It has been a year and a half since Fantasmic enchanted the Rivers of America at Disneyland, so when the rumor got out that there was to be soft opening of the show-off to Disneyland we will go. You never know if what is said in blogs is true or just wishes and dreams, but alas when we rounded the corner of Pirates of the Caribbean, the rumor was indeed the truth! YIPPEE!
Even though it was only 7pm, the viewing area looked so full already for the 9pm performance. But we were determined to see it and experience the unveiling of the new Fantasmic. The Cast Members were sporting new costumes, denim blue button front shirts and caramel colored pants. The odd thing was there was quite a variety of how the costumes were worn. Some had rolled up their sleeves and left the shirt untucked while others let the sleeves hang long and tucked in the shirt. It looked out of character for Disney who is usually very particular to how the Cast Members are dressed and very uniform. It was also a sharp contrast to the Cast Members from other locations within the park lending support who were very uniform dressed. Maybe Disney is trying something new and interesting. Enough about the dress of the Cast Members, let’s get to the show.
We were able to secure a place a tad off to the left center of the river, but right on the rope. Hopefully this would allow us some ability to move and not be super squished because there were LOTS of people funneling into the area trying to find a spot. The people around us seemed excited and interested to see what changes had been made to Fantasmic. We even had a couple of Cast Members who had just clocked out for the day and ran over to see their friends in the show. They shared with us there was a bet going on to see how many mistakes were made and they were ready to count and tease them when they returned to work for their next shift.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls we have a programming update for you- our viewing area for Fantasmic is now full.” Boy that did not take long at all and everyone anxiously waited in their now secure spot. It seemed as though the seating arrangements were a bit in flux, but this was the first show so maybe they were testing them. Speaking of seating arrangements, in the past there was a Fantasmic Dessert event, which has now been replaced with a variety of Fantasmic Dining options. There is a Blue Bayou and River Belle Terrace sit down dinner and a to go dinner from the Hungry Bear Restaurant. The prices start for adults at $29.99 per person and go up to $65.00 per person. All of the details are on the Disneyland website and are available starting July 17th. Since we had some time to kill I asked one of the Cast Members where the seating was for each of the dining packages and she was not sure because they may be moving them depending on tonight’s show.
When a soft opening happens there are often Producers and Executives attending the show and tonight was no exception. Plenty of Big Wigs were escorted to the VIP sections right in front of us. There were also some special guests in attendance: Olaf from Frozen aka- Josh Gad and Jim from The Office aka- John Krasinski. There may have been more, but these were the ones we saw ourselves.
Finally the lights dimmed. And I am going to stop right there and tell you there are spoilers in this, so if you don’t want to know what has changed, is new or what I did or didn’t like stop reading now.
Ok… You are still here so I will continue on…
“Welcome to Fantasmic! Imagination!… (cue music…)” and then it all started coming back and it was music to my ears. The opening segment was visually stunning and the music was pretty much the same if not exactly. I had read that there were some musical changes to the soundtrack, but in all honesty, the changes mostly are consisted of new vocals. Some of the songs were still the same as well as new ones were added throughout the show. Not sure if I am in love with the new additions, but it just make a couple of more viewings and ear tanglings to make a true call.
Mickey struts out in his tuxedo and starts the show, so the old concept of Fantasmic is back. At least we are starting off on the right foot and a whole new show was not created. Sometimes you just gotta stick to what worked in the past. The story starts in projections on the island and on the water screens as in the past. Our first change is the addition of the Lion King which gets a wild roar from the crowd. This segment is done in projection only and not with actual characters on stage. Next slowly slithering across the island is Kaa from the Jungle Book. His refurbished look is amazingly colorful and super slick and the background projections make him pop even more. Here is where it gets a bit crazy… like Ape crazy. The monkies begin floating by on the rafts as before, but they have been updated to high-tech monkies. It truly reminded me of the 1982 Tron outfits, just even more supped up to LED versions and enhanced with lots of black lights. They looked very cool and were dancing their monkey butts off. King Louie was still his same hairy self surrounded by those crazy high tech primates. Then we rolled back to The Lion King and Hakuna Matata. However the next transition into the Winnie the Pooh segment with the Hefalumps was a but awkward and not as exciting as before. Missing is the guitar riff that I felt made that segment so powerful and driving. A techno styled arrangement replaced the segment musically. I was left longing for the original dearly, even though some of the Hefalumps projections were still in tact.
