Yester California Adventure at Yesterland


LuminAria

“See the Holidays in
a whole new light”


Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony ’WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

A luminaria is usually a kraft paper bag weighted down by sand and containing a lit candle. Rows of warmly glowing luminarias line streets, walkways, walls, and even rooftops on Christmas Eve. This Hispanic tradition began as a way to guide the spirit of the Christ child.


It’s the Holiday Season here at Yester California Adventure. We don’t have luminarias, we have LuminAria—a Holiday Spectacular with an upper-case L and an upper-case A.

LuminAria has nothing to do with luminarias. The official press release calls LuminAria “a spectacular celebration of dazzling lights, low level pyrotechnics and favorite holiday music performed on the waters of Paradise Pier Lagoon.”

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Gold is the theme for the holiday decor in the Golden State section.

LuminAria is a nighttime show, but the fun begins in the daytime. Go to the festively decorated Bay Area district of the park’s Golden State section. Look for the giant LuminAria banners opposite the Golden Dreams rotunda.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

“Come on in and be a star in our holiday show.”

Well, you won’t personally be a star, but your artwork can be.

Bring your kids, but that’s not a requirement.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Santa Claus welcomes guests.
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

You’re in the Holiday Art Card Center.
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Displays of toys serve as holiday displays and inspiration.
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The reception desk
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The tables and chairs are a perfect size for young kids.

What do the holidays mean to you? What images come to your mind? What are your religious or secular holiday traditions? Be creative. Perhaps you or your kids will be inspired by the giant Christmas cards in the room.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

A giant perforated luminaria bag is part of the room’s decor.

Be sure to finish your artwork at least two hours before showtime.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Giant “gift packages” are actually show elements.

As nightime approaches, show elements are moved to their positions in Paradise Bay.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The neatly positioned packages wait for nightfall.
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

You’ve been warned.

Before it’s too late, take in all the rides in this part of the park, including the Sun Wheel, Maliboomer, and Orange Stinger. They’re closing early tonight.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Show time!

Now it’s night. The time has arrived. The lights dim around Paradise Bay.

The voice of LuminAria offers a message of peace for the holidays. “Dream of a wintery world where imagination swirls like falling snow,” she tells us. “Share in the warmth of the holidays and let your heart shine with joy. This is the season of light.”

Low-level fireworks leap from the lagoon.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Park guest artwork makes LuminAria an interactive show.

Do you remember those large gift packages? Large screens rise from those packages. The artwork that you, your children, and other guests produced during the day are part of the show.

Keep your eyes open for your artwork.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

A 60-foot “tree” appears to rise from within the lagoon.

A variety of low-level fireworks, choreographed to a soundtrack of familiar and not-so-familiar holiday music, dance above the lagoon.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony ’WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

Bask in the glow of the fireworks.

The music consists of “Shine,” “Snow Transition,” “Snowfall,” “White Christmas,” “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies,” “My Favorite Things,” “Toyland,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Holiday Wonder,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Holiday Fanfare,” “Live the Light Inside,” “Winter’s Light,” and “Disney’s LuminAria Finale.”

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Pyrotechnic effects galore.
 

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

Almost 17 minutes of fireworks

Just when you think it’s all over, “Disney’s LuminAria Finale” begins.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Tony ’WiseBearAZ” Moore, 2001

LuminAria Finale

As the show reaches its end, the narrator intones, “Share your light. Share it with the world.” And one more blast of fireworks erupts above the waters of Paradise Bay.

Luminaria at Disney's California Adventure

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

The pyrotechnics are over.

You paid attention to which way the wind was blowing, didn’t you? You picked a good spot upwind from the low-level fireworks, right? Otherwise, you were watching the show from within a cloud of thick, acrid smoke.


LuminAria premiered at Disney’s California Adventure on November 9, 2001. It was the new park’s first Christmas.

Reaction to the show online tended to be lukewarm—not as negative as for Light Magic, but not as positive as for Fantasmic! or Disneyland’s various fireworks spectaculars over the years. The virtues of the colorful pyrotechnics were outweighed by the smoke. The holiday music lacked the energy to match the fountains of fire. The video screens that showed the “cards” were too small and provided a lackluster show.

Columnist Sue Kruse wrote, “LuminAria, it contains neither luminarias nor an aria, so why is it called LuminAria?”

Walt Disney Creative Entertainment had to deal with a lack of permanent infrastructure, a short development cycle, and a budget only appropriate for an eight-week holiday show.

The guest reaction to LuminAria also wasn’t helped by closing the Paradise Pier rides early—at a park that already had a reputation for too few attractions.

LuminAria ran nightly until January 6, 2002, as scheduled. Then it never returned.

The idea of having a nighttime spectacular on Paradise Bay was a good one, but LuminAria was not the right show. More than eight years after the final performance of LuminAria, and after a huge construction project lasting through most of 2009 and halfway into 2010, Disney California Adventure now has the most spectacular water show in the world—World of Color.

World of Color premiered June 11, 2010. Guests viewing World of Color are treated to music, 1,200 fountain nozzles (each with an individually controlled underwater LED), state-of-the-art digital projection on water-spray backdrop screens, lasers, and fire—but not the continuous low-level pyrotechnics that made the acrid smoke of LuminAria. If the wind is blowing, guests get a bit wet. But they don’t get coughs and burning eyes from smoke.

Unlike LuminAria, World of Color is a year-round show—but it can also be a holiday show.

Designing an infrastructure that could easily switch to a holiday version was a smart move, given the success of Disneyland’s holiday shows and attraction overlays. In an interview published at the D23 website (July 21, 2009), Steven Davison, vice president, Parades & Spectaculars, Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, explained, “We will do a holiday show and probably a Halloween show. World of Color is as endless as your imagination. We have some great ideas for Christmas that will surprise everybody, that will totally do new things.”

Winter Dreams at Disney California Adventure

Photo by Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort © Disney

Olaf from Frozen in World of Color - Winter Dreams

For the first two holiday seasons of World of Color, 2010 and 2011, there was just the regular show. For the 2012 holiday season, World of Color added a segment based on Disney’s Prep & Landing television special.

Finally, in 2013, a holiday spectacular temporarily replaced the regular show. World of Color - Winter Dreams premiered November 15, 2013. And borrowing a page from the LuminAria playbook, one segment featured reproductions of greeting cards created by guests.


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© 2009-2013 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated December 14, 2013.