After multiple delays, Disney has announced the return date for Fantasmic in 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 more.
As you might recall, Maleficent the Dragon (also known as Murphy) erupted into flames during a performance of Fantasmic on April 22, 2023. Although the fire was put out relatively quickly and not guests or Cast Members were injured, the dragon was completely destroyed and damage was done to the lift mechanism and other aspects of the stage. The nighttime spectacular was also pulled from the calendar through Memorial Day.
Disneyland then released the following statement 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.”
Then later this summer came another statement from Disneyland: “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.”
The latest statement from Disneyland comes on November 9, 2023: “At a Fantasmic cast meeting earlier this week, we announced that the show will return on May 24. We look forward to providing more information about Fantasmic in the coming months, but for now this is all we have to share.”
During that meeting with Cast Members, management reported indicated that there will be major modifications to Fantasmic when it returns, including a new climactic encounter between Sorcerer Mickey and Maleficent. Additionally, the full-scale Maleficent Dragon (or Murphy 2.0 since a new one needs to be built) won’t appear when Fantasmic returns.
So there you have it–a modifiedFantasmic will return on May 24, 2024. That’s over one year since it was last performed, and a couple of seasons after the previously-teased tentative returns.
None of this is a huge surprise–it’s pretty consistent with what we’ve been reporting all along. 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.
We’ve wondered whether Disneyland had pushed the return of Fantasmic into 2024 because it’s not “needed” during the popular Halloween and Christmas seasons, which will draw crowds regardless. It’s impossible to say for sure, but I would say Fantasmic returning in May 2024 without Maleficent the Dragon answers that.
Accordingly, deliberately delaying the return of even a modified Fantasmic could amount to a cost savings for the end of the last fiscal year and the first half of 2024. 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 to the stage and infrastructure, how that impacts the nighttime spectacular outside of the climatic dragon fight scene, or the turnaround time for a modified version of the show.
However, it is a bit surprising that no version of Fantasmic could be performed before the end of May 2024 and that when it returns, it’ll still be in modified form. Which is why we’re assuming this delay is not entirely of necessity, but instead, a calculated move. That’s just a guess, though.
If this delay were out of necessity, it also stands to reason that Disneyland could’ve brought out alternative major evening entertainment months ago. There are two nighttime parades sitting in storage, and plenty of other options. (To their credit, they have added a couple of things to the Rivers of America, but none of those qualify as major.)
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 the D23 Expo in Summer 2024. 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 May 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.
Ultimately, we’re not disappointed that Fantasmic won’t be returning until May 24, 2024. To the contrary, that was the exact date we previously predicted the nighttime spectacular would return. However, our prediction was for that to be the debut of a fully reimagined Fantasmic, with Murphy 2.0. We expected the b-mode show to be back several months before then, so it is disappointing that Disneyland is (seemingly) delaying the return of even that to saving the operating expenses.
Beyond that, I’d also love to 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. We’ll keep you posted!
What do you think about the return of Fantasmic on May 24, 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!