Theme Park Ranger
9:24 AM EDT, October 24, 2013
How much you enjoy Disney World's "Glow With the Show" presentations may depend on where you're located and who is standing in front of you.
"Glow" events feature new mouse-ear hats that are designed to illuminate in several colors and lighting sequences. When triggered, they creatively flash, strobe and fade in and out to the music. They were first incorporated into "Fantasmic!" at Disney's Hollywood Studios, followed by the "Celebrate the Magic" castle-projection show plus the "Wishes" and "HalloWishes" fireworks shows at Magic Kingdom.
At last weekend's debut for "Celebrate the Magic" and "Wishes," I got stuck in the crowd after the Main Street Electrical Parade and was unable to watch from my preferred spot (near Tinker Bell's dramatic descent from Cinderella Castle). My friend and I spotted a gathering of ear-hat wearers near Tomorrowland Terrace and stopped there instead.
It was a disappointing location. Ears in the distance, at the foot of the castle, were too tiny to appreciate. And the fancy hats nearby were not in sync with the "Celebrate the Magic" animation. We were too far from any of the park's triggers.
The best place to park yourself for these Magic Kingdom shows is in the circle around the statue of Walt Disney — commonly called "the hub" — and down Main Street. Otherwise, you can be out of range of the signals that tell the hats when to flash.
Midway through the castle-projection show, we maneuvered along the edge of Tomorrowland and back toward the hub. After a stern warning from two cast members about being in the walkway, we melded into the crowd and near a couple of families decked out in ear gear.
This is a no-brainer: The more light-up hats around you, the better the "Glow With the Show" plays. However, at $25 a pop, outfitting a family with special ears can be a steep investment, one that pretty much guarantees there won't be 100 percent audience participation.
Positioning matters, too. One cluster of ears was to our far left, which meant looking back and forth between them, the castle, the pyrotechnics and back again. I was distracted sometimes when all ears went dark. Um, are these things on?
But the lights-off stretches have a purpose. They shift attention back to the exploding skies.
I kept one eye on the ears and noted that the show designers resisted the temptation to make the hats color-coordinate with the base color of the castle lights or the featured character. There are plenty of special effects such as fizzling lights as the fireworks sizzle out, and strobing ears during fast-paced music.
I noticed even more of these when I watch online videos of the shows, where cameras were set up with a multitude of ears in the foreground.
"Glow With the Show" is easier to enjoy, I found, during "Fantasmic!" Its amphitheater setting spreads the lighting more evenly across the bleacher seating. For maximum effect, sit in one of the back rows or along the far edges of the stadium. The idea with all these "Glow" shows is to keep the ears between yourself and the action.
This will be more difficult in an upcoming application of the new ears: The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. I may have to steady myself during the "merry, merry, merry Christmas" strains of "Carol of the Bells." The ears will be in action when the Dancing Lights return to Hollywood Studios on Nov. 8.
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