Pixar Fest For Deep-Diving Pixar Fans

Pixar Fest is in full swing at the Disneyland Resort, presenting some of the most beloved stories from the iconic Pixar Animation Studios through new offerings across the resort, for a limited time. Guests of all ages will discover favorite characters and special moments from Pixar classics such as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles and Cars alongside exciting stories from newer films such as Coco, Turning Red, Soul and the upcoming Inside Out 2.

But is it just a thin skin of Pixar decorations, or is it something that die-hard Pixar Fans should set out to see. Sure there are people who love Toy Story, can spot the Pizza Planet truck in many of the films, and can name a dozen of the short films – but I’m talking about the fans who know what RM RF means without the use of Google, who know all the locations of A-113 (even the excruciatingly hard to spot locations in The Good Dinosaur, Brave, and Elemental), and can tell you what animators worked on what scenes. Those fans.

And the answer is YES. As one of those die-hard fans myself, and as a fan of the Disney Parks, Pixar Fest is the perfect blend of the two. Of course, we’ve already seen more permanent installations of Pixar stories as attractions, including Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and the impeccable Cars Land and its signature Radiator Springs Racers. Pixar Fest is a limited time event that not only reminds you of all the Pixar fun that is available at the Disneyland Resort, but adds even more to it, including a new limited-time daily parade at Disney California Adventure, a nighttime spectacular at Disneyland Park, and special entertainment throughout – not to mention all the different themed food.

Strangely, I got great joy out of seeing the event at its launch, which also coincided with a Disneyland After Dark: Star Wars Nite event as well as the Season of the Force Star Wars-themed festivities. Pixar Fest largely outshone both of those and as someone who is burnt out on the Galaxy Far, Far Away and their constant takeovers of the Disneyland Resort (or Disney Parks as a whole) – hearing their groans as they came in and saw the Pixar decor everywhere was a vengeful “Ha, our turn!” moment for me. And that decor is FANTASTIC.

From the jump out on the Esplanade, the banners that typically denote park attractions are covered in the newly stylized art featuring a ton of the characters from the Pixar Animation Studios.

Medallions featuring favorite characters from classic Pixar films line both Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland and Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure. I have a few of my favorites pictured below, but I promise you, your favorite is likely there too. The red medallions, which are more prominent on Main Street U.S.A. have a deep red color that makes them more beautiful than they need to be, but they are all fun regardless.

Icons featured in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, as well as a massive one in the Esplanade, serve as a sort of an amalgam of all these medallions, featuring the same stylized characters in a beautiful, abstract sculpture that is somehow reminiscent of the original Tower of the Four Winds at “it’s a small world.” Or is that just me?

Tower of the Four Winds

Tower of the Four Winds


I have several nitpicks about this new parade (put Turning Red at the end!), but overall this parade is a fun, seasonal parade for the event. Filling a void at Disney California Adventure (where there is no regular daily parade) this new processional gives a high-energy entertainment offering with a strong focus on three of the newer films from Pixar Animation Studios –  Luca, Soul, and Turning Red.

While this parade is great fun for everyone, Pixar fans will love the amount of detailing that goes on each of these new Parade floats. Yes, we’ve seen some of the others in the parade before – namely the Up float and the Inside Out float, both of which were featured in the Pixar Play! Parade at Disneyland for the first Pixar Fest back in 2018.

But it’s these new ones that I’m focusing on now. The Turning Red float is PACKED with characters from the film. The float features 10 performers – Mei Lin in Panda form, the members of 4-Town, her friends Priya, Abby, and Miriam (all of which are brilliantly cast, by the way), and most fun I think for fans of the film – her dad, Jin. Fans of the film know about the post-credits scene where we see Jin who is secretly a 4-Townie dancing in the basement while wearing memorabilia. Now, he’s featured on the parade float, dancing once again but this time wearing the red panda cardboard box outfit he uses to cover Mei’s shift when she goes off with her friends. It’s a great touch, and I even overheard one person (who clearly hadn’t seen the film) audibly ask why they had an older guy dressed in a box. It’s her Dad! Go watch the movie!

