structure for the coaster.

The segment also featured prominent projections in the circular surface surrounding the coaster’s loop, a perfect place for TRON Identity discs. The short-lived bubble screens that came up and out of the platform were also used to great effect, showing characters from the film as well as the discs.

The TRON-Core set a high bar for added segments and showed what can be done to the standard show and still add more fun and surprises to those who have seen the nighttime spectacular again and again, keeping it fresh without changing the show as a whole.

World Of Color

The first phase of the rebirth of Disney’s California Adventure into Disney California Adventure was the new nighttime spectacular for Paradise Bay, World of Color. The original version, which debuted in June of 2010, is still the best and finest version of World of Color. Each segment plays beautifully into the next, complete with character filled transitions that help seamlessly blend each story into the next.

After the most spectacular opening for the show that introduces, perfectly, the entire cast of 1200 fountains, viewers find themselves starting in the water (The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo) and moving into the sky (Wall-E, Up, Toy Story, Aladdin)  before finding ourselves on Earth once again (Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000), we are taken through beautiful vistas projected in a multiplane effect on the water and beyond before being thrust into a world of villainy set to “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame with an abundance of real fire (that would eventually give way to more and more Pirates of the Caribbean moments) before a heart wrenching (and for some, showstopping) moment from The Lion King after another brilliant display on the water that actually stretched out into the main viewing area, before launching into a spectacular finale that necessitated the installation of “wet zone” signs near the water’s edge.

The show also features custom animation from Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, independent artists, and much to the enjoyment of fans of The Little Mermaid, a new rendition of “Part of Your World” as performed by Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel) herself.

While the show changed slightly over time (remember those Pirates?) the original has been mostly intact over the years, it works that well. Many of the effects are recreated in other shows, like the laser trails that were first seen during Wall-E’s segment that eventually made their way into World of Color – ONE during The Lion King, or other segments in the holiday shows.

The regular version of the show is so good that even after celebration and holiday versions come and go, when it is announced that the original will be the one returning, there is general applause and rejoicing among fans. The return of the show after the global pandemic shutdown of 2020 in March of 2022 also marked the debut of a virtual queue for seating in Paradise Gardens Park, replacing the former Fastpass ticket system that was necessitated for the show due to crowds.

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Tony Betti
Originally from California where he studied a dying artform (hand-drawn animation), Tony has spent most of his adult life in the theme parks of Orlando. When he’s not writing for LP, he’s usually watching and studying something animated or arguing about “the good ole’ days” at the parks.