When Will Fantasmic Return? – Disney Tourist Blog

“When will Fantasmic return?” is a question Walt Disney World vacation planners and fans have been asking for over a year. There’s been a ton of speculation and rumors about the nighttime spectacular coming back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to help with crowds.

In fact, there was a point early last year when a heavily-modified Fantasmic was rumored to be the first nighttime spectacular to reopen at Walt Disney World. That was literally a year ago–still in the “era” of physical distancing and more stringent safety protocol–and fizzled out for a few reasons.

The main one was Walt Disney World opting to undertake a fairly significant refurbishment project to the amphitheater and its infrastructure. Well, “opting” might be the wrong word there, as there were also credible rumors that at least some aspects of the project were necessary to repair damage resulting from the nighttime spectacular not running for so long.

In any case, we have updates on that refurbishment project as well as the latest official word from Walt Disney World on the status of Fantasmic and when it’ll return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To quickly bring you up to speed, late last year DPEP Chairman Josh D’Amaro announced that Fantasmic! will be returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2022.

Just last week, Walt Disney World offered another update, narrowing some of the prior “returning in 2022” entertainment timeframes to specific dates. However, all of that news was limited to Magic Kingdom: the daytime parade, cavalcade, dance party, and castle stage show.

In addition to the statement that Fantasmic would return in 2022, Walt Disney World revealed more about changes to the nighttime spectacular. Per Disney, when Fantasmic reopens, it will incorporate an all-new sequence featuring live performers, stunts, special effects and more.

Tom Vazzana, Show Director with Walt Disney World Creative Entertainment teased the work his team had been doing on Fantasmic. In a burst of excitement, he said: “This segment will bring hope and joy to your heart in a scene that you are not going to believe. I can’t wait to tell you more about it…but I can’t. So we’ll just move on.” (For those who are unfamiliar with him, Vazzana is generally beloved by fans for his quirkiness, passion, and authenticity.)

We don’t want to read too much into a vague teaser poster, but the inclusion of details from Aladdin, Moana, and Frozen seems deliberate and notable. With that said, it would be odd for a single scene featuring these disparate properties. But it’s probably not a single scene.

The part that’s being replaced is almost certainly the extended Pocahontas scene, which has a runtime of approximately 82 minutes (longer than the movie!). While that’s probably a slight exaggeration, the Pocahontas portion is lengthy–long enough for multiple replacement segments.

The Walt Disney World version of the nighttime spectacular has always felt inferior to Disneyland’s, and one big reason why is the Pocahontas part that drags and dates Florida’s Fantasmic. It would be like if this show debuted in the mid-aughts and still featured a lengthy scene based on Meet the Robinsons (sorry, fans of that–but it’s no classic) despite the promotional window for that film closing long ago.

One of my go-to “dad jokes” is calling the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version Pocahontasmic! I will happily retire that feeble attempt at humor once Fantasmic 2.0 debuts, especially if it means a better version of the show. What would be a really nice surprise is if Vazzana and co. also managed to convince the misers who hold the pursestrings to give us a new dragon.

Unofficially, we have a huge update courtesy of aerial extraordinaire, @bioreconstruct. (Who has so generously allowed us to use his eye in the sky Fantasmic photos above and below–we highly recommend giving bioreconstruct a follow for interesting aerial images beyond these.)

The significant development for the purposes of Fantasmic’s potential reopening timeframe is that the lagoon that surrounds the island stage in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater has been refilled.

This is a significant because the water has been drained since Spring 2020, as you can see from the above aerial photo.

Even post-reopening, the prevailing belief was that some light maintenance would occur, the lagoon would be refilled, and the show would return (albeit modified and scaled back) last spring.

That didn’t happen, and instead construction permits were filed last spring, suggestive of more comprehensive work.

