Disneyland Park, Anaheim, CA
Uh, hello? Anyone here?
Man it's dusty. Go away for a few weeks, and housekeeping just falls apart.
So, um, hey! We're back. Again. When we last left things, Ghost Town Alive! was all the rage. Well, it still is, but we're coming back to the Disneyland Resort this week for a glance at the things that have happened in the month since we've last posted an update. Today's report comes from nighttime at the Rivers of America. Ready? Lets go!
Remember... Dreams Come True Projections on the Rivers of America
This isn't a brand new development, but I hadn't had a chance to photograph this earlier. Regular Disneyland visitors know that the Rivers of America have been a traditional alternate fireworks viewing location, complete with piped in music to fit the pyrotechnics. However, the park has added new projections onto the FANTASMIC! screens to add a visual complement as well. Similar to the It's A Small World area, these projections are largely what's cast onto Sleeping Beauty Castle when the Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks are played, and they lend a nice extra touch to disperse crowds throughout the park during nighttime shows.
When you can't watch fireworks in front of the actual Sleeping Beauty Castle, here's a projected version!
When you can't find a suitable spot for the actual Main Street Electrical Parade, here's a projected Elliott!!
Fireworks explode in the background.
This show is a salute to all nations of the world, but mostly America.
In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room!
Beware the Eye of Mara!
Spectral bursts light up the The Hub beyond during the Haunted Mansion segment of Remember...
Madame Leota's just having a ball.
Hurry back... hurry baaack...
Pirates rocks the sky with its "cannon" shells.
Then there's the Fantasyland segment.
That's when the fireworks get their most intense.
Remain seated, please, for Tomorrowland.
The rousing refrains of the Star Wars theme always create a triumphant mood as the show winds down.
Of course, the main story is the return of a beloved classic in a new iteration. Last Monday, Disneyland's birthday, FANTASMIC! officially reopened to throngs of eager fans excited to see what the first real revision of the show in its 25 years of existence has brought.
Conceptually, the show plot remains the same. Mickey Mouse uses his incredible imagination to create beautiful scenes of wonder, but soon, villains hijack his dreams, and he must defeat them. The show has been enhanced with almost subtle gestures to strengthen this storyline (subtle might be subjective, though; to casual guests, they're probably subtle, and to veterans of the show, they may stand out noticeably), and fans of the show will probably pick up on how these reinforce the plot much more than before, when the show was still, at heart, a clip show with a light storyline overlay.
There have been changes, of course, which may be odd for longtime fans (like myself) who have grown so accustomed to seeing the show in its old version. Scenes involving The Lion King, Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tangled replace or supplement old scenes from The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and Snow White. The score has been re-recorded with a much more orchestral and dramatic flourish, and the vocals have been redone with new singers. There are also elements of the show imported from Tokyo Disney Sea's FANTASMIC!, such as some allusions to the "Imagination" theme song developed for their show, a greater emphasis of Sorcerer Mickey, and even a different role for the Magic Mirror. Check the picture captions for more detailed thoughts.
The photos below contain spoilers, of course. But since this is a show, photos don't quite do the whole performance justice. For that, you need to be there live. Still, lets take a photographic tour of the new FANTASMIC! to see how it stacks up with the original!
The show begins as it always does. "Welcome to FANTASMIC!" the narrator begins, outlining the plot summary of the show. But there are little differences here and there. The "Are the powers of Mickey's imagination..." line has been removed, and Mickey appears on stage immediately as opposed to the reveal after the rise of the tower spotlights behind him.
This modified scene sees Mickey discovering the wonders around him and his powers at manipulating his imagination via pyro bursts and projected effects. Fans who have seen Tokyo Disney Sea's FANTASMIC! may also recognize a momentary prelude to that show's "Imagination" theme, just before the main FANTASMIC! refrain hits.
Another noticeable addition has been the insertion of some "ooohs" and "aaahs" and little chirps of gleeful laughter by Mickey as he gazes around him and gets a feel for the spectacle of his imagination and how he can control it.
I get why it was done--to drive home the point that this is almost like a new world that Mickey is exploring, but being used to a silent Mickey in the old show, it's a little distracting. At the very least, I would have limited it to the beginning but cut out exclamations after that.
I can't make fun of Mickey's double arm waving when the familiar refrains of the FANTASMIC! theme hit, though. He doesn't do that anymore, instead motioning more like a conductor, ala Sorcerer's Apprentice.
But he does keep one trademark move...
The pyro fingers still get a great reaction from the crowd.
At the end of it all, Mickey gives a new "tada!" gesture to replace hands-on-hips pose in the original.
In following with the original sequence, the show eases into the second scene, with the waving jungle lily now accented by a vibrant backdrop of projected imagery. At the same time, the first vocals hit ("See it in your mind, and you can find in your imagination..."), providing evidence of another change--namely a new singer.
