The Disneyland Hotel has always been a destination in its own right, (arguably) moreso before the Disneyland Resort expansion that began in the late 90s. While traversing even deeper into the rabbit hole that is our video archive, I found this gem that was once a free entertainment offering at the Disneyland Hotel, Fantasy Waters.
As usual, before we get to the video, I’ll give you a little background. What was then known as “Dancing Waters” came to the Disneyland Hotel 1970, when the hotel was owned by the Wrather corporation. The premise was simple. Dancing water fountains set to music. Seems a little unoriginal right now (more on that later) but at the time was almost completely unheard of. The water show utilized a fountain mechanism that was touring the world at the time, including performances at Radio City Music Hall in New York with several duplicates of the mechanism permanently installed at various locations, Disneyland Hotel being one of them. The original show at the hotel lasted from 1970 until 1979 when it was updated when the “Water Wonderland” opened at the hotel. Mostly consisting of horseshoe waterfalls, grottos, and koi ponds just outside of the Bonita tower, the closest tower to where Dancing Waters show took place.
In 1988 The Walt Disney Company acquired the Wrather corporation, and with it, the Disneyland Hotel. In 1991, the Dancing Waters show was significantly changed (though the mechanics stayed the same) to become Fantasy Waters, which featured a soundtrack set to Disney Music, and light-up characters in the upper portions of the stage.
In the video we see a large portion of the show, narrated by “The Voice of Disneyland,” Jack Wagner. Our video kicks on shortly after the show began, during a sequence using “Step in Time” from Mary Poppins. After some words from Mr. Wagner, we get to my favorite part of the show, a medley of music from the neighboring Disneyland Park. “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” from the Enchanted Tiki Room, “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from the Haunted Mansion, “Baroque Hoedown” from The Main Street Electrical Parade, and “Golden Dream” (While widely known for the American Adventure at EPCOT, it is featured in Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland so it gets a pass) all make an appearance in the show. The best surprise was jammed right there in the middle: “Another Part of Me” as performed by Michael Jackson for Captain EO. The show goes on to play music from then-new The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast before going into “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” before Jack Wagner tells everyone to enjoy the rest of their night at Disneyland and Disneyland Hotel.
The dancing fountain show continued to wow hotel guests (and a surprising amount of locals) through the years until it was finally removed in 2007. The amphitheater that was installed for the show sat there unused until 2011, when the entire “Water Wonderland” was removed as the Wonder tower (formerly the Bonita Tower) became the Frontier Tower, as it sits today. The backdrop and recessed stage of Fantasy Waters still stands today behind some landscaping and is currently part of the Magic Kingdom Lawn, a large greenspace that can be booked for weddings, receptions, and other events. However, the future of the Magic Kingdom Lawn (and former Fantasy Waters stage) is not looking good as it is the location of a proposed expansion of the Disney Vacation Club at the Disneyland Resort with the addition of a fourth tower at the Disneyland Hotel.
While many look back fondly on Fantasy Waters, deservedly so with as charming as it was, it can be said that the spirit of the show lives on with what was about to come to the Disneyland Resort shortly after the show closed.
In 2010, World of Color debuted at Disney California Adventure in the park’s Paradise Bay, merely hundreds of yards away from where Fantasy Waters took place. While some lament the closure of the increasingly rare free and unticketed entertainment offering, its days were arguably numbered as soon as the new neighboring nighttime spectacle was announced. The video preserves the simple charm of the show at the hotel, showing how the dated technology could still wow a crowd but also offers a look at how far the animated water artform has come over 40 years since the original debuted at the hotel.