From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
The official first night of Summer Nightastic! was last night (Friday), and Lee and I made our way up to Anaheim yesterday afternoon to experience as much of it as we could.
As most of you have probably heard, the highly anticipated premiere of the new 3-D dragon in Fantasmic! has been delayed until later this summer. You can read more about that on this L.A. Times blog entry.
When we asked Cast Members yesterday we were told that the dragon "is on medical leave" (clever!), and that they hope she will be able to appear by the 4th of July.
Cast Members were telling the people who staked out a spot hours before the show that there wasn't going to be a dragon - but that didn't deter them. By 6:00, three hours before the 9:00 show, all of the area right by the edge of the Rivers of America was filled with blankets marking the spots of people who were waiting. At 8:00 there was a park-wide announcement that Fantasmic! was full, and to come back for the later performance.
The problem was that many people who saw the early show stayed for the second show, so there wasn't space for those trying to get in. At 10:00 they made another park-wide announcement that Fantasmic! was again full (for the 10:30 show). It was gridlock back there for a while. We were trying to get to the Reserved seats (we had booked the Fantasmic!) dessert package), and thought we might not be able to get there in time! But there was just no place for people to go.
But I digress. I plan to do a more comprehensive blog about the new Fantasmic! and the dessert package later, and for now I just want to hit the highlights of Summer Nightastic!
The TLT Dance Club at the Tomorrowland Terrace kicked off last night at 7:00. Suburban Legends was the featured band last night. Really very entertaining - a rock band with a brass section! There were lots of people there early enjoying them. The Dance Club looks like its aimed at Teens and Tweens, but I saw mostly 20-somethings there - maybe later in the evening it's different.
The new fireworks show, Magical has had a number of previews over the past week or so, so there weren't as many people waiting for it as for Fantasmic!. Still, Main Street was quite full! One of it highly anticipated moments was the flight of Dumbo - unfortunately Dumbo was grounded for some reason last night - maybe Timothy misplaced the magic feather?
What's wrong with this picture? Ah yes, no flying elephant...
It's a nice show, but it's not nearly as elaborate as Remember, Dreams Come True. Though since there are fewer fireworks and they appear to be much lower in the sky, I hope that it will not be as prone to cancellation because of wind as Remember is.
It's a glorious pink and blue finale!
Lee is working on a video of Magical that we will be posting later.
We thought it puzzling that there was nothing in the Daily Times Guide about the new Pixie Hollow Enchantment - all it said was that the Meet and Greet was open until 8:00. But after that Pixie Hollow comes to life about every 15 minutes, with music and animated lights and jumping fountains.
In between it's still an enchanting place - you can see the lights from the various pixies' homes, there's pixie music, and "pixie dust" on the trees and even on people who are wandering through.
We saw the "show" about 11:15 - there were quite a few people waiting for it, including three Cast Members who had taken a break from their regular duties to come and see the show.
The new updated Fantasmic! is still very good, even without the dragon. The HD projection on the water screens is much clearer.
Here's the new Flotsam and Jetsam critters (how do we know which is which?). They didn't move and slither quite as much as I expected, but they still looked good. They looked pretty fierce with their mouths opening and closing!
The new Crocodile following the pirate ship was a nice addition, also.
Disney has had to operate in "dragon-less" mode before (apparently the old dragon was rather cantankerous at times - but what do you expect from a dragon?), and I thought the show went on quite seamlessly. Maleficent still rose 35 feet in the air, but instead of "transforming" into the dragon, the dragon appeared on the water screens in front of her. It still looked impressive and the show got lots of applause at the end.
One thing we were surprised NOT to see was a lot of Summer Nightastic merchandise. At the Press Event Deb and I attended in April, they said they would have lot of things that glow in the night. But all of the merchandise carts had the same-old glow necklaces and swords and spinny things - we didn't see anything new. Now, we also didn't have time to go in any of the shops, but I also didn't see people with anything new, which I would have expected. They did have a "Chocolate Moonbeam" cupcake in the Bakery, though. Oh, and the Mickey balloons with the glowing lights inside were pretty cool, too, though I don't know if those are new.
I'll have more photos (and video!) later, but wanted to get this posted for now.
As I'm sure most of you know, seeing Fantasmic! at Disneyland can involve a whole lot of waiting if you want to get a good viewing location. People start staking out spots along the Rivers of America as much as 4-5 hours in advance - and even then they are sitting on the ground and not in chairs! Disney offers one of their Premium Viewing Experiences for Fantasmic! for those willing to pay for it. For $59 (plus tax) you get a reserved seat (yes, in an actual chair!) for the show, and a box of desserts and other goodies, plus beverage of your choice.