I've heard commentary over the new vocals, and I have to agree with the more critical opinions here. Rather than singing the lyrics harmonically and in the same fashion as the original, the vocalist seems to inject extra, exaggerated emphases, sort of like a singer trying to over-dramatize the Star Spangled Banner at a sporting game. For me, this jerked me out of the spectacle and ambiance of the show and drew attention to itself, rather than complement the visual performance.
The first real change in content happens after the lily fades away. The resounding beat of "Circle of Life" hits, replacing the old jungle drums of the Jungle Book's dancing monkeys.
Kaa still appears on stage, though, and despite the Lion King soundtrack playing (with similar notes to Tokyo Disney Sea's FANTASMIC!'s Lion King segment too), it's more of a general jungle montage.
The projections onto Tom Sawyer Island are absolutely spectacular, and the new Kaa is luminous and magnificent.
Kaa marches through the Lion King music.
The dancing monkeys have been replaced by dancing lions.
Again, this is in the vein of Tokyo Disney Sea's show.
Fortunately, King Louie remains in the barge that moves from Frontierland to Critter Country, doing his dance with his new cohorts.
King Louie just wants to be a human too, but perhaps the lions are telling him they just can't wait to be king?
As with most everything else, the saturation and colors are much more expounded at the barges and characters. The black light and costuming paint really make things pop!
Meanwhile, even when no one is actually on the Tom Sawyer Island stage, the canvas there is continuously projected upon, turning the island into a work of art. Some may find this a little overdone or a little too blatant or visually competitive, but I personally loved it.
After this scene, the Lion King segment transitions into a modified Pink Elephant segment that relies primarily on projections. I wasn't able to snap a good photos of that, but gone are the elephants that "apparate" on the island. The music carries a greater synth and electronic guitar feel too and feels more amped up. The change is one of those that feels odd just because I have been used to the original for so long, but I can't say that I dislike it.
Deviations from the original continue with the addition of a new scene containing Genie and Mickey interacting, accented by a rousing "Friend Like Me" sequence that is high energy and similar to instances in World of Color and the castle shows at Magic Kingdom parks elsewhere in the world. Here, Genie morphs into Goofy and Donald, to Mickey's amusement.
At this point, Mickey is Sorcerer Mickey--an identity he maintains for the rest of the show until the very end.
One might also notice the screen placed atop Lafitte's Tavern to add more canvas for the projections. That's another addition to this revised show, and I personally enjoy how it provides a more prominent projection space.
The old Pinocchio is no longer in this version of FANTASMIC!, but they do toss in a nice homage by having Mickey dance in a marionette way with Minnie and Daisy. The show has several little nods to the original like this that veteran guests should be able to pick out.
Everything finishes with a frenetic and rousing climax.
Mickey appears on the projection screens, plunging into the water, segwaying into a Little Mermaid / Finding Nemo interlude.
This is reminiscent of a truncated version of the pairing in World of Color, but the fountain screens then move onto the familiar Pinocchio-based scene with Jiminy Cricket and friends and Monstro.
That sets the stage for another prominent replacement: the Columbia sailing through with a Pirates of the Caribbean scene in lieu of the classic Peter Pan scrum.
Visually, the Pirates sequence is also spectacular, with vivid projections on the stage and quite the flurry of activity on the boat.
There were rumors of moving projections supposedly being cast onto and synchronized with the ship, but I didn't see anything of that sort during my viewings. Admittedly, this would be a very technically complex endeavor requiring significant calibration and perfect movement of actors.
Instead of Peter Pan battling Captain Hook while Wendy and the Darlings look on, surrounded by pirates, this scene features [who I assume to be] Elizabeth Swann athletically moving about her boat to escape the pirates, while waiting on Jack Sparrow to rescue her, while both fend off Captain Barbossa and his undead buccaneers.
Interestingly, though the soundtrack and the dialogue are new, the actions are almost exclusively mimicking the Peter Pan sequence of events, just sometimes with different characters playing the motions.
It's Swann who flies up to the masts after being pursued by pirates, including one who swings on a rope along the side of the ship, then "tightrope walks" over to the other mast.
All the while, the pirates below shake their fists angrily.
I would have almost preferred an original acrobatic sequence, given that the content was being replaced. I also didn't quite like the dialogue, which seemed stilted and altogether uninteresting.
It mainly comprised Elizabeth complaining to Jack about why he was taking so long to help her, while Jack was busy focusing on his compass.
The stunts being performed are still impressive, though, and giving some of the featured moves to a female certainly adds a nice, progressive gesture (and it's done a-matter-of-factly too, which is even better).
