Fantasmic Returns to Hollywood Studios in November 2022

Walt Disney World just announced that Fantasmic will return to Hollywood Studios in November 2022. 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. It should help address attendance and Park Hopping dynamics, redistributing guests more evenly throughout the day at DHS. (This was a big problem last year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and again this year during spring break.)

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.

The return of Fantasmic is long overdue. There was a point early last year when a heavily-modified Fantasmic was rumored to be the first nighttime spectacular to reopen at Walt Disney World. That was in the “era” of physical distancing and more stringent safety protocol, and fizzled out for a few reasons.

Since then, EPCOT and Magic Kingdom both had their first fireworks shows return…and both got new nighttime spectaculars for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary last October. Almost a full year ago.

Even earlier this year, there were plans to bring back Fantasmic this summer. Various long-passed major holidays were all internal targets, with countless false starts. At the beginning of last month, rehearsals for Fantasmic began with the intention of opening Fantasmic this month. A specific date was even set internally, but slipped yet again.

All of this is the backdrop to explain why Walt Disney World is only teasing on social media that Fantasmic will return in November 2022. There’s no specific date because they haven’t been able to nail one down with 100% certainty, and after so many past issues, that’s probably the smart move. (Had the date been announced at the D23 Expo, as we expected, Walt Disney World would’ve been forced to postpone it.)

For those who haven’t been closing tracking the saga of Fantasmic’s return, Walt Disney World revealed details about changes coming to the beloved nighttime spectacular. The original teaser indicated that Fantasmic would incorporate an all-new sequence featuring live performers, stunts, special effects and more.

Tom Vazzana, Show Director with Walt Disney World Creative Entertainment shared the work his team had been doing on Fantasmic. In a burst of excitement, he said: “This segment will bring hope and joy to your heart in a scene that you are not going to believe. I can’t wait to tell you more about it…but I can’t. So we’ll just move on.” While all of this was about a year ago, it all remains accurate to the best of our knowledge.

The inclusion of details from Aladdin, Moana, and Frozen is the teaser poster released last year was deliberate and notable. When Fantasmic returns in November 2022, it’ll feature characters from all three films in the core show.

It would be odd for a single scene featuring these disparate properties–but it’s probably not a single scene. The part that’s being replaced is almost certainly 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 segments.

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 in November 2022, especially if it means a better version of the show. What would be a really nice surprise is if Vazzana and co. also managed to convince the misers who hold the pursestrings to give us a new dragon. He’d need to be a bona fide walk-on-water miracle worker to make that happen, though!

With those details out of the way, there are a couple of big questions we have heard (or wonder ourselves). The first is whether the “reimagined” Fantasmic will be the full show or a modified/scaled back version. In terms of duration, my expectation is that the new Fantasmic is equivalent to the old version, but with the aforementioned scenes replacing much of the old Pocahontas segment.

Beyond that, it’s always possible that the number of performers, especially equity positions, are reduced. That seems to be one of Walt Disney World’s default moves. Regardless of the reason, entertainment had reduced around Walt Disney World even pre-closure, so it’s not like this is anything new.

In fairness, even if Walt Disney World wanted to bring back the full Fantasmic, shortages of performers might preclude it. Walt Disney World has struggled to bring back character meals and meet & greets have been perpetually understaffed in the last few months. We’ve seen this especially at Magic Kingdom, which appears to have reallocated resources from the Town Square meet & greet to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

These staffing shortages are not for lack of effort. This is especially true with meals, which directly generate revenue. While Fantasmic is slightly different as an equity-driven production, it would be unsurprising to see the same underlying issues also exist there.

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 question we’ve heard is whether Walt Disney World will bring back Fantasmic dining packages.

In our view, Fantasmic dining packages are almost a foregone conclusion. They 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 for November and December. A few readers have inquired about this, and when spot-checking myself, I’ve found similarly “suspicious” results.

It’s true that those two months are going to be incredibly busy–and are popular months for ADR bookings–but it just ‘feels’ like something more is happening. This could be a simple matter of confirmation bias since I’m expecting Fantasmic dining packages, but that’s my take. For what it’s worth, the same phenomenon was observable with EPCOT restaurant ADR availability prior to the Candlelight Processional dining packages being announced. So…draw your own conclusions!

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. It’s really hard to say.

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 narrow its return date down to November 2022.

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What do you think about this news that Fantasmic will return to Walt Disney World in November 2022? Disappointed that it won’t be back this month, or just happy it’s coming back by Christmas? Excited for the new Moana, Frozen, and Aladdin scenes? Or do 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!


25 Responses to “Fantasmic Returns to Hollywood Studios in November 2022”
  1. Ina October 15, 2022
  2. Dana Irwin October 14, 2022

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