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2010 Best Theme Park Attraction nominee: Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

By Robert Niles
Published: March 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM
Theme Park Insider readers have rated Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios as the top seed in the Best Live Show bracket of the 2010 Best Theme Park Attraction Tournament.

Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic! opened at the then-Disney-MGM Studios in 1998, following the original Disneyland version of the show, which has been playing on the Rivers of America in Anaheim since 1992. (A third version will open at Tokyo DisneySea next year.) Fantasmic! presents highlights from many classic Disney films, in live action and animation projected on water screens in front of a massive outdoor stage. Mickey Mouse provides the focus for the show, as it's his dream that brings together all these classic Disney moments, culminating in his fiery battle with Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent.

The Walt Disney World version of the show plays in Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, which was built for the show. The other big difference between the two versions has been the frequency with which it plays. Until last year, when the schedule was cut back, the Disney World version played nearly every night, unlike the California version, which plays only during summers and holidays.

The shows differ in a few other ways: The Disney World version plays a few minutes longer, due to additional clips of villains. And the final character flood takes place on Steamboat Willie's steamship, instead of on the Mark Twain, as it does in Disneyland. To me, the Mark Twain's always been more visually impressive than the smaller Steamboat Willie ship, but the Florida version fits better within the theme of the show. A black-and-white Mickey piloting Steamboat Willie's boat makes sense. Mickey on the Mark Twain... not so much.

Despite playing in a massive theater (with room for more than 9,000 visitors), Fantasmic! remains a tough "ticket" most nights, making various dining packages at park restaurants that guarantee a Fantasmic! seat popular options. This show's enduring popularity made it an obvious top seed, but in which bracket?

The show's use of recorded voices and programmed effects would suggest it might be an animated show, but with dozens of live character actors and technicians bringing the show to life each night it plays, ultimately I placed it within the live show bracket. The show's use of pyro and water screens also makes it a difficult one to film, but I've embedded the best version I've found on YouTube to date for your Monday-at-work time-killing pleasure:

Please tell us your thoughts about Fantasmic!, and its chances within the Best Live show bracket, in the comments.

Readers' Opinions

From Michael Owen on March 15, 2010 at 11:42 AM
By far and away the best live show there is. If I was a betting man I'd lay money on this to win the category with ease.
From Rob P on March 15, 2010 at 11:58 AM
What can I say that hasn't already been said about Fantasmic ?

Well.....nothing actually. It is simply the best of it's type and it's unlikely to be beaten in it's own category.

It'll be a tough one to pick if and when it comes up against Waterworld because I rate that the best stunt show on offer. But as a show of any type then Fantasmic lives up to it's name and is unbeatable in my book.

It's so good it may even win the whole shebang.

From Joshua Counsil on March 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM
I agree that this is a fine contender for Best Live Show, but I'm shocked that Illuminations did not make it into this tournament. Was it simply overlooked, or did it really rate lower than Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue?

Regardless, I give Fantasmic! a 10-Perfection on the TPI scale. This show and the Tower alone make a trip to DHS worthwhile.

From Anthony Murphy on March 15, 2010 at 12:49 PM
I think it can do pretty well!

Great Music, Great Fireworks, and, great Characters!

A great show all around!

Great clips though! Number three is the best in my opinion.

I too was sad not that Illuminantions was not found in this bracket. I enjoy that show more, but I like Fantasmic as well!

From Tim W on March 15, 2010 at 1:11 PM
Excellant! easily will win best in live show!
From Joshua Counsil on March 15, 2010 at 9:31 PM
Edit: Mr. Sanford pointed out that I was seeding my bracket wrongly. I forgot that the tournament is NCAA b-ball-style (hence the "March Madness" origins of the tournament). It has been reseeded.

My predictions for this bracket:

Round 1

1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
16. Universal Studios Florida's Beetlejuice's Graveyard Revue

8. SeaWorld San Diego's Cirque de la Mer
9. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

4. SeaWorld San Diego's Pets Rule
13. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom

5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight
12. SeaWorld Orlando's Blue Horizons

2. Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure
15. Lights! Motors! Action! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

7. Busch Gardens Tampa's Katonga
10. Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld

3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom
14. SeaWorld Orlando's Believe

6. Dollywood's Sha-Kon-O-Hey
11. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show

Quarterfinals

1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
9. SeaWorld Orlando's Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island

13. Finding Nemo - The Musical at Disney's Animal Kingdom
5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight

2. Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure
10. Universal Studios Hollywood's Waterworld

3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom
11. Universal Studios Florida's Universal Horror Make-up Show

Semifinals

1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
5. SeaWorld Orlando's Sea Lions Tonight

2. Aladdin at Disney's California Adventure
3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Finals

1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios
3. Festival of the Lion King at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Winner: 1. Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios

From Don Neal on March 15, 2010 at 1:20 PM
This is my winner hands down! :)
From Ryan Sanford on March 15, 2010 at 1:37 PM
Joshua,

a #1 seed wouldn't be playing a #2 in the quarterfinals.

