What Is the Best Show in the Theme Park Business?

December 20, 2022, 7:19 PM · Finals Week continues today on Theme Park Insider with our vote for the winner of the Best Show award.

We have five finalists that placed above all others in our reader nominations earlier this month. The winner of today's vote will claim the Bets Show honor in the 21st annual Theme Park Insider Awards, which we will announce on January 1, 2023.

The finalists are:

The Bourne Stuntacular, Universal Studios Florida

The Bourne Stuntacular

Fantasmic!, Disneyland


Festival of the Lion King, Disney's Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King

Universal Orlando's Horror Makeup Show, Universal Studios Florida

Universal Orlando's Horror Makeup Show

WaterWorld, Universal Studios Hollywood


Please campaign in the comments for your favorite. If you missed any of the previous final-round votes, here they are: Best Restaurant, Best Hotel, Best Holiday Event, Best Halloween Event.

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Replies (8)

December 21, 2022 at 12:40 AM

Oh just give it to Fantasmic already.

December 21, 2022 at 2:57 AM

There are many great choices on that list.

But I’d have to say The Bourne Stuntacular stands out the most, and I say this as someone who couldn’t care less about the Movie series. That show is just amazing.

Comments on others:

Fantasmic at DL - Far superior to its Florida counterpart, which is really a shame considering Florida has its own dedicated amphitheater. Great show, but the overall experience takes a hit by the seating situation.

Waterworld - Timeless Classic that I hope goes on forever. This is the best show in the SoCal parks for me.

Festival of Lion King - the last time I saw this was in 2017. It’s was worth the time spent, but I don’t feel is on the same level as these other options.

Universal Horror Makeup Show - Another one that I hope lasts forever. The only thing I’ll say is that the quality can vary quite a bit by the cast. The show/script hasn’t changed much over the years (and doesn’t need to), and I’ve had a time or two where the actors did not live up to past experiences of the show. My most memorable time was when my wife was the “lucky” gal selected out of the audience, and then later that night we saw the same (great) actor playing Bugs Moran at the Al Capone’s Dinner show.

December 21, 2022 at 3:50 AM

Also - I think it’s worth mentioning that Fantasmic being part of the mix doesn’t seem like a true apples to apples comparison. Nighttime spectaculars should probably have their own category.

Fantasmic has limited showings, and is best when accompanied with a dining package (or possibly some other upcharge options offered these days) while the other options are standard shows held several times throughout the day.

I’ve only managed to see Fantasmic at DL once, because every time we visited DL, they were only showing it on weekends and I always needed to be in San Diego on the weekend portion of my trip (I finally managed to see it in 2019 when we visited in July).

Then I found it necessary to do a Blue Bayou dining package to get in an optimal viewing area, so while it was a great result, I can’t say I’m happy with having to plan a trip around the schedule and then incurring an extra expense to avoid having to show up hours early to sit on the ground.

Like most things Disney: be prepared to do some chores, and don’t forget your wallet…I did it once, without regret, but not sure I’d go through all the trouble again.

December 21, 2022 at 8:54 AM

Bourne Stuntacular! Lots of action, surprises, and it just looks fantastic. It's also a great showcase of the latest theme park technologies. The projection makes it difficult to figure out which characters are actors or on screen. The multi story set pieces are on some sort of trackless ride system. Different locales are featured.. Easy to get a great seat.. So awesome.

December 21, 2022 at 2:10 PM

Fantasmic is still the best theme park show I've ever seen. It's hard to compare it to a traditional theme park show, but it's an outstanding production with some of the most impressive scenes I've seen in a live performance and one that uses every sort of technical trick without relying too much on one.

Between the two stunt shows, I still think Waterworld outperforms Bourne, but the latter certainly has the technological edge. Both are top tier, but having constant action scattered around a large amphitheater is a bit more exciting than a couple performers on a stage for me.

For the last two, I like the energetic atmosphere of Festival of the Lion King better than the behind the scenes demo of the Horror Makeup Show, but both are still quality productions that stand above average for theme park shows.

December 22, 2022 at 8:12 AM

These are all amazing shows. My vote goes to the Bourne Stuntacular. I had no idea what to expect and it blew my mind with its very clever and immersive blend of live-action and next-gen projection / ultra realistic clarity screens. I feel like this show will be one of those game changers for the industry. It might not be the most celebrated or popular amongst the general public but in the industry it will be one of those that leaves a footprint on everything that comes after.

December 22, 2022 at 8:16 AM

We witnessed Bourne for the first time during our trip in October, and I was gobsmacked with the show, and even more impressed with it when the performance we attended was briefly halted due to a technical issue, forcing the stage director to improv by talking about some of the technology and tricks of the production. However, for as technologically advanced and hyper-real Bourne is, Waterworld relies on old fashioned practical effects and talented stunt-people. Like ice cream flavors, some people appreciate old-school practical effects over whizz bang technological wizardry (a la Christopher Nolan versus James Cameron).

However, the comparison of the 2 Universal shows is moot when compared to Fantasmic! at Disneyland, which turn the Rivers of America into a technicolor storytelling tapestry.

December 22, 2022 at 12:07 PM

The only one I haven't seen is Bourne. I voted for Fantasmic! as a no-brainer. The late, great Aladdin was the best-ever theme park show, but, sadly, they closed it down to put in a merely decent Frozen replacement.

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