This viewing guide features tips & tricks for watching Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This covers the best & worst views, seating locations to see the nighttime spectacular, whether dining packages are worth the money, and suggestions for taking better photos of Walt Disney World’s best nighttime spectacular. (Updated May 23, 2023.)
For those unfamiliar with it, Fantasmic is a nighttime spectacular performed nightly in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After a multi-year hiatus, it was reimagined and reintroduced at the end of last year, and is now arguably the must-see nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World. Right up there with the iconic Happily Ever After fireworks that fill the sky above Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.
Another version of Fantasmic is also shown along the Rivers of America at Disneyland; the two are similar but sufficiently different that both are worth seeing. While Fantasmic includes pyro among its elements, it is not a conventional fireworks show. Instead, it’s more like a stage show at night, at an epic scale with wow-inducing wizardry, visuals, and performers.
There’s been some confusion about this, but the California closure does not impact Fantasmic at Walt Disney World in any way, shape, or form. Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is being presented 100% as normal, including all fire effects, Maleficent, and everything else. It’ll continue to be performed–hopefully with two showtimes–throughout Summer 2023.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Fantasmic is, for lack of a better term, an evening extravaganza. It combines various elements–fire, water projections, lasers, and fireworks–for a show that uses dreaming and the power of imagination as a jumping off point for montage scenes with various heroes and villains.
The latter characters turn Mickey’s dream into a nightmare, and the little mouse uses the power of his imagination to overcome them! The elaborate production also features dozens of live performers, massive sets, and rousing music to produce a larger-than-life show.
The premise of Fantasmic is that Mickey Mouse is fast asleep, dreaming of being the Sorcerer’s Apprentice with the power to control water, color and magic. This sets the stage for a series of scenes from other films, some of which Mickey Mouse appears inside, including Moana, Frozen 2, Mulan, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Beauty and the Beast, Little Mermaid, and the Lion King.
This takes a dark turn and becomes a nightmare fantasmic when the Evil Queen from Snow White conjures up some of Disney’s most dastardly villains, including Maleficent as a 40 foot tall fire-breathing dragon! He must then use the power of his imagination to bravely vanquish his foes and save the day–don’t underestimate the power of Mickey’s imagination!
For those who are familiar with Fantasmic but haven’t seen it since its return in 2022, a lot has changed. The nighttime spectacular has been reimagined with stunning new effects, upgraded audio & visual technology, and a brand-new heroes montage scene. This brings to life heroic moments from Moana, Mulan, Aladdin, Frozen 2, and Pocahontas. The heroes medley replaces an extended, all-Pocahontas scene, and is a huge upgrade.
Through this sequence, the audience goes on a journey with heroes, watching as they find the strength within themselves to push through in a truly spectacular way. The new heroes part features a high-energy Aladdin chase stunt session, 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. Without question, this is better than the Pocahontas standalone scene that it replaced.
Participating restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and dining package prices, which exclude tax and gratuity:
(ages 10 & up)
(Ages 9 & Under)
50’s Prime Time Cafe
Classic American comfort food, ’50s kitsch and a good old-fashioned family gathering take you back to a bygone era.
Hollywood & Vine
Celebrate breakfast with Disney Junior Stars or enjoy lunch and dinner with Minnie and friends at seasonal dining parties.
Breakfast: $54.00 Lunch & Dinner: $71.00
Breakfast: $36.00 Lunch & Dinner: $47.00
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano Mangia in the backlot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at this casual but colorful Italian eatery with a California twist.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
Do dinner and a show ’50s-style at our drive-in “theater,” featuring all-American cuisine and sci-fi movie clips.
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Step into the Golden Age of Hollywood at this warm, wood-paneled restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine.
In the past, we only recommended the Fantasmic Dining Package to those on the Disney Dining Plan, as there was no extra cost for it. It was a “free” bonus for those on the DDP. However, that’s in part because it was fairly easy to get a good spot for Fantasmic via standby, or a great spot via the free FastPass+ service.
