George Fenwick is among the fans buzzing about Disney's Pixar celebration.

The Pixar films have long held a special place in the Disney universe. They offer a quirky alternative to Disney's animated classics, and are able to unite audiences from a wide range of backgrounds. From the ocean to Mexico, to the human body to space, Pixar's stunning trademark style of animation has been used across 19 films, telling stories that resonate with the most fundamental emotions we feel as humans.
And at the spine of each film is the central theme of friendship.

Characters from Up join the Pixar Play Parade. Photo / Disneyland Resort
Characters from Up join the Pixar Play Parade. Photo / Disneyland Resort

That's the ethos at the centre of Disneyland's Pixar Fest, a celebration of the works of the iconic animation studio at California's Disneyland Resort. The Pixar stories have popped up across both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in the past, but never before has the studio's work been so centrally celebrated in the theme park that is arguably where the heart of all things Disney resides.

Why now? There are a few reasons. June sees the arrival of Pixar's 20th feature film, one that many have been waiting 14 years for: The Incredibles 2. In anticipation, Disneyland is rejuvenating one area of the California Adventure Park, and, as is the Disney way, they're not doing it half-assed.

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But first — the festival. Pixar Fest runs until September 3, and brings with it a brand-new night-time fireworks spectacular, the return of the "Pixar Play Parade" and the "Paint the Night" parade.

Disneyland is famous for its nightly fireworks displays, and their new Pixar-themed show is a breathtaking work of pyrotechnic art. Together Forever — A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular sends some of Pixar's most famous characters from films such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo into the sky, while others are projected on to some of the park's iconic locations. The innovative water screens of the Rivers of America (where animations are projected on to literal walls of water) and the buildings of Main Street, USA come to life with Pixar characters while the fireworks explode over the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The display is long — one wonders how Anaheim residents (if there are any) get any sleep at all, and what the environmental cost of such massive volumes of smoke must be. But Pixar obsessives will fall in love, especially as Tinkerbell's famous flyover of Sleeping Beauty Castle is helped by none other than Buzz Lightyear.

The two parades are perfect for families seeking Disney-themed fun who wish to forgo the adrenaline and scares of the theme park rides. It takes place on Main Street, and an early arrival is desirable to grab a good spot to watch, as the street fills up in no time.

The Pixar Play Parade originally premiered in 2008, and returns bigger and better for a limited celebration over Pixar Fest. The daily parade is an impressive feat of artwork and acrobatics, with extravagant floats, elaborate costumes and gravity-defying performers. Opening with the well-known Pixar lamp and ball that kick off each of their films, the floats then burn through the entire filmography of Pixar; kids will be rapt to see all their favourite characters partake. Be prepared to get a little wet — every second float, for some reason, sprays water into the crowds.

You'll also need to tune out of the music, as the same song is played on a loop for about 20 minutes.

The Paint the Night Parade is transfixing in its own beautiful way. This parade doubles as a light show, with each intricately detailed float covered in LED displays; the parade reportedly contains more than a million sources of light.

This time, Pixar characters come to life through cutting-edge technology and in psychedelic colours. Streaming through the park before the fireworks display, the Paint the Night parade is the perfect way to round off a full day at Disneyland.

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Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Photo / Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. Photo / Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland

But what are all the festivities for? The answer lies over in what was once Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure Park.

Paradise Pier is no more; soon, it'll be Pixar Pier. What was once California Screamin', the rollercoaster that drapes the pier and was the fastest in the park with speeds of up to 89km/h, is now becoming the Incredicoaster. Its entry is modelled on the house of the Parrs (the central family in The Incredibles), and the ride follows a narrative of Jak-Jak, the unpredictable youngest son, letting his extraordinary powers run wild.

The Incredicoaster is the main attraction, but die-hard Pixar fans will find much more to love on the pier.

An Inside Out-themed ride is coming, as well as Jessie's Critter Carousel, inspired by Jessie and her wilderness friends from Toy Story 2. The Ferris wheel that was once Mickey's Fun Wheel is turning into the Pixar Pal-A-Round, and fans can also treat themselves to a number of carnival style, Pixar-themed games.

Pixar Pier and the Incredicoaster are due to launch on June 23.

Over at Pixar Studios, there's an entire theme parks team, who collaborate full time with Walt Disney Imagineering (the engineering company who designs Disney theme parks) to assist whenever Pixar characters make an appearance. That team is led by creative director Roger Gould, who says much of the job involves phoning in the actual filmmakers.

"We're a small permanent group inside Pixar. There are about a dozen of us, but what we have is access to all the people down the hall, who are all the filmmakers," he says. "So as we're building something like Carsland, and we need to design the car that you're going to ride in, we'll bring in Bob Pauley who designed Lightning McQueen, who worked with us to design that car so it feels like it comes out of the film.

"When we're doing the Incredicoaster right now, we have Brad Bird, the director of the film, going, 'how do we make this feel like The Incredibles?' So it's really taking the DNA of the movies, and finding how we can reinfuse that in every project we have, so a guest comes to the park, they go, 'that just feels like Pixar; that's authentic'."

Gould says the bottom line of all the work they do goes back to Pixar's central theme.
"We don't want to just celebrate the movie," he says. "They are emotional connections that our audiences have. We're pretty sappy, (and) the core of our films are these incredible friendships and bonds that get formed.

"Let's make that the centre of this."

Pixar Fest, Disneyland California. Photo / Joshua Sudock/Disneyland
Pixar Fest, Disneyland California. Photo / Joshua Sudock/Disneyland

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GETTING THERE

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