Today's the first day of the Chinese New Year, a holiday
that one sixth of the world's population will celebrate with friends &
Mind you, not everyone will be celebrating the first day of
the Year of the Golden Rooster in the exact same way. On the Mainland, Chinese
New Year is kind of like Christmas & New Year's all rolled into one. Which
is why this weeks-long celebration takes on almost an epic quality with
spectacular entertainments, festive decorations, and special holiday-themed
food & beverages.
Mickey-shaped lanterns dangle over the streets of Disneytown, the Shanghai Disney Resort’s shopping, dining & entertainment district. Copyright DisneyEnterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, reflecting the 150+ years that this
country was under British Crown rule, Chinese New Year is a shorter but still
spectacular affair. Think more along the lines of a long Thanksgiving weekend
where friends & family gather together for a unique blend of modern fun and
ancient traditions. Only in this case, the party's over after just three days
or so of celebrations that include parades & giant fireworks.
Whereas in the United States (Where - because so many
different countries & cultures celebrate this particular holiday - its
preferred nomenclature is Lunar New Year), a conscious effort is made to make
sure that this seasonal celebration is as inclusive as possible.
Keeping this in mind ... Well, is it any wonder that Disney
Parks & Resorts have taken very different approaches to the celebration of
Chinese New Year / Lunar New Year at Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland
and Disney California Adventure Park?
Philippe Gas (He’s the one standing next to Goofy) — general manager of the Shanghai Disneyland Resort — presided over this morning’s Chinese Lion ceremony at that theme park. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Take - for example - how Shanghai Disney decided to kick off
that Resort's very first Chinese New Year. Earlier today, Mickey, Minnie and
Goofy (who was dressed as the God of Good Fortune) were joined at the top of
Mickey Avenue at Shanghai Disneyland by two traditional Chinese lions. Then
Philippe Gas - the general manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort - dotted the
eyes of these lions. Which then magically awakened these creatures, allowing
the lions to spread good cheer & luck to both Guests visiting the Park as
well as to the Cast Members who worked there.
Whereas Hong Kong Disneyland (because it wanted to convey a
message of cherishing food on the first day of the rooster year) opted to
temporarily shift its spotlight from "good show" to "good works." Which is why
the HKDL Resort invited Financial Secretary Paul Chan; Robin Hwang, executive
director of Foodlink Foundation; Elli Fu, CEO and Founder of J-life Foundation
and 60 women & children to celebrate Chinese New Year by joining them
earlier today at a feast that had been made from ingredients which Hong Kong
Disneyland had donated to the "Surplus Food Donation Program."
Food also played an important role in today's launch of
Disney California Adventure Park's Lunar New Year celebration. But because this
theme park wanted throw a spotlight on the holiday cuisine of three different
cultures (i.e., China, Korea & Vietnam) ... Well, that then meant Paradise
Pier's open-air dining area (which had previously been themed as a Victorian
beer garden) had to be transformed into the Lunar New Year Marketplace.
"Mulan’s Lunar Year Celebration" travels through the Paradise Pier area of Disney California Adventure Park. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
"We've decorated this portion of the Park in the traditional
manner with lanterns & fireworks. And as Guests enter this space, there's a
variety of activities they can take part in," explained David Duffy, the
director of Creative Entertainment at the Disneyland Resort. "They can have
their name written in Chinese or Korean or Vietnamese calligraphy. There's also
a wonderful tradition of this holiday that crossed all of these cultures of
writing your wishes for the coming year on pieces of paper and then either
hanging these wishes on trees or on a wall that we've erected which stretches
from Paradise Garden Grill all the way to Goofy's Sky School."
And throughout the day through February 5th, Chinese,
Vietnamese & Korean entertainers will be performing in the Paradise Pier
bandstand. Chinese, Vietnamese & Korean entertainers will be performing in
the Paradise Pier bandstand. There's also a photo location where Guests can get
their picture taken with Mulan & Mushu from Disney's "Mulan." And speaking
of Disney's first Asian Princess, this Chinese cultural icon is prominently
featured in the "Mulan's Lunar New Year Celebration." Which parades several
times daily through this portion of Disney California Adventure Park.
