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The Magic Years
Disney through the eyes of teens
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Adrienne Krock, editor
Fantasmic!: "A Nighttime Extravaganza"

The lights dim, and a faint chord fills the air. The chord gradually begins a crescendo as lights shine upon Tom Sawyer Island, thus beginning the most complex and high-tech, nighttime, entertainment spectacular ever presented in Disneyland Park. This spectacular features lasers, fog effects, choreographed water fountains, fireworks, fiber optics and a multitude of Disney characters that parade and dance along the Rivers of America in this indescribable show. This experience draws viewers into Mickey's imagination, and into the action and creativity that is known today as Fantasmic!

In this enchanting tale of good versus evil, Mickey Mouse has to overcome an array of villains who attempt to intrude his imagination. As the story begins, Mickey Mouse materializes amid a spectrum of lights at the tip of Tom Sawyer Island. He begins to conduct choreographed water fountains and spouts showers of sparks from his fingers as a giant mist screen, 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide, rises from the water. An animated version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice takes its place, and the music begins to swell as Sorcerer Mickey summons the comets and stars to collide in a flurry of light and fireworks.

A soothing voice then begins singing the theme as the twinkling stars dissolve into colorful flowers and designs. The flowers gradually begin to change color, before they separate and become the green fauna of a lush jungle. Suddenly, a 100-foot version of Kaa, the snake from The Jungle Book, slithers its way across the fog-covered island. As its eyes beam towards the audience, King Louie and his dancing monkey companions float by on barges themed after his throne and territory from the movie.

Abruptly, the music changes for the "Pink Elephants on Parade" scene, where animated pachyderms from Dumbo are projected onto the mist screen while live performers in glow-in-the-dark elephant costumes dance on the island. As the elephants fade away, Jiminy Cricket floats down in a bubble accompanied to the background music of "When You Wish Upon A Star." Suddenly, an angered Monstro the Whale from Pinnochio creates realistic waves in the river's water as Mickey gets drained into darkness.

Thunder rumbles, lightning crashes, then the loud boom of a cannonball marks the beginning of the Peter Pan segment. Swashbuckling pirates, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Peter Pan quarrel and fight on the Sailing Ship Columbia as it glides through the Rivers of America. In the end, Peter Pan wins the battle as Hook dangles from the stern of the ship to the waiting jaws of Tick Tock, the crocodile.

Again, the music softens as three floats glide by, each featuring a princess. The first contains Belle and the Beast dancing as they did in their ballroom. Then comes Ariel and Eric, followed by Snow White and her Prince Charming as they all sing and dance their way through Mickey's imagination.

Tension fills the air as the evil queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs learns that in the Magic Kingdom, she is not the fairest and most beautiful in the land. A magic mirror also tells her that in Mickey's imagination, beauty and love will always survive. Enraged by this, she transforms into a hideous witch and conjures up numerous Disney animated villains to aid her in a plot to disrupt Mickey's fantasy and turn it into a nightmare. A cast of evildoers such as Ursula and Chernabog are projected onto the screen, followed by Maleficent, who morphs into a 45-foot-tall, fire-breathing dragon that sets the Rivers of America on fire.

It seems as if the island has been overrun by terror. Can Mickey banish evil and save his own imagination? Using his imagination Mickey Mouse attempts to overcome the evil forces, and succeeds. All that seems to be left of the villains is a blast of pixie dust that showers upon the Mark Twain Riverboat as it floats past the audience. In the finale, the glorious boat parades by, carrying over 50 characters waving and dancing along the decks of the steamboat. As it sails past the island and into your memory, Mickey Mouse appears once again at the tip of Tom Sawyer Island.

Fireworks and pyrotechnics shoot off behind him as he ends the show with his famous final words, "Some imagination, huh? Ha, ha." On a final musical note the lights vanish and disappear. As quickly as it had started, the Rivers of America seem to return back to normal.

Throughout the world today, there are few forms of entertainment that can truly astonish audiences beyond belief. Disneyland has proven that Fantasmic! is one of those truly awe-inspiring shows that is always worth seeing more than once. Fantasmic! first inaugurated on May 13, 1992 at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. Now, nearly 10 years later, it is still as popular and as magnificent as ever; some visitors wait up to five hours for a front row seat to this spectacular event.

