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Celebrating Friendship & Beyond: Pixar Fest Fam highlights

Pixar Fest 2024 went off with a bang with 10 Australian agents and Karryon along to discover the annual joyfest of all things Pixar at Disneyland Resort. In keeping with an event named “Celebrating Friendship and Beyond”, celebrations were plentiful, lifelong friendships formed, and our gracious hosts went above and beyond to share the magic of Disney and Pixar. Karryon writer Zoe Macfarlane shares the highlights of this exclusive famil. 

Pixar Fest 2024 went off with a bang with 10 Australian agents and Karryon along to discover the annual joyfest of all things Pixar at Disneyland Resort. In keeping with an event named “Celebrating Friendship and Beyond”, celebrations were plentiful, lifelong friendships formed, and our gracious hosts went above and beyond to share the magic of Disney and Pixar. Karryon writer Zoe Macfarlane shares the highlights of this exclusive famil. 

Pixar Fest – returning after six years – shines a light on the best of animation movie powerhouse, Pixar. Across 3-ish months, Disneyland thoughtfully weaves your favourite characters, scenes, soundtracks, and quotes into live shows, immersive experiences, and bold dining adaptations.

In the spirit of Walt Disney’s “plussing it up”, Pixar Fest further enhances the joy and wonder experienced at the Happiest Place on Earth.  

“Don’t fear failure. Be afraid of not having the chance.” Sally Carrera, Cars 

Fam participants outside the Pixar Pals Playtime Party
L-R: Amy Mortlock – Disney Destinations; Matt Whitehead, Barrow and Bear; Helen Cass, Leisure Options; Madi Timson Helloworld Travel Oakleigh; Abby Pezze, Travelrite International; Breanna O’Neill, Go Global Escapes; Kara Cohen, Y Travel; Madeline Pickering, Flight Centre; Emma Croxford, Mr Chocolate’s Travel; Steph Johnson, Disney Destinations; Karina Isaza, Travel by Wyndham; Bianca Shearer, Flight Centre; Samantha Harrison, United; Zoe Macfarlane, Karryon

Over 140 Australian and New Zealand new-to-the-industry agents attended Disney University, participating in webinars and interactive live quizzes to score points. The higher their score, the greater their odds of landing a coveted spot on this incredible 5-day jaunt to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.

I’d call those top ten agents lucky to secure an invitation to join Disney and United on this epic Pixar Fest fam. Upon meeting them, however, it soon became evident luck had nothing to do with it; these avid Disney fans earned their place!

Their contagious enthusiasm and passion for all things Walt and Pixar gelled the group and quickly transformed me from Disney newb to convert (*takes sip from Disneyland Resort cup*).  

“I wanted to give the folks a little sizzle.” Lightning McQueen, Cars  

Toy Story Alien popcorn bucket car from Pixar Fest 2024. In the background, you can see rows of these cars.
Event swag included a Pixar Ball and hat, plus this amazing Toy Story popcorn bucket car with Alien. ©Zoe Macfarlane

While anyone can head to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park before 4 August to experience Pixar Fest 2024, for the 10 Disney-savvy participants, this was no ordinary visit. Not that a Disney trip is ever ordinary. 

We were VIPs, baby, gaining early access to the world of Woody, Bing Bong, Russell, and friends. As we collected our VIP credentials, it was hard not to feel a tad swanky as we rubbed shoulders with influencers, media, and some minor celebs.  

The accompanying Pixar swag – including a cool light-up Alien car popcorn bucket – saw the group’s gratitude levels soar sky-high. This wasn’t just a fun trip, but a dream come true for many.

“To infinity and beyond!” Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story 

A quick flash of said credentials at the reserved viewing area for the Better Together: A Pixar Pals Celebration! parade saw us grab front-row seats to a fun-filled procession of high-energy dancers and Pixar’s most iconic characters. 

While seeing Woody and Buzz Lightyear dance along to the very catchy Better Together theme song was a highlight for me, it was Russell riding Kevin, a 13-ft rainbow-feathered bird, that elicited the most excitement from the crowd.  

“Life is full of possibilities. You just need to know where to look.” Joe, Soul 

Pixar Fest 2024 novely food
We got to sample some very tasty event treats at a Club Pixar preview. ©Zoe Macfarlane

Other early-access highlights included a sneak peek at the limited-edition Pixar-themed food on sale across both parks during the festivities. This included a very green Mike Wazowski rice bubble treat, delectable-looking Pixar Ball cake pop, and Junkyard Jamboree Churro, a bold spin on a Disney fave.  

