World of Color – Season of Light is a Christmas nighttime spectacular at Disneyland Resort, running during the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure. This post offers viewing tips, shares photos, and our review of the show. (Updated June 23, 2022.)
Let’s start with the good news: Disneyland Resort has announced that World of Color – Season of Light is returning for Christmas 2022 at DCA. This is the first time that the holiday version of the nighttime spectacular has been performed in the last several years; and only the second time in the last 5 years, if memory serves me correctly.
We are incredibly excited and relieved that World of Color – Season of Light is returning. Not to “spoil” our own review below, but we absolutely love Season of Light. It’s a beautiful show and one we actually prefer to the normal World of Color. Beyond that, with World of Color’s Halloween overlay unlikely to be back and Season of Light not running in the last few years, it would’ve been easy to cut. We’re very thankful it’s returning!
World of Color – Season of Light is the right show for the right time. I mean that both as a Christmas/holiday version of the Disney California Adventure nighttime spectacular and as something America could use at this moment in time.
World of Color – Season of Light is exceptional, and you should make every effort to see it if you can. It’s the most beautiful version of World of Color, and our favorite. We saw it several times last year after posting this review, and we loved every viewing as much as the first.
Now, for a quick run-through of the show, so you get an idea of what to expect. Season of Light is a bit different in that it features no opening introduction and almost no narration. This mostly works to its advantage. Part of me wishes there were footage from this ‘Wonderful World of Disney’, with an intro by Walt Disney as the narration introducing Season of Light, but I’m otherwise fine with the subtle, dialogue-light approach.
Season of Light begins with an instrumental medley that then transitions into “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. This still reminds me of the original Prep & Landing World of Color Christmas pre-show, even without Lanny and Wayne.
Through it all, though, you have almost no dialogue from any Disney characters. I think the first spoken lines of dialogue (aside from a “gawrsh” from Goofy) comes from a single line from Anna and Kristoff at the end of maybe song 4.
I’m not criticizing this approach–it’s nice to see a show that isn’t bogged down in narration, and instead gets out of its own way to let the beautiful dancing fountains, mist screens, music, and other effects.
Following this, you have a succession of classic Christmas songs that are matched up with Disney animation. For example, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is played alongside animation of loving moments between Disney couples.
Some of this footage has nothing to do with Christmas, but it still works (really well) given the music and message of togetherness.
However, by the end of “Mele Kalikimaka” I was starting to think that a feature-length show of Christmas classics at a slower pace, sans narration, may not play well to a regular audience.
This concern was vanquished with a high energy version of “Feliz Navidad” with the Three Caballeros.
From that point on, Season of Light completely finds its groove.
The show’s crescendo was unquestionably the “Goofy Scene.” Even though I’ve already indicated that this would include spoilers, I’m still hesitant to spoil this for anyone.
I don’t think the homage to a now-retired holiday offering at Walt Disney World was coincidence, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I got a little choked up during this scene. (Although given its high energy nature, I doubt that was the intent–just a result of my personal nostalgia.)
Suffice to say, Goofy set the house on fire and the audience went wild. I would rank this as the top scene in any version of World of Color, topping even the TRON tag from the original show’s early days.
Given how World of Color has shared animation/scenes with Disney Dreams in Paris in the past, I would not be surprised to see a modified version of this Goofy scene in Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when it debuts. To the contrary, I’d be surprised if it’s not in that show. Walt Disney World fans deserve this scene.
The audible cheers of the audience quickly changed to audible laughter as Sadness from Inside Out appeared as “Blue Christmas” played.
Another great scene, and World of Color – Season of Light maintained this stride as it continued with an emotionally powerful scene (if anyone can make it through that scene from Up without tears, they need to see a doctor) right through the end with a stirring message of peace on earth.
The entire show used the full bevy of visual effects that have been highlighted in other versions of World of Color in much better ways than its predecessors.
From the new-ish lights on California Screamin’ to clearer mist screens (maybe that was the lack of wind?) to low-level lasers and spotlights, the visuals of World of Color – Season of Light surpassed anything I’ve seen before.
I mentioned Anna and Kristoff above, and I could actually hear the collective groan of readers through the pipes of the internet. Guess what, though?
Aside from a few visuals that might total 30 seconds and are appropriate for the show, there is no Frozen in Season of Light. No Olaf narration, no songs about summer in a winter-themed World of Color. Nothing.
In fact, one of the greatest strengths of World of Color – Season of Light is that it seems no one told the marketing, merchandising, or film divisions that this show was going to be made. Nothing has been shoehorned in for the sake of synergy. To the contrary, it feels almost like it was created with a defiant, anti-synergy approach, focusing more on obscure (to the general public) properties than any Disney nighttime spectacular in recent memory.
The audience doesn’t care. It’s a quality show with stories & characters used because they suit the scenes, not in service of pushing hot holiday toys. And (surprise, surprise) that’s what actually matters to guests. So breathe a sigh of relief, Disneyland fans, as there is not a Rogue One scene crammed into the middle of the show. (As a result of the IP that was–and was not–used, I suspect this version is going to play really well with hardcore Disney fans.)
About the only other thing that I felt was odd about Season of Light was (what I would normally assume) was the post-show, exit music. This is going to seem like an odd complaint, but it was too good. I didn’t see a single person leave during this, because it started building again, and the fountains looked pretty awesome.
Based on the finale that preceded it, the audience’s thunderous applause, and the brief period of darkness before it started up, this should have been the post-show. That’s how past versions of World of Color have worked, but in this case, the energy and quality of that post-show kept everyone put.
However, the “thank you for joining us” message didn’t play after (what should have been) the post-show, and then a more traditional fountain display and exit music plays. So, you basically have finale, encore, post-show. It still works.
As for viewing tips, the standard rule of getting a virtual queue spot early applies. I predict very strong word of mouth on Season of Light, and on nights when there’s only one showing of it, the virtual queue will likely fill fast.
My favorite spot for viewing World of Color is the front row. More specifically, at the edge of the zone that extends farther out into Paradise Bay. Getting into this spot is easier said than done. If our experience was any indication, blue zone virtual queue spots are distributed first, then yellow.
Since it debuted, World of Color seating has always had an element of organized chaos to it, but we’ve found that you can pretty much end up where you want to end up if you arrive early enough and just keep moving until you get where you want to get, even backtracking as necessary. Some nights we’ve gotten lucky and have ended up exactly where we wanted to be on the first try; other times we have been herded into spots we didn’t like.
We cover this in more depth, plus tips for the show in our World of Color Viewing & Photography Tipspost. In addition to the best and worst spots, it also details why we do not recommend the dessert party or dining packages, and how to take photos of World of Color.
In the end, this World of Color – Season of Light review might read as being “mixed,” given my quibbles with some parts of the show. That is not the case, at all. This ranks as my all-time favorite version of World of Color. Sarah, who normally doesn’t like the hassle of seeing World of Color and getting wet in the front row, agrees.
While Season of Light is not perfect, it’s incredibly easy to overlook any perceived faults I can find because it does so many things so right. It is powerfully emotive, visually stunning, and has a great score. Most importantly, it has heart. There were several times when I got choked up, and this was the result of the visuals connecting with the music to produce emotionally satisfying scenes, rather than feeling contrived (like Celebrate!). The original World of Color has a few moments like this that connect with the audience, but I think Season of Light beats the original.
Have you seen this nighttime spectacular? What did you think? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts on World of Color – Season of Light? Any additional thoughts or favorite scenes of your own? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!