With the debut of the “new” Disney California Adventure, the Grid has closed on ElecTRONica, the former popular dance party that featured a “TRON” takeover of a portion of the theme park. Now rocking the park’s Hollywood Land area is Mad T Party, replacing the “TRON” theme with that of “Alice in Wonderland” and featuring elements loosely inspired by Tim Burton’s take on that Disney classic tale.
Standing amidst the Mad T Party on its official debut night, entertainment show director Robin Trowbridge discussed Disney’s reasons for replacing ElecTRONica, despite it drawing hoards of raving regulars. “The company was trying to do different directions,” said Trowbridge. “We had obviously a big grand opening so it was just something to mix up. You know, we always want to offer something new, something fun. It seemed like a good time to do it.”
To take a closer look, step inside the Mad T Party for highlights of the event in the video below.
Video: Overview of Mad T Party at Disney California Adventure
Unlike its predecessor ElecTRONica, there is no “opening moment” each night for Mad T Party. As the sun begins to set, the area surrounding the Monsters, Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! ride transforms into an “Alice”-themed wonderland, complete with a fog-infused “rabbit hole” entrance.
By design, Mad T Party is confined to a much smaller area of the park than ElecTRONica was. The big changes around Disney California Adventure made that a requirement. “Because of all the reconstruction on the boulevard, our party had to be more intimate and all within the Hollywood Land,” explained Trowbridge. “We were held to those limitations so we had to figure out how we have as big of a party in a smaller, more intimate area. So it was about utilizing this area as a lounge, building our own main stage to pull people out. I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
And on that stage, the main act is the Mad T Party band, featuring live singers and musicians each representing a familiar “Alice in Wonderland” character. The band cycles through a set list of pop and classic rock hits, from The Police to Maroon 5 and just about everything in-between. Despite their outrageous costumes, the band’s sound is fairly faithful to covering the original songs with “Alice” and the “Mad Hatter” taking turns on lead vocals. And all the while guests are invited to jam in front of the stage along with a few Mad T Party dancers.
Video: Mad T Party band plays at Disney California Adventure
Unlike the predominantly digital beat-infused dance music spun by DJs at ElecTRONica, this live element potentially opens up the Mad T Party to a wider audience of theme park guests. “I definitely think Mad T Party is for everybody,” stated Trowbridge. “I think because we’re bringing some classic rock in, you’ll see dads and moms with young kids by the end of the night still rocking it out, still having a good time.”
But Mad T Party isn’t completely without the familiar DJ element. “We offer the opportunities for dance with a DJ and the rabbits and we give more of that house music,” emphasized Trowbridge. The “rabbits” he referred to are the various DJs that take the stage when the band isn’t on, donning glowing White Rabbit ears to continue the “Alice in Wonderland” theme.
There are indeed a few “mad” elements to the Mad T Party. In addition to the main stage, a second “House of Cards” stage sits next to a re-themed lounge (formerly the End of Line club during ElecTRONica). While the lounge offers guests a chance to sit, there’s little relaxing to be found here as Mad T Party twin hosts Dee and Dum (as in, the Tweedles from “Alice in Wonderland”) take the secondary stage when the band and DJ aren’t playing, introducing a pair of unique acts: Who R U and the Hottest Deck in Town.
While the Hottest Deck in Town is a fairly straight-forward dance group, seen in the overview video above, Who R U is an act like no other guests have seen, frequently described by fans as “slinky man.” Though its official name references the phrase uttered by the Caterpillar in “Alice in Wonderland,” reasons for giving him/her/it the unofficial moniker should be obvious when watching the video below, as the rainbow-colored object contorts itself around the stage to amusing results.
Video: Who R U performs during the Mad T Party at Disney California Adventure
Guests’ attention is regularly thrown between the Mad T Party’s two stages, sometimes to the point of confusion. When the Mad T Party band wraps up a set, they cue everyone to look toward the secondary stage. And after Dee and Dum finish hosting there, they throw the focus back to the main stage for the DJ of the night to play a few tracks. From there, attention is then directed back to the second stage, in a never-ending ping-pong between the two. While the variety of entertainment offers a little something for everyone, anyone who wants to hang out at the Mad T Party for the entirety of the night will find it difficult to just stay in one place and party, getting exposed to repeat acts. Where ElecTRONica offered nearly non-stop dance music throughout the night, interrupted only by twice-nightly performances by Laserman, Mad T Party divides its focus quite often.
Those wanting to fall deeper into the madness can enter the new Mad Arcade, a reinvention of the popular Flynn’s Arcade that was part of ElecTRONica. While Flynn’s Arcade was a retro ’80s-style video game arcade pulled directly from the “TRON” films much to fans’ delight, the Mad Arcade takes the concept in a new direction, offering different “Alice in Wonderland”-themed arcade games, shifting the focus away from screens and onto active games of skill.
The transition was a difficult challenge for Trowbridge and his team. “Flynn’s Arcade is classic, iconic,” he admitted. “How do you make a different experience in there? So by taking all the games and retiming them to ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ I think that is what made the difference. [Having] games that adults and kids can play opened up the variety. But theming it out was important for us to do.”
Players of all ages can now enjoy the games of the Mad Arcade, while those previously found in Flynn’s Arcade required a certain knowledge of joystick handling of button mashing generally reserved for those who grew up in arcades and with Nintendo at home. But it’s exactly that generation that made up the majority of the ElecTRONica demographic, disappointed to have Flynn’s Arcade removed.
Fans of Flynn’s have called for its return, suggesting the retro gaming area of DisneyQuest in Orlando as a perfect home for it. But Trowbridge didn’t hint at any future ideas for iconic location. “I think that a little piece of Flynn’s Arcade in my little cubicle area would be nice,” he joked. “I don’t know of any plans for [Flynn’s Arcade], but certainly those games are fantastic.
Other draws to the Mad T Party include unique stilt-walking flamingo characters (seen in the overview video above) and a relocated bar serving a variety of glowing cocktails, one of the most popular spots during ElecTRONica. It’s been said (unofficially) that drinks sales were the driving force behind the previous event and while Mad T Party has decidedly shifted its focus away from the adults-only crowd, the cushy seating now provided just outside the event’s “Drink Me” bar area invites guests 21 and over to relax a bit while enjoying a themed cocktail or two – or three.
Not everyone is completely convinced Mad T Party is a worthy replacement for ElecTRONica, but even the most hardcore fans of the prior event are willing to give it a shot. One rapidly-growing group can be seen attending nearly every night of party wearing black shirts that proudly read, “I ❤ TRON BUT THIS WILL DO FOR NOW.”
(Photos by @ashleyburryyy)
Trowbridge and his team feel the update to the ElecTRONica formula will still welcome the same crowds to party in the park at night while also drawing those who may have never warmed up to the “TRON” takeover. “We hope that it still brings back the same audience,” said Trowbridge. “We’d love to have everybody back. But it was just an opportunity to […] explore and see what we could offer. Does it change things? Do we get a better demographic? Do we get more people sticking around? I think we had a good platform with ElecTRONica. We knew things that we could do. So we just gave it a mad twist and put it out here to see what happens.”
Throughout the summer months and holiday weeks, Mad T Party will be held nightly, moving to Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for the rest of the year. Like ElecTRONica, which remained at Disney California Adventure for roughly a year and a half, Trowbridge sees no immediate end to the Mad T Party, though periodic updates are possible. “We’re going to be here for a long while,” explained Trowbridge. “We’re grounded, so I’m hoping to keep it activated, do new things, really energize it throughout the year – the same thing we did for ElecTRONica.”
More photos from Mad T Party: