Disneyland's Pixar Fest celebrates the power of friendship and heartfelt cinema (2024)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KUTV) — When I was a child, Disney was an established brand with more than 50 years of history behind it. Pixar, however, is a completely different story. I can’t claim to be a firsthand witness to the company’s first decade, but when they surfaced in 1995, I was front and center (well, more like middle and center) for “Toy Story.” Disney was mid-renaissance at the time, but none of their films resonated with me (The Nightmare Before Christmas” was a Touchstone release that wasn’t claimed by Disney until years later) as much as the story about a little boy and his toys. I saw myself in Andy and his hyperactive imagination. As absurd as it might sound, when I look back on the adventures I’ve had with Woody, Buzz, and Jessie they feel more like core memories than movies I watched.

Reconnecting with those feelings is one of the many reasons I write about movies, collectibles, and the occasional theme park visit.

So, when Disneyland extended the offer to come and see (and taste) Pixar Fest 2024, I couldn’t possibly decline.

Pixar Fest is scheduled to run from April 26 through August 4, 2024. The celebration includes "Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration" Parade and Club Pixar in Disney California Adventure and Pixar Pals Playtime Party and "Together Forever: A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular at Disneyland." An expanded variety of Pixar-inspired food and beverage options are available throughout both parks (full menu arrives May 10, 2024). There are a few exclusive collectibles as well.

Little did I know that I would also be given the opportunity to speak with Roger Gould, Pixar's Creative Director. Arriving early to my interview slot afforded me the opportunity to talk with him about the "Ratatouille" ride at Epcot. He asks for my thoughts on the Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster in Toy Story Land at Disney World's Hollywood Studios. Both rides are kid-friendly, but neither will disappoint adult riders. They're essential if you find yourself in Orlando.

Our on-camera conversation focuses on the challenge of capturing both the fun and playful side of Pixar and the more emotional core that the studio has become known for.

Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration Parade

The COVID-19 pandemic was particularly cruel to Pixar. “Onward” had only been in theaters for a few weeks when the world went into lockdown. “Soul,” “Luca,” and “Turning Red” debuted on Disney+ and didn’t make it into theaters until a series of limited engagements this year. I’m admittedly a bit old-fashioned and assign a higher value to theatrical releases than they probably deserve. It’s a bit hypocritical because I was a child of the 1980s and television and home video played a massive role in introducing me to films I would not have otherwise been able to see. Disney was a little different in that they frequently re-released their older films in theaters. The majority of my Disney-related memories originate in a theatrical experience. So, I was surprised when I saw that the parade featured the newer films.

I asked myself, “Do kids even know they characters?” As if I alone had access to Disney+ in 2020 and beyond.

Yes, the kids knew the characters. As did the adults.

The parade is predominantly a party on wheels in which dozens of dancers, elaborate floats and equally ornate costumes bring once-animated characters into real life. I’m tempted to call it “the happy moments for kids,” but at Disneyland that’s redundant. I’m probably the only person in attendance who thinks a Wall-E and Eva ballroom dance number is a good idea. There’s not nearly as much “Coco” as you might expect. Seeing as “Coco” has a massive presence in the “Magic Happens” parade, I’m not too surprised.

I am surprised that all the costumes, even those for the dancers, are unique to each performer. Typically, you’ll see two or three pants and shirt styles that are mixed in a variety of ways. I notice this because my sister works in costuming, and I already know that I’ll be talking with Yonit Olshan, the costume designer for the parade. They are styled in a way that feels a bit like a mix of ‘80s and ‘90s cartoon club culture ( Goofy on roller skates also comes to mind). It’s bright, futuristic (and made from lightweight materials that would make them less obstructive and cooler in the summer heat) and more cohesive than you might expect.

It feels a little weird to have an “Inside Out” float that only features the Joy and Sadness characters. I would have included Riley or introduced the new character from the upcoming sequel. These are small gripes. I’m just nitpicking.

