World of Color – ONE is the new nighttime spectacular at California Adventure for Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland Resort. This review shares photos of the show, how it compares to Wondrous Journeys and other blockbuster nighttime spectaculars, and some context that might help you enjoy it more (maybe?).
As always, let’s start with a bit of quick background. World of Color – ONE is the first nighttime spectacular in either park at Disneyland Resort to feature characters, music, and moments from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel, and Star Wars in the same production.
Specifically, World of Color – ONE features scenes and songs from the Pocahontas, Lion King, Moana, Coco, Mulan, Soul, Avengers: End Game, and other stories. All of this comes alive on an immense water screen, with a variety of different effects–projections on mist screens, lasers, spotlights, and other effects. All par for the course with the various versions of World of Color.
Aside from bringing together disparate intellectual properties, World of Color – ONE differs in that it features an inspiring message that illustrates the storytelling legacy Walt Disney began a century ago. World of Color – ONE celebrates how a single action–such as a drop of water–creates a ripple that can grow into a wave of change. You’ll discover how it only takes one action to make an impact on the people in our lives and the world around us. This mirrors how one man–Walt Disney–started the wave that has continued to grow and inspire people around the globe for 100 years.
In so doing, the new nighttime spectacular features songs and stories of some of the most courageous, loving, and inspiring characters who dared to be wavemakers and change the world. World of Color – ONE weaves together this spectrum of stories with a musical score comprised of 18 different compositions, including the original song “Start a Wave.” This new song was written by GRAMMY-nominated artist Cody Fry and features lead vocals performed by singer-songwriter and actress Loren Allred.
This all comes together in a package that’ll be familiar to those who have saw Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration entertainment. World of Color – ONE starts with dialogue from Walt Disney followed by a voiceover explaining that he was the original “drop of water” 100 years ago. From there, that one drop created ripples of happiness and imagination into motion, and that new song plays.
Naturally, the first scene following this is from the early-era Walt Disney classic film that started it all, *checks notes* Pocahontas. Uh, okay. Following that, World of Color – ONE continues its songs and scenes with Encanto, Ratatouille, Soul, and Coco. It then has a callback to the original music, before more songs and scenes. This time, we have Star Wars, Lion King, Mulan, Moana, and Marvel. It then moves into montage mode, with a bunch of different movies, including some that were not featured in the original show (Raya and the Last Dragon, for instance). All movies famously created by the original drop of water, Walt Disney.
World of Color – ONE then has its traditional finale, with a watery crescendo and inspiring voiceover about everyone being able to make a difference. The crowd goes wild, things briefly go dark, and then there’s another clip featuring Walt Disney, followed by the post-show/outro/exit music, or whatever you want to call it. This last part has always been a World of Color staple, but the part with Walt Disney is different–almost like an orphaned scene, detached from the larger show.
The obvious criticism of World of Color – ONE is that it’s a show ostensibly about Walt, minus Walt. There’s a certain amount of validity to this criticism, and I was definitely gearing up for something totally different after seeing the introduction. It should go without saying, but that was sarcasm above. Walt Disney did not create Pocahontas or literally anything else in World of Color – ONE. So in that sense, it’s really weird to anchor this particular nighttime spectacular around Walt Disney.
The intent, at least as I interpret it, was to draw a parallel between Walt Disney and the characters that follow as influential trailblazers who left indelible marks on the people around them and society as a whole. The first half has motifs about inspiration and individualism, and these characters are presumably supposed to mirror Walt in those senses. The second half is all about action, showcasing heroes (literally and figuratively) who made a difference on the world. Just like Walt…I guess? (Walt used a pencil, Thor used a thunder hammer, but totally the same idea!)
The obvious problem, that I guess no one working on the show identified, is that all of these characters are fictional and Walt Disney was a real person (despite the company’s best efforts to caricaturize him). I’m skeptical that any average guest is going to easily ascertain the parallel. Those who do connect the dots are more inclined to be theme park geeks like me who over analyze everything, and will still be less-than-amused that Walt Disney is being compared to Baby Yoda.
In short, the connection between Walt Disney and everything in the show is tenuous at best, and contrived in an off-putting way at worst. It does not flow together, and World of Color – ONE would be better with the Walt intro and outro removed. Since I’m not one to advocate for the removal of Walt Disney references, I’d propose moving it over to Wondrous Journeys. (It’s not needed there, but it would make infinitely more sense at the beginning and end of that truly spectacular nighttime spectacular.) Let World of Color – ONE exist as the second gate synergy play without shoehorning Walt in a way that’s going to alienate the diehards.
Speaking of which, even as a second gate synergy play, World of Color – ONE is not great. It reminds me a lot of Harmonious, actually. Like that, it’s not a cohesive production, the transitions are weak or nonexistent, and the visuals presented on the mist screens leave a lot to be desired.
Also like that, World of Color – ONE is at its best when viewing each scene in isolation. Individually, I love several segments, including those from Moana, Soul, Star Wars, and Lion King. However, I was more than a little surprised that movies and music from the original World of Color couldn’t live up to similar segments from the original World of Color (looking at you, Pocahontas).
The Coco and Encanto scenes also both fell flat for me, which came as a huge surprise. Coco always brings down the house (even in Harmonious!) and Encanto should’ve been like shooting fish in a barrel. Marvel was a mixed bag; the audience liked that more than I did.
In my view, these scenes disappointed both with the visuals and the music, and made an already long nighttime spectacular drag even more. Not that World of Color always needs to move frenetically, but with the longer runtime than fireworks, it does need to avoid the lengthy lulls. Even with the nearly-perfect original World of Color, pacing can be a problem. That’s much truer here, and that’s completely due to a few poor song choices in places where different music from the same movie could’ve energized the audience.
