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Disneyland debuts its Nightastic summer show line-up

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Published: June 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Disneyland's hoping that three refurbished night-time shows can help pack its parks this summer, with no new attraction to offer Southern California's theme park fans.

Disney's branded the effort "Summer Nightastic" and last night previewed the shows to invited reporters, a slew of guests and a horde of people who know someone who works at some media outlet.

Ultimately, ticket deals, such as the current three-day park-hopper for $99, promise to do more to boost attendance to the park Theme Park Insider readers ranked the world's best last summer. But fresh attention to classics such as the original Fantasmic should encourage most theme park fans, and would be a welcomed addition to Disneyland's line-up.

So to that, let's score Disneyland at two out of three. A movie-driven soundtrack and the soaring vocals of former Disneyland cast member (and Broadway star) Eden Espinosa elevate Magical among Disney's best efforts in fireworks shows.

And a fresh recording of the Baroque Hoedown, along with a new Tinkerbell float, the return of the Snow White and Pinocchio units, and enhanced lighting effects, breathe life into Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade.

Tinkerbell's float in Disney's Electrical Parade

But Disney struck out on Fantasmic, as on-going technical problems with a new version of the Maleficent dragon robbed Disneyland's premier live show of its fire-breathing climax.

I spoke with Doug McIntyre, Disneyland's Director Development and Production, at the end of the evening and he rejected claims that the new dragon unit had suffered extensive physical damage during testing for Fantasmic.

"We've had a tough couple of weeks, to be honest with you," McIntyre said. "We were about seven weeks behind in the build process, got to test and adjust process and had an issue." Despite repeated questioning, McIntyre would not say what the issue was, except to dispute rumors that the unit's head had fallen off or that it had broken into pieces.

"It's 45 feet tall, wingspan of 32 feet, has 18 different animation axes of motion in it and takes five computers to run it," McIntyre said. "It's a beast."

McIntyre said that the dragon failed during its programming, and producers will need to finish programming it once repairs are complete. [Reading between the lines of McIntyre's comments about the development timeline for the dragon, we're looking at weeks, not days, until it is ready to debut.] Based upon initial movement in early programming though, McIntyre remains optimistic that Maleficent will wow audiences when it is ready.

"It's the most stunning, fully realized staged Disney character that I've ever seen done."

Disneyland also debuted its "new" Tomorrowland Terrace concept, TLT Dance Club, with a concert by Disney Channel B-lister Mitchel Musso. Personally, I love seeing live bands return to the Tomorrowland Terrace stage, and hope that Disney will be more aggressive about booking acts that will elicit the fan reaction that Musso did last night.

Mitchel Musso performs at Disneyland

Disney's got a huge stable of acts, and there's, um, "No Doubt" that Orange County's produced some top bands as well. (Forgive me.) I'd love to see the next generation at Disneyland, on their way up.

Nightastic starts tonight and runs through August 23, a relatively short run for Disney's summer season. But McIntyre hinted strongly that Magical would return next summer (and that Disney might have a new fireworks show for Halloween), so that won't be the last we see of this trio of shows.

Now, if only Maleficent would find her inner dragon and show up.

Readers' Opinions

From Anthony Murphy on June 12, 2009 at 1:24 PM
there is also some kind of Video thing you can do at home where the castle and the dragon can be in your hand.
From 76.91.80.77 on June 12, 2009 at 8:37 PM
i always wondered why themeparks dont offer concerts of big bands, especially disney, they could pull of great concerts. a few years they would bring abc cast over to DCA. another good way to bring in more people and promote their products.
From Wok Creative on June 12, 2009 at 10:00 PM
Mitchel Musso - B-lister? A little harsh. He seems to be doing pretty well for himself so far. New maybe, but not really b-list.
From Robert Niles on June 13, 2009 at 10:57 AM
Miley Cyrus, Jonas Brothers and the High School Musical crew are the A list. Selena Gomez is approaching that level. I can't put Mitchel among them just yet, though I am certain Disney will be doing its very best to elevate him to that level.
From rick stevens on June 13, 2009 at 11:17 AM
They had concerts in the 70's usually cover bands. We would go to DL during the day then danced in the evening when the stage arose. They had 4 different groups on Grad Night in '74 (dating myself).
From Ben James on June 14, 2009 at 11:34 AM
While I am sure the re-invigorated and more impressive dragon will only help Fantasmic. I am not a fan of the new fireworks display. RDCT really used the castle and park for that matter to put on a memorable show. I think Disney outdid themselves with that display. And, I know that they eventually had to retire it but, I would have kept it til someone higher up got to see and approve a new and better show.
From 204.128.192.3 on June 15, 2009 at 2:00 PM
Contrary to what Doug McIntyre says, the dragon actually did break because of a "hard stop"....this is according to Imagineering, who -- surprisingly -- were brought in at the last minute to fix the problem. At that point, though, Imagineering was stunned at how bad the problem was....they said to expect a minimum of four weeks before the dragon is up and running again. This info comes from a Q&A with Imgaineering in burbank today.
From Robert Niles on June 15, 2009 at 2:21 PM
And you are...?

Were you at said Q&A, or are you quoting from an online source?

FWIW, Doug didn't deny that the dragon broke, or say how badly it was broken, simply that the head of the dragon hadn't broken clean off and that the dragon hadn't broken into multiple distinct pieces.

Update: Okay, IP address checks out as from inside the Disney network. I'll assume info as legit, though, to be honest, there's a lot of room for overlap between what Doug actually said and what Mr. Anonymous just wrote. There's a huge amount of internal damage one can envision to a mechanism that wouldn't necessarily require it to break apart into two or more pieces.

Also, from Doug's comments ("weeks not days") I was guessing about five weeks, though I didn't want to publish that without additional info. Given what source above is saying now, I'm going with the back half of July for the dragon's debut.

Thanks for the extra info.

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