That said, with extreme prejudice, I wish they had kept the old Peter Pan segment, as it was my absolute favorite of the show.
Goodbye, Jack's compass. Which I assume is what the otherwise-completely regular looking gray box near the middle of the shot is.
Because this isn't the Peter Pan scene, there is no Tick Tock to chase the Columbia either.
Instead, all of the focus and action occurs on the boat.
A Jack Sparrow wanted banner unfurls in place of the old regular Jolly Roger.
The absence of a giant, captain-eating crocodile doesn't prevent the final Peter Pan mimicking gesture--Captain Jack Sparrow swinging around the stern of the ship.
He does so more dramatically than Captain Hook did, even incorporating spins. But I'm not sure why this happens, storyline-wise.
Things then settle down into another inserted scene--a second Aladdin-based segment featuring Aladdin and Jasmine on a floating magic carpet, reveling in the views of "A Whole New World."
The scene is very short--it feels almost crammed in and is one of the few parts of the show that doesn't flow as naturally--but though this photo captures the mechanics of how the effect works, in real life, the illusion is pretty convincing, and at the much farther distance of actual viewing, it really does seem like the couple are floating over the fog.
We settle back into familiar territory with the introduction of the fairy tale couples in their colorfully illuminating barges.
"See it in your mind
And you will find in your imagination..."
Belle and Beast dance in a tale as old as time.
Ariel and Prince Eric share the stage in their barge as well, as Ariel ponders what she would give if she could live out of these waters.
These barges have been enhanced before. The colored lighting doesn't seem quite as glowingly bright now compared to their previous incarnation, but they do appear crisper.
Completing the trio, however, is now Snow White and Prince Charming, but rather Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.
Their dance certainly has references to Snow White's dance, complete with a dramatic lift as the focus and music center on them.
Here is another case where I feel that the scene is odd simply because I've been so used to Snow White long before (plus it connects a bit to the following scene with the Magic Mirror), but which is perfectly fine in a vacuum, without an original to which to compare.
Soon, the princesses and their beaus depart, and the Magic Mirror appears.
Rather than be conjured by the Evil Queen of Snow White, the Magic Mirror speaks directly to Mickey himself, beckoning him to another, darker realm, should the mousey sorcerer feel brave enough.
Mickey expresses a few misgivings before finally acquiescing to look deeper not the realm of which Magic Mirror portrays. Famous last words?
With a burst of pyrotechnics, Mickey is sucked through the mirror and into the realm of the villains. This is a bit different from the original, where the villains are the ones technically invading Mickey's dreams. Instead, it's pretty much what happens in Tokyo Disney Sea's FANTASMIC!
One by one, the villains make their appearance in similar fashion to the original. First is the old hag from Snow White, Queen Grimhilde's alter ego.
Noticeably, as she cackles about turning Mickey Mouse's dream "into a nightmare Fantasmic," there is no bubbling or smoking cauldron in front of her.
I'm not sure why this change was made, but it would have been nice to have the old prop present. Nothing was gained by removing it.
The hag transitions into Ursula, taking matters into her own tentacles (another scene I failed to get a satisfactory photo of), and her "Poor Unfortunate Souls" style sequence is pretty much the same as before. Unfortunately, no sighting of a repaired physical Flotsam and Jetsam reincarnation, as was the case when FANTASMIC! last underwent a major overhaul an received some new floats. Guess some things just can't maintained free of problems.
Fortunately and to my delight, the Nightmare on Bald Mountain scene has been retained, and in fact, the Chernabog has been made to look even more mighty. There's a nice little touch where Mickey runs between his pupils, showing how grand he is, and the projections depicting his conjuring of the dead are much more elaborate.
All of this, however, simply sets the stage for the ultimate foe, Maleficient, as she proclaims that Mickey will now have to deal with the powers of her imagination.
Interestingly, Maleficent now begins rising before she even utters her first lines, rather than wait until she hurls her spell / casts pyro to begin growing.
The actions and sinister laughter are all the same, but I feel like this small and subtle adjustment is less dramatic. It doesn't really make sense for Maleficent to start her metamorphosis into a dragon so early and immediately. I can only speculate that there may be some OSHA or safety rules governing the speed of ascent (and descent) of her lift that sparked the adjustment, and it had to fit within the same pacing of the music and scene.
Another slight change that I found detracting was the reveal of the dragon itself.
Previously, Maleficent would reach her full height, and then her spotlights would darken, leaving the projections of the dragon to prelude the arrival of the actual beast. THEN, the dragon would be revealed.
As you can see, however now, the dragon's eyes are lit as the beast rises out of its underground lair. One might argue that having ol' Murphy (as the dragon is nicknamed by fans) slowly come out of the shadows and fog is actually more dramatic, but if that was the case, the projections showing dragon Maleficent should have been changed.