While (sadly) those items were at a ‘look, don’t touch’ display at the Pixar Pals Playtime Party (an intro to the kid-focused interactive event), we were fortunate to sample some of the goodies at the media reception held at Club Pixar at the Hollywood Backlot.  

The rich-red Kol Nut whoopie pie introduced our group to this very American cake treat, and can confirm Gustaeu’s Macaron is a 10/10 must-eat. The tequila and ancho chile liqueur in a vibrant blue Exothermic Margarita (with matching candy stirrer) also proved a hit.

“My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you.” Dug, Up  

Character meet and greets at Disneyland.
Matt Whitehead meets Barley and Ian from Onward at the Pixar Playtime Pals Party. ©Matt Whitehead

While I never thought I’d stand in line to meet a cartoon movie character, the fam participant’s enthusiasm convinced me otherwise. Across both parks, various Pixar characters – 76 in total – come out to meet and greet park guests.  

The group’s most memorable interactions included Russell and Dug from Up, Barley and Ian from Onward, and Bing Bong and Sadness from Inside Out.  

While we were generously given five days of Disney Genie+ service (Disney’s ticket enhancement upgrade), it wasn’t applicable for character queues. That wasn’t going to hold this convert back, though! I patiently waited for a hug from Pixar’s OG legend, Woody, at our fancy VIP international breakfast.

“Take her to the moon for me, Joy.” Bing Bong, Inside Out 

Fireworks above bright projections on the side of Main Street, Disneyland
Spectacular is the perfect word to describe the nightly Together Forever: A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular. ©Zoe Macfarlane

You don’t need to be the kind of person that’ll smash the top 10 of a Disney competition to know that there are impressive firework displays on nightly in front of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. 

What you may not know, however, is that during Pixar Fest the wow factor goes up a few notches for Together Forever: A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular.  

An impressive feat of sound and light engineering, Pixar’s most memorable movie scenes are projected on the side of the Main Street buildings, accompanied by a dazzling firework display that brings out the big kid in you.  

Matt Tainton from Barrow and Bear revealed his top tip for the show, “Either take the middle of Main Street or castle vantage point. For the castle, get there early to get a good spot.” By early, Matt means at least an hour or two. I’ll also add that across a park visit (recommended for at least three days), it’s worth seeing the show at least twice. Or three times (ahem).

“All right everyone, fresh start!” Joy, Inside Out  

Pixar Place Hotel, Anaheim
Disneyland’s new Pixar Place Hotel is a property reimagined. ©Pixar Place Hotel

While the very comfy Disneyland Hotel was our base during our trip, we snuck a peek at Pixar Place Hotel, the first Pixar-themed property in the US. Formerly Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, the renovated property partially opened in late January.  

A 15-story homage to all things Pixar, the hotel’s bold colours, movie-themed artwork, and expansive lobby afford an immersive stay. 

“Thanks for the adventure” Ellie, Up 

Better Together parade
Big kid, inner child smiles all-round from Helen, Kara, and Abby at the Better Together parade. ©Zoe Macfarlane

The words ‘inner child’ came up a lot during our time exploring Pixar Fest and Disneyland. No surprises, it’s a destination dedicated to enchantment and joy, after all. Across both parks, you can reconnect with your childhood movie faves or take the opportunity to discover Disney and Pixar characters anew. 

Kara Cohen from Y Travel rated character meetings a fam highlight, “They are walking around, you don’t have to line up for many of them, and they are happy to meet and chat with you. It’s exciting, cute, and brings out your inner child.” 

Karina Isaza from Travel by Wyndham agreed. “My highlight was letting my inner child loose at the parks, enjoying simple things like princesses, admiring the castle, and soaking up all the magical experiences Disneyland offers.”  

The deets 

Anaheim Packing District group shot.
Visit Anaheim also spoilt the fam participants with an Angels baseball game, brewery visit, and trendy eats at the Anaheim Packing District. ©Zoe Macfarlane

Pixar Fest is on until 4 August 2024. To discover more, head here.

Huge thanks to Disney for an exceptional famil and United for the Economy Plus legroom.

Experiencing FOMO? Disney Destinations has just launched a new incentive. Check it out here.

Psst: Inside Out 2 is out in cinemas 13 June with a special Disney screening invite found here.