Disney has announced that Fantasmic won’t perform again until at least Spring 2024 at Disneyland. This post shares details of the news, how the nighttime spectacular will be modified when it returns to the Rivers of America, an update on evening entertainment, and our hopes for ‘Summer Nightastic’ next year.
According to the company, Disney is “working towards” bringing Fantasmic back in Spring 2024. Whenever the nighttime spectacular does return, it won’t include the dragon figure at first. However, it will feature new special effects and a thrilling new battle scene between Sorcerer Mickey and Maleficent.
Impacted performers and support Cast Members have been notified of the extended downtime and teams continue to work to bring back Fantasmic. As that continues, Disneyland has debuted nightly entertainment offerings on the Rivers of America. Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band is performing music on a New Orleans-themed themed raft. Disneyland has also promised more news soon about additional entertainment coming to New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America.
Disneyland officials released the following statement: “Our goal is to always deliver the best possible show for our guests. With that in mind, we are planning the return of ‘Fantasmic!’ with exciting new magic in spring 2024. As teams continue work on the show, we have launched nightly entertainment on the Rivers of America this summer and we are working on even more exciting entertainment offerings for our guests later this year.”
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.”
It’s not a huge surprise to that Fantasmic won’t return until 2024. The prior statement said Fantasmic would be on hiatus through at least Labor Day, and we cautioned against interpreting the above statement as meaning that Fantasmic will be back by Labor Day. More likely, it was 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.
More recently, Disneyland tipped its hand that Fantasmic would be absent during the entirety of the Halloween season when implying that Queenie and the Jambalaya Jazz Band would perform before Halloween Screams through October 31, 2023. (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.)
Beyond that, we wondered if Disneyland might push the return of Fantasmic into 2024 because it’s not “needed” during the popular Halloween and Christmas seasons, which will draw crowds regardless. By contrast, it will be needed next winter or spring, as pent-up demand is already starting to exhaust itself and could truly fall off a cliff at the start of next year.
Accordingly, deliberately delaying the return of even a modified Fantasmic could amount to a cost savings for the remainder of this fiscal year and the start of the next one. Not only that, but it being absent for almost a full calendar year could drive demand and interest when it does return. Sort of a way to make lemonade out of lemons for Disney.
We’re not saying that’s definitely what’s happening. We have no insight into the extent of the damage, how that impacts the nighttime spectacular outside of the climatic dragon fight scene, or the turnaround time for a modified version of the show. It’s not the least bit surprising that a new dragon won’t be ready even by Spring 2024.
However, it is a bit surprising that no version of Fantasmic could be performed by then. Which is why we’re assuming this delay is not entirely of necessity, but instead, a calculated move. That’s just a guess, though.
In all likelihood, the “new special effects and a thrilling new battle scene between Sorcerer Mickey and Maleficent” that’ll debut in Fantasmic in/around Spring 2024 is an enhanced b-mode, or equivalent to the climactic confrontation between the two in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of Fantasmic.
Disneyland’s statement implies that a new dragon is coming, but does not explicitly state as much. Our guess is that a bigger reveal is coming later, possibly at Destination D23 in September. We’d also guess that Disney will hold back everything new of import that’s coming to Fantasmic until that dragon debuts. The “new special effects” in Spring 2024 will likely be minor, and whatever’s needed to sell the b-mode climax.
Previously, Disneyland 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. Disneyland will likely need to invest tens of millions of dollars to rebuild the Murphy Dragon Audio Animatronics figure. Between that cost and the duration of downtime, our hope remains that they 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.
Florida’s new heroic moments sequence is so good and the whole process of seeing Fantasmic 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. With that in mind, here are my modified predictions for the return of Fantasmic…
It’s worth emphasizing that Disneyland’s statement does not commit to Spring 2024 for the return of a modified Fantasmic. Just that they are “working towards” it. Those are the same type of wiggle words they’ve used to push off the date previously. That’s precisely why we previously warned not to count on it being back for summer or by Labor Day.
In this case, we’re inclined to believe it’ll happen. For one thing, Spring 2024 is a pretty wide window–March 19 to June 20, 2024. For another, I really think this delay is at least partly strategic, and I also think they’ll need/want the nighttime spectacular back in some capacity sooner rather than later in 2024.
So my guess is that the b-mode Fantasmic returns before the official start of Spring 2024 and gets the park through what’s sure to be a busy month of March (Spring Break for LA/OC and Easter are all in March 2024–it’s going to be bonkers).
After that, I’d expect to see Fantasmic go dark again for a bit–probably in May 2024–to prepare for the reimagined version of the show with the new Maleficent Dragon AA. I’m far less confident in the timing of that prediction, as it’s largely dependent upon building, testing, and implementing the new AA, rather than strategic timing. May makes the most sense for the downtime from a crowds perspective, but that may not be feasible.
In any case, the logical target for a reimagined Fantasmic debuting at Disneyland would be May 24, 2024. Strong emphasis on target date. You only need read the saga of the Murphy Dragon AA from over a decade ago to realize the best laid plans often go awry. Likewise, recent summer offerings have been pushed to late June or early July.
As I’ve mentioned prior to this, my hope is that Disneyland pulls out the whole Summer Nightastic playbook from when that Murphy AA was supposed to debut. Make it a summer of spectaculars, anchored not just around a reimagined Fantasmic, but a variety of new and returning entertainment.
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 a Summer Nightastic ‘special event’ could be built. Add in other enhancements, and this could move the needle far more than Disney100 or other recent pushes.
Busting out some of the festival food booths and debuting a new cultural event back in Paradise Gardens would also be great. Viva Navidad and Lunar New Year have been huge successes; Disney should finally fulfill the decade-old promise of ‘small world’ celebrations. Southern California has a huge Japanese population (not to mention the visitors from Japan), and a Natsu Matsuri event would be hugely popular.
My personal wish list for such an event would also include an event on the Hollywood Backlot, such as a return of Glow Fest or elecTRONica at Disney California Adventure. (Personally, I think it was a missed opportunity to not bring back the latter this year for a bit of coast-to-coast synergy!) Back at Disneyland, an updated version of the “Remember… Dreams Come True!” fireworks would also be awesome.
Turning back to the announcement, Disneyland also teased additional entertainment coming to New Orleans Square and Rivers of America in the interim while Fantasmic is down. 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 less disappointed that Fantasmic won’t be returning until Spring 2024–we kind of expected that–and more so that when it finally does come back, it’ll be in b-mode. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to fathom that this is a “necessary” delay, and that a modified version of the nighttime spectacular couldn’t return earlier.
Regardless, I’d still rather see Disneyland focusing their attention on an enhanced and properly reimagined Fantasmic for 2024 as part of an all-new Summer Nightastic celebration. Obviously this is all speculation and wishful thinking on my part–and not credible rumor–but I really hope that’s how this plays out and Disneyland isn’t just stuck with a b-mode version of the old Fantasmic for the next several years. Here’s hoping that we hear something at Destination D23 about a spectacular summer in 2024–we’ll keep you posted!
What do you think about Disneyland delaying the return of Fantasmic until Spring 2024? Thoughts on the show not coming back even in b-mode until then? Hope that Disneyland is also working on a more ambitious reimagining or enhancements to Fantasmic for a ‘Summer Nightastic’ event next year? Thoughts on entertainment additions in the meantime? 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!