FANTASMIC! Returns (Again)

This past weekend, FANTASMIC! returned to light up the Rivers of America at Disneyland Park once again after a year's absence due to last April's shocking Maleficent dragon animatronic fire. The damage obviously necessitated repairs and a rethinking of the climactic finale of the show, and the extended downtime brought hopes that an exciting and improved ending could be rendered.

Mickey Mouse sprays pyro in this iconic moment from the FANTASMIC! intro scene.

Well, lets break down the resulting good and bad.  

The good: the Peter Pan segment has returned, replacing the Pirates of the Caribbean segment that had replaced it when FANTASMIC! 2.0 debuted in 2017.  Unfortunately, Tock the crocodile is still nowhere to be found, and Captain Hook dangles over a phantom giant crocodile, but the segment is still superior to the hokey and horrible dialogue of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann--not to mention more emotionally resonant.

The bad?  Well, I normally try not to be overly critical or sensationalistic of Disneyland decisions, but I have to admit to being disappointed with the current iteration.  The rest of the show thematically remains thematically the same as the revamp, but the Aladdin and Jasmine segment no longer features the flying carpet (perhaps because that was also damaged or destroyed within the same trap door enclosure that housed the dragon animatronic), and most significantly, there is no dragon in the finale at all.  Instead, after Maleficent rises into the air, rather than transform into her dragon form, she remains lit and does battle with Mickey from her elevated perch, in her sorceress form.  Mickey has new blocking, starting downstage at nearly the water's edge before heading up to midstage to deal his death blow.

The mood gets jungle-y as a lilly unfolds amidst a cornucopia of color.

While it's possible that Disney is engineering a replacement animatronic that still requires time to fabricate, test, and program, it's confusing why the show had to be shut down for over a year, only to debut this rather lackluster replacement.  Even repurposing the defunct Tokyo Disney Sea FANTASMIC! dragon animatronic surely could have been done within this time.  Instead, the current version of FANTASMIC is akin to the B-show version, when the animatronic isn't functioning properly, and it could have been reopened last year after the park took the few months needed to clean everything up and make the cosmetic repairs needed.  In addition, it's odd that the park didn't replace the magic carpet rig, since unlike Murphy's self conflagration, there was no safety concern owing to any malfunctions of that device.

Overall, FANTASMIC! is still transportive and magica, and those who've never seen the show will still be in awe.  But for longtime fans such as myself who have seen this legendary spectacular since its premiere back in 1992, its significantly reduced form is a bit of a sore spot and will take some coming to grips with.  I hold out hope that there will still be further improvements, and I'm glad Peter Pan is back to battle Captain Hook and save Wendy.  But without that jaw-dropping finale, FANTASMIC! has definitely lost its punch.

Kaa's appearance is luminous and vibrant.

The dancing monkeys with King Louie take on their Tokyo Disney Sea-inspired appearance.

There's the guy that wants to be like you!

The return of Peter Pan is a welcome one (at least for this author).

Peter evades the crew of Captain Hook.

He's so spry!

There aren't any real changes in this segment compared to the original.

That's totally fine by me. It's nostalgic!

Peter and Captain Hook duel high in the air.

Wendy casts off her would-be abductors.

They try to pull at her again, but to no avail.

Peter laughs at the flailing pirates.

Captain Hook ends up floundering over the water, pursued by an invisible Tock.

In another noticeable change, Aladdin and Jasmine dance on stage rather than float on a magic carpet.

Their "Whole New World" scene is very much grounded.

The princess barges remain the same.

Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid (which I couldn't capture any crisp shots of during my viewing), and Tangled.

Then things get spooky.

The Hag emerges to summon the forces of evil.

It culminates with Mickey vs Maleficent.

Maleficent rises up (on the right, over the silhouette of the speaker tower in the foreground).

She sets the Rivers of America on fire with magic, rather than a dragon breathing fire onto the water.

But Mickey vanquishes his foe.

Then it's time to celebrate.

The Disney characters join on the Mark Twain riveboat. Some online have complained that this finale scene has much less characters than before, but I didn't feel there was a gaping dearth.

Colorful fountains and pyrotechnics add to Mickey's rejoicing celebration.

Mickey emerges atop Tom Sawyer's Island to summon finale fireworks.

And the show comes to its dazzling (but not quite as dazzling as before) end!


  1. I caught 2 significant changes to the Peter Pan segment that unfortunately just don't do it for me:
    1) when Peter goes to get back up and fight Hook again he is npw climbing the rigging rather than "flying" up as he did from 1992-2016.
    2) the Tick-Tock projection in place of the old float that used to trail behind the ship was rather disappointing

    1. Good catch! I forgot about Peter no longer flying up. I didn't even notice the Tock projection! lol The old float wasn't working before the fire, so I kind of gave up on it. I also miss the old Ursula float and Flotsam and Jetsam trailing it, which ran for a hot minute.


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