Walt Disney World just announced the return date of Fantasmic and dining packages to Hollywood Studios! This post shares details, what to expect with Genie+ and dining packages, and commentary about how this will change the crowd dynamic at DHS this fall and Christmas season.
Fantasmic is the last major nighttime spectacular to return to Walt Disney World, and will be a welcome addition to the entertainment lineup heading into the busy holiday season that essentially kicks off Veterans’ Day weekend. It should help address attendance and Park Hopping dynamics, redistributing guests more evenly throughout the day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Within the last few months, the reimagined Finding Nemo: the Musical debuted Theater in the Wild and the full Festival of the Lion King returned to Animal Kingdom. The former was a big addition that changed attendance (and wait time) trends at DAK, making it less of a half-day park. As we’ll discuss in the commentary, we’re expecting an even bigger impact at Disney’s Hollywood Studios thanks to the return of Fantasmic.
Fantasmic returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on November 3, 2022.
Here’s the official announcement from Walt Disney World: “Back and better than ever, the larger-than-life, open-air nighttime musical will boast the live performers, stunning effects, rousing music and dazzling pyrotechnics you know and love – complete with a brand-new show sequence!”
The return of Fantasmic! will include the debut of an all-new sequence that will bring to life heroic moments from Disney stories such as “Moana,” “Mulan,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas,” and “Frozen 2.”
“Through this entire sequence, we go on a journey with our heroes. We see them faced with a decision, and how hard that can be for them, then watch as they find that strength within themselves to push through in a truly spectacular way,” says Disney Live Entertainment Show Director, Matthew Hamel.
The new heroes sequence features a high-energy Aladdin chase with stunts never before seen on the “Fantasmic!” stage, a powerful scene with Elsa set to the song “Show Yourself” that is sure to thaw the most frozen of hearts, and stirring moments with Pocahontas, Moana and Mulan.
Fantasmic Fun Facts:
Fantasmic! originally opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on October 15, 1998.
The show features animation and characters from more than 25 films.
The moat surrounding the Fantasmic! island stage contains 1.9 million gallons of water.
Maleficent, in dragon form, is the final villain that Mickey Mouse battles, and she stands 40-feet tall.
In addition to Maleficent, 10 other villains appear in the show.
In the finale, Mickey Mouse and 35 other characters appear on a steamboat inspired by the one seen in “Steamboat Willie,”
Located off Sunset Boulevard, the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater seats 6,900 guests with additional standing room for about 3,000 guests.
To help choreograph the authentic Chinese martial arts you’ll see in Mulan’s scene, the creative team brought in Mimi Chan – the original muse and model animators used when bringing the character of Mulan to life for the 1998 animated film.
“We know this show means so much to people, and we’ve kept that in mind every step of this journey.” says Disney Live Entertainment Producer, Laurice Marier. “Even beyond the new scene, we’ve taken this time to upgrade the lasers, the lighting, the sound, all to bring this show back even more beautiful than it’s ever been. We’re all really just so excited for guests to see it.”
“It was extremely exciting to take advantage of technological enhancements that didn’t originally exist when the show opened in 1998,” says Katrina Mena Rick, broadcast creative producer for Disney Live Entertainment. “So, we [worked] with other disciplines such as special effects, lighting, lasers and music to ensure that our visual content was as exactly seamless and as beautiful as it could be.”
“Bringing back Fantasmic! here at Disney’s Hollywood Studios means so much to our guests,” says Mena Rick. “It was a task to not only preserve the legacy of the show but also introduce new characters for the next generation.”
“Fantasmic! is a show that will take you on a journey to see so many characters, so many villains and heroes,” says Melanie Gagne, entertainment proprietor for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. “It’s one of our biggest shows, and many guests will plan their day or their entire vacation around Fantasmic!
Fantasmic! will be performed nightly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Guests can enter the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater up to 90 minutes prior to the show’s start. Since it is an outdoor venue, the show is subject to cancellation due to inclement weather. Showtimes are subject to change.
Walt Disney World also revealed that Fantasmic dining packages will be released for select restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios starting on October 26, 2022. These dining packages will only be available for performances November 30, 2022 and beyond.
Offering Fantasmic dining packages makes perfect sense. Fantasmic has a huge seating area, dining packages generate revenue, and there’s plenty of precedent for their return. Just look at Candlelight Processional or other EPCOT festival entertainment.
On top of that, I’m reasonably confident that Disney’s Hollywood Studios has held back Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) availability during the holiday season. A few readers have inquired about this, and when spot-checking myself, I’ve found similarly “suspicious” results.
Next, there’s the question of whether the nighttime spectacular will join the Genie+ lineup. Currently, no evening entertainment is part of paid FastPass at Walt Disney World. DHS could definitely use more capacity for the Genie+ service, so it would make sense. It’d also likely be easier to implement than reserved viewing for Harmonious at EPCOT.
Still, we could see that one going either way. Genie+ requires staffing, and also theoretically cuts into dining package sales. So Disney might hold off on introducing it until after the holiday season.
My guess is that Fantasmic is included in the Genie+ service. Fantasmic dining packages are going to sell out in minutes, regardless, so the added capacity and sales of Genie+ during the peak periods around Veterans’ Day, Jersey Week, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. is more valuable to Walt Disney World than “juicing” dining package sales that won’t need any help selling, anyway. But that’s just a guess.
There’s also the question of how many times Fantasmic will be shown each evening. While Walt Disney World has given no word on the number of nightly performances per evening, our guess is two during the holiday season.
