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The Lights Are On, but . . .

Attraction review: Disneyland-goers are not as thrilled with Magic as they were with Electrical Parade, but simple touches brighten the show.


ANAHEIM — Light Magic or Light Tragic?

That was the question being debated hotly leading up to Wednesday's media preview for Disneyland's new nighttime show, the one for which park officials pulled the plug last year on the much-loved Main Street Electrical Parade.

Today, with the flick of a digital switch, Light Magic's public opening heralds a new frontier at the park. The show incorporates 2,500 miles of fiber optics, animated film, an original musical score and a cast and crew of 125. Theatrical effects include star strobes, smoke effects, confetti blasts and computerized moving lights.

But only four floats--or specifically, 80-foot platforms that park officials prefer to call "rolling stages." Whatever they're called, there are far fewer of them than the 29 floats that made up the Electrical Parade. And once they are in place, they remain stationary, making viewers focus on just one at a time.

"Is this it for the whole parade?" asked one child at curbside when no more floats arrived. The same child was entranced enough when the show ended 14 minutes later to call out, "Nooo, take me with you!"

Disney types also shy away from the word "parade," opting instead to call it a "streetacular."

Another child, David Thai, 11, of Long Beach, when asked how it was, responded succinctly: "Good!"

As good as he thought it was going to be?


What would have made it better?

"More floats."

So how is the show?

Think Michael Flatley meets Cirque du Soleil on Main Street--on a pixie scale. It's almost nonstop Celtic-flavored song and dance in fantasy garb. Unfortunately, if Disney is hoping for another quarter-century run, Irish step-dancing may prove all too topical.

The show also lapses into sentimentality a little too often. While the show's theme of making dreams come true should be a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, by the time it gets to a revue of dreams coming true in past animated blockbuster Disney films, the sentiment quota has been filled. Filmed sequences of kids looking skyward and laughing sends the sapmeter soaring.


Fact is, Disney is at its best when tapping into the dark side--Fantasmic remaining the park's finest moment in that respect--and here it's predominantly expressed in the grotesquerie and pointy ears of the costumed pixie faces, and a brief "thunderstorm" recalling Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony sequence from "Fantasia."

"Light NO Magic" and "Pathetic!" were among assessments of Light Magic to hit the Internet after preview performances / dress rehearsals last week, igniting a cyberwar between users apparently falling into two camps: annual passholders and Disney crew members.

Disney officials didn't deny that there were glitches in the earlier presentations, nor that refunds were given to disgruntled passholders who had paid $25 to preview the show last week.

Light Magic spectators on Wednesday were also split between two camps: media and Vons shoppers who'd won tickets to the preview.

Each rolling stage resembles some self-contained psychedelic hothouse, where the flowers change colors when touched by one of the 16 pixies aboard each one. Interacting with the pixies are dozens of instantly recognizable Disney characters--in pajamas because it's nighttime.

But despite the show's apparent aim to dazzle, the simplest effects in Light Magic are the most memorable.

One of the best was one of the first: Tinkerbell as a baseball-sized fireball flitting above the crowd; unfortunately it still needs some tinkering. Wednesday night, Tinkerbell crashed and burned, the flare-like device falling with a clunk, still burning, near some startled children; officials stomped on her until she contained herself in a trolley track.

Colorful moving lights on the building trims were among the best, and most simply affecting ideas; these came off glitch-free. And kids are often plucked from the crowd to participate, another big plus.

Pixies tossing about silver confetti--pixie dust--and larger confetti storms had most children squealing in delight, but there were exceptions. "Look what she did to our food!" exclaimed one little girl after one such sprinkling left her meal heavy on the fairy dust.

The only time the crowd clapped along with the music was with a snippet from the inescapable Electrical Parade theme. And that was the tune--as infectious and more musically sophisticated as the Light Magic score is--that families went out humming. Maybe with time. Or a little more Magic.

* Light Magic is presented four times nightly through the summer at Disneyland, 1313 N. Harbor Blvd., Anaheim. Park admission: $26-$36. (714) 781-4565.

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