Exactly that occurred, with scaffolding going up around the mountain, the Steamboat Willie ship being rebuilt, and even pipes and other back-of-house infrastructure replaced. The scope was likely more significant than we realize, as all of this has been gleaned from aerial photos. All of this was a multi-month process, lasting for the better part of last year and continuing in early 2022.

This is a big reason why, as recently as last week, we cautioned readers not to expect Fantasmic coming back before Summer 2022. Everything we had seen suggested work was still being done, and we hadn’t heard anything to indicate rehearsals would start soon.

The boat being finished (see above) and moat being refilled changes all of that. This is a strong sign that Sorcerer Mickey is about ready to work his magic and invite guests to step into his imagination to see his dreams and nightmares. Or at least, ready to start training to work his magic for guests, etc…

When it comes to performer-heavy entertainment, it’s been pretty typical for Walt Disney World to take about 2 months from the time of rehearsals starting to shows returning. For both Festival of the Lion King and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, the turnaround time was a little over 2 months. I don’t have a timeline for Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, but it’s taking about that long to transfer and train performers from that parade over to Festival of Fantasy.

It’s safe to assume Fantasmic’s timeline will be pretty similar. New scenes might complicate or extend this a little, but probably not too much. The fact is, all of these productions have been modified and also have had plenty of new performers. For all intents and purposes, there’s an element of newness to all of them.

Accordingly, our expectation at this point is that Fantasmic will return to Disney’s Hollywood Studios before mid-April 2022. We’d put the chances of that at above 75%, probably over 90%.

Now, let’s try to narrow down the debut date of Fantasmic 2.0 a little bit more…

Before we go too far here, we want to offer a fair warning that this is all highly speculative, trying to ascertain what we can from calendar clues and more. We have not heard a single credible rumor about the return of Fantasmic and do not have any insider information. Our guesses here are no more credible than your own.

With that caveat out of the way, a couple of things jump out to me…both of which come from the DisneyWorld.com calendar for April 2022.

First, Disney’s Hollywood Studios closes at 5 pm on April 6, 2022.

Second, DHS has its first ever Extended Evening Hours on April 13, 2022. (See our Extended Evening Theme Park Hours at Walt Disney World Info & Tips post for more info.)

Before this development, I would’ve been inclined to assume both are coincidences. (That is, in fact, exactly what I assumed.) That there’s a park buyout or special event on April 6, and that’s the reason for the early closure. That the Extended Evening Hours is a one-off, due to a scheduling issue at Magic Kingdom or Epcot that week. In both cases, it wouldn’t be the first time.

That could still be the case–that both calendar entries are flukes, indicative of absolutely nothing. That’s not what I think, though. Both of those calendar quirks plus the water in the amphitheater being refilled with a timeline suggestive of an April return…I dunno, it all seems like too much to be coincidental.

Ultimately, I’ll go on record as predicting that the April 6, 2022 date is some sort of media or other special event, and April 8, 2022 is the official debut date of Fantasmic 2.0 (with the day in between being a soft opening or preview). I’ll go a step further and predict that the shift of Extended Evening Hours to DHS on April 13 is a permanent thing (I’m less confident about this one). Again, these are all very much guesses–not credible rumor or inside info.

However, I’d be downright shocked at this point if Fantasmic doesn’t return by around that date. The week following April 8, 2022 is the lead-up to Easter, which is one of the busiest stretches of the year at Walt Disney World. If the company can have Fantasmic ready by then, they absolutely will. It would be hugely helpful to absorbing crowds, especially as Disney’s Hollywood Studios has issues with attendance distribution throughout the day and problems with people bouncing from DHS to Epcot for Harmonious. The return of Fantasmic would solve all of that.

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What do you think about this prediction for when Fantasmic will return to Walt Disney World? What’s your anticipated or desired date? Think it’ll happen before April? Be delayed longer, until the start of Summer 2022? Are you actually disappointed by this, preferring to enjoy relatively uncrowded evenings at DHS? Do you agree or disagree with our predictions? 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!


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