It's not often that I can impress my almost-8-year-old daughter and my husband at the same time.
Getting us tickets to Miley Cyrus' private 16th birthday party at Disneyland on Sunday, however, qualified as extremely cool in both of their books.
"Miley's Sweet 16" was a party of epic proportions that took over most of Frontierland and New Orleans square. It also marked an invasion of pre-teen, tween and teenage girls hopped up on adrenaline, Beatlemania-level fandemonium (based on the decibel-level of screaming our ears absorbed tonight) and the cupcakes with two inches of lavender icing on the cupcakes that were handed out to each guest in honor of the occasion.
The event included all kinds of Miley-themed special installations for the night, of course. The Golden Horseshoe was transformed into the site of the "Hannah Montana Dance Party." The courtyard adjacent to the Haunted Mansion (which has just lifted the veil on its annual "Nightmare Before Christmas" holiday-themed makeover as Haunted Mansion Holiday) turned into the "Miley Game Zone" full of vidgame installations, plus there were other crowd-pleasing amusements like a photo booth and "Hannah Montana Makeover Zone" offering girls the rock-star hair and makeup treatment.
Miley and her dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, performed a mini-concert on a stage set up on Tom Sawyer Island, which made for great visuals (projecting over the Rivers of America) for the crowd that gathered in New Orleans Square for the show. The event also doubled as a promotional booster for non-profit org Youth Service America, which aims to encourage volunteerism among the "Hannah Montana" demo. Disney head honcho Robert Iger came out between Miley tunes to deliver a $1 million donation from Disney to Youth Service America. ("Isn't this something," Iger said of the scene when we ran into him later.)
The whole park was done up like a big purple early birthday present to Miley (who'll still be 15 until Nov. 23), complete with giant purple Mickey-shaped balloons scattered everywhere and a purple carpet for celebs, in a nod to her favorite color. The hub at the end of Main Street was ringed with giant hot-air inflated balloons in the cylindrical shape of candles. They were also set up all along the Big Thunder Trail that connects Fantasyland and Frontierland, along with "Hannah Montana's" trademark guitar motif.
The park was closed to the public at 5 p.m., but after the party officially began at 6 p.m., Fantasyland and other key attractions were open to the 5,000 or so guests, offering the run-right-on access that Disneyland regulars dream of while shuffling through lengthy lines on normal days. It was weird being ushered into the down a Main Street that was locked up tight -- none of those shops or eateries were open for the party.
During the concert perf from 8:30-9:30, everything but New Orleans square was a ghost town, even though rides were still operating. One lonely balloon vendor stationed around the corner in Adventureland led a few stragglers in an impromptu line dance, with her balloons still clutched in one hand, as soon as Billy Ray hit the opening chords of "Achy Breaky Heart."
All told, it was a magical, moonlit night at the Happiest Place on Earth that my family will never forgot. Extra special thanks to Disney Channel's Patti McTeague and Disneyland's George Savvas for making it so.
(Pictured left, Miley with Disney Channel boss Rich Ross
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Monday morning postscript: As we piled into the car to go to school this ayem, my own little hunk of burning girl power asked a very serious question: "Mom, can I have a band?"
The only remotely sour note of the night came during the opening "Stars in Cars" parade featuring Disney Channel thesps and other celebs riding in open cars, many of them with their kids. I don't know this for sure but I'm guessing syndie showbiz mag "The Insider" and/or "Entertainment Tonight" made an arrangement with Disney for extra special media access to the entire event, which allowed them to have the voluble "Insider" correspondent Steven Cojocaru serving as emcee at the start of the parade route. Bad idea.
Cojocaru's comments were either inane or tawdry, or both, and his attempted banter with the stars (a motley bunch that, beyond Disney talent, included Steve Carell, Sela Ward, producer Babyface, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Cristian De la Fuente) was painful to endure. It felt entirely out of place for the occasion. When Miley finally arrived to a deafening roar from the multitudes, she braved Cojocaru's hyperbolic questions by confidently assuring him that what she most wanted for her birthday was to "make the world a better place." Let's hope Cojo got the message.