Back in late March, Disney announced that a new show would debut at Hollywood Studios to kick off the summer. Dubbed, “The Music of Pixar LIVE!” the show takes over for “Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage” in the evenings.
Current showtimes are 5pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm through August 19th. For August 20th through August 27th, the showtimes are 5pm, 6:30pm, and 7:15pm. The show is not currently scheduled for dates after that, but there is always the potential for an extension, however unlikely that may be.
Theater of the Stars, where the show takes place, is located on Sunset Boulevard on the walk towards Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Standby is available at the regular entrance to Beauty and the Beast. An arrival about 30 minutes before showtime should suffice, though you may want to arrive a little earlier to be closer to the stage or a little later if you’re okay sitting on the elevated bleachers in the very, very back.
Of course, Dining Packages are available. Those that “take advantage” of that enter the theater through a different entrance on the same side of the street, just past the standby entrance. Pricing is as follows:
A Dining Package that combines seating in the reserved section for Pixar Live! and reserved seating for Fantasmic! can also be purchased with pricing and information as follows:
Adding Fantasmic! costs $5 per adult or $3 per child extra. And as a boon for Dining Package users, they can book either package for the same number of credits as a regular meal. At Hollywood Brown Derby and Mama Melrose’s, it’s a fantastic value as it includes the appetizer that normally wouldn’t be included, in addition to the entree, dessert sampler, and non-alcoholic beverage. At Hollywood & Vine, Dining Package users experience the buffet as usual and receive the reserved section ticket(s) at no additional cost.
I’ll review the Mama Melrose package in a separate post, but briefly, here is the menu:
With the Flatbreads moving to the appetizer section, you could order one of those for $17, along with the $33 steak, $3 fountain beverage, and $7 dessert and come away with $60 worth of food for a single table service credit or $45-$50 cash depending on your desired Package. Then you get the seats in the reserved section on top of it.
The Music of Pixar LIVE! is right around 45 minutes long. And, apparently realizing that the bleacher seating would be uncomfortable for those spending around 75 minutes in them, Disney laid down some padding for the concerts. It doesn’t do a great job of providing cushioning, but it’s a little better than straight aluminum.
Dining Package seating is in the front center section with handicap seating in front of that. Additional handicap seating is located in the back. Standby seating is located behind the Dining Package section, on the sides, and then in the very back on the elevated bleachers.
I was incredibly excited after hearing the announcement for the show. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Disney fan that wouldn’t welcome additional live entertainment at the Studios, especially given so much real estate behind walls. And it doesn’t even come at the cost of Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, as there are still five shows scheduled daily. The first show is now scheduled at 10am instead of 11am. That show may be even more convenient for those that begin their day on Sunset Boulevard with Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and don’t want to have to circle all the way back there later in the day for Belle and Beast. You could ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster from 9am-9:15am, Tower of Terror from 9:17am – 9:35am, Tower of Terror again with FastPass+ from 9:36am – 9:55am, then pop over to see the show.
At the time of the announcement, one thing that didn’t occur to me is that I don’t really know any Pixar songs. “You’ve Got A Friend in Me,” sure. But if you were to play me ten random Pixar songs, I don’t think I’d be able to match more than one of them up to their respective movie. I mean, how many people know two songs from Finding Nemo?
Or the theme song for Dash from The Incredibles? Or the Monsters University theme song? If you are familiar, then you’re going to love this show.
The songs are played along with their corresponding movie clips behind the orchestra, but about 30% of the screen is blocked by the musicians. And the part of the screen that isn’t suffers from about 40 noticeable vertical lines cover the entire width of the screen, which are distracting. If this was in another venue and the screen was much sharper at a larger size, then I think the impact would be much greater. But it was hard to see the screen in the center section from about ten rows back and would be even more difficult and less engaging farther away or from the side.
What’s happening on the center screen is visible on a pair of panels above the stage, but it’s far from an engrossing atmosphere.
Being an outdoor theater, the acoustics seemed poor, or at least the music wasn’t amplified well enough that the layers of sound were easily distinguishable. I’m not sure if it’s a testament to the talent of the performers, but it seemed like a low energy performance where nobody was ever challenged or excited at any point. They came out, played the music on the page, and went back to prepare for the next performance. That’s fine of course, but it didn’t feel like there was much gusto behind the sound.
For most kids, sitting through a 45-minute orchestral performance is probably not in the cards.
Realizing that, Disney has attempted to engage the younger set by bringing out two or three characters before and after each set of songs. Here, Mr. Incredible walked down the aisle on your right, with Mrs. Incredible on the stage, and Frozone out of frame on the left. But it was a strange and forced exchange between the characters and conductor. Mr. Incredible thought that orchestras were evil. Mrs. Incredible says they’re not. Mr. Incredibly says, “Oh, okay.” Then they leave.
The characters sound like completely different people and the voices don’t really line up with the characters’ actions. The characters talk, and instead of the sound of their voice coming from where they’re standing, it’s belted out from overhead speakers, which makes it sound all the more unnatural. To get an idea about what I mean, and how awkward the opening is, watch a few minutes of the concert here.
For kids, I don’t think the 30 seconds of character appearances here and there are going to be enough to keep them entertained.
Several people tweeted out the stream of concertgoers exiting throughout the show. I have a feeling few people knew what to expect.
But for adults and kids with an appreciation for the music, Pixar LIVE! has a lot to offer. The Up montage in particular was incredibly moving and the best example of what this show could be.
Dug chasing Carl across stage yelling about squirrels was endearing.
The behind-the-scenes clips were short, but offered some insight into how Pixar constructs their scores and how important music is to the story. One key point was that the music, when done well, is a sort of invisible thing to the audience that works on a subconscious level. In the moment, engrossed in the film, you may not notice that you’re listening to Ellie’s theme in Up, but you know Carl is thinking about her.
And that is one of the problems that I had with the presentation of Pixar LIVE! I was never really engrossed in the performance given the physical distractions and quality of the sound and visuals.
Pixar LIVE! is a test of sorts. This variety of concert works – there are traveling acts that perform the music of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars, for instance, in a much grander spectacle.
But I don’t mean to be as negative as this review probably reads. Would I pay $15 or more to see this show in this setting? No…but as a group of adults or those with kids that have interest in music, Pixar LIVE! is worth fitting into your day at Hollywood Studios. It’s something different and likely a limited engagement. Those with an affinity for Pixar music will be particularly entertained. You might even consider watching some of these movies before your vacation or putting on the soundtrack while cleaning or cooking to become a little more familiar. Of course, if you do have young kids, you may hear the music to Finding Nemo four or five times a week already.
But with a 5-year old and a 7-year old that have trouble sitting through Festival of the Lion King, this may not be the best choice. A 25-minute show would be more doable than this one, which lasts 45 minutes plus however long you arrive in front of the start.
Overall, I think “The Music of Pixar LIVE! A Symphony of Characters” is something that you at least want to consider seeing if you’re visiting between now and August 27th. It’s not for everybody. But it’s probably not going to be the sort of thing that you need to arrive more than 20 minutes early for and the Dining Packages present some value. I plan on seeing it again.
Here’s the full performance. The show begins 4:55 in.