‘Fantasmic’ returns to Disney World with new characters, effects

Thousands of Disney fans were feeling “Fantasmic” Thursday evening as the long-dormant nighttime spectacular returned to Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

What they saw: A new scene with fresh characters on stage, incorporated into the production.

What they reacted to: The stable of characters, especially Mickey Mouse and his related special effects, including the trademark fiery fingertips.

The show, set in an amphitheater facing a moat and a mountain that act as stages, had been dark since Walt Disney World’s pandemic-prompted shutdown in March 2020. After four months down, the company said to expect a “phased” return of live entertainment and other resort operations.

Ahead of “Fantasmic” in the pecking order have been shows such as “Festival of the Lion King” and a retooled “Finding Nemo” effort at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, “Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage” at Hollywood Studios and the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom.

The return of “Fantasmic” had been teased for about a year. Its first debut at Disney World was in 1998.

For the first performance of its revival on Thursday, some enthusiasts lined up for several hours. The queue, as wide as a car lane, stretched from the “Fantasmic” entrance, down the park’s Sunset Boulevard and around the corner, nearly reaching Hollywood Studios’ entrance.

Once inside the amphitheater, which has a capacity of about 10,000 people, audience members cheered on Mickey and company robustly, landing somewhere between primal scream and extreme joy during the 30-minute show.

First of all, the story revolving around Mickey’s vivid imagination is intact, but popular visuals are in place too. Fans got to see Mickey Mouse’s hands do a pyrotechnic trick, the steamboat populated by dozens of choreographed characters, and the threatening moves of Maleficient in the form of a 40-foot dragon.

And there’s still the danger of getting damp (or misty) from the watery effects.

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Disney created an additional “heroes” scene, which is seen fairly early in the production. It starts with Pocahontas, who was part of the previous “Fantasmic” showings, followed by active musical moments with Aladdin scaling the mountain and swinging dramatically from the side (during “One Jump Ahead”), Mulan in action (“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”), Moana splashing on the water surface and running amid fountain for “I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors),” and Elsa conjuring up magic at center stage with “Show Yourself” from “Frozen 2.”

Imagineers used the two-year-plus gap between stagings of “Fantasmic” to install technical improvements and effects, particularly among the lighting, lasers and the projections upon water screens.

“It was extremely exciting to take advantage of technological enhancements that didn’t originally exist when the show opened in 1998,” said Katrina Mena Rick, broadcast creative producer with Disney Live Entertainment.

“It’s going to make it feel brand-new to everyone,” said show director Matthew Hamel.

Despite the opening-night clamor, this is not a limited-time run for “Fantasmic.” It is scheduled at least once nightly, sometimes at 8 p.m., sometimes at 9 p.m. There will be two run-throughs (8 and 9:30 p.m.) through Monday.

Disney also offers a Fantasmic Dining Package that works at five Hollywood Studios restaurants and includes VIP seating for the show, beginning Nov. 30. Price varies between $49 and $73, depending on eating location. For details, go to disneyworld.com

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