Milk, Shrimp, and Cupcakes: Inside Disney's Obsession with Blue Food

The color is everywhere.

<p>Dotdash Meredith / Matt Kirouac</p>

Dotdash Meredith / Matt Kirouac

Much more than rides, attractions, and merchandise, Disney is known for its magical, transportive storytelling. It's evident in its meticulously detailed parks and resorts, from its Rapunzel-themed bathrooms to its envelope-pushing coasters set to a Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, but nothing exemplifies this multi-sensory ethos like Disney food, whisking guests to galaxies far away or to fantasy lands where desserts shimmer.

Aptly dubbed the Most Magical Place on Earth, Walt Disney World Resort—home to faraway wonderlands like Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, Pandora - The World of Avatar, and Frozen Ever After—is the quintessential destination for edible fantasia, and of all its kaleidoscopic treats. And no color illuminates a story like blue.

As polarizing as "blue food" may seem, and despite some head-scratching menu misfires over the years, it's a tint that can weave together a story and transport guests into fantasy. Most associated with otherworldly lands like Galaxy's Edge in Disney's Hollywood Studios and Pandora at Animal Kingdom, it's also used to highlight blue-themed characters and movie moments, from Donald Duck Dome Cakes at Magic Kingdom and Woody-inspired blue-frosted Lunch Box Tarts in Toy Story Land, to princess-themed desserts, like the Stroke of Midnight Cupcake with blue Champagne buttercream, and the color-changing Make It Pink, Make It Blue Mousse, both at hotels. What differentiates the good from the gross, though, depends on the effectiveness of the storytelling (and the naturalness of the dye).

What’s with All This Blue Food?

According to AJ Wolfe, founder of Disney Food Blog, Disney World's 50th Anniversary in 2021 kicked off an ocean of blue. While there's always been blue curaçao in Disney cocktails, she notes, the color theme for the anniversary was iridescent, which translated most often to bright blue, for better or worse. "There were 150 new food items for the anniversary, and I'd say 85% of them had some sort of blue element to them" she says. "Everything was blue. Your fingers were blue, your teeth were blue."

It's not just the recent anniversary that dyed the parks blue, though. Always one for promotional tie-ins, it's long been a recurring color used to highlight popular franchises like Star Wars, Avatar, and Frozen. As Wolfe recalls, back in 2018-19, the parks saw a surge of Frozen-themed items, including a fictional color called Arendelle Aqua used in everything from cotton candy eclairs at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to sponge cake with aqua buttercream in EPCOT.

""Everything was blue. Your fingers were blue, your teeth were blue.""

This was also around the time that Disney fan accounts started to highlight visuals on social media. "Instagram started to change things for Disney fans; things that looked good in photos and tasted good," explains Carlye Wisel, theme park journalist and host of the Very Amusing podcast. "A lot more food coloring started to come in for the aesthetic." Although she personally shuns blue food in favor of fueling proteins ("on a cellular level, my brain is going 'don't eat that, it's not real'"), Wisel notes that it's all about storytelling by way of cuisine. "Perhaps it’s a cupcake themed to Frozen, or a Star Wars drink you've seen on screen that you can try yourself." Wolfe agrees: "They want to buy something that has only existed in fantasy before. That’s why people go to Disney parks in general, to recreate that fantasy element in real life."

Then came the perfectly timed launch of Galaxy's Edge at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2019, when the Star Wars canon came to life in  new, blue ways.

The Star Wars Blue Juggernaut

"The blue milk, even before the land opened, always captivated us as film-watchers," explains Brooke McDonald, a lifelong Disney-goer, Star Wars fan, and travel and entertainment writer.  "Luke Skywalker taking his first sip of blue milk has been something people have always wondered about and what it tasted like." Available in frozen form at the land's Milk Stand, or unfrozen at Oga's Cantina topped with a Bantha cookie, the atypical drink has been polarizing and puzzling. "It's not a traditional milk, and it's not a milkshake," McDonald says. "There's a fruit component to it, and it's like a slushy. It's been such a fun dialogue for all these years.".

It's echoed in the Blue Shrimp, served swirling in dry ice fog at the bygone Galactic Starcruiser in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Buttered Blue Grains popcorn at Kat Saka's Kettle, and even a blue wine, a teal-tinted vino called Toniray at Oga's Cantina."There's something really fun and Star Wars about making something familiar look different visually, even if it doesn't taste different," says McDonald." My son who loves shrimp cocktail loved the blue shrimp," she says,  which used butterfly pea powder to naturally change the color without altering the taste. "The minute you make something familiar look so different and interesting, it makes it so much more fun. I love the way Disney has played with that, particularly with respect to Star Wars and [Avatar’s] Pandora."

""Good food is good food, doesn't matter what color it is.""

While she normally steers clear of abnormally colored foods, McDonald applauds these finer, fantastical touches. "Disney's colored foods that we like have been done in a thoughtful, delicate way," she says, citing the Avatar-tinted blue noodles at Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom, also dyed with butterfly pea powder. "It's not just dumping a bunch of food coloring into some frosting. It's color for the sake of story."

Did They Really Have to Be Blue?

Naturally, with a food color as unnatural as blue, there are bound to be some head-scratchers, like a blue-rimmed Michelada-type drink at Magic Kingdom's Be Our Guest. An homage to the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction, which formerly stood where the Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant currently presides, the drink came garnished, bafflingly, with an octopus tentacle. "It was just very weird, and we did not enjoy it," recalls Wolfe.

Ultimately, when it contributes to the story, and it's done as naturally as possible, blue food can be good food. "Good food is good food, doesn't matter what color it is," says Wolfe. "If they've done a good job with the flavor profiles and the balance of textures, blue is more than skin deep." Even for a skeptic like Wisel, it holds true: "Blue food can be good. It's best when it fits the story, using something like a butterfly pea protein or natural product when making something blue."

Although the omnipresence of blue has faded slightly, due in part to this year's 100th Anniversary of The Walt Disney Company opting for a purple and silver scheme, the primary color continues to play a primary role in Disney's edible storytelling.

Read the original article on All Recipes.