Why Everyone Is Talking About the Disneyland Forever Fireworks

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Disneyland Forever Fireworks

Fireworks and nighttime extravaganzas have always been a quintessential part of the Disney experience. Not only are these types of shows a natural fit for the magical theme parks that The Walt Disney Company creates, but they’re a brilliant way to make use of the venue as darkness approaches. Disneyland’s new Forever Fireworks show launched in late May as part of the park’s 60th anniversary, and has been receiving massive media attention and buzz from guests ever since.

It’s the largest projection mapping display ever presented in a Disney park, paired with dramatic fireworks and other special effects. A soundtrack comprised of Disney favorites and original compositions underscores the show. The projections include both video and images, using buildings within the park as a canvas. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Main Street USA, Matterhorn, Rivers of America and the facade of It’s a Small World are all brought to life with imagery from a network of 25 different projectors throughout the fourteen-minute show.

Disneyland's Forever Fireworks projection mapping

Between the projections, extensive fireworks displays, inflatables and an engaging soundtrack, there’s a lot happening for guests to take in. In fact, there’s so much happening that it led the LA Times to wonder “Is Disneyland’s fast moving Forever fireworks show too complex?”

The show was designed in an innovative way that uses different vantage points within the park to give guests a unique perspective on the show. Disneyland anticipated crushing crowds for its jubilee celebration and wanted to manage foot traffic during the fireworks. Developing the show to help disperse crowds was a real logistical consideration. But it also encouraged the Imagineers to push the envelope on the creativity behind the show, which led to much of Disney Forever’s complexity and innovation.

The show itself features seven themed sections that use pyrotechnics, lasers, inflatables, and projectors to transport guests into an overarching Disney storyline. Guests are taken to Anaheim, back when it was just a rural area filled with orange trees, and then sent as far afield as the savannas of Africa straight out of The Lion King. The opening includes narration by Walt Disney, the images of orange groves, and the “Live the Magic” theme song written for the show.

Fireworks over Disneyland

The show then transitions to Clouds, which includes songs from Mary Poppins and Tangled along with cloud, kite, and lantern projections. Enchanted Places includes images from Winnie the Pooh and classic songs like “Heffalumps and Woozles.” During the Jungle portion of the show, images of jungles and a fireworks-based sunrise display are accompanied by songs from The Lion King and others. Laser projections and inflatable coral structures recreate scenes from The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. The blockbuster song Let It Go from Frozen plays as projected snow falls. And then in the finale, more than 100 searchlights dazzle as the soundtrack cycles through When You Wish Upon a Star and the original song Kiss Goodnight.

One reporter suggested that the only way to really digest the extravaganza was to visit multiple times and view the show from different locations. It’s unknown when the end date for the run will occur, but it seems like Disney has a hit on their hands. For entertainment designers, the show raises important questions. How can audiences really enjoy shows this complex? Will the multi-vantage point model increase repeatability for shows that are looking for ways to draw guests back in over and over again? The Forever Fireworks have made an indelible impression on the extravaganza format and we’re likely to see its effects for years to come.

Images sourced courtesy of Disney, DandDland, Techno Buffalo

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