At the request of several readers and Padders, I've created this guide to help you navigate through the variety of World of Color viewing options/packages. Hopefully this helps clear up some of the mystery and anxiety around this show.
World of Color: The Guide
For background, the World of Color is a larger-than-life water, laser and fire show presented from a show platform in the middle of Paradise Bay. The show is currently scheduled for two performances each night (9 and 10:15), though a third show (11:15) has been added, and DCA's park hours extended, every night since the show first opened in June. The show will maintain this schedule through September 6, 2010. Starting September 7, the show will be presented on an off-season schedule of one show per night (8:15) Monday - Thursday, and two shows per night (9 and 10:15) Friday - Sunday.
There are basically four ways that a regular guest can see the new World of Color show at Disney California Adventure park. Which of these methods you use depends on how much time and/or money you're willing to spend to see the show.
Disney says the show can been viewed from all around the bay, which is true only in that you can see many of the show elements from any spot that has a sight line to the water. In reality, the majority of the projected images are only visible for a much smaller viewing area. This viewing area is known as Paradise Park, and is located on the north side of Paradise Bay. Admission to this viewing area is currently offered by ticket only; I'll explain how to get a ticket below. The capacity of the viewing area is reportedly around 4,500 people per show.
Disney has divided Paradise Park into three color-coded viewing sections: Center (usually Yellow), Left of Center (which includes the bridge; usually Blue) and Right of Center (usually Red). The color / section designations changed during the opening weeks of the show, but Disney seems to have settled on a color scheme.
To further confuse matters, each of these three main sections includes a small wheelchair section, a small section with benches for people with endurance issues (usually adjacent to the wheelchair section), and a water-front "splash zone" where you are guaranteed to get wet, if not soaked, during the show. There are also VIP sections at the back of the viewing area, reserved for celebrities and high-profile guests, as well as a new section of bench seating available for Club 33 members to reserve.
I - Non-Ticketed Viewing
I'm going to start with the Standby Option, because this is what you'll get if you don't choose one of the other three options described below. Standby means that you do not have ticket to the viewing area. You can still see the show, but you have to do it from somewhere else around Paradise Bay. Depending on where you stand, you'll have at best a side-on view of the water screen, and probably won't be able to see most of the projections. You will be able to see most of the fire and water effects, if only from the side or back of the show. If you're only interested in getting a sense of what World of Color is like, and don't want to spend any money for a dining package or any time waiting in line to collect or use a Fastpass, this is the option for you.
Click here for a discussion of viewing World of Color without a Fastpass.
II - Ticketed Viewing
There are three ways to get a ticket to the Paradise Park viewing area: get a Fastpass, purchase a picnic, or book a table service dining package.A - Fastpass OptionIII - I have a ticket - now what?
The Fastpass Option is the only no-cost way to see the World of Color from the Paradise Park viewing area. To get a World of Color Fastpass, just go to the bank of Fastpass machines at Grizzly River Run, hand your park ticket to a cast member, and receive your Fastpass. Sound simple? It is - except that the line for the Fastpass machines forms before DCA even opens each morning, can stretch upwards of 90 minutes, and that people staying at the Disneyland Resort hotels can enter the park and get into the Fastpass line 30 minutes before the rest of the guests. (See Appendix A, "How to become a Resort Guest without spending the night")If you are a Resort Guest: The Grand Gate (the gate to DCA from the Grand Californian Hotel) opens at 9am (or one hour before DCA opens), and the line starts earlier than that. Every member of your party must be with you, and you will need your valid admission media and room key to gain access to the park. Once inside DCA, the Grizzly River Run Fastpass machines are on your right - just follow the crowd.If you are not a Resort Guest: The main entrance opens at 9:30am (or 30 minutes before DCA opens), the line starts earlier than that. Every member of your party must be with you, and you will need your valid admission media to gain access to the park. Once inside DCA, follow the signs, cast member instructions or (more likely), crowd of running people to get to the Grizzly River Run Fastpass machines. On busier days, the queue is wrapped around the back side of Grizzly River Run, and waits can exceed 90 minutes.Once you reach the machines, one member of your party (the rest of your group will likely be asked to wait to the side) will hand all of the tickets for your entire group to the cast member stationed at the machine. The CM will run your tickets and issue your Fastpasses. CMs tell us the tickets are issued starting with the 9:00 show, then moving to the second and third shows as each previous show sells out. Your entire group should get your tickets at the same time, otherwise you risk being issued tickets to a different section, or even a different show.