The Luca float is just as fun, and features our sea monsters-in-hiding themselves, Luca and Alberto, in … “water.” It’s a great design touch with a translucent blue “tank” where the boys are half submerged, keeping the story alive from the movie, where if they are in water their secret will be exposed. As the float goes by, fans can see their sea monster selves (complete with tail) moving around under the water while their human form is nice and dry above the surface. Worry not, every now and then the boys will kick their legs up and you can see their scaly selves for a brief moment. More details abound as Guilia looks on from above, riding a shiny Vespa (another key story point from the film) and on the back of the float, a screen keeps the water illusion alive, but this portion features Guiseppe and the rest of the goat fish from the film.

And lastly, a bit more of a nerd out for this Pixar fan in particular, is the float themed to Soul. Populated by Joe Gardner and several of his students, including Connie, the parade focuses largely on the human aspect of the film. However, young souls from The Great Before are bouncing alongside Joe and on the back half of the float, and music notes run alongside the lower portion of the unit. But look closer – the music notes on the bottom at one point form Terry, the antagonistic counselor in the film who is making sure the soul count is on the nose. While that’s a great touch, it's the other counselors (AKA The Jerrys) that I love on this particular unit.

Story artist Aphton Corbin (who also directed the SparkShort Twenty Something) once shared that the idea of the counselors was born in the story room during a brainstorm, saying that they would be both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. Corbin explained that she “did these drawing turnarounds – what if their faces looked different from different angles?” That’s when Pixar artists Deanna Marsigliese and Jerome Ranft developed 3D versions of the imagery in wire, highlighting what the characters might look like from different angles and in various forms. In special content that can be found attached to Soul on home media (and even on Disney+), Marsigliese shares that the inspiration for how The Counselors move came from a unique moment when the wire sculpts were casting shadows and shaking slightly, so she took the sculpts against a screen with a single point of light and the shadow movements are remarkably similar to what we see in the final film.

That said, we see The Counselors on the float in nearly the same way, moving and shifting just because the float is rolling down the street. So you get the same surprising effect that the artists had, especially if the sun is hitting them right.


But if it’s details and those appetizing Easter Eggs that a Pixar Fan is looking for at Pixar Fest, the place to be (for a multitude of reasons) is the Pixar Pals Playtime Party at the Fantasyland Theater in Disneyland Park, or Club Pixar at the Hollywood Backlot of Disney California Adventure.

New for this year’s Pixar Fest is the new Pixar Pals Playtime Party. Here, guests will have a chance to learn some incredible dance moves, groove alongside their favorite Pixar pals in a high-energy show and join in on some Pixar-themed activities, or they may simply sit back and enjoy Pixar-award winning shorts on a big screen.

It is truly an innovative new offering as the stage show takes over and then moves into the audience, all while characters are meeting in elaborately themed photo locations in the area, and activities are happening on the surrounding landings and seating areas.

This is also the place to meet a bulk of characters from Pixar films, including the boys from Luca, and Ember and Wade from Elemental.

There are also some fun details that are sure to catch the eye of those deep diving Pixar fans as well. An easy to spot one for fans of the film is over at the photo backdrop for the boys from Luca. There, they have a picture perfect backdrop of Portorosso, as well as some nearby props. Coincidentally near a water fountain (or maybe not since he knew their secret from the jump) is Machiavelli the cat, who is glaring in suspicion nearby while the boys are doing the greetings (in human form, of course!)

On the lower level we can find a Monsters, Inc. door station, with the door for Boo’s room locked in place. How can we tell? Those stickers of course!

The brothers, Ian and Barley, from the film Onward, pose near their van Guinevere, which also has props featuring their father’s magic staff, the book for their game Quests of Yore, and the spell that helps bring their dad back to life.

For me though, it’s the photo spot dedicated to the second film from Pixar Animation Studios, A Bug’s Life, that takes the cake. Not only do they have props reminiscent of those found aboard Heimlich’s Chew-Chew Train attraction in the former A Bug’s Land themed area of Disney California Adventure (which closed to make way for Avengers Campus), the Casey Jr. Cookie box is also present, which features some fun for Pixar fans in the know.

