LP Lotion: Fantasmic! 20th Anniversary - A Look Back
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There is now a whole generation of Disneyland fans for whom Fantasmic! has always been a part of the Happiest Place on Earth. But it is only since May 13, 1992 that nights along the Rivers of America have been coming alive with the show that some regard as the best ever created for a Disney theme park.
So, lets go back to 1992. Several Southern California parks had announced summer plans including Backdraft, the Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue and the Rocky and Bullwinkle show at Universal Studios; Indian Village at Knott's Berry Farm; the Flashback coaster at Magic Mountain; Shark Encounter at Sea World; and even new water slides at Raging Rivers and Wild Waters. It was to be an exciting summer. However, tempering this excitement was a very sobering real-world event: the Los Angeles Riots. From April 29th through May 3rd the whole world watched as parts of Southern California became a battle zone. With all the fear and bad publicity theme park operators must have been concerned. Despite their new offerings, would the crowds materialize?
The park with the largest investment in a new summer attraction was Disneyland. At a reported cost of $30 million-- twice the original estimate-- Fantasmic! was intended to become the flagship show at Disneyland. Along with the still popular Main Street Electrical Parade and the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks, Disneyland would be "the place to be" on summer nights.
The hype for Fantasmic! was huge. Prior to its debut Disney went on a 28-city, $750,000 tour of the West showcasing an eight story tall inflatable Maleficient. Locals can recall print, television, radio and billboard ads. Driving on I-5 to Disneyland in late 1991, many remember seeing billboards advertising "Imagination", an early name for the show. In December that name was changed to "Fantasmagoria," but for only a short time. Finally, it was Fantasmic!
Fantasmic! was originally scheduled to premiere on April 2nd, but technical problems pushed backed its official debut. Finally on Wednesday, May 13th more than 3,000 members of the media and invited guests gathered in Frontierland to see the new show. Fantasmic! officially opened to park guests on May 15th (although there were soft openings prior to that).
Twenty years later, Fantasmic! still dazzles. And it is no longer just on summer nights that crowds gather on the banks of the Rivers of America. It isn’t even necessary to make your way to Disneyland to enjoy the spectacle. A version of the show was added to Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World in 1998, and to Tokyo DisneySea in 2011.
Disneyland's version has seen changes over the years. The large figure of Ursula was gone by 1997; Flotsam and Jetsam were added twelve years later. The most visible change came in 2009 with the replacement of the original dragon. After a summer of missteps and high anticipation, the new figure debuted on September 1. In 2010, a major refurbishment and refreshing of the show was greeted with enthusiasm.
LaughingPlace is pleased to offer a look back at the New Orleans water front as it once was, the process that brought Fantasmic! to life, and some of the changes that followed.
Click below to play a construction slideshow
The original water stage at the tip of Tom Sawyer Island. This stage was used for many years for musical performances and special events.
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A close up of the stage, showing the original location of the vine covered flour mill.
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