Warning: Each admission ticket must be "activated" before you can use it to obtain a Fastpass - each person must have their ticket scanned at the DCA turnstiles when they enter the park. This means you can't send one member of your party to DCA to collect Fastpasses for the entire group while everyone else stays in their hotel room, or pop into DCA to grab Fastpasses for your spouse and children who are still at work and school. The Fastpass machine will reject any ticket that has not been activated that day, and cast members will usually not override the machines unless the ticket holders are present. Lots of park guests have learned about this policy the hard way, and Disney now has signs inside DCA to remind guests.
Click here for a discussion of viewing World of Color with a Fastpass.
B - Picnic Option
Dubbed the "$15 Fastpass" by some readers, each World of Color picnic comes with your choice of seven entree options (four for adults, three for children), a bottled beverage and a Fastpass for the World of Color. All child's meals come with a glow bracelet. If you reserve your meal online (see below), you'll also receive a World of Color tote bag with each meal, though we've heard that Disney is also giving the bag to walk up customers. There are two ways to purchase a picnic, and how you buy the meal determines which show you will see.Buy Online - Online reservations are available up to 30 days in advance, but must be made at least one day in advance of your preferred show date. (Same-day online reservations are not accepted). If you purchase your picnic online, you will receive tickets to the first World of Color showing.Buy In Park - If you forget to reserve your picnic in advance, or if the show date you wanted is already sold out online, you can purchase a same-day picnic once you arrive in DCA. Picnics are sold at a counter near the Wine Country Trattoria, and the location opens around 11am each morning. Picnic choices are first-come, first-serve, so you risk not getting the meal you wanted if you wait to purchase your picnic later in the day. If you opt to purchase in park, you will have to take your meal with you when you buy it, so most people make this their lunch for the day. Picnics purchased in-park come with tickets to the second showing.Many dietary issues can be accommodated with advance notice; call 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463) for assistance before you order.
Click here for detailed information and photos about the picnic options, along with reports from readers who have purchased these meals.
C - Dining Package Option
For those who want the full "dinner and a show" experience, Disney offers a dining package at two table-service restaurants, Ariel's Grotto and the Wine Country Trattoria. Both restaurants have a special menu for this package. Dietary issues can be accommodated with advance notice, but the restaurants will not make any preference-based substitutions.
To make a reservation, call 714-781-DINE (714-781-3463) up to 60 days in advance of your visit. You can request a seating for either the first or second World of Color show, and will dine before the performance. To be clear, you will not actually view World of Color from the restaurant. At the conclusion of your meal, your server will present each member of your party with a ticket granting you access to a reserved viewing area within Paradise Park.
Click here for detailed information and menus from the World of Color dining packages, along with reports from readers who have purchased these packages.
If you get a Fastpass or Picnic ticket to the show, you will be assigned to one of the color-coded viewing areas in Paradise Park, and told when and where to line up before the show. The earlier you join the line, the earlier you will enter the viewing area and the better your chance of grabbing a better spot.
Dining package tickets to not have a color printed on them, but do include instructions on where to line up. Once you approach the viewing area, you'll be directed to a specific white sign where you can enter your reserved section.
Don't be fooled by the "return time" printed on your ticket, nor the claim that "early arrivals cannot be accommodated." Based on reports from other readers and our own experience, the lines start to form anywhere from 30-60 minutes before the stated time, and guests who wait until their official "return time" will find themselves at or near the back of the line for their section. It's up to you to decide how much time you want to invest in line.
IV - Getting the best view from Paradise Park
Once you've been shuttled into Paradise Park, the real challenge is to find the best place to stand to see the show. Despite a claim on the Disneyland Web site that says "Paradise Park was expertly designed to provide stunning views of World of Color from all areas," the most common complaint about the show is that it's hard to see if you get a bad spot. Regardless of which section you've been assigned, we have tips to help you find a good view.
When choosing your spot, keep in mind three things: 1) Even though Paradise Park faces California Screamin', the "center" of the show is actually closer to the Fun Wheel. 2) You want to be able to see the surface of the water if at all possible. 3) You want to be in front of or above the rest of the crowd - avoid standing behind someone if you can, ESPECIALLY in the flat central fountain area.
