Walt Disney World is working on two stage shows coming to its theme parks this year: the return of “Fantasmic” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a reimaged “Finding Nemo” musical at Animal Kingdom.
Visitors will see fresh characters incorporated and technological updates in the productions, creative staff members said at a recent media event.
But audience members will still see popular parts of the show, including Sorcerer Mickey’s pyrotechnics in the “Fantasmic” nighttime spectacular and the oversized puppetry in the revised Animal Kingdom show, now titled “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue … and Beyond.”
“We are maintaining a lot of great puppetry from the original vision of the show,” said Chris Iannuzzi, a puppet master with Disney Live Entertainment. “We’ve added a new puppet to this version of the show that’s going to be great. … It’s going to add another cute level to the show.”
Neither “Nemo” nor “Fantasmic,” an outdoor nighttime spectacular, have been seen at Disney World since the resort closed for four months as a response to the COVID pandemic in March 2020. Other shows or abbreviated versions of them have rolled out over time.
In 2021, the company decided to end Animal Kingdom’s original “Nemo” show, which debuted in 2007. In September, it announced that a replacement show would go into the park’s Theater in the Wild. Among the changes: The revised version will be 25 minutes instead of its predecessor’s 40-minute production.
Some things will look the same, yet maybe a little different after the two-year break.
“Puppets need to be played with, so we’ve gone through careful refurbishing and brightening up and bringing all of them back to the original show level and looking as great as they did the day they opened the show,” Iannuzzi said.
The new “Nemo” show will incorporate a revised set with extensive projections using technology not available when the original premiered.
“We redid the entire scenic packet with this new watercolor paper, layered paper texture,” said Matt Fiuza, art director with Disney Live Entertainment. “Not only the three-dimensional scenic pieces have that aesthetic, but the entire video content that extends beyond into the video screen is all with done with the same style.”
The technology syncs up with onstage performers.
There are “a lot of coordinations on how the scenic pieces are moving together, how performers are moving together, and how that content is reacting to all the movement that’s happening on stage,” Fiuza said. “So, a lot of brand-new stuff that we weren’t able to do before.”
“For people familiar with the show, it’s definitely going to be a wow factor,” Iannuzzi said.
A new lighting package was installed at the theater, he said.
“All the lighting has been placed upon the venue itself feels alive. … the presidium, everything, feels alive with the lighting, and then immerses our cast into the story that much more so you feel like you’re in the story,” Iannuzzi said.
A debut date has not been announced for “The Big Blue … and Beyond.”
For the revival of “Fantasmic” at Hollywood Studios, “we are creating a whole new section that is a live-action sequence with all-new stunts, with all-new characters and stories to be told,” said Matthew Hamel, show director.
“We’re tapping into Disney heroes that we have grown to know and love — some classics and some new. So you’re going to see ‘Frozen,’ you’re going to see a little bit of ‘Moana,’ you’re going to see the classics like Aladdin and Mulan and still Pocahontas as well,” he said.
“We do feel like it’s going to be a lot more relevant and a lot more inclusive of all stories,” Hamel said.
Other sights and sounds are being modified, he said.
“Everything’s going to look a little different,” Hamel said. “We do have some new technology that we are including in the show as we remount it to make sure that it feels refreshed.”
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Clint Clarke, senior audio designer, said the enhanced “Fantasmic” will not be best seen online.
“You have to come to Hollywood Studios and sit and see the show,” Clarke said. “It’s going to be immersive. We’re taking that experience and raising the bar.”
There has been no specific reopening date for “Fantasmic” either.
“We are planning on bringing it back by the end of the year,” Hamel said.
The additions are part of the wave of more entertainment returning to Disney World. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review, a Wild West-themed dinner show, is set to return to Fort Wilderness in late June. In October, “Harmonious,” a nighttime show, debuted at Epcot along with “Disney Enchantment,” which features fireworks at Magic Kingdom, began. The Festival of Fantasy parade came back to Magic Kingdom in mid-March.
A smattering of shows and live performances remain “temporarily unavailable,” according to Walt Disney World’s official website. Among them are Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Jedi Training Academy at Hollywood Studios, Pandora drummers at Animal Kingdom, Serveur Amusant at Epcot, Enchanted Tales With Belle at Magic Kingdom and the Citizens of Hollywood and Citizen of Main Street, two “streetmosphere” troupes.
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