The part that I genuinely loved about World of Color – ONE is the original music. “Start a Wave” is a beautiful song with a great message. It was stuck in my head after my second viewing of the show and, much to Sarah’s chagrin, I’ve now taken to “singing” it at home. (Well, more like offkey shouting half the lyrics and mumbling the rest.)
“Start a Wave” will, without a doubt, become an earworm of a song for many Disneyland fans. Between that and a couple of scenes that are actually quite strong, I think the reception to World of Color – ONE is going to grow warmer over time, and make the initial scathing reviews seem too harsh.
I’m honestly not sure whether Wondrous Journeys helps or hurts World of Color – ONE. For me, it helped. Even without Walt Disney being expressly mentioned in Wondrous Journeys, that love letter to Walt Disney Animation Studios made the hamfisted handling of Walt in World of Color – ONE more excusable. In my view, it’s okay that this is essentially a glorified Disney+ sizzle reel since Wondrous Journeys is not. For others, I could see the quality contrast being even more pronounced after seeing Wondrous Journeys.
If you want to better enjoy World of Color – ONE, my recommendation would be pretending that the Walt Disney parts are standalone pre- and post-show tags, meant to promote Wondrous Journeys across the Esplanade. If you’re a Disney diehard, mentally separating that from the rest of the show makes it less frustrating and more enjoyable. (I’m completely serious.)
View the rest of the nighttime spectacular as a studio park production, with the heavy-handed use of contemporary intellectual property that comes with that, plus great original music and clunky attempt at a narrative thread. Such an approach to World of Color – ONE still won’t make it perfect, but I found that it was much easier to enjoy on subsequent viewings when framed this way. (Especially after I saw Wondrous Journeys–that made a big difference for me.)
Ultimately, World of Color – ONE is yet another nighttime spectacular in Paradise Bay that fails to live up to the original montage clip show from 2010. Personally, I appreciate that Disney Live Entertainment has attempted to create versions with a loose narrative thread, but I think the only World of Colors that have “worked” in this regard are Season of Light and Hurry Home (not a full show, but still fantastic).
Every other World of Color has felt like it has suffered from precisely the same problem: too many cooks in the kitchen or corporate content directives. (Villainous is the lone exception–that one was just plain weird.) The thing is, even if there was a mandate from on-high about making certain ‘brand deposits’ or including specific intellectual property or franchises, it was still done in poor and perplexing ways. The Coco and Encanto scenes could’ve been high energy and fun. The projections throughout could’ve been more interesting, and transitions could’ve been better. Those are creative fails.
With that said, it’s still World of Color. Just as fireworks exploding over a castle is always awesome, there’s a “low floor” for dancing fountains of vibrant water, lasers, mist screens, fireballs, and other cool effects. You can’t help but be entranced by this stuff–or at least, I can’t help it. Even the worst World of Color is a 7/10 for me because it’s inherently mesmerizing, and ONE is pretty far from the worst incarnation of this nighttime spectacular.
Honestly, I could watch The Joy of Painting projected onto the World of Color mist screens and have a pretty good time. (That show would be an 8/10 because Bob Ross is the boss!) World of Color – ONE is definitely better than that, and it’s also better than Celebrate and other past incarnations of the nighttime spectacular. It’s a spotty show, but it’s still one that’s well worth seeing. And it didn’t result in the installation of a Stargate and water tacos in Paradise Bay, so that’s a plus.
All things considered, World of Color – ONE is around an 8.5/10 for me. That might seem like a high score in light of the criticism, but anything below 9/10 is a bit of a letdown for me when it comes to World of Color. Given the movies, characters, and franchises utilized–plus the excellent original music and interesting narrative framework and message–World of Color – ONE could’ve been a masterpiece.
Finally, we’ll round out this World of Color – ONE review with some practical info. First, this nighttime spectacular is one centerpiece of Disney100, but not the only new offering–or even the only new nighttime spectacular. Consult our Guide to Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland & DCA for everything you need to know about the festivities.
Otherwise, our Best World of Color Viewing Spots are largely unchanged. Additionally, we did the World of Color Dessert Party again for World of Color – ONE, and that’s substantially the same (I doubt I’ll re-review it because almost nothing was different). My opinion of that remains unchanged, but Sarah said I should stress that it’s really, really nice to have a spot to sit since World of Color is so long. If you’re fine with the free standing area, keep in mind that access to the main viewing sections for World of Color – ONE is via virtual queue in the Disneyland app. More information and how-to details are available in our Guide to World of Color – ONE Virtual Queue.
Planning a Southern California vacation? For park admission deals, read Tips for Saving Money on Disneyland Tickets. Learn about on-site and off-site hotels in our Anaheim Hotel Reviews & Rankings. For where to eat, check out our Disneyland Restaurant Reviews. For unique ideas of things that’ll improve your trip, check out What to Pack for Disney. For comprehensive advice, consult our Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. Finally, for guides beyond Disney, check out our Southern California Itineraries for day trips to Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, and tons of other places!
Are you looking forward to World of Color – ONE at Disney California Adventure? Have you already seen this show or Wondrous Journeys? If you’ve watched both, which do you prefer? Excited that to see Baby Yoda, Dr. Strange, and other characters from the Marvel and Star Wars universes, or concerned that it’ll have too many different types of IPs, and be disjointed as a result? Thoughts on the “Start a Wave” theme song? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
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