Disneyland has announced that the Jambalaya Jazz will be taking their show to the Rivers of America, with guest-favorite Queenie returning to the band as act adds evening entertainment near New Orleans Square. This post shares the dates & details, plus an update on nighttime spectaculars including fireworks and Fantasmic.
For starters, Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band will perform each evening on a New Orleans-themed raft as they float down the Rivers of America. The group will perform high-energy New Orleans tunes, plus other Disney favorites. There will be three sets of performances beginning at 7:35 p.m. nightly, with showtimes and full details in the Disneyland app.
Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band will begin appearing on the Rivers of America on Friday, July 21, 2023. No end date is currently set for their performances, but Disneyland previously announced that there would be alternative entertainment for the summer season in the absence of Fantasmic. However, unlike other summer entertainment, we have reason to believe that Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band will perform beyond August 31, 2023.
This is because Disneyland also shared that after the energetic and interactive performances of Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band, guests can stick around the Rivers of America to enjoy “Wondrous Journeys” (through August 31) or “Halloween Screams” (through October 31, 2023) with state-of-the-art projection effects, plus sparkling fireworks on select nights from the unique vantage point on the Rivers of America.
Enjoying the fireworks from the Rivers of America isn’t really news, but it is notable that Disneyland is indicating you can watch Halloween Screams after performances of Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band. What’s unclear is whether Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band will perform through at least October 31, or if that parenthetical date is only relevant to the Halloween Screams fireworks.
This also has likely implications for Fantasmic. Disneyland’s last statement about Fantasmic came shortly before Memorial Day: “Our goal is to always deliver the best possible show for our guests. With that in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to put Fantasmic! on hiatus through at least Labor Day. Teams are actively exploring alternate entertainment offerings for guests this summer and we look forward to sharing more soon.”
Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band on the Rivers of America is part of that alternative entertainment in lieu of Fantasmic. Not only that, but both happen on the Rivers of America, meaning it’s one or the other–not both. If Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band are performing through at least October 31, Fantasmic isn’t.
It’s not a huge surprise to us that Fantasmic won’t return before Halloween. Previously, we cautioned against interpreting the above statement as meaning that Fantasmic will be back by Labor Day. More likely, it seemed like the absolute earliest date that Fantasmic could conceivably return, and probably not even the full or normal version of the show. Judging by the nature and extent of the fire damage, it’s likely that the Murphy Audio Animatronics figure of Maleficent will be missing for far longer.
At the very least, the Maleficent dragon scene is likely going to be presented in b-mode when Fantasmic does return–if Fantasmic is back in 2023. Whether that ends up being a mist screen (likely at first) or a “dragon on a stick” (possible within a few weeks) remains to be seen. At this point, we honestly would not be surprised if Disneyland just decides to delay the return of Fantasmic until 2024.
This is because Disneyland also indicated that Disney’s creative entertainment team is using Fantasmic’s downtime to evaluate the nighttime spectacular and “explore opportunities to add new magic and touches” for guests to enjoy.
If the show needs to remain dark for multiple months or if Disneyland had to invest tens of millions of dollars to rebuild the Murphy Dragon AA, it’s likely that Disneyland will go a step further and introduce a reimagined version of the show.
Another big update to Fantasmic at Disneyland during the downtime makes sense. Disney literally just reimagined the Walt Disney World version of Fantasmic, and did so with great success and an incredibly positive guest reception. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the recently-returned Fantasmic features an all-new sequence that brings to life heroic moments from Disney stories such as Moana, Mulan, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Pocahontas.
Since its return, I’ve seen Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios more times than I had in the prior decade combined. We now make a point of ending every day at DHS by seeing Fantasmic, even if that means choosing the nighttime spectacular over a last-minute ride on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
The Walt Disney World and Disneyland versions have very different strengths and weaknesses, and are almost incomparable as a result, but frankly, I’d rather watch the Walt Disney World one at this point. The new heroic moments sequence is so good and the whole process of seeing the show in the amphitheater is so much easier, that I’d give the edge to the Walt Disney World show from a combined quality and practicality perspective. (I love the way Disneyland’s Fantasmic has a more ‘organic’ viewing area, but it was a hassle to see last year and should’ve had a virtual queue like World of Color.)