1001 West Cutting Blvd in Pt. Richmond, CA is the address of the original Pixar Animation Studio. They haven’t always been at their iconic Emeryville campus, after all. And, more appropriately, this is the studio where they also worked on A Bug’s Life, with the infamous “Bug Cam.” What’s the Bug Cam, you ask? Early on in the development of the film, artists took a small camera and attached it to LEGO bricks on wheels, and rolled it through the greenery just outside of their studio (at this address) to help figure out the bug’s perspective to use in the movie.


More fun can be found at Club Pixar at Disney California Adventure, where the Hollywood Backlot comes alive with an interactive DJ dance party, live performances, Pixar-themed versions of games like cornhole and tic tac toe, photo opportunities, themed food, specially crafted beverages and even a fun "drive-in" theater showcasing some of your favorite Pixar Shorts.

In those games, you can find some giant chess themed to the short, Geri’s Game. Which, also includes a giant box for the pieces that looks EXACTLY like the one from the short film, and even contains the tribute to the Pixar Shorts department.

The Pixar Ball is also featured in most of the lighting in the area, which at night is also featured in projections along the soundstages and panning across the ground of the area. Pixar also loves their license plate details, which again carries over to the Short Stop Drive-In – with a PXR FEST plate, and another that says PXR 86 – referencing the year the studio was officially founded. Some will contest that it was actually 1979 when it was founded, but that’s when it was just The Graphics Group at Lucasfilm, before it was cast aside as its own company in 1986, when Steve Jobs also became the biggest shareholder and investor.

Without question, my favorite film from Pixar Animation Studios is their 2008 film, WALL-E. In a beautiful film that is one part sci-fi and another part silent movie. The little dialogue makes it ripe for one of the most unique offerings of Pixar Fest.

Periodically on the stage though, fans can enjoy a performance by the Club Pixar Dance Corps, who tell various classic Pixar stories through interpretive dance. One of which features moments from WALL-E. Take a look in the video below. As a fan of the original film, I loved seeing this story retold in this innovative new way at the parks, and fans of other stories – including Up and Inside Out – should definitely stop by.

Club Pixar operates in the evening hours, but is best after dark – just be sure to get across the esplanade for another big event at this year’s Pixar Fest.


Returning from the original Pixar Fest in 2018 is Disneyland’s Nighttime Spectacular, Together Forever. If you’ve seen it that year, you need to see it again as there are all new scenes that have been incorporated into the returning favorite from some of the newer Pixar Animation Studios films.

With the new scenes also comes custom animation for the show from the animators at Pixar, and also features 17 new characters, which also includes some of the new emotions from the upcoming Inside Out 2 during the finale of the show. Perfect since Inside Out 2 arrives in theaters on June 14th – right in the middle of Pixar Fest at the Disneyland Resort.

The nighttime spectacular also affords fans a chance to relive their favorite moments from the Pixar catalog right on the middle of Main Street U.S.A. where new technological advancements since the last Pixar Fest illuminate the buildings with brighter projection technology. Fans can also watch near “it’s a small world,” and on the shores of the Rivers of America in Frontierland and New Orleans Square.

In fact, this technology allows for more than 300 Aliens from Toy Story to appear on the facade of the buildings on Main Street, U.S.A., and Sleeping Beauty Castle during their moment in the show.

Of course, everyone’s favorite moment is when Carl and Ellie’s home from Up soars high above Sleeping Beauty Castle, and don’t worry – that’s back again!

You can also check out more about the food that will be available at several Pixar Fest food marketplaces at Disney California Adventure starting on May 10th over here. The theming of the food is top notch, and we’ll discuss more about that later once those marketplaces open! Pixar Fest is running now through August 4th at the Disneyland Resort. If you’d like to enjoy some of the Pixar fun, or visit the Disneyland Resort for some fun at the Happiest Place on Earth, be sure to reach out to our friends at Mouse Fan Travel, who can assist with all your Disney Travel needs!

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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.