This past weekend Disneyland kicked off the official start of their summer season with a bang. For the third year in a row, and the second on Memorial Day Weekend, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure remained open for a full 24 hours. Unlike the past two years, there wasn’t a major tie in for this event. The first year, dubbed “One More Disney Day” tied in with the leap day. The second year kicked off the “Monstrous Summer” and promoted the Disney / Pixar theatrical release of Monsters U.
For 2014 Disney asked guests to simply “Rock” their Disney Side by dressing up in costume. The park opened with a burst of fireworks at 6:00 a.m. on Friday, May 23rd. The immediate flood of guests through the gate immediately dispersed which made for relaxing conditions over the morning hours. The mild weather also helped as it remained overcast for most of the morning and early afternoon. With the exception of a few special movie screenings and guests in costume, the day felt like any ordinary day.
Everything changed following the conclusion of the evening fireworks.
A DJ setup in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and using a Grad Nite style set up, began to put the “rock” in this year’s event. Within 30 minutes, central plaza was shoulder to shoulder. The “compass” area in front of the castle and the street between the hub and the castle was transformed into a dance club. Guests danced and screamed as loud music was played, smoke filled the area and lights streaked across the sky. The music was so loud in fact, that the nearby Royal Swing Big Band Ball at the Fantasy Faire was nearly drowned out for those on the dance floor. A few hours later it was clear that some of the parade and background music speakers surrounding the hub had been damaged by the loud music. Popping and crackling was quite noticeable.
The remaining sections of Disneyland stayed fairly quite. A smaller, and much more manageable, dance party continued at the Tomorrowland Terrace, and what was described to me as a “rave” kicked off at Pacific Wharf in Disney California Adventure.
Arriving guests were greeted in the Esplanade by a hand-shaped 8-foot-tall sand Olaf!
Signs for the “Rock Your Disney Side” 24 Hour Event greeted guests at both parks.
On Buena Vista Street, patriotic flags and bunting have been placed for the Memorial Day holiday. They will remain in place through the summer.
EXTRA! EXTRA! A special edition of the Buena Vista Bugle was printed especially for the 24 hour event. Nice touch!
Over at Disneyland, video screens and scaffolding surrounded Sleeping Beauty Castle. The screens were used throughout the day to display Instagram photos of guests with the hashtag “DisneySide”. The screens also occasionally played one of the brief DisneySide YouTube commercials.
One of the main draws for this year’s 24 hour event was the inclusion of guest costumes. Disney allowed guests to wear costumes to “show their Disney Side”. Some costumes very good and extremely elaborate. Most guests who dressed up chose to simplify their outfits by “DisneyBounding” as a character.
As night fell, the Disneyland Resort began to transform into more of a party atmosphere. Disney California Adventure hosted the Mad T Party into the early morning hours.
Once the fireworks ended, everything changed. Disneyland’s Main Street, Central Plaza and Tomorrowland Terrace became dance clubs. At Disney California Adventure, Pacific Wharf became a rave powered by a DJ and a dance floor.
Central Plaza at Disneyland was by far the largest dance party I have personally witnessed at Disneyland. Within 30 minutes the entire hub was packed. The street and area directly in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle was filled with younger adults and teens dancing. Loud, sometimes inappropriate music, poured over Main Street into neighboring Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomrrowland.
Main Street was packed with guests, from Coke Corner to the Castle.
Below is a short video:
The Royal Swing Big Band Ball at the nearby Fantasy Faire was nearly drowned out by the music from the DJ.
DJ Wendy at Tomorrowland Terrace
Disney California Adventure hosted a 3:00 a.m. World of Color
On a personal note:
Disney successfully hosted a huge, over-night event for the third year in a row, seemingly without any major problems. The overcrowding problems of the first year were thwarted by last year’s move of including Disney California Adventure. Inside Disneyland, especially when the park seemed to be at its most busy, Cast Members remained courteous – at least in my experiences. Whether it was planed or done on the fly due to the crowd conditions, Disneyland reopened ToonTown at midnight which had been closed for the fireworks presentation several hours earlier.
Parking was well handled. Disneyland Drive did experience some heavy traffic between 8:00 p.m and 10:00 p.m., but it seemed well mitigated. My two parking experiences at the Toy Story lot went well. It was busy, but the parking Cast Members were organized and there was an obvious increase in the number of busses and stops being used throughout the Toy Story lot and the employee lot known at “K-Lot” or Bambi.
One great feature this year was the addition of live, in-park HD camera internet streams. At the Disneyland Resort live cameras were placed on Main Street U.S.A., the Rivers of America, Paradise Pier and Cars Land. This enabled those who were not at the parks to view the nightly fireworks, Fantasmic! and World of Color showings. “Selfies” also caught on as guests would wave to one of the cameras and quickly screen capture their image.
One issue I remember having during the first year was with the lack of formal communication from Disney through their social media accounts. This year however the official Disneyland social media accounts were on fire with information. Had there been an issue the word would have been spread very quickly. Security was everywhere and a lot of it was not immediately visible. I spotted a number of undercover security keeping a watchful eye on guests. I didn’t witness a single incident.
The day half of Rock Your Disney Side felt like just another day, but the night half didn’t feel anything like Disneyland. The DJ party at Sleeping Beauty Castle was more of a night-club than a family-friendly theme park. Most of the music choices were okay considering the environment, but a few were disappointing and inappropriate. The element of a place where families with children could have fun together was completely lost, after all, you wouldn’t bring young children to Grad Nite, but that’s exactly what happened in the Hub and on Main Street. The Pacific Wharf area was worse with the inclusion of alcohol. This ruined the night for me personally, and I know I’m not the only one.
Many aspects went right with the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour event and I’m sure Disney will do another next year for Disneyland’s big 60th Anniversary. However, I strongly feel that the rave atmosphere went too far and I hope to not see that again next year.
Were you at the Rock Your Disney Side 24-hour Event? What are your thoughts?