I have to be careful here. Like many, many others, “Fantasmic!” has been my all time favorite Disney Park show since it made its debut along the Disneyland’s Rivers of America in 1992. It has, to me, always been the perfect combination of music, lighting, pyrotechnics, video projections, and of course, lovable Disney characters, mixed with a heaping helping of Disney Magic and a giant fire-breathing dragon! When The Rivers of America was drained to allow for the construction of the new Star Wars Land, I knew it would be some time before I would see my beloved show again. That all changed Saturday night when, because of D23 Expo and several thousand Fast Passes given to its attendees, brought us all to Disneyland that night to see the unveiling of the “New Fantasmic!”
Now, change is a word Disney loves to say and most Disney Fundamentalists can’t stand to hear. I am usually weary, but for the most part happy, with the changes I see happening each and every year as Disney strives to make improvements to all aspects of their company. Changing a beloved show like “Fantasmic!” though made me a bit more apprehensive than usual. I was excited to see what new technologies they could add but scared they would change some of my favorite aspects of the show.
As the lights around the river dimmed and the familiar opening notes of the narrator’s intro started, we could already make out new and spectacular laser displays moving across the main stage. Then, the familiar sounds of the trumpet fanfare opened the show as Mickey Mouse’s voice could be heard over the music for the first time. As he conducted like he used to, you could hear his excitement and wonder as if this was all new to him too. (A very cool and subtle change I really loved.) As the show continued, the changes made were at first minor, such as shortening some of the musical interludes and adding some new segments from The Lion King and Aladdin.
Then the Big Change came when the Sailing Ship Columbia, formerly sailed by none other than Captain Hook appeared, and the music changed to the familiar theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Our beloved pirate ship was turned into a ghost ship, complete with Captain Jack Sparrow and other characters from the movie franchise.
Other changes included the addition of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider to the river barges, digital mapping of the island and staging area, and new pyrotechnics that emit less smoke to enhance the viewing. Of course, new projectors, lights, and special effects were all used to their fullest capacity bringing the show up to date with some of the other stage productions Disney has been producing all over the world.
The Grand Finale was still our beloved “Murphy” or Maleficent in dragon form breathing fire and setting the river ablaze, only to be defeated by Mickey and the power of his imagination. All in all, in this fan’s opinion, the “New Fantasmic!” brought out some of the best Disney Imagineering had to offer, while keeping the spirit and structure of this now classic production. I can’t wait to go back and see it again!
~Written by Dave Mancini – Event Crew Member