June 23, 2024

Guide to Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration at Disneyland & California Adventure

Disney’s 100th Anniversary is now underway at Disneyland and California Adventure, and there are several new things to celebrate: Wondrous Journeys fireworks, World of Color – ONE, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and more. This guide to the 100 Years of  Wonder Celebration offers tips & tricks for making the most of your time, what to see & do, and other assorted tips.

For starters, Disney100 celebrates the anniversary of the company and not the California theme park. Disneyland is not 100 years old. Well, duh. If you’re a diehard Disneyland fan, you know that Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom opened in 1955. Even if you’re an infrequent local, you probably know that the Diamond Celebration for Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary was not that long ago.

However, not everyone is a big Disney fan. If you’re just a casual guest, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking it’s the 100th Anniversary of the theme park based on the decorations and marketing. (It’s only a matter of time before a high-ranking company executive mistakenly calls it Disneyland’s 100th Anniversary–the next earnings call is coming up!)

With what the Disney100 Celebration isn’t out of the way, let’s address the two biggest questions we’ve received thus far: when will the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Disneyland end and when is the best time to go to avoid crowds? We don’t have the answer to the first question. Officially, Disneyland has indicated that Disney100 will last “throughout 2023.”

Unofficially, our expectation is that it’ll last longer than that. It’s customary for Disney’s milestone anniversary celebrations to last at least 18 months–sometimes as long as 2 years. The difference here is that, as noted above, this is not an actual anniversary of Disneyland. Nevertheless, we’d expect this to continue for at least 13 months–it would make sense to have some sort of festivities in the Winter 2024 off-season. I could see it ending by Summer 2024, though.

The bigger question is whether the entertainment will outlast the Disney100 Celebration. Disneyland has gotten into a habit of rotating out nighttime spectaculars, “retiring” shows earlier than expected only to bring back beloved older ones to boost turnout among locals. The approach likely depends upon the reception to Wondrous Journeys and World of Color – ONE, but we’d expect at least one of them to make appearances beyond 2024.

The second question is a little more difficult to answer. Disneyland Resort was a madhouse for most of last year, and remains busy this winter. Weekdays haven’t been as bad as they were last year, but once Easter and Spring Break seasons arrive, crowds will spike again.

“It’s going to be busy regardless of when you go–so deal with it” probably isn’t the ideal answer to that second question, but it is true to an extent. With that said, there still are varying degrees of busy. Refer to our updated 2023 Disneyland Crowd Calendars for quantitative recommendations or Best & Worst Months at Disneyland in 2023 for qualitative ones.

Now, let’s turn to some tips for the entertainment and attractions at Disneyland for the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration…

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse star in their very first ride-through attraction at Disneyland! Located, inside Toontown’s El CapiTOON Theater, this family-friendly experience transports you into the wacky and unpredictable cartoon world of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, where you’ll board a train engineered by Goofy and embark on a zany adventure.

To experience Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, you’ll need to join the virtual queue or buy Individual Lightning Lane access, which is only available via the Disneyland app. There is no standby line for the ride right now. The virtual queue enrollment times will be twice daily, at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. PT. Learn more in our post about Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway’s Virtual Queue, which includes speed strategy. You’ll need that, as the boarding groups for the virtual queue fill up fast–literally in milliseconds!

Even if you’ve already done this ride in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, we recommend doing the Toontown version. In Why Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Is Better at Disneyland (Photos & Review), we explain the differences between the two attractions. Although the ride-through portion is substantially the same, the “exhibit” in the queue is substantially different and well-worth seeing. The location in Toontown is also an asset to the attraction.

Wondrous Journeys – Each evening at Disneyland, “Wondrous Journeys” transforms Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, it’s a small world, and the Rivers of America into an artist’s canvas with lighting effects, lasers, projections, and more–including pyro on weekends and busy weeknights.

The Wondrous Journeys nighttime spectacular takes you on an epic adventure through 100 years of Walt Disney Animation Studios storytelling. This fireworks show features music, characters, and iconic moments from movies including Encanto, Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, The Princess and the Frog, Peter Pan, Frozen, Treasure Planet, Big Hero 6, Moana, and…literally every other movie by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Regardless of whether Wondrous Journeys has pyro on the day you visit Disneyland, this nighttime spectacular is a must-see. I don’t want to get ahead of myself with the effusive praise or favorable comparisons I might come to regret…suffice to say, Wondrous Journeys is excellent. We both love Wondrous Journeys–it packs a tremendous emotional punch. The last time a fireworks show made me feel like this was when Happily Ever After returned. (I’m sure we’ll feel similarly when HEA returns again!)