Point being, Disneyland could cherry pick the best elements of the heroic moments additions and once again have the more pronounced edge. It’s also likely that the company wants to promote its newer characters from Frozen, Moana, and other movies. An Encanto segment would also make sense.
It also makes sense to reimagine Fantasmic from a PR perspective. It’s not exactly marketable to bring back Fantasmic and say, “we built the dragon that we accidentally burned down–locals, come check out the thing you’ve already seen many times!” By contrast, a reimagined Fantasmic with new scenes or other enhancements does give Disneyland something to promote and it will draw locals and Disneyland diehards.
Disneyland could do a whole promotional campaign with merchandise, special menus, popcorn buckets, sipper cups–basically pull a page from the Main Street Electrical parade playbook. Now that we know the Disney100 celebration will end at EPCOT on December 31, 2023–after only 3 months–it seems like a safe assumption that the 100 Years of Wonder will also wrap up this calendar year at Disneyland.
With attendance starting to slow as revenge travel dies down, Disney will need a promotional push for 2024. Sure, there’s Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, and we remain optimistic that ride reimagining will be fantastic. However, that isn’t coming until late 2024 (hopefully!) at the earliest, and it’s unclear whether it’ll move the needle on vacation bookings to the same degree as an all-new attraction.
There’s a whole spring and summer season before it debuts, not to mention at least 2 years after it opens with no major marketable new attractions. Given Disney construction speeds, there’s a whole lotta nothing outside of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure between now and 2026 (the earliest a new land or attraction could conceivably open if announced today).
The solution will likely be entertainment. After years of rumors and wishful thinking, perhaps 2024 will finally be the year that Paint the Night returns instead of Main Street Electrical Parade. It’s been a while, but that’s still sitting in storage and has the Incredibles float that was added for Pixar Fest in Summer 2018. That version of the parade only ran for one season, and hasn’t been seen since.
Paint the Night over at Disney California Adventure and a reimagined Fantasmic at Disneyland could be a formidable combination around which a marketing campaign and spring/summer ‘special event’ could be built. Add in other enhancements, and this could move the needle far more than Disney100 or other recent pushes.
Turning back to the official announcement, in addition to Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band, Disneyland also teased additional entertainment coming to New Orleans Square. Previously, we floated the following ideas: “a jazz band on the Mark Twain and do nighttime cruises…deck out the Sailing Ship Columbia as the Flying Dutchman and do eerie evening voyages.”
I still think both of those would be awesome (and viable), but I’ll throw in a third that I must not have remembered at the time: New Orleans Bayou Bash. This was an awesome celebration back in Spring 2012 that featured unique character costumes, live music, and a Mardi Gras-inspired cavalcade. It’d be a great way to build excitement for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and provide much-needed entertainment. Win-win!
Ultimately, we’re happy to see that Disneyland is adding summer entertainment–even if it did take way longer than expected. We’re also pleased that they’re not dragging out Main Street Electrical Parade yet again. (It was nice to see it last year, but it’s too soon for another farewell tour.) Hopefully the teased entertainment coming to New Orleans Square will be good and ambitious, too.
Honestly, though, we’re more interested in what this means for Fantasmic. It sure sounds like Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band will be performing past the summer season, which almost necessarily means no Fantasmic. That’ll undoubtedly disappoint a lot of tourists, and understandably so. Personally, I’d rather see Disneyland focusing their attention on an enhanced and properly reimagined Fantasmic for 2024 as part of an all-new celebration, rather than worrying about producing (and executing) a b-mode version while also reimagining the nighttime spectacular.
What are your thoughts on Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band coming to the Rivers of America? Think Fantasmic will be dark past Labor Day? Think the nighttime spectacular will return in 2023 at all, or will Disney save it for 2024? Hope that it returns in b-mode, or would you prefer that Disneyland takes more time to give it a more ambitious reimagining or enhancements? Thoughts on entertainment additions in the meantime for Summer 2023? Do you agree or disagree with our perspective? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!