From 76.172.237.107 on March 15, 2010 at 1:48 PM
Fantasmic is indeed a great show, but the California show is much better than the Florida show, in my opinion. The steamboat in Florida looks like it was made out of a couple scrap sheets of plywood over the course of an afternoon and a couple beers. The Peter Pan segment on the Columbia is much more compelling than the Pocahontas segment on the stage in Florida. And while the dedicated stadium in Florida may improve crowd control and seating, seeing the show in the middle of the park, on the same river and island visitors were on only a few hours before, make California's version seem much more magical.
From Rod Whitenack on March 15, 2010 at 1:49 PM
I had a nightmare evening with this attraction on one of hottest, stickiest nights in July a few years ago. We arrived a couple of hours early (you have to if you want to get in). There were HUGE bugs the size of my fist flying everywhere and bouncing into everyone. Then a storm started brewing and they had to delay the show--for two and a half hours. We got drenched, then it got hot and sticky again. They then announced that if the show couldn't start within 30 minutes that they would have to cancel it for the evening. Finally it started. After a long day at the park, we were sitting there on uncomfortable benches for over 6 hours. It then took
AN ENTIRE HOUR to exit the stadium because it was so crowded and we were up front. Whew. Good show, though. lol
From Joshua Counsil on March 15, 2010 at 1:52 PM
Are we playing with re-seeding (NFL/NHL), or not?
From Sylvain Comeau on March 15, 2010 at 1:56 PM
Fantasmic! is a great show, but by all accounts, the Disneyland version is better. I haven't seen that version, but I have to wonder why the DHS version is more highly rated on TPI.

In any case, Fantasmic and Festival of the Lion King are the two best live shows at WDW.

From Andrew Swanson on March 15, 2010 at 2:18 PM
Hi Robert-

I too, Like a few other readers am curious why IllumiNations did not make it into the tournament. Was it too hard to decide what bracket to put it in between live or animated, or did it simply not get enough votes? While Fantasmic is a good show, I would go to watch IllumiNations instead of Fantasmic if I had to choose between the two. It's much more original in terms of music and storytelling, and the fireworks are beautiful.

Still a great show after 10 years.

From Manny Barron on March 15, 2010 at 3:04 PM
Fantasmic is wonderful but my favorite show is aladdin. You are a lot closer to the action and you don't have to dedicate the last hours the park is open to watch fantasmic. Nevertheless, Fantasmic is wonderful and deserving to win.
From Robert Niles on March 15, 2010 at 3:10 PM
Count me with those who prefer the Disneyland version... when it runs. But I think that the Disney World version ought to get some credit for playing every week. The Disneyland version disappears for months at a time, making it tough for many visitors to see. Anyway, when I seeded the tournament, the Disney World version had an identical rating to Disneyland's but had more votes, so I gave the nod to the Disney World version. (Again, keeping with the "no clones" rule.)

As for Illuminations, forgive me it I didn't explain this back in the beginning (I'd meant to), but I kept the pyro shows out of the tournament because I couldn't figure out where to put them. Fantasmic had enough elements of a live show that I felt like I could put it in this bracket (though I almost kept it out because it no longer plays every day that the park is open.) But the pyro shows were so unlike other shows that they really needed their own bracket.

But five brackets didn't exactly work. Illuminations and Universal's show remained the toughest calls, however, because they have filmed elements within them and might have fit in the Movie or Animated Show bracket. Ultimately, though, no one votes for Illuminations because of the film. They like it because of the music and pyro. So that's why I decided against putting it into the movie bracket. It's a pyro show.

(Conversely, pyro's just one element of Fantasmic, and not the essence of the show.)

I hope this helps explain the reasoning.

From Sylvain Comeau on March 15, 2010 at 3:38 PM
Good points, Robert...and yes, that's WHY I've never seen the Disneyland version! It's only shown on weekends, during the busy season...and even if tourist is willing to brave enough to show up at those times of year, you also have to fight the mobs of AP holders who stake out a spot hours in advance. The result is that you can't see this show unless a) you show up when the park is crowded, and b) you waste hours of your expensivve and scarce vacation time for one show!

So we have a situation in which those same AP holders lecture us on how the Disneyland version is so much better, but the resort, and those same mobs, make it practically impossible for anyone but them to see it! Thanks. Thanks a lot.

From Anthony Murphy on March 15, 2010 at 4:13 PM
Yeah, Fireworks shows are far and few between and it would be Disneyland vs Magic Kingdom vs EPCOT most likely. Anyway you would slice it, It would be Disney getting the most nominations.

I like the DHS because you can actually sit down to watch it vs having to stand and clog the already tight bottleneck that Adventureland/Pirates Cause.


I like the predictions mentioned above, but I personally am rooting for Festival of the Lion King to take it all just because of the first rate singing, dancing, and music.

From James Rao on March 15, 2010 at 4:16 PM
Like several others, Fantasmic is one of the few attractions I have rated a 10-PERFECTION on this site. This show is absolutely spectacular and should not be missed. Why it doesn't play every night like it used to is a complete travesty and a short-sighted lack of customer service by a company that prides itself on the visitor experience. For this reason, I am mulling a "Yeti-like" protest for this attraction... we'll see.

Incidentally, I will be out of commission for the first weekend of this tournament, so I need need all the THEME&THRILLS OVER THRILLS-ALONE folks to keep a few of my favorites in the race at least through the first round! =)

Good luck!

From David Sutter on March 15, 2010 at 5:59 PM
Ok I take Fantasmic. The Disney World Production is good. But the Disneyland version is the winner hands down!. I enjoy the closness of the DIsneyland version alot more. While the theather at W.D.W. puts to mcuh distance between the stage and the viewer. And the Mountain looks like what is is a set. And in that version the Dragons flames never reach the waters serface, as they do in the Disneyland version. And Your right the steambut at WDW looks like a cardboard boat on a pontoon barge. And theres something majestic about seeing the Mark Tawin rounding the corner of Tom Saywer Island, with the cast on it. Id put it up there with the Castle at Christmas. But hay thats just me. I think?
From Will Chilcote on March 17, 2010 at 9:02 PM
Seen both versions of the show. The Disneyland version is much better. Its better as a water parade than the water stage show at Disney Studios in WDW.

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