Wondrous Journeys is perfectly paced, has a coherent thematic through-line and semblance of story, and is brimming with powerful moments. Unlike so many recent nighttime spectaculars, it doesn’t drag anywhere. Wondrous Journeys is exceptional from start to finish, and masterfully weaves together music, projections, and more. I want to see it a few more times before reviewing it, but even as things stand now, Wondrous Journeys is a new classic.

World of Color – ONE – Then there’s the all-new nighttime spectacular at Disney California Adventure. World of Color – ONE supposedly celebrates the storytelling legacy started by Walt Disney, illustrating how a single action, like a drop of water, creates a ripple that can grow into a wave of change. This is the first nighttime spectacular 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.

Like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland, access to the main viewing area for World of Color – ONE is via virtual queue in the Disneyland app. Distribution for the virtual queue begins at 12 p.m. PT daily (subject to availability) and is available for guests who have entered Disney California Adventure park for the day or have entered Disneyland with a Park Hopper ticket. More information and how-to details are available in our Guide to World of Color – ONE Virtual Queue.

Just as I don’t want to get ahead of myself with praise for Wondrous Journeys, I want to withhold final judgment on World of Color – ONE for the exact opposite reason. My first impression of this nighttime spectacular is not particularly positive, but it definitely has its moments. In that sense, it reminds me a lot of Harmonious or even World of Color: Celebrate (for the Diamond Celebration). The Star Wars sequence is spectacular and I love the original song for World of Color – ONE.

I suspect there are enough ‘nuggets of goodness’ to make World of Color – ONE a winner for many guests. That’s not my initial reaction, but I’ll at least give it another chance or two before cementing my opinion. See our World of Color Viewing Guide for recommendations on where to watch. Oh, and be sure to stay for the post-show/outro/exit song. That’s World of Color – ONE’s strongest segment, if you ask me.

Platinum Decorations – Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney District, and the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort are all adorned in platinum-infused décor. There’s a surplus of sparkling platinum banners, Disney100 medallions, and character statues that make photo opportunities.

Some of these are of questionable quality. Fans have criticized banners that have the wrong year attractions opened or Mickey Mouse statues that supposedly misquote Walt Disney, but did they ever consider the possibility that those are meant to be random years or quotes?! “I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse” might’ve been Walt Disney’s actual quote, but to that, I say: so what. As soon as I read the statue marquee out loud, it became a quote!

“It All Started With A Mouse.” ~Tom Bricker (Not to be outdone by “‘It was all started by a mouse.’ ~Walt Disney” ~Tom Bricker.)

Joking aside, these are fun photo ops, mistakes and all. We made sure to wait and line and get a PhotoPass shot with the Mickey Mouse statue above the first day it was out, as it’ll be a “rare” photo to have and a source of weird bragging rights in a few years. (Assuming, of course, that this is fixed within the next week or so.)

Later this year, MagicBand+ interactivity will be introduced to the statues. I’m guessing it’ll be similar to the Fab 50 statues at Walt Disney World–if you flail your arms about hysterically in front of the statues while wearing a MagicBand Plus, they might say something to you. Or they might not, in which case, you might just look crazy to random passersby. Not that I speak from experience or anything.

Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland is accented by two new water fountains and dressed in platinum banners and bunting, a cabochon, and a shining wishing star.

The fountains look fantastic, but the rest of it really depends upon the light hitting the decor just right. Much of the day, the medallion is illegible unless you’re directly in front of it on the castle bridge. This is the case with a lot of the decorations, actually. I understand that Disney doesn’t control the sunlight, but most of this doesn’t look much better at night, when Disney is in complete control of the lighting packages.

Character Costumes – On Main Street, you may find Minnie and Mickey Mouse, plus their pals in platinum-inspired looks designed to reflect the optimism and creativity that are at the heart of everything Disney.

These costumes are classy and elegant. We’ve seen a lot of inventive outfits for Mickey and friends recently, so I’m perfectly satisfied with sharp, straightforward, and stylish looks.

Music – This might seem like a minor thing, but there’s a new background music (BGM) loop that plays in the Esplanade and Downtown Disney and features some all-time classic theme park songs. It’s surprisingly heavy on EPCOT Center originals, but features a good balance of old and new. Anything that includes Country Bear Jamboree, Journey into Imagination, and IllumiNations is a winner in my book!