The show itself is approximately 25 minutes long and even though most of it takes place on water, the main stage is the rather large area in front of Cider Mill on Tom Sawyer Island (shown above). The performance stage, which includes a 20-foot by 20-foot trap door that accompanies the dragon effect, is open to park visitors by day. But at night, it is transformed into the location where Mickey allows his imagination to soar with fantasy and pixie dust.

Visitors can treat themselves to a perfect seat for Fantasmic!, and a selection of delicious desserts at the Fantasmic! dessert buffet (see Adrienne Vincent Phoenix's column detailing this). Seating is located on the balcony of the Disney Gallery, providing a perfect view of the island, mist screens and the rest of the show.

The idea of Fantasmic!, conceived solely by Disneyland Entertainment and not by Imagineering, originated from a thought to hold a nighttime parade on the water of the Rivers of America. As the idea grew, so did the number of special effects possibilities that the show could contain.

Originally titled "Imagination" during its early development, Fantasmic! cost nearly $125 million to create. It is so extensive that it needs 51 performers, -- most in multiple roles -- 50 crewmembers, over 350 costumes. The show can be viewed by over 10,000 people per performance! Three new show barges, and a backstage marina were specifically made for the show, and the orchestral score and sound effects are presented on a state- of- the- art surround-sound computer system. A custom-built computer system located in the Main Control Room above the Disney Gallery runs all of the effects and sounds in the show.

Spoilers ahead!

Even in Fantasmic!, some of the seemingly amazing special effects and transitions are nothing more than a sudden action or simple movement. The Evil Queen and the Wicked Witch switch places through a trap door that is hidden behind the pillars of smoke spewing from the cauldron. A person who is over six feet tall usually plays Maleficent, and the actor is lifted 80 feet into the air while safely fastened to the platform he stands upon. The dragon, which is really just a head with wing framework and streamers hanging from it, is housed under the island. The trap door that slides open to release the effect weighs about two tons, and can close in less than 10 seconds.

The flame that spews from the dragon's mouth comes from a reconditioned WWII flame thrower and the actual substance that is used to create the giant fireball is Cremora, the highly flammable powdered substance used in coffee as a substitute for milk. Even the platform at the tip of the island used for the finale often wobbles, requiring the actor portraying Mickey to be fastened to that as well.

Punctuality is critical in the Fantasmic! show. All cast members who have multiple roles have to change costumes quickly in order to make their cues on time. Even the barges and ships have to leave perfectly on schedule to appear at the right moment. One of the most important to be on time is the Columbia, acting as the pirate ship for the Peter Pan segment. The ship must leave its dock at a predetermined time to sound the cannonball and make it to the staging area appropriately. It also must travel at full speed when it enters because the entire sequence is only seven minutes long, and the boat must also exit on cue.

As you see, Fantasmic! is as much a show as it is an experience. Many who have seen this show are truly dumbfounded by the experience, and blown away by the technologically advanced materials used for pyrotechnics and special effects. If there is only one thing you do at Disneyland, make sure you view this indescribable combination of magic and enchantment. Fantasmic! truly is a nighttime extravaganza.

- Christopher

Coming Soon: Disney on Broadway - Beauty and the Beast and Lion King

Christopher's Disney Trivia: It is rumored that a hidden Mickey is present in one of the animated segments of Fantasmic! If you look at the water screens when Jiminy Cricket is present, the bottom left hand corner hosts three bubbles, which join to create a Mickey Mouse silhouette.

Have any questions, comments or suggestions for future columns? Drop me a line at I'd really enjoy hearing from you!



Download MPEGs from Fantasmic! by clicking on the photos or links below!



Here are two brief clips from the finale of the show. The Mark Twain swoops by [top - 120 kb], and then Mickey lights the fireworks [bottom - 120 kb].


My name is Christopher.

I am thirteen years old and live with my family in Southern California. I am currently a high school student, and an avid fan of Disneyland Resort. Other than visiting the "Happiest Place On Earth," I have numerous hobbies, the most significant of which is acting.

Acting has always been a major hobby of mine. I have been participating in numerous plays, movies and productions all of my life, and hope to eventually accomplish my dreams of becoming a famous actor. Some of my recent works include productions of The King and I, Shakespeare- Enough Already, and Ebeneezer. Other than acting, I enjoy playing the alto saxophone for my high school jazz band, playing the keyboard / piano, listening to music (especially the Rent soundtrack), and visiting the Disneyland Resort.

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