To book the Fantasmic! Dessert Package, you should call 30 days in advance of the date that you want to see the show. (For June 12, call on May 12, for July 31, call on July 1, etc.) The number is 714-781-4400. Phone lines open at 8:00 Pacific time. Your credit card will be charged at time of booking, and there are no refunds or exchanges. If there are two Fantasmic! shows there will be two Dessert seatings, so you will also need to specify which show you want to see. The package doesn't necessarily book up exactly 30 days in advance, but if you know for sure the date you want to see it, I would recommend calling 30 days in advance. They will give you a confirmation number - write this down and bring it with you. You will also need to bring with you the same credit card that you used to reserve the package.
Lee and I did this on June 12, for the first night of Summer Nightastic! - when we were pretty sure that Fantasmic! would be packed (and it was). I booked on May 12, calling right at 8:00 in the morning, and had no problem getting seats. (In fact, one of the people in line with us while we were waiting for the show had called only about 3 weeks before, and he was able to get in, too!)
Once we arrived at Disneyland we had to go to Guest Services to pick up our tickets. Usually we can go to the Guest Services line that's outside the park (to the left of the turnstiles), but we arrived late in the day and it was closed, so we had to go to City Hall instead. I gave the Cast Member our confirmation number and my credit card - he also wanted to see my photo id and verify my address. And then he gave me our two Fantasmic! tickets for the 10:30 show.
As the next step we actually had to check in for the show at 8:00 even though our show time was 10:30 - they check in all the shows at the same time. This is where they actually let you choose the seats that you want, so people start lining up 30-60 minutes in advance so they can get first choice. The check-in podium is on the first terrace level above the Pirate's Lair raft boarding area - next to a churro cart and a coffee cart. We didn't arrive until about 7:45 and there were already probably 40 people in front of us.
Once they started checking us in at 8:00 things went fairly quickly. They divided us into two lines - one for the 9:00 showing and one for the 10:30 showing. We showed our tickets to the CMs and they checked our names off a list, and then showed us the seating chart where we picked the seats we wanted out of those that were left. There are about 50 seats in three rows. The first row, which is right up against the railing on the first terrace (it's not down at river level) is of course the first to go. We asked if we could stand if we were seated in the back and were told that we could, so we chose seats in the back row. We were on the end closest to the main light tower (next to the control booth). My opinion is that the middle row of seats are the worst, since you have someone in front of you AND you have to remain seated because there is also someone in back of you. (One good thing - people who are down in the lower terrace are NOT allowed to stand during the show, so they don't block the view of those in the reserved area.) Once the CMs wrote our seat numbers down on their chart and our our tickets we left.
At that point it was about 8:15, and it did not appear that they had started seating those who were seeing the 9:00 showing. I assume they start seating 30 minutes before the show starts, but I was not able to verify that since I forgot to ask (as you will read, we were pretty frazzled by the time we arrived for our seating time).
I had intentionally selected the second Fantasmic! because I wanted to be able to watch the new Magical fireworks show from Main Street, and there's no way you can see the first Fantasmic! and then get to Main Street for the fireworks show because they overlap slightly. Not to mention the fact that on opening night I knew Main Street would be packed for the fireworks. Disney encourages those who watch the early Fantasmic! show to remain in place for the fireworks show - you CAN see the fireworks from the Rivers of America, but you can't see anything on the castle, or any of the special effects like Tinker Bell's or Dumbo's flights.
After we had watched the fireworks show we waited for a few more minutes before trying to head back to Frontierland - usually that allows the Rivers of America area to clear out a little bit. But not that night - it seemed like *everyone* was trying to see the second show of Fantasmic! And many people who saw the first show were staying for the second show, so the area was not clearing out like it usually does! It was shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling all the way from the bridge into Frontierland back into New Orleans Square. And at one point we stopped completely for a while - it was about at that point (10:00) that they made the park-wide announcement that the Fantasmic! viewing area was full. But it wasn't full - we still had two seats waiting for us!!!! We were just about at the entrance to Pirates by then - and we were honestly wondering if we were going to make it in time!
Fortunately things started moving again and we finally made it to the entrance to the reserved seating area. It was just beyond the main light tower, and blocked off with a rope. We had to get someone's attention before they let us in. The CM looked at our tickets and took us to our seats, and then, after we sat down, gave us our dessert boxes and took our drink orders. (Coffee, hot chocolate, soft drinks and water were available).