But as fun as these daytime activities may be, it's when
night falls (and - appropriately enough - the moon rises) that Disney
California Adventure's Lunar New Year celebration really kicks into high gear.
And that's because of the "Hurry Home - Lunar New Year Celebration." Which is
this brand-new six minute-long show that's being presented nightly out ahead of
that theme park's waterfront extravaganza, "World of Color."
The “Hurry Home - Lunar New Year Celebration” show lights up Paradise Lagoon at Disney California Adventure Park. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.All rights reserved
"What really inspired 'Hurry Home' was that Michael
Colglazier - president of the Disneyland Resort - attended the grand opening of
Shanghai Disneyland back in June of last year. And as part of the opening
ceremony of that theme park, a spectacular show was projected onto Storybook
castle which featuring original music by Tan Dun. Who's the contemporary
Chinese composer who's probably best known in the West for creating the score
for 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,' " Duffy continued. "Anyway, Michael comes
back from Shanghai and said 'We have to do something like this out over
Paradise Lagoon using the 'World of Color' technology. What an amazing opportunity
this would be for Disney California Adventure. Especially as part of that theme
park's Lunar New Year celebration.' "
Mind you, given that Disneyland's Creative Entertainment
team only had six months to pull together this new projection show, they had to
hurry "Hurry Home" along. But the finished product - which skillfully mixes
authentic Chinese painting techniques with start-of-the-art CG - has already
won the hearts of many members of Orange County's Asian community. Largely
because it celebrates one of the big traditions of the Lunar New Year. Which is
that this is the time of year when you're supposed to reunite / connect with
friends and family.
And speaking of projection shows ... The folks at Shanghai
Disneyland found a fun way to put a high-tech spin on an ancient tradition.
Which is - that if you want the gods to honor your wishes for the coming year -
you must first write them on the side of a floating lantern and then send that
CG lanterns featuring Guests wishes for the coming year float across the surface of Storybook Castle as part of Shanghai Disneyland’s Chinese New Year Celebration. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
The way that Shanghai Disneyland has updated this tradition
is that - during the day - they collect various Guests' wishes for the Chinese
New Year. Then - at night - after "Ignite the Dream - A Nighttime Spectacular
of Magic and Light" has finished exploding over this theme park, CG lanterns
which are now covered with those previously collected Guest wishes are now
projected onto the sides of Storybook Castle as a special "Kiss Goodnight" for
all those who chose to visit Shanghai Disneyland during its very first Chinese
New Year celebration.
And speaking of mixing tech & tradition ... Hong Kong
Disneyland officials managed to turn one of the most important rituals
associated with Chinese New Year (i.e., the giving and receiving of lai see, or
red envelopes. Which is a Chinese tradition symbolizing good luck and
prosperity) into a clever way to promote that theme park's newest attraction.
To explain: As Guests come through the turnstiles at Hong
Kong Disneyland, they're handed a very traditional red-and-gold envelope
containing a chocolate coin. The envelope features Iron Man's helmet (which is
also red & gold) on the front and a logo for the "Iron Man Experience," the
first Marvel-themed Disney ride in any Disney Park, on the backside. This 3D
motion simulator attraction opened in this theme park's Tomorrowland section
back on January 11th.
Both sides of the lai see that are being handed to Guests as they enter Hong Kong Disneyland during that theme park’s Chinese New Year celebration.Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
So there you have it. Three different Disney Parks, each of
which put their own unique spins on the celebration of Chinese New Year / Lunar
New Year. Which - to hear Laurie Jordan (who leads the global creative
entertainment organization for Disney Parks) - is just fine.
"Since the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Disney parks
around the world have offered our Guests the perfect place to come together to
celebrate holidays and special occasions, from Christmas and Halloween," Jordan
said. "So if the Chinese New Year experience is slightly different for Guests
at each of our world-class destinations ... Well, that's what makes it fun and
part of what makes us Disney."
This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Saturday, January 28, 2017.