Fantasmic! vs World of Colorby Todd Pickering, contributing writer
Well, it's back! Bigger and better than ever. It's Fantasmic! Sound like a cliche? Maybe. But it's completely true. With our viral world anyone who cannot wait has watched videos of it since Disney released the first press night. I will not really give you too many spoiler alerts if you are like me and would rather be surprised and let something rush over you. But let me say this, the format of Fantasmic! is exactly the same and it works. Currently the original show of World of Color is playing again and side by side Fantasmic! works better and here is why.…
It must be noted and clear that both shows do not rely on plot whatsoever. Disney is masterful at telling a story. From its first feature length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it was Walt's drive to only keep things that served the story that propelled the company into fame. But neither show relies on any story telling technique. That said, there is a formula of creating a program of music in a carefully scored and perfect order that creates a tension and a build that pushes a program to a dramatic rise, a crescendo and a thrilling conclusion. With the current refurbishment of Fantasmic! it is hands down the winner.
Fantasmic! works better because it has a much more defined order and build. There is an opening number that feels like a musicale (the "e" is on purpose pointing out the lack of plot) It introduces the theme of "imagination" and then we go into the four main sections of imagination: Party, Adventure, Love, Villains. We start the show with fun. Once we have danced and had a party, we are feeling daring and we have adventure: being chased by a whale and escaping the swashbuckling of pirates. We need a breather after that, so we experience the magic of love with four famous Disney couples. But then the bad guys wreck our reverie and we defeat them. That can only leave a final celebration.
What it lacks in plot it makes up for in spades with character. Mickey is center stage. He is the mouse that started it all and the crowd immediately recognizes and accepts him. We have a narrator we can trust. Yes, there is a loose plot that the villains are trying to overtake his imagination, but that is flimsy at best. It's the way that special effects, lights, music and—most importantly—live performers, blend together to create excitement and tension. There is a clear opening number which is the Fantasmic! theme song and then it segues into the familiar Sorcerer's Apprentice and then the mood goes more sombre to a dreamy and ethereal variation of the Fantasmic! theme song, which brings us to the silhouette of Mickey walking into The Lion King's opening number. That song is pure perfection of creating a mood and excitement and energy, and whether you've seen The Lion King 100 times or never, it affects you and you have an expectation of a lion cub. Visually and musically you know the style of song, and again whether you are a musician or not, your body, mind and gut have a human expectation of what is to come next. That is the first "reversal" you get. What you expect to come next doesn't happen. You get an abrupt mood change and a snake that isn't animated by projection but by human beings. Again this is something that we feel, that we connect to on a human level because humans make the snake.
World of Color
World of Color is back to its original show, and when comparing it alongside Fantasmic! there is no contest that Fantasmic! wins hands down and hands out. You can hear it in the applause and see it in the wandering of the kids who lose interest in a show that has odd pacing and is full of false finales.
The thing that World of Color will never have over Fantasmic! is the human element. It just can't be beat theatrically. That said, the thing that World of Color has over Fantasmic! is that it can be changed quickly with rehearsal that only involves techies. And this advantage can and has worked beautifully, as demonstrated by last year's amazingly paced and clever holiday show and the beautiful and delightful Chinese Lunar New Year Tribute. World of Color has great things ahead of it. The 60th Anniversary was criticized by many as having too much Neil Patrick Harris, but the cohesiveness of that show was better and the fact that they tried to use a recognizable and talented host may have proved the theory of human beings on water screens just don't work as well as real humans.
But since the show that is there is the original, let's look at a few things that work and things that don't work.
No one can deny that when it comes to scale and sheer power, World of Color has that over Fantasmic! The fountains are huge and we pretty much see all that they can do in the opening number scored to "Wonderful World of Color". By only using color and fountains we get a nice gentle opening and it is a bit long to sustain the little ones. The water screens are spectacular, especially in the opening sequence as The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo are mashed up to give us a wonderful undersea effect. The theme seems to be set until we head into space and Wall-E. After that we are in Andy's room and we get a fantastic laser battle between Buzz Lightyear and Zorg. This is where the effects of lasers, mist, water choreography, film clips, and a great button of the Aliens "oooooooohing" on the circle on the roller coaster California Screamin' are used to great effect. With bizarre segues like Up, which doesn't altogether work since the balloons disappear into the night sky it starts to become apparent that Disney is just going to throw as many movies into the show as they can. This might work, but some of the numbers are way too long and the pace becomes mired down and sluggish. The Fantasia 2000 sequence is beautiful, but the fountains are just doing the opening number again with projection and the redundancy sets in. "Colors of the Wind" builds to such a great crescendo and points out dramatically the Color part of the show, but unfortunately creates a finale feel. The segue of Bugs into Bambi into the Old Mill is great but just pushes into yet another finale feel with the Lion King stampede, which of course leaves us lingering on death. Not exactly where we should be at this point. Of course there is redemption with a magical sequence of rebirth and excitement with one of the best uses of the fountain in creating the Cheshire Cat.
The elements are all there but the final product is wobbly and out of balance. The newer shows show promise and maybe once the focus is on a show about five minutes shorter with better thematic control this reviewer will be back for more. Do you agree with these points? Who are the Fantasmic! freaks out there? Who are the World of Color winners? Who is such a fan that they can't choose? I would love to hear from you and hear your opinions here on MousePlanet.