Unfortunately, the Disney Dining Plan is still temporarily suspended, so obviously it’s not possible to get the Fantasmic dining package for “free” with the DDP right now. Moreover, FastPass+ has been permanently retired–and Fantasmic does not have a Genie+ Lightning Lane entrance (yet), so that’s also not an option.
All of this changes the equation, and makes us much more inclined to recommend paying out of pocket for the Fantasmic Dining Package. As far as recommendations go, our biggest advice is…NOT Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano!
Seriously, we really like all of the Fantasmic Dining Package restaurants except Mama Melrose, and all for different reasons. Hollywood Brown Derby is one of the few in-park Signature Restaurants, and it’s generally really good. Of course, it’s also far and away the most expensive, but that’s also true when paying out of pocket at the restaurant. So long as you order one of the $40+ entrees, Brown Derby is still a pretty good value via the Fantasmic Dining Package despite the higher cost.
We also really love both 50’s Prime Time Cafe and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. As noted above, the latter is the cheapest Fantasmic Dining Package, and the former is only a few dollars more expensive. We’ve said for years that you should disregard the negative reviews, as the experience at both restaurants is the star of the show. Both serve pretty good comfort food, too.
We also love the various Minnie’s Seasonal Dine options at Hollywood & Vine. While we cringe a bit at that $71 price for adults, we absolutely love Minnie’s Holiday Dine–as well as the Spring Time and Halloween options.
Hollywood & Dine is another restaurant that gets mixed reviews, with some Walt Disney World fans ardently opposed to it. To be sure, this is not the height of haute cuisine at Walt Disney World. It’s a character buffet. The food is familiar and comforting, and in no way whatsoever envelope-pushing, but generally good. We are big fans. (Overall, I think the table service ‘scene’ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t get nearly enough credit. It’s no World Showcase, but almost everything offers something worthwhile.)
Not everyone will have the vacation budget or time to do the Fantasmic Dining Package. Table service meals are expensive and, equally as important, time-consuming. On top of that, availability is exceeding limited for the Fantasmic Dining Package, with exponentially more demand than there is supply. As a result, many visitors who do want to book the Fantasmic Dining Package will not be able to do so.
Which brings us to the other viewing options for Fantasmic at Walt Disney World.
Let’s start with whether you should catch the first or second performance of Fantasmic. On nights when there’s only one showing of Fantasmic, that’s the one you’ll do (obviously). Pretty open and shut recommendation.
While you can line up to see Fantasmic up to 90 minutes in advance, we recommend showing up around 30-45 minutes in advance if there’s only one showing of Fantasmic. You won’t get a great seat, but most views in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater are “good enough.”
By arriving at least 30 minutes before showtime, you should get a spot that is not in the far left or right second. (During peak season travel dates–the weeks of Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Presidents’ Day, Mardi Gras, Easter, Spring Break, July 4th, etc–consider arriving earlier.)
On nights when there are two showtimes of Fantasmic, it’s common for the second one to occur at park closing or 30 minutes after. If the second showtime is at or after park closing, you should see the second one. It’ll effectively extend your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 30 minutes to an hour, which is more than you’ll get by jumping in line for a ride at the end of the night.
Equally as important, we’ve managed to see the second showing of Fantasmic from spectacular seats without arriving more than 5 minutes in advance of showtime. This has been the case even on evenings when the first performance was quite busy and seats filled up 30 minutes before showtime.
On those same busier days, the late performances of Fantasmic had multiple entire sections that went unfilled. I was able to snag the third row of a great section at (literally) 2 minutes before showtime, and that was on a busy day. We’ve done this repeatedly in 2023, including during the peak of spring break–and we’ll be trying it again this summer and holiday season when there are (presumably) multiple showtimes again.
If there are two showings of Fantasmic and the second is scheduled for 30 minutes or more before park closing (this pretty much only happens in the winter), we’d recommend seeing the first showing! This is despite it always being the more crowded of the two. Other planning resources, like the above, are going to recommend seeing the second show for the exact same reason–the second showing is always less popular.