Not only is there a ton of pent-up demand for Fantasmic, but now there’s no nighttime spectacular in Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will close early multiple times per week for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If at all possible, DHS will need two performances of Fantasmic through the rest of this year (ideally, through January 8, 2023) to help absorb crowds.
The last holiday season that Fantasmic was shown pre-closure, it’s normal nightly performance times were 9:00 pm and 10:30 pm. That was during the initial opening period for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, when Disney’s Hollywood Studios kept unprecedented park hours.
Currently, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is scheduled to close at 9 pm nightly during the Christmas season. It would make a lot of sense to extend that until 10 pm, and have Fantasmic performances at around 8 pm and 10 pm. Even if hours aren’t extended, Fantasmic could still do showtimes of 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm with the earlier winter sunset time. (I’m putting 2 hours between showtimes rather than the normal 90 minutes, as I suspect Disney will need a bit more turnaround time at first–but all of this is simply spitballing on my part.)
Now, let’s turn to commentary about show changes and crowds.
As previously discussed, the new heroes segment is expected to replace the extended Pocahontas scene, which has a runtime of approximately 82 minutes (longer than the movie!). While that’s probably a slight exaggeration, the Pocahontas portion is lengthy—long enough for multiple replacement scenes.
The Walt Disney World version of the nighttime spectacular has always felt inferior to Disneyland’s, and one big reason why is the Pocahontas part that drags and dates Florida’s Fantasmic. It would be like if this show debuted in the mid-aughts and still featured a lengthy scene based on Meet the Robinsons (sorry, fans of that—but it’s no classic) despite the promotional window for that film closing long ago.
One of my go-to “dad jokes” is calling the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version Pocahontasmic! I will happily retire that feeble attempt at humor once Fantasmic 2.0 debuts on November 3, 2022–especially if it means a better version of the show. What would be a really nice surprise is if the creative team behind Fantasmic also managed to convince the misers who hold the pursestrings to give us a new dragon. There have been rumblings about a lot of changes to Fantasmic 2.0, but that is NOT one of them, so don’t hold your breath.
Walt Disney World has directly addressed questions about Fantasmic’s duration, indicating the reimagined nighttime spectacular will be 29 minutes, which is actually 3 minutes longer than the old version of the show was, pre-closure.
That is absolutely wonderful to hear! It’s also somewhat of a surprise, as other stage shows have “trimmed the fat” from their runtimes in an effort to increase guest satisfaction while also reducing labor costs. Going in the opposite direction with Fantasmic is really refreshing.
Our expectation is that even though Fantasmic 2.0 is longer, this version of the show will ‘feel’ tighter and better structured with the heroes segment replacing the Pocahontas portion, which really dragged down the show to a snail’s pace. If the Disney Heroes segment lives up to its full potential, it’ll fly by!
The next question concerns crowd dynamics. Without question, this will alter the attendance distribution at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’ll also impact evenings at EPCOT.
For the last couple years, wait times at DHS have peaked in the morning—before any other park. They’ve fallen sharply in late afternoon, with the last couple hours being blissful.
While Genie+ already has pushed crowds later into the day, this will change that even more significantly. Fantasmic will keep people at Disney’s Hollywood Studios much later into the evening. Wait times won’t drop until shortly before seatings begin, meaning 2-3 hours before park closing will still see elevated wait times.
The upside to this comes for those who didn’t previously stay late. More guests should arrive at DHS later in the day, meaning more time in the morning when wait times remain low. Midday will still be busy, but the park won’t be totally bonkers by 10 am.
With that said, it won’t be purely a redistribution of existing crowds at DHS. It’s likely the park will have its capacity cap increased as a result of this new dynamic. Even if it doesn’t, more people will Park Hop to DHS, instead of the current evening exodus.
The upside there comes for visitors to EPCOT and, to a lesser extent, Magic Kingdom. No longer will those parks pull disproportionate numbers of Park Hoppers from both Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Instead, three parks will pull hopping guests from Animal Kingdom—almost exactly how things worked preclosure.
Another dynamic that we’d expect to end is Disney’s Hollywood Studios being the (subjectively) best destination for day guests of Magic Kingdom on party nights. We’ve mentioned several times that DHS has been our go-to park after a morning in Magic Kingdom on dates when Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is held. For whatever reason, DHS has had lower crowds and surprisingly good Lightning Lane availability.
Do not expect that trend to continue on or after November 3, 2022 when Fantasmic returns. Instead, our expectation is that DHS becomes the go-to park for day guests of Magic Kingdom without event tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Ultimately, we’re still really excited for the return of Fantasmic. It brings life to the evenings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and is a true nighttime spectacular. It has also needed a refresh for a long time, as the DHS version has felt stuck in the 1990s while Disneyland has continued to iterate and improve upon its version of Fantasmic.
Then there’s the practical perspective. Fantasmic will be returning just ahead of the peak holiday tourist time at Walt Disney World, and will be hugely helpful to absorbing crowds, especially since Disney’s Hollywood Studios has issues with attendance distribution throughout the day and problems with people bouncing from DHS to Epcot for Harmonious. Nightly performances of Fantasmic would solve all of that. It might be overdue news that’s been delayed a few too many times, but it’s nice to know that Fantasmic will return on November 3, 2022!
What do you think about this news that Fantasmic will return to Walt Disney World on November 3, 2022? Disappointed that it won’t be back this month, or just happy it’s coming back by Christmas? Excited for the new Disney Heroes segment featuring Moana, Frozen, and Aladdin? Or did you enjoy the extended Pocahontas edition? Are you actually disappointed by the return of Fantasmic, preferring to enjoy relatively uncrowded evenings at DHS? 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!