Here's the dessert box with the Fantasmic! logo:
Inside there were five kinds of cheese, packages of crackers, and grapes. For the sweet tooth we had a macaroon, a mini chocolate cupcake with chocolate filling (it would have been a lava cake if it had been warm!), a mini cheesecake, a lemon tart, and a shortbread cookie with strawberry filling, with a white chocolate design on it. There were also two truffles - a chocolate truffle and a white chocolate truffle with some kind of citrus flavor (yuck!).
Here's the drink station:
After fighting the crowds we were a bit frazzled, as I mentioned, so it was nice to sit down. We arrived about 10:15 (and we weren't the last to arrive!), but still had time to enjoy some of our desserts and our beverages before the show started. I think they have done a good job of not placing the chairs too close together - we had more room than we did when they offered this on the balcony of the old Disney Gallery (which is now the Dream Suite). We were sitting on folding chairs, but they had a little bit of a cushion, and were comfortable enough.
The desserts were pretty good, but not great. My favorite was the chocolate cake - neither of us liked the lemon tart. It was nice to see the crackers and cheese in addition to the sweets, but I would've liked to have had more fruit than just the grapes (they were very good grapes, though). In the past they have had chocolate-covered strawberries, but not this time, and I had been looking forward to that. It was a LOT of dessert, though - neither of us came close to finishing everything (we could easily have shared one box) and we took our boxes home.
The show started fairly promptly at 10:30. As you can see in the picture below, we were a little off to the side of the middle water screen, which meant that we had a good view of what was happening on the stage - it wasn't blocked by the water. If we had had seats on the far left side of the seating area I don't know if it would have been as good - we would have been more between two water screens.
But in this picture you can see we had the great view of the stage area.
The Sailing Ship Columbia in its pirate ship guise is always my favorite part of the show. Our view of it was partially obscured by a light post, so we couldn't see it well until it was right in front of us. I love watching all of the stunt men swinging on ropes and sliding between the masts - there's always a lot of action going on! But it goes by way too fast.
One nice thing about being over on the left side of Rivers of America is that you get a good view of the final confrontation between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, and get to see Hook swing from side-to-side on the back of the ship as he tries to escape the crocodile.
The crocodile is new - and as you can see in this video clip he has more movement capabilities, and appears to lunge and snap his jaws as he chases down the tasty morsel that is Captain Hook.
The two completely new characters are Flotsam and Jetsam - Ursula's pet eels. Their eyes glow as they slither and glide across the water. Their mouths even open and close. They didn't move quite as much as I thought they would, though. (And what's the difference between Flotsam and Jetsam? They looked identical to me!)
The Maleficent character looked good - I'm not sure how much of it was lighting on the character or lighting on the costume itself.
The other big change to Fantasmic! was supposed to be the new fully animated 3-D dragon...but she's not quite ready yet. So instead we got the Maleficent character rising 30-some feet in the air on whatever lift they use - and swaying in the air as she dramatically waves her arms. Yikes. Looks like a precarious perch to me! And then the dragon was projected on the water screens. It still looked pretty impressive, and I think if you didn't know about the "real" dragon it would still seem like a great effect. (Cast Members informed all those people who showed up hours before the show that they wouldn't see the new dragon - but they chose to wait anyway.)
The show ended as it normally does with the all of the characters on the Mark Twain, and a final on-stage appearance by Sorcerer Mickey.
After the show ended there was no rush to leave - we stayed for a little while waiting for the crowds to clear out. The seating area was a nice little oasis!
It was a great show - and the dessert package certainly makes it a much more civilized way of enjoying it. I really wouldn't have wanted to fight the crowds on Friday - as it was we ended up being in them more than I had thought. I'd definitely pay the money to do it again...though I wish they would bring back the chocolate covered strawberries! :-)
One of the parts of Disneyland's Summer Nightastic! event is the new Pixie Hollow Enchantment. This is a short light and water show that takes place in the queue area for Pixie Hollow in the evenings after the Meet-and-Greet area closes. The show is a couple of minutes, and occurs about every 15 minutes from about 8:00 until park closing.
Lee shot this video from the queue area, but I think the best viewing is actually from the walkway between Matterhorn Way and the AstroOrbitor - that way you can see the water fountains in front of you and the lights in the trees further in front of you.
It's a cute show.
(Thank you to Lee for taking the video and processing it!)
Afterwards you can make your way into the Pixie Hollow Meet and Greet area - no pixies, but without all the people around you can pose with all of the various props and backdrops.
I think this is one of the extra-special things that Disney does - they certainly didn't HAVE to do something like this, but it's a fun and entertaining little feature that we can enjoy.