One of my favorite things to do while in Walt Disney World is to end each night by watching an amazing display of fireworks, lasers, or pyrotechnics. Unfortunately, due to mostly back luck on my part, I usually end up missing the nighttime extravaganza of Fantasmic! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Perhaps because I do not see it as often as other shows or perhaps because it is truly a great production, Fantasmic! is, in my opinion, the best nighttime show on property. Let’s see what makes it so great!
Fantasmic! originally debuted in Disneyland in 1992 and was added to Disney’s Hollywood Studios® (then Disney-MGM Studios) October 15, 1998. In fact, just this past October 15 was the 15th anniversary of Fantasmic! in WDW. The show takes place in the Hollywood Amphitheater located behind and to the right of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ at the end of Sunset Boulevard. You can enter into the amphitheater next to Beauty & The Beast – Live on Stage, and be warned, it is a bit of a walk to make your way to the seating. The theater itself can seat 6900 people and has standing room for an additional 3500 guests. While this sounds like a massive space, keep in mind that it is not at all unlikely that on crowded days the space will fill to capacity and turn away guests. You can usually find people lined up along the curb of Sunset Boulevard about 1-2 hours in advance, and it is a definite must if you would like to be seated close to the water. Be forewarned that you also should not split up your parties, as if some of your family or friends are inside holding seats for you it won’t matter once they hit capacity- you’re not getting in.
While this may seem like a long wait and a lot of fuss to see a show, it is well worth the effort once the house lights go down and the music starts. All of the action occurs in front of a large lagoon featuring a tall rocky mountain in the background. While the lagoon may seem deep, it is actually only about two feet deep but is dyed darker so that guests assume a greater depth. The story line follows the theme of Mickey’s imagination where he ultimately hosts a battle between good and evil. Fantasmic! is a mix of live action scenes featuring characters such as Pocahontas and John Smith and animated projections onto waves of misted water.
Once the battle between good and evil begins, the Disney villains come out to play and Maleficent herself casts a spell turning her into a massive dragon which Mickey must then battle. This dragon is over fifty feet tall and has a wing span of fifty feet making it a hugely impressive animatronic and a driving force behind the success of the show. The battle culminates with a victory for Mickey and a water pageant of numerous characters aboard a massive boat being steered by Steamboat Willie. The boat itself is eighty feet long and holds the largest arrangement of Disney characters that you will see anywhere throughout the parks. In fact, throughout the show there are over forty Cast Members who use close to eighty costumes. Talk about a huge production!
As Fantasmic! is massively popular and can fill up quickly, a great way to ensure that you have prime seating is by booking a Fantasmic! Dinner Package reservation. The package allows you to enjoy a dining reservation at the Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, or Hollywood & Vine and then proceed to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater where you will have reserved guest seating for the show. I have never personally tried this package before, but I am seriously considering it for my next vacation as it sounds pretty great.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have the absolute worst luck with seeing Fantasmic!. In the past, I’ve sat in the amphitheater for over an hour in the rain hoping the show would start only to finally give up and end up hearing the music and seeing some of the effects…while standing in line in the parking lot waiting for my resort bus. Another time, the show was cancelled due to lightning in the area (which is understandable seeing as you are sitting on metal bleachers around a giant body of water in central Florida). The worst luck I experienced came on the vacation where we got through the show up until Maleficent walking out onto the stage. She got right to the spotlight in the middle, held her hand up to her earpiece, and dramatically…walked off stage. Yes, once again, lightening in the vicinity cancelled the show right in the middle of the presentation. I can’t complain as it was the safest choice for all involved, but it has become a running joke in my family that if we try to see Fantasmic! we will only end up wet or disappointed. Perhaps on my next WDW vacation I’ll finally see it again!
What is your favorite part about Fantasmic? Have you ever experienced my bad luck while trying to see the show? Have you ever tried the Fantasmic! Dinner Package? Be sure to let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you!
(*Photos are from my private collection.)
Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.