Why Disneyland’s Latino-heavy Festival of Holidays is a big deal for all audiences

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The push for diverse content in film and television has implications in the real world, particularly in the pop landscape driven by brands, franchises and easily identifiable intellectual property.

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This is clearly evident at Disneyland Resort, where recent big-name theme park additions have celebrated the “Star Wars” and Marvel universes. Yet more rapidly and quietly there has been a transformation of the park’s Disney California Adventure, focusing its events on the cultures that Disney films represent, rather than the films.

most notable holiday festival, which runs through January 9 this season and is anchored by Disney’s Viva Navidad! Street parade featuring the Three Caballeros led by Donald Duck. A grand celebration of end-to-end Latin art and music, Viva Navidad! Disney’s mid-1940s harmony film “The Three Caballeros” uses characters from folklore dancers and mariachis as a jumping off point to display 12-foot-tall Mojiganga puppets, which are large At scale, there are papier-mâché sculptures that rocket up and down a small part of California Adventure.


Viva Navdad! For live entertainment at California Adventure has become a mission statement.


Beyond the holiday festival, which itself features more entertainment recognizing Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, California Adventure celebrates the Lunar New Year with Mulan, among other cultural traditions, and Dia de los for a little helping of “coco”. Goes deep fast on Muertos. The park also has a “Black Panther”-inspired training session, which takes Wakanda’s many African-inspired cultures seriously by creating a show in philosophical lessons.

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The newest character added to the Disney California Adventures Festival of Holidays is Mirabelle, played by a Disney cast member here, to promote the upcoming Disney movie “Encanto.”
(Christian Thompson / Disneyland Resort)

This year, California Adventure added elements from the upcoming animated film “Encanto” to its festive season, to help market the film — an expected meet-and-greet with the film’s main character Mirabel — but also Colombian music. To bring to your Paradise Garden section of the park. With Viva Navidad! And in that area already having Dia de los Muertos celebrations, Paradise Gardens increasingly feel like an almost year-round celebration of Latin culture.

“It broke the code of how we can be culturally authentic and distinctly Disney,” said Festival of Holidays architect Susanna Tubert.

“I think it’s given the confidence, if you all of us, to say that we can do it, that we can have the Lunar New Year and the Plaza de la Familia which is ‘Coco’ and Día de los Muertos. The idea is that we leave a bridge where people can cross into a cultural experience that is not their own and have an emotional response to it – it’s didactic if they don’t have an emotional response – and then back Cross it. The bridge lifts and you go back to your life, but you’re forever changed because you’ve seen a part of yourself in someone else’s story.”

While the idea and success of Viva Navvidya! Were it to feel like a Mexican street parade, Tubert’s concept of leaving a “bridge” to raise a hand for non-Latin guests in the world of the show can be seen in its musical choices. Although the show ends with Jose Feliciano’s always-celebrating “Feliz Nividad”, the show begins with Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”. Although it is a mariachi-style song, it begins the show with a Western influence before moving on to more traditional folk and dance.

Tubert says that putting together a culturally focused show in a major tourist destination like a theme park requires some unique challenges and balancing acts.

“It was looking for a way to make sure the experience didn’t feel like – ‘Oh, it’s south of the border. It doesn’t touch me,'” said Tubert when asked about the choice to begin with the McCartney song. Huh.

“I remember saying to the team early on, ‘Think of it as a typical Rockwell painting set in Latin America.’ It’s still a typical Rockwell painting. We don’t celebrate it any differently than in North America. I grew up in Argentina and our fans were going and there was fake snow and it was hot, but it was still the same celebration It’s about the balance of bringing everyone’s perspective in enough so that our guests feel welcome.”

Disney's Viva Navidad!  The Street Parade is a spectacular celebration of Latin music and dance.
(Disneyland Resort)

While for many guests the highlight of the holiday festival will be the food and drink – an assortment of booths around the park offer items designed to lightly mash-up cultural traditions – there is no denying the spirit of life. Which brings up this event. Park. There are arts and crafts for the little ones – build a dreidel or learn about the natural rhythms of Colombian music – and music that celebrates Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, the latter being a new addition courtesy of soulful a cappella group.

While emphasis on Latin America and Viva Neos! No doubt a reflection of Disneyland’s Southern California customer base, Tubert says the festival is imparting lessons that continue to influence its attitude toward parks.

“We have mostly kosher performances going on, and we know all kinds of families are getting involved in this Hanukkah celebration,” Tubert says. “It’s a big milestone for Disney. And on Diwali, kids can get up and learn Bollywood and dance. On the surface, it’s an entertainment moment. But on a deeper level, it’s a dialogue, to experience someone else’s culture.” It’s the moment.”

And many such moments are handled with confidence without any Disney character.

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