Disneyland reaches out to next generation of forever fans with fresh new entertainment

Walt Disney would be pleased to see Disneyland reaching out today to tomorrow’s forever fans with the latest round of live entertainment that’s equal parts self-referential, empowering, off-beat, edgy and fresh.

Walt never wanted to see Disneyland turn into a museum and 2023 promises to be the year when his beloved Anaheim theme park leans forward just as it looks back at the first 100 years of Disney animation.

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SEE ALSO: More than half of Disneyland’s Magic Happens parade performers return after 3-year break

The returning Magic Happens parade joins “World of Color — One,” “Rogers: The Musical” and even the new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in speaking to the next generation of Disneylanders making memories today that they will eventually pass onto their kids decades from now.

The return of Magic Happens on Friday, Feb. 24 was postponed by steady rain — but the parade will run twice daily on most days. “World of Color – One” and Runaway Railway debuted in late January. “Rogers: The Musical” is coming this summer to the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure.

The new Magic Happens Parade on Main Street U.S.A. inside Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Thursday, Feb 27, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Magic Happens

Magic Happens is a fresh and unexpected turn for Disneyland, which is known for playing it safe and falling back on tried-and-true formulas.

The returning parade, put on hiatus by the pandemic, turns Main Street U.S.A. into an attitude-filled sassy runway catwalk with fashion-forward dancers in avant-garde costumes striking vogue poses.

The edgy-by-Disney-standards fashion-forward look is by design. Disney teamed up on the parade with Emmy-nominated makeup artist David Petruschin, known by the stage name Raven on VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

A new song and musical score produced by “American Idol” singer-songwriter Todrick Hall provide the soundtrack for the parade.

Scene from World of Color – ONE, the new nighttime water show at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, CA, on Tuesday, January 31, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

‘World of Color – One’

The new “World of Color — One” sets out to be unexpected and different from previous water shows at Disney California Adventure.

The goal of “One” is to be quiet, subtle and mellow rather than bombastic, bold and over the top like earlier “World of Color” shows.

“One” works from a larger palette and paints a picture audiences haven’t seen before on the massive “World of Color” canvas — delivering a message of empowerment, inspiration, independence and self discovery.

The show is intended to resonate with a younger audience. The musical choices are filled with deeper cuts and alternative takes. Storytelling choices ultimately dictated that “One” would only draw from films dating back to 1994’s “The Lion King.”

A scene from “Rogers: The Musical” as seen in the Disney+ show “Hawkeye.” (Courtesy of

‘Rogers: The Musical’

It would have been easy for Disneyland to reach back to a familiar film like “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” or “Hercules” for the next Broadway musical in the Hyperion.

Rogers: The Musical” is self-referential and campy — drawing from a 5-minute scene in an episode of a spin-off Marvel TV show rather than a billion-dollar film franchise. It feels very meta. It’s a musical about an inside joke that only fans will get and fly over the heads of general audiences sitting in the Hyperion audience.

The only thing that would be better is if Marvel eventually turns the fake musical playing at a real theme park into an actual Broadway show. Time will tell if the Hyperion is a dress rehearsal for an Avengers takeover of Broadway.

The new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, on Wednesday, January 25, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

The new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway dark ride speaks to the next generation of Disneylanders even as it’s calling back to the 1928 birth of the Mouse that started it all.

The animatronic versions of Mickey and Minnie in the attraction will take some getting used to for fans of “Plane Crazy” and “Steamboat Willie” — but not those tuned into the latest frenetic and chaotic Mickey Mouse cartoons.

Mickey & Minnie’s half-faces are shown in profile much like their two-dimensional cartoon characters seen on the latest Disney Channel shorts. The twist: The three-dimensional characters’ animated faces are rear-projected onto half-domed screens sitting on their shoulders. The result: The Mickey and Minnie animatronics look off-putting — even in the off-kilter world of the ride.

The Runaway Railway queue is filled with self-referential in-jokes that turn familiar Disney movie posters into Toontown versions of the films with titles like “Meeska Mooska” (“Hocus Pocus”), “Toonsies” (“Newsies”) and “Mickey, I Shrunk The Nieces” (“Honey, I Shrunk The Kids”).

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