The picture below was taken just before Paradise Park opened to the public, the first day the construction walls came down. You can see Cast Members are setting up the rope corrals for the viewing areas for the very first time. I've highlighted the map to show what I think are the best and worst spots for the show. The colors used do not coincide with the colors of the viewing sections, because the section boundaries are still shifting. In this illustration, Blue indicates a great spot to see the show IF you're willing to get a wet, Purple indicates spots where you might get wet, Green indicates a good spot for those who prefer to remain dry (though you will still get a little damp from the mist), and Red indicates the spots you absolutely do not want - the back half of the central fountain circle; behind the oddly-placed trellises; at the back of any flat section. The Yellow spot is what some people consider to be the "sweet spot" for the show, the section the show control trailer (still visible in this photo) was located while the show was being programmed. This is a nice spot, so long as you aren't directly behind the light fixture (which was actually removed during programming).
In all cases, your goal is to either be at the front of a section against a railing, or on the top level of one of the steps. If you've arrived too late to do either of those, your next best option is to find a place along one of the rope barriers that define the walkways - at least you won't have anyone to your side, and you'll probably have a better view than being in the middle of the crowd. If you have more than two layers of people in front of you, find another spot.
The good news is that most of the people watching the show with you will not have done their research, and will follow the crowd pushing to get as close to the water as they can. If you don't want to be in the splash zone, grab a top step and just let the crowds pass.
The Blue section includes the Bridge, which some people consider to be a prime location if you can get a spot along the railing. If you want to stake your claim on the bridge, veer to the left as you enter the viewing area, and look for the cast members directing guests into that section.
Most people consider the Red section to be the worst of the three sections. If you pull a Red Fastpass ticket, get as close to the center of Paradise Park as possible, as close to the Yellow section as you can.
V - The Splash Zones
Each section of the viewing area includes a strip of the boardwalk, offering a waterside view of the show and a guarantee that you will leave the show wet, if not soaked. Most folks avoid these sections, so ask a cast member for assistance getting through the crowds. Depending where you stand, the closest fountain in the lagoon may be less than 15 feet from you. It's a completely immersive experience - in more ways than one - but you should come prepared. Helpful Disney cast members will be along to sell you a plastic poncho for $7, but you can probably find them cheaper if you shop before you visit. Be sure to protect any electronic equipment as you would from an intense rain storm.
VI - A note about Showtimes
Just like Fantasmic, each showing of World of Color has certain advantages and disadvantages.
The earliest show is most popular with families with children and those who just don't like a late night in the parks. It's also the only performance with a pre-show, a brief song-and-dance procession with over sized character puppets. This showing also feels like (and likely is) the most crowded. The lines form earlier, the wait seems longer, and the added pre-show means you'll be standing more than you will for the later shows. If you prefer to see the first show, you'll either need to get to the park right at opening to get a Fastpass, purchase a picnic package online, or book a World of Color dining package for the first seating.
The second show is less crowded, and the wait is shorter simply because the lines can't form until the audience has been let in for the first show. The bad news is that you'll probably be standing in line throughout the first show, and won't enter the viewing area until the entire first audience has cleared the area. The good news is that the queues for the second show seem to be MUCH better organized than the general melee that characterizes the line for the first show. If you prefer the second show, you'll either need to wait until all Fastpasses have been distributed for the first show (wait until the cast members say they've started issuing tickets for the red section for the first show before you get in the Fastpass line), purchase a picnic package online, or book a World of Color dining package for the second seating. If you're booking a dining package, try for the earliest seating available to you - I have heard of several instances where people had to skip dessert to make it to the show on time.
The appeal of the third show is the smaller crowd (even though the same number of tickets are distributed, the return rate is much lower for an 11:15 show), fewer children (which means less chance that the dad in front of you will plunk his child onto his shoulders just as the show starts), and the fact that, since there are no dining packages offered for the third show, the section reserved in the first and second shows for dining package guests is turned over to Fastpass holders. This is the only show where you might - depending on crowds - be allowed to grab a spot in the viewing area without a ticket right before the show starts. If you prefer the third show, you'll have to keep tabs on the Fastpass distribution rate - ask the cast members when they think you should return.
VII - A note to parents
If you're this far into this description, you've probably recognized that your 42" tall child is going to have a very hard time seeing the show unless you get a spot along a railing, or on a top step. If you arrive too late to get a good vantage point, your child is likely going to spend the entire show staring at the posterior of the person in front of you. This is not an ideal situation for you or your child, and parents need to be aware of the issue in advance so they can pick a good spot for their family and children to see the show.
Anyone who has seen World of Color more than once knows that the second the first fountains come to life, parents who have just realized that they picked a bad spot will raise their children onto their shoulders, effectively blocking the view of the people behind them. Unlike a fireworks show, much of the "action" takes place at or below eye level, and a child sitting on their parent's shoulders can block the view for a large section of the audience behind them. At first cast members were instructed to tell parents not to place their children on shoulders during the show, but they quickly abandoned the effort as the problems with the viewing area became clear. The issue of "shoulder children" has sparked some very heated debate on these message boards.
