On a trip to "The Happiest Place on Earth" in 1992 my new bride and I had just finished dinner on the patio of The River Belle Terrace, and we were enjoying watching people sit along the Rivers of America. Soon a jazz band appeared on one of the river rafts which made the experience all the more pleasing. Then over the PA the voice of Disneyland announced that in 30 minutes we would be treated to, Fantasmic!, a trip into Mickey Mouse's imagination, well who wouldn't be intrigued by that! We stayed at our table, invited a lovely Aussie couple who were looking for seats to join us, and waited for what we thought would be a cute little show utilizing these river rafts, maybe something like a parade. What followed was the most incredible pageant I had ever seen, so much so that we stayed seated and anxiously awaited the second performance that night. Being a lifelong Disney fan F! Immediately became my favorite event ever, and has kept that place in my heart for 25 years.
When the closure of the river was announced in conjunction with the Galaxy's Edge construction I knew I'd miss my beloved Fantasmic! and while I was prepared for some technical improvements that was sure to come with such a lengthy hiatus, I was not prepared for the news that the show was to be updated. With much trepidation I watched as news trickled out regarding what I considered to be major changes to the show.
Then it came time to celebrate not only my birthday but a dear friends, our group headed to a lovely meal at Café Orleans and to see the show. I was excited to see my old friend again, yet very anxious at how it may have changed. As my party and I waited for the show to begin I was keenly aware that thousands of my fellow fans were waiting with hope. Not just hope that the show had returned better than ever, but the hope you have at the beginning of a first date, not only do you not want to be disappointed, your looking to fall in love. The tone we adore sounds, that intense spot light returns, and our host Mickey Mouse appears.
The new format is fast paced and does a wonderful job of placing Mickey in more of his dream. The new special effects are most appreciated, but sometimes less is more. Adding the gang from Lion King is a fun twist, and does not take anything away from the original show. Though the biggest 'dancing monkey' fan I my life is not sure that change was warranted. The removal of Snow White and The Prince from the Princess medley means the classic royalty are not represented aside from the finale. The Aladdin portion seems quick, forced, and cannot easily be seen due to pyrotechnic debris...Maybe it's time to learn that not all technical tricks need to be showcased. The best surprise for me was that so much of the original score is used, yet it sounds bigger and better than ever. The most disappointing scene for me is replacing Peter Pan with Pirates of the Caribbean. Not only because we lose yet another classic scene, but the story seems choppy and unorganized, and it is the only live action story presented. I am not very excited about the changes to the Maleficent scene. Seeing the dragon come out of the ground while we still have a view of the evil fairy feels clumsy. Though I am happy the projections now provide a way to cover when the prop we lovingly call "Murphy" malfunctions.
Like that first date I emerged with my jitters calmed. I can appreciate that a whole new generation will fall for this most magical of creations, and I will always have my memories of that summer night so long ago when I first feel in love. Perhaps, most importantly, I was able to saunter back down Main Street USA humming the theme, reliving the experience I just had, while recalling the love at first sight I felt a quarter of a century ago. This means the romance is still going strong, and after all that's what keeps the magic of Disneyland alive.
"Good night Uncle Walt"