As it stands, there is an extended moment where guests can clearly see a dragon on the projection screens as well as a physical dragon behind the fountains. From a storyline perspective, this is symbolically inconsistent and visually clues that there are two dragons, not one.
Plus, I personally have always thought that it was incredibly cool and surprising to see the dragon just sort of appear out of nowhere--its ascent theatrically hidden by keeping it in the shadows and out of the glare of the fountain screens and anything lit.
Fortunately, aside from that quizzically non-sensical (to me) adjustment, Murphy still does what Murphy's do... breathe fire and light the Rivers of America in flame.
This is the iconic and climactic moment in the entire show--the image of all promotional work when this spectacular first premiered in 1992.
And this rousing moment remains unchanged.
I will also say that Murphy herself has never looked better. Aesthetically, the audio-animatronic looks to be in amazing condition.
Those were some serious burittos eaten before the show.
Quite pleased, Murphy admires her handiwork.
The scene is fantastically photogenic, and I love the lighting cast upon the dragon.
No matter how many times that dragon tries to burn water down, Mickey always has his triumph, and so, he sets about reclaiming his imagination.
This time, though, Mickey lacks a sword. Apparently, the simulated weapons ban has hit show characters too.
(Remember that recently, the park stopped selling toy guns and banned toy swords and guns from being brought past checkpoints as part of the new security policy).
Instead, Mickey taps into his inner use of the Force and swirls energy around him.
He then amasses all of those... midichlorians...(?) and flat out Sith Lightnings the poor dragon.
It's like a dark side Force slap to the face. Or neck and chest?
The beast is clearly unprepared by this dramatic turn of events, and perishes.
Darth Mickey seems to hold his pose, perhaps to see how many people will be shocked that he possess the powers of the Sith.
As dragon Maleficient dies, she lets out one final death knell breath of fire.
This is new, and I actually like this particular small change. Of course, I'm rather fond of more fire in any Disney show.
Evil is vanquished, and so, it's time to start the celebrations.
The Mark Twain sails around, with a host of familiar characters twirling ribbons as the FANTASMIC! theme resounds over the Rivers of America again.
All is grand and happy.
And why not? Mickey won!
Speaking of which, there he reappears now.
Triumphant and ecstatic, he directs pyrotechnics and lights and lasers all around.
Fans will notice another reduction in fireworks during this closing segment.
Following the fan burst behind him, Mickey used to summon bursts one after another across the arc of the river. That is no longer the case.
Instead, there are more isolated bursts, still in tune with the music, but I think less dramatic than before.
There have been several times that the fireworks have been reduced at this finale part of the show.
Each has left me a little disappointed, since the energy that the fireworks add is less. It's nothing that new viewers or those who watch infrequently might notice.
But I do miss the old machine gun style pyrotechnics that really drove the celebratory mood of the end.
Of course, everything comes to a head when Sorcerer Mickey disappears from the top of the roof and reappears as regular Mickey.
What incredible dreams he has, and what adventures this has been!
"Some imagination, huh?"
There's a brief bit of one last bit of conducting as a brief snippet from the Tokyo Disney Sea "Imagination" suite plays through.
And with that recognizable Mickey Mouse "aw shucks" chuckle, he disappears, capping off the show.
If you don't care about spoilers at all, here's video I recorded from my visit last week. Well, technically my friend held my phone, so that I could take photos.
I know that I cannot ever fully objectively critique this show, because it played such a key role in shaping my Disney love as a child. So there are definitely changes that I don't quite like, while other changes I actually do see as improvements. But I figure that in time, I will grow accustomed to the new FANTASMIC! and enjoy it *almost* as much as I did the original. Undoubtedly, new FANTASMIC! is visually spectacular, with the use of projection mapping particularly appropriate to accent this combination projection, pyrotechnics, and stage show--moreso than in the fireworks shows around other parks that are increasingly becoming more "Castle shows" than actual fireworks shows. The cast seems bigger, and the show just more grand than before, and the spectacle has certainly been enhanced. For many, that is probably a more enjoyable change, though for others, it may seem a little overdone and too "in your face." For example, those who love projection mapping will marvel over the grandeur of FANTASMIC!'s, while those who find it a crutch my feel it detracts from the more purist beauty of the previous iteration. Overall, though, I believe it remains a truly fantastic show that should be a highlight to everyone's trip to the park.
For now, Disneyland is having three showings of FANTASMIC! a night to accommodate the rush of crowds thrilled to see the show. I imagine this will probably continue for the duration of the summer, until the novelty has worn just a bit. At the end of the day, it's great to have this wonderful classic back in a spiffy new form. Here's to another 25 years to dream a fantastic dream!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.