It’s exciting to see theme parks across Southern California stepping up their game each year when it comes to celebrating cultural events and holidays. Such is the case at Disneyland Resort as they celebrate Lunar New Year 2017 at Disney California Adventure with specialty foods and beverages, beloved characters wearing festive costumes, live entertainment, event-driven merchandise, and a 6-minute feature experience called Hurry Home – Lunar New Year Celebration that is showcased each night before World of Color.
What started out several years ago as a small-scale overlay in Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland has now become a major event at DCA, found within the Lunar New Year Marketplace – the section of California Adventure from The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure to Paradise Garden.
As is the case now with most all holiday events and festivals at Disney parks, food and beverage plays a major role in the thematic programming. At DCA, guests find traditional Asian offerings that include pork soup dumplings, turnip cakes with spicy sausage, kimchi fried rice, and sugar cane shrimp skewers at pop-up food stands representing China, Korea, and Vietnam. At Paradise Garden Grill, more specialty menu items can be found, including vegetable japchae, kalbi beef short ribs with steamed rice, whole crispy tilapia with citrus chile vinaigrette, beef pho noodle soup, mango pudding, and cassava coconut cake. Specialty cocktails and traditional beer such as Tsingtao are also readily available at the Lunar New Year event.
During the day, live entertainment and family activities are abundant. Classic Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Chip ‘n Dale, Mulan, and Mushu greet guests within a really nicely-decorated photo op location at Paradise Garden. Performances by Chinese pipa concert musician Jie Ma, and Vietnamese guitarist Dat Nguyen take place during the festivities, as well as classic dances and displays of strength, grace and balance by the Acrobats of China team; the award-winning troupe has been thrilling audiences around the globe for more than 2,500 years! Now that, is a long-term gig!
The Lunar New Year activities at DCA also include a Wishing Wall, where guests of all ages may add their thoughts and hopes for the coming year and beyond. It’s cool to spend some time checking out what people have written from all walks of life – when we browsed the Wishing Wall, we found everything from politically-charged wishes (you can imagine, I’m sure) to a really random note left by a child who’s new year wish is to “slay bodies and eat crayons.” We’re not quite sure what that means, but we love it! More mainstream messages found on the Wishing Wall call for health and prosperity for family members, etc. In all, it’s a great feature that is definitely very popular, considering the thousands of wishes that are attached to it each day by Cast Members manning the location.
More large-scale entertainment can be found at Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession, which is an exciting mini parade of Chinese umbrella dancers and other performers who arrive to music from Disney’s animated film Mulan.
On an even larger scale entertainment-wise, Disney has created a brand-new “pre-show” to World of Color, called Hurry Home – Lunar New Year Celebration. This is a 6-minute feature presented in several segments that follow the journey of “Little Lantern” returning home for the annual celebration. Along the way, Little Lantern encounters Mulan and Mushu in dream sequences carried out via projected animation, lighting effects, and the fountains employed by World of Color. Hurry Home features two contrasting animation styles – fully rendered computer animation, and portions inspired by traditional Chinese paper cut-out animation. One really cool fact that Disney park fans should know, is that the musical score for Hurry Home is taken from the opening ceremony soundtrack from Shanghai Disney Resort by Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun.
Of course, as with any theme park event, there is merchandise available commemorating the moment. Some of the items we saw included a Lunar New Year 2017 shirt, a Year of the Rooster pin, decorative gift boxes, and traditional red envelopes suitable for giving gifts in.
All in all, the Lunar New Year celebration at Disney California Adventure is definitely impressive and worth checking out. It should be pointed out however, that once nightfall comes, the live entertainment all but vanishes. This is something that Disneyland Resort tends to do when it comes to their specialized cultural events, and it drives me nuts. Paradise Garden was packed with guests – yet there was no entertainment and there were no Disney characters anywhere to be found; just empty stages and a closed meet-and-greet. The Wishing Wall Cast Members were gone, their chairs covered with plastic to dissuade guests from using them at the tables which stood empty at the venue. That’s super awkward, and a really disappointing aspect of this type of event, in my opinion. For a resort that has a huge amount of pass holders who come in during the late afternoon or early evening hours, there’s not much to see in the way of lively entertainment. As someone who pays a lot of money for a top-tier Annual Passport, I really would like to see characters and seasonal entertainment after the sun goes down during these special events. I don’t think that is too much to ask, either, considering the sheer number of families and guests that populate Paradise Garden and Lunar New Year Marketplace each evening. If it’s a question of Disney not wanting to schedule multiple shifts to cover day and night – that isn’t acceptable, in my opinion. Guests should get the same quality of show at a theme park whether they are there during the morning, noon, or at night.
We are big fans of seasonal and special cultural overlays at the parks here in SoCal. I would imagine that in the years ahead, we’ll see more and more of this type of thing as each park attempts to “out-Wow” one another. When that happens, it’s the fans who win – and the parks look gorgeous as a result, as we have seen this month at Universal Studios Hollywood and now at Disneyland Resort.
There’s still time to get to DCA and check out Lunar New Year. The event began January 20, and runs through February 5, 2017. More information and ticketing can be found at Disneyland.com.
- Rick West
Lunar New Year 2017 Images:
Lunar New Year 2017 Video: