Disney celebrates Chinese New Year as 'Year of the Mouse'

2020-01-20 Xinhua Editor:Gu Liping
Chinese-style items featuring the images of Mickey Mouse are displayed during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim, the United States, Jan. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Chinese-style items featuring the images of Mickey Mouse are displayed during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations at Disney's California Adventure Park in Anaheim, the United States, Jan. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Ying)

Disney's California Adventure Park was alive on Friday with fat red lanterns with decorative gold tassels waggling from the parapets, festive red banners fluttering from the lampposts, Chinese-themed tablecloths sporting an Asian-style Mickey Mouse silhouette, and even a magnificent display of Chinese fireworks. Chinese culturally-themed performances featured exotic dragon dances and martial arts and thrilled American spectators.

Disney has embraced the Lunar New Year and is happily transforming "The Year of the Rat" into "The Year of the Mouse" -- an opportunity that only comes around once every twelve years. Their California Adventure Park in Anaheim has been transformed as well, with a colorful Lunar New Year theme that has turned the park into a sea of red and gold -- the Chinese New Year's traditional colors -- and a wonderland of festive Asian holiday cheer.

The Chinese New Year, celebrated in most of Asia as the Lunar New Year, falls early this year on Jan. 25. It is based on a 12-year Zodiac cycle of characters, with 2020 being the Year of the Rat.

During the 24 days of this multicultural celebration which started on Friday, guests of the park will enjoy exciting live entertainment and musical performances, including "Mulan's Lunar New Year Procession" and the return of the heartwarming "Hurry Home -- Lunar New Year Celebration" prior to the "World of Color" nighttime spectacular. They will also enjoy new menus of Asian-themed fare, like Shrimp Fried Rice with Garlic Edamame, Char Su Pork Bao, and many others.

Thousands of visitors flooded into the park on Friday to enjoy the Lunar New Year festivities and partake of fun activities, with tables of little blonde American girls sitting side-by-side with raven-haired Chinese darlings having fun coloring Chinese fans, where eight-year-old Olinia told Xinhua she isn't really into Disney princesses, so she loved drawing Mulan, her favorite strong heroine.

There was also Chinese-style brush-painting calligraphy and a Wishing Wall made of human hopes written on decorative mouse-shaped cardboard disks and hung together on strings.

Gary Maggetti, general manager of Pixar Pier, Park Banquets and Festivals, told Xinhua, "It's been such a labor of love for us to research and work with our internal resource groups to understand the correct way to celebrate Chinese New Year and add some Disney playfulness. When you enter here, the vibe, the feeling, and the celebration makes you feel immersed in it."

Carla Carlile, show director for creative entertainment at Disney resort, started working on the Lunar New Year Project many years ago at Disneyland and then it moved across the street to Disney's California Adventure Park and expanded dramatically.

"I love working with all the Asian community groups and on the Mulan procession," she told Xinhua in an exclusive interview on Friday. "And having authentic Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese performers. We've mixed our Disney magic with authentic culture so for our Lunar New Year's celebration, our Disney characters are dressed up."

And she's not kidding. Alvin and the Chipmunks, Goofy, The Three Little Pigs are part of the New Year's celebration and of course Disney's Chinese heroine, Mulan, leads the Mulan Procession with her friendly dragon guardian, Mushu, by her side.

Mulan's procession includes Asian drummers, exotic fan and ribbon dancers, martial artists, a large rippling lucky dragon, and the musical stylings of The Melody of China, a premier Chinese musical ensemble performing in the park during the Chinese New Year holidays.

Six-year-old Sophia gleefully told Xinhua, "I loved the dragon the best!" But her sister, four-year-old Jessica, protested, "No, no, I loved the dancing ribbons best."

Brooke, a five-year-old local American kid in a red silk dress has fallen in love with all things Chinese. "I love everything! Especially my pretty dress and Chinese food."

Myra from Downy, browsing the stalls for Chinese merchandize, told Xinhua, "My Mom is a schoolteacher and she hangs these Chinese decorations up in the classroom to teach her kids about Chinese traditions and culture. She couldn't come, so I'm buying for her."

As the natural ambassadors for the Year of the Mouse, Mickey and Minnie Mouse glammed up the proceedings with their gorgeous new Chinese-style costumes, designed by haute couture award-winning designer, Guo Pei.

"Children all over the world love Mickey and Minnie. It's an opportunity for me to express and share Chinese culture to the world through my work," said Guo, an internationally-prominent Chinese fashion designer.

Carlile thinks all Disney's cultural festivals at the resort are important. "They open the doors to folks who haven't experienced these cultures. It's inclusive and open to everyone and it's fun to explore new tastes and experiences," she told Xinhua.

Disneyland's head chef of cuisine, Jeremiah Balogh, is responsible for Disney's Park regular menus as well as the special new Asian festival menus.

"As a chef, we are in love with food and we love to see different ingredients and recipes coming together from all cultures and walks of life. "

Maggetti also feels food and culture can bring people together and create harmony, and that celebrating the Chinese New Year gives Disney's guests an opportunity to try new things.

"The feedback from our guests (about the Chinese New Year) has been very warm -- to try something different or to reinforce a family memory. It makes Chinese culture more accessible to Americans and is an invitation for Chinese visitors to come visit Disneyland too," he said with a smile.

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