During the second showing of Fantasmic, the rest of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is also significantly less crowded. This allows you to knock out headliner attractions with minimal wait–we’re talking posted wait times under an hour for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Slinky Dog Dash, with actual wait times typically around half of what’s posted.
Now let’s turn to where to sit for the best view of Fantasmic. At Walt Disney World, this is pretty simple. Fantasmic’s viewing area is set up like a normal stage show, with the action taking place mostly on a stage, and in the water in front of that stage.
The seating area is literally an amphitheater, with benches for seating. My preference is as close to center as possible, and near the front, but not all the way at the front. Roughly 3 to 10 rows back, give or take. Personally, I like to be a few rows back to have clearance over the handrail for photos and also to be on a straight-plane with the main stage. That’s probably splitting hairs a bit too much, though.
I don’t like being much farther back than 10 rows. The Hollywood Hills Amphitheater is absolutely colossal, and the farther back you get, the more impersonal the venue feels. Being closer doesn’t just put you closer to the action–it makes the show feel more immersive. This is one of the big strengths of the Disneyland version, which is often described as intimate as a result. (Much like the park itself.)
It’s impossible to replicate that feeling at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as the venue is not an organic part of the park. However, the upside is that it’s a lot easier to watch Fantasmic at DHS and the crowd for the nighttime spectacular does not impact the rest of the park. In my opinion, you can come pretty close to having that sense of intimacy and immersiveness by getting a good seat close to center stage.
Speaking of which, Hollywood Hills Amphitheater seats 6,900 guests with additional standing room for about 3,000 guests. That should put into context the size of the venue, which is like a small (half) stadium.
The nearly 10,000 person capacity is massive number–larger than how many guests can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from Main Street–and one that allows a good percentage of all guests in Disney’s Hollywood Studios to see Fantasmic–especially when it has two nightly performances. By that time of the night, there typically are not that many guests still around in DHS, so the second show seldom fills up the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater.
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, front and center should be pretty easy to locate. Note that in the very front row will get you wet, and slightly off-center is no problem. As of Fantasmic’s return in Late 2022, the Sorcerer Mickey and Scar sections are reserved for the Fantasmic Dining Packages. Without a doubt, these are the best views of the show.
However, they are not the only great views. Just as good as the Scar section is the Pocahontas section, especially the seats towards the Sorcerer Mickey side. The case could be made that Pocahontas is ever-so-slightly superior to Scar in terms of the view of center-stage.
It’s also worth noting that not all of the action occurs on the center-stage. To the extent that there are off-center scenes, these occur disproportionately to the Sebastian section side. That also makes this a great section, especially if you’re a fan of Moana or want a great view of Mickey during the climactic battle sequence.
Honestly, though, don’t overthink it. These are my personal preferences as an obsessive photographer who aims for the perfect conditions and viewing angles. For 95% of guests, any view is going to be a great view, and Fantasmic will impress regardless.
As such, my more “mainstream” advice is to arrive early enough so that you’re not seated far back, or in the far left or right (Hades/Beast and Ursula/Witch) sections. Every other viewing area is great, and I’d personally trade a slightly off-center view for a view that’s closer to the stage.
Overall, Fantasmic is an excellent nighttime spectacular and the perfect way to end a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It has always been a not-to-be-missed experience at Walt Disney World, but that’s truer than ever thanks to the new heroes sequence and improved effects. Even if it means spending more for the dining package or committing time to securing a spot via standby, Fantasmic is worth it.
What’s your favorite viewing section for Fantasmic in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater? Prefer Sorcerer Mickey, Scar, Pocahontas…or some other section? Do you typically do the dining package, standby, or have a different strategy for seeing the show? Bummed that there’s no virtual queue or Genie+ for Fantasmic at DHS? Would it be worth the surcharge to guarantee that you’ll have a good spot in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater to see Fantasmic? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? 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!