Club Pixar

Club Pixar is a nighttime event that takes place on and around the Hollywood Backlot Stage, the main draw being a trip through some of Pixar’s core memory moments with scene-specific dance routines that encourage audience participation. There is also a mini drive-in theater where you can watch Pixar short films and a selection of games for those who aren’t fleet of foot. You’ll find me watching the shorts.

Pixar Pals Playtime Party

Pixar Pals Playtime Party is the new show at the Fantasyland Theatre. The performance I saw features familiar Pixar characters from “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles,” and “Inside Out.” The interactive elements include the van from “Onward.” I’m always fascinated by imaginary things made real (the line for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, which is a 2-minute walk from the Fantasyland Theatre, is also littered with amazing animated props).

My interview with Disney Cast Member Stephanie Graves goes a bit awry when it is suggested that they invite a character down to dance with me. No one wants to see me dance, but I've rarely turned away the opportunity to make a fool of myself. Jessie is a pro. She knows how to do the lasso in the literal sense and the 1970s disco way. I, well I'd prefer to simply share a moment with an old friend that I wish was around more often. You can tell me I dance terribly. It's true, but I danced with Jessie. That's not something you can say everyday.

Together Forever: A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular

I enjoyed "Wonderous Journey,” the Disney 100 nighttime spectacular because it included a little bit of everything Disney including the “lesser” films that don’t traditionally get much attention. I’ll never forget the energy that surged through the crowd when a scene from “Treasure Island” was projected on Cinderella’s Castle.

"Together Forever" is different from the rest of the Pixar Fest events in that it features some of the quieter, more emotionally resonating moments. There are still the fun and up-tempo sequences but if there is one thing that defines the best characteristic of Pixar’s films it is the way that the stories draw you in. They encourage you to care about characters that you traditionally might not connect with. From robot romance to an elderly man chasing his youthful dreams, Pixar knows how to pull at the heartstrings.

"Together Forever" mixes fireworks with an expanded use of projected visuals that appear not only on the castle but also on all the buildings along Main Street U.S.A. I was so captivated by the atmosphere that I forgot to watch the fireworks. A few surprises pop up along the way. There are moments in the “Up” and “Coco” sections that are simple and incredibly effective. The show ends in the magical transformation of Main Street U.S.A.I stood in the middle of the road as the crowds swarmed around me. I didn’t want to leave.

Hopefully some of my enthusiasm comes through in my interview with Disney Cast Member Rachel Moran.

Pixar Fest Food & Beverage

There was a time in the recent past when dining felt like an afterthought at Disneyland. There were a few fancy restaurants but even then, the options felt limited. Particularly for me, a vegetarian, or guests with dietary restrictions. That’s no longer the case. I think this is the first time since "Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge" opened that I didn’t have a Ronto-Less Garden Wrap because I found vegetarian options elsewhere. I was particularly happy with my options in the Port of San Fransokyo.

Of the new food options, I tried the “Nobody Like U Cooler” mocktail, the Ratatouille Pizzetta, Gusteau Macaron, and the Smoked Firewood Impossible Chicken. Enjoyed the lot. Eyeing the Portorosso Pesto Pasta and the variety of new churro flavors.

Those looking to pick up a collectable or two will want to get their hands on the Alien Pizza Planet Truck Bucket. It’s one of the coolest popcorn buckets that Disneyland has released. I didn’t see the Coco Guitar Bucket firsthand, but it looks awesome as well.

Cast Member Arielle Harris and I wrapped up my Pixar Fest experience with a conversation about all the Pixar-themed food that will becoming to Disneyland over the next few week.s

It was a whirlwind adventure. One that I was happy to take. The “Together Forever” nighttime spectacular was my favorite. To enjoy all of the spectacle I’d recommend a two-day stay with a day dedicated to California Adventure and Disneyland proper. You’ll also want to take a ride on Star Wars: Star Tours. They’ve added a few new inserts featuring Ahsoka, Cassian, and Din Djarin with Grogu.

Disneyland's Pixar Fest celebrates the power of friendship and heartfelt cinema (2024)


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