If you're a parent, please be mindful of the view of not only yourself but also the shorter members of your party. If you arrive too late to get a spot along the railing, please show courtesy to the people behind you. If possible, hold your child so that their head is level with yours, so you can both see the show without blocking the view of the folks who already have an even worse view.
Appendix A - How to become a Resort Guest without spending the night.
Disney states that the early entrance to DCA is available to guests staying at the three Disneyland Resort Hotels (the Disneyland, Paradise Pier and Grand Californian hotels). However, we've been told that you don't actually need to book a room at one of the hotels to use this entrance—but you do need to be a "guest" at the hotel. What's the difference, you ask? Simply put, Disney considers anyone who uses a service of its on-property hotels to be a "guest," including shops and restaurants. Although there are numerous places to shop and dine on hotel property, in order to be a "guest" on the morning you want to use the entrance, we can think of three places specifically: Have breakfast with Chip and Dale at Storytellers Cafe, make a purchase (of, for example, a bottle of water) at Whitewater Snacks, or pick up a small item at Acorns Gifts & Goods—and you're a Resort guest. Cast members should accept your same-day receipt in lieu of a hotel room key and grant you access through the Grand gate, but this is another one of those policy-versus-practice matters. Several readers have reported success gaining entry to DCA with a receipt (though one said the CM was clearly not happy about it), and I've personally done it twice.
Appendix B - What to do if World of Color is canceled.
As of this writing, only four performances of World of Color have been canceled; one due to a water main break, and three more following an earthquake in Southern California. Following each canceled show, DCA's guest relations department had to deal with thousands of disappointed and upset customers.
If you have a Fastpass ticket to World of Color and the show is canceled, there's not a lot Disney will do for you. Think about it - if you have a Fastpass for Space Mountain and it breaks down for the day, the most you'll usually be able to do is explain the situation and use that Fastpass on another ride. However, Disney's new push to sell World of Color picnics and dinners changes the equation for the thousands of people each night who shell out $15-$40 per person for what Disney advertises as a dining "package."If the show is canceled before you eatClick here to read reports from readers who were at the canceled June 27th show.
If you learn that your show has been canceled before you pick up your picnic meal or check in for your reservation, you have some options. You can simply walk away from your dinner reservation with no penalty (though it would be polite to let the restaurant know you're canceling the reservation). If you pre-ordered a picnic, instead of picking it up you can request to have your purchased transferred to another night. You may even be able to request a refund, but that's a less-likely outcome. Whatever you do, make your decision before you dine. As one CM said, "it's a lot easier to refund an un-eaten meal."
If the show is canceled after you eat
If you learn that your show has been canceled after you've already dined, Disney can offer a few alternatives, though personal experience says that they're reluctant to do so.
If you're a passholder or a local resident, your best bet is to wait and contact Disney's Guest Relations department the next day for assistance. If you rush straight to Guest Relations that night, you'll spend a lot of time in a very long line, and will probably encounter some very frazzled cast members and managers. Instead, enjoy the rest of your night in the Resort, and then contact Disney by phone or e-mail. Disney usually will not offer a refund for an already-completed meal, but they can issue you a replacement viewing ticket to allow you to return to DCA and see the show another night.
If this happens while you're on vacation or you don't want to wait to resolve the matter, go ahead and join the line at Guest Relations, but be realistic in your requests. Disney isn't going to refund your admission tickets, hotel room and plane fare because of one canceled show.
Click here to read reports from readers who were at the canceled July 7 show.
Appendix C - Special instructions for visitors using wheelchairs, or with endurance issues.
If a member of your party uses a wheelchair, check with the cast members at the Fastpass machines for specific instructions. If you are purchasing a dining package or a picnic, cast members at each of the queues will direct you to a special line for each viewing area. Each section of the viewing area has a section set aside for wheelchair-users, and these are positioned at a forward position, usually against a rail. There won't be anyone standing directly in front of this section, but the view may be otherwise slightly obstructed by planters, walls, light fixtures, and the heads of the people in the section below. Companions can stand behind the person using the wheelchair.
Endurance issues are a tougher problem. Again, if a member of your party can't stand for the 25-minute performance, you can request a seat on one of the few benches placed throughout the viewing area. Check with a cast member for assistance, and plan to arrive early. Disney will not allow guests to bring their own folding chairs or stools, and has recently begun cracking down on the use of cane chairs.
I hope this helps, and I'm happy to incorporate any tips or corrections you may have!