Disneyland Throws a Rave Party

Glow Fest turned out to be even more popular than Disney's new World of Color.

Waiting for the World of Color

Big brands tend to be predictable. We all go to, say, Starbucks or McDonald’s or Target because they deliver according to expectations.

Disneyland is a brand that continues to evolve, which is the way Uncle Walt intended it. The venerable theme park can still surprise, too.

My family went to the Disneyland Resort this summer to see the new water-fountain attraction, “World of Color”. Upon arriving, my daughter keyed in on some dance party thing called “Glow Fest,” which looked like a way to pass the time while waiting for the water show. It turned out to be much more.

Waiting for World of Color to start at Disney's California Adventure.

We got FastPass® tickets in the morning to guarantee our spot. After a 13-hour marathon of rides and attractions culminating in the “World of Color” water show followed by fireworks, what better way to finish off the day at the Happiest Place On Earth™ than with a… rave party?

Disney Does Raves?

It sounded like a waking nightmare of Disney characters dressed in day-glo, dancing to bad techno music and strobe effects. The teen girls didn’t want to miss it. But the whole rave idea seemed like a bad trip.

Water works: Disney's "World of Color" show at California Adventure.

Then there were the recent news stories about raves. A series of high-profile problems had been reported at public rave events, most notably the death of a 15-year-old girl at the Los Angeles Coliseum during the 14th annual Electric Daisy Carnival.

Raves Go Mainstream

Rave “culture” has been around for at least a couple decades, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see the family friendly resort host its own version of a rave dance party at the California Adventure park. Actually, it wasn’t purely a Disney concept, since the whole production was outsourced, much to the chagrin of the Disneyland Entertainment Department.

Bollywood-style dancers at Glow Fest in Disney's California Adventure.

Following a Bollywood-style dance show in the afternoon, the parade and finally the World of Color water show, the Hollywood back lot area was completely transformed. After dark it became “Glow Fest”—a street party complete with go-go dancers on platforms, light shows, projectors, techno music and lots of day-glo and glow sticks.

(Speaking of music, the renewed popularity of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” remixed as a nightclub dance hit at Glow Fest, continues to amaze. See the video clip below.)

Dancing and Drinking in the Street

The absence of Disney kitsch at Glow Fest was pleasantly surprising.

Glow Fest by day, Disney's California Adventure

There were no costumed characters. No Disney theme music. Colors and sets that looked lurid by day worked perfectly at night.

For a Disney-style rave, Glow Fest wasn’t quite as squeaky-clean as you might expect. Perhaps most surprising of all was the open presence of alcohol, literally in the middle of the street. (Must be part of the “California Adventure” experience.)

Glow Fest in full swing at night.

Right smack dab in the center of faux Hollywood Boulevard, makeshift bars were serving beer, wine, martinis and mojitos. (California Adventure restaurants serve alcoholic drinks, although Disneyland itself does not except in the exclusive Club 33.)

Curiously, the kids didn’t even notice alcohol was being served, but commented afterward about the smell, which they couldn’t identify at first.

Glow Fest dancer with light saber and mock DJ set up.

The teens got to dance the night away while the parental units were able to discreetly keep tabs on them from a safe distance. Then it was all over promptly by 11 p.m. (about the time most raves would be getting warmed up). Glow Fest was a hit—the high point of a day filled with highlights.

Glow Fest dancers could watch themselves projected onto the street backdrop which doubled as a screen.

Glow Fest Beats Fountains

The popularity of Glow Fest came as a major surprise to Disney management, who tracked customer opinion with guest surveys as people left the park. As MiceAge.com reports, “Consistently, Glow Fest is being ranked by DCA [Disney’s California Adventure] park visitors as being just as good as, or slightly more entertaining, than World of Color.”

Another good thing about Glow Fest, as opposed to the recent Green Day show, was the complete absence of f-bombs. (That, of course, was completely predictable.)

When’s the last time a major brand pleasantly surprised you?

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2 responses to “Disneyland Throws a Rave Party

  1. Next time I go back to Cali, I will visit Disneyland Again!!

    So what if a Family of 7 goes Broke 😉

  2. We went to lunch at the Denny’s right across the street on Harbor to save a few bucks!

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