Here’s is where the crowd really let the cork out of the bottle. Genie from Aladdin bedazzled the water with all of his blue self during Never Had a Friend Like Me. Hopefully Robin Williams was looking down from above smiling to see that he still brings joy to people’s faces. We took a deep dive Under the Sea and next over to Pinocchio who was still trapped inside Monstro and needed to escape. Peter Pan however has flown back to Neverland and was replaced by Jack Sparrow and a multitude of undead pirates. The Ship Columbia has been transformed into a ghostly galleon with green, white and black lights, creepy webbing and flashing strobes. The tattered sails and high-flying skull and crossbones flag fluttered as the ship curved the river. Ghost Pirates swung from ropes off the sides of the while trying to capture the female heroine. Johnny Depp was all over this segment, in both voice and projections. The crowd clapped and cheered, but to me it was just okay.
Another new segment flew us into Agrabah with Jasmin and Aladdin on a flying carpet. It was very cool to see them soaring above the island stage. This transitioned us into the couples segment as I call it. Tale As Old As Time could be heard, but I was so interested in seeing Beauty and the Beast that I was singing the old version of the song in my head. I am not impressed with the new singing arrangements of Fantasmic, as you can probably figure out. Ariel and Eric of The Little Mermaid floated by and Rapunzel and Flynn from Tangled joined the couples. I don’t think the crowd was aware of Rapunzel as quickly as maybe the creators thought they would be. I myself took a moment to stop and figure out who the new couple was. But it fit, considering the new Tangled TV series should be coming out soon.
Magic Mirror on the Wall… who is the next character to show their scary face? Why of course it is the haggard Wicked Queen who summons the evil characters that Disney has terrorized us with. Absent is the huge Ursula that floated her wicked self down the river. Maybe it will be added back later? One can hope… right? The huge yellow eyes owned by Chernabog from Fantasia illuminated the crowd and the river glowed red as well. The powers of evil began banding together and the battle between good and evil commenced. The projections took over and told the story of the battle, until Maleficient’s dragon form rose high above the river. And then it happened- FIRE… igniting the Rivers of America. Previously multiple fiery blasts shot out of the dragon’s mouth compared to the one fireball tonight. How much Creamora do you think they used? To explain, back in the day we were at an Annual Passholder party and we were told the dragon’s fiery breath is actually Cremona powered coffee creamer. This was used for safety purposes since Creamora is flammable but not combustible. Maleficient’s dragon was very animated. Her eyes flickered like fire and with the green and purple lights shimmering across her chest and wings, she was pretty freakin’ amazing! When Mickey defeated her by zapping her, it looked like when Frankenstein was being brought to life by electricity only this had the opposite effect. It looked totally cool! I don’t know how that big huge thing deflated and disappeared so quickly. Mickey Magic!
Finally when all was good in the world again, the Mark Twain Riverboat floated in with Steam Boat Mickey at the helm. I don’t remember who was all on the boat, but it seemed like all of the mainstream characters where present to wave us into Mickey’s success of defeating evil. The celebration continued with Sorcerer Mickey controlling the fireworks with his magical hands and then POOF… Mickey from the beginning of the show was back in his tuxedo. Amazing! What an Imagination he has.
That’s it. Fantasmic 2017. It’s back. It’s fun and well worth seeing. Even though I did not like the singing parts of the soundtrack, I truly enjoyed the new incarnation of Fantasmic. One thing I learn as I grow older, is change happens. I may not like it, but it is going to happen and I have to deal with it. I will go back, watch again and probably see things I am sure I missed in my first viewing. It was wonderful to be there, hear the cheers and feel the excitement of the first crowd to see Fantasmic after its year and a half absence. I think I may even check out one of those Fantasmic Dining packages who wants to join me?
Fantasmic 2017. It’s Back!
Renee lives in a small suburb of Los Angeles with her husband. Each day she crosses the border into Orange County to go to her desk at a large HR outsourcing company. If you catch her in an elevator, she will usually check out your shoes and wonder where you got them. Renee enjoys most things Halloween, taking photos everywhere she goes, bouncing around theme parks and listening to her rock music at very high decibels. FOLLOW @rcsbelle on Twitter FOLLOW her blog: https://rcsbelle.wordpress.com