The Disneyland Band and other musical acts around the parks are also playing new medleys for Disney100. These feature good blends of music from the parks plus animated and live action movies of the past and present. Entertainment is the heart of Disneyland, and this makes the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration feel more alive.

Monorail – Speaking of making the park feel alive, another small thing that’s not to be missed is the Disneyland Monorail gliding over the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage lagoon during the midday hours. The sun hits the platinum wrap at the right angle and glistens beautifully, while also leaving a stunning rainbow reflection in the water.

This is the best wrap since the TRONorail at Walt Disney World over a decade ago. Here’s hoping this also makes its way over to Florida, as this would look fantastic for Flower & Garden, floating above the florals!

Merchandise & Food – Feeling hungry amidst all these festivities? Savor a century of magic through specialty food and beverages like the platinum trifle and potato and cheddar cheeseburger at Hungry Bear Restaurant. We haven’t had a chance to try any of this yet, but that burger is high up my list of odd culinary concoctions that are must-eats for me–so stay tuned.

You can also bring the magic home with commemorative Disney100 merchandise and collectibles released throughout the year, such as the Disney100 Platinum Celebration Collection, special MagicBand+ designs, collectible medallions and pressed pennies.

The Disney Gallery Presents: Disney 100 Years of Wonder – On Main Street at Disneyland, the Disney Gallery is housing a new exhibit inspired by Walt Disney’s vision for Disneyland to be where his films come to life. Inside, you’ll see artwork created by original Disney animators for some of Walt’s early films, alongside artwork concepted by original Disney Imagineers to recreate those stories in the park.

The exhibit also displays an animator’s desk, a model of a multiplane camera, and more. It’s a nice tribute to Disney films that became rides. Personally, I wish there was a bit more “meat” to this–and feel like it leans too heavily on newer movies and attractions, and has “corporate synergy mandate” vibes as a result. It’s probably safe to say that Cars Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge don’t need in-park marketing pushes.

Magic Happens Parade – Even more fun is still to come! The short-lived Magic Happens Parade makes its highly anticipated return to Disneyland on February 24, 2023. Led by Mickey Mouse and his pals, the daytime spectacular celebrates moments of magic from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios films with grand floats, artistic costumes and an energetic musical score.

Magic Happens first debuted on February 28, 2020. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of world history knows what happened next, and why it ran for less than two weeks. We never got the chance to see Magic Happens during its original run and have managed to avoid watching video–we’re really excited to see it for the first time in person!

Mickey’s Toontown – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be joined by additional new experiences and returning favorites when the reimagined Mickey’s Toontown reopens on March 8, 2023! The beloved land will feature more play activities and attractions than ever before, as well as grassy play spaces for you to unwind.

We’re also really looking forward to this. We’ve called this a sleeper spot in Disneyland and described Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin as criminally underrated for years. It’s nice to see this land getting a lot of love, and it should become a bigger draw for guests as a result. Of course, that’s a double-edged sword–now we’ll probably have to endure longer wait times for Roger Rabbit’s ride!

Ultimately, the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Disneyland Resort is an enjoyable event and a nice way to bring extra excitement and energy to the parks. Even though it’s not the California parks that are being honored, they are the perfect host to the festivities. Disneyland was Walt Disney’s original park, and is still the company’s crown jewel to this day.

Disneyland has long served as a place to promote the newest animated (and other) films, and it feels like this is the ultimate culmination of that. In particular, Wondrous Journeys is a beautiful love letter to the Walt Disney Animation Studio’s rich legacy, and it feels like a perfect fit for Disneyland. On top of that, there are a lot more “little things” to see and do, and it’s nice to see so many different divisions come together to celebrate the company in the parks that have always done the best job of having one eye looking to the past and the other to the future. We’ll continue to update this guide with new and added details about Disney100, so stay tuned for more!

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 many other SoCal cities!

Your Thoughts

Are you looking forward to the 100 Years of Wonder Celebration at Disneyland Resort? What excites you the most? If you’ve already seen World of Color – ONE or Wondrous Journeys in person, what did you think of these new nighttime spectaculars? Planning a trip specifically for the new entertainment or reimagined and expanded Mickey’s Toontown? Hearing from you is half the fun, so if you have additional tips for Disneyland’s 60th or any questions, please share them in the comments!

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