Fantasmic! Returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic! Returns to Disney's Hollywood Studios

Fantasmic!, the signature evening spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, recently returned to Walt Disney World for the first time since the pandemic, and the Unofficial Guide was there on reopening night to bring you this review and video of the revived show.

Steamship full of Disney characters during Fantasmic! show at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Fantasmic! has returned to Walt Disney World with a boatload of animated friends. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)

Fantasmic! is a mixed-media nighttime show staged on an island inside an amphitheater and based on the Disneyland original. The newly updated Orlando version is one of the most innovative outdoor spectacles we’ve seen at any theme park.

Starring Mickey Mouse in his role as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia, the production uses lasers, images projected on a shroud of mist, fireworks, lighting effects, and music in combinations so stunning you can scarcely believe what you’re seeing. The theme is simple: good versus evil. The plot gets lost in all the special effects at times, but no matter: It’s the spectacle, not the story line, that’s powerful.

The revised Fantasmic! for 2022 doesn’t feature many big changes to the beginning or end of the show, as all of the beloved music and magical moments remain intact. However, the middle section of the show, which was previously comprised of a long sequence featuring Pocahontas, has now been broken up into multiple shorter scenes starring a variety of characters.

Pocahontas herself still appears and sings “Just Around the Riverbend.” But now there are also stunt sequences with Mulan and Aladdin; Elsa sings “Show Yourself” from Frozen 2; and Moana walks on water in the show’s most impressive new effect.

In addition to the new material, Fantasmic!‘s classic portions have been polished; they now boast much sharper mist projections, clearer audio, and more colorful lighting. The “bubbles” film clip segment near the start still slows down the pacing, and the finale’s dragon is unimpressive compared to Anaheim’s animatronic. So Disneyland’s version remains superior, but the difference in quality isn’t nearly as stark as it once was.

We rate Fantasmic! 4 1/2 stars and consider it “not to be missed.” Find out why by watching this full video of the show, recorded on reopening night in November 2022:

Fantasmic! Touring Tips

By far the largest theater facility ever created by Disney, the 7,900-seat Hollywood Hills Amphitheater can accommodate an additional 2,000 standing guests for an audience of nearly 10,000. While it’s hard to imagine a 10,000-person amphitheater running out of space, that’s exactly what happens almost every time the show is staged, including for the public reopening performance on November 3, 2022.

As we (and our readers) have observed first-hand, Disneyland’s crowd-control cast members push throngs of Fantasmic! guests through the park like clockwork, even when it’s bursting at the seams. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s basically “every man for himself” as the cast members retreat, leaving very tired, very cranky guests to duke it out.

On reopening night in particular, cast members’ communications regarding queueing were confusing at best, with uncontrolled crowds on Sunset Boulevard hours before the first performance and an unannounced half-hour delay before the second. Hopefully, those issues won’t occur every evening, but expect some level of imperfection.

Currently, the show is scheduled nightly at 8 and 9:30 p.m on most nights, with only 1 show on off-season weekdays. On evenings when there are two shows, the second performance will always be less crowded. If you attend the first (or only) scheduled performance, then arrive at least an hour or more in advance; if you opt for the second, arrive 50 minutes early. If the queue for the second show extends to Hollywood Boulevard, join it when it reaches the intersection for an ideal view of the Chinese Theater projection mapping shows while you wait.

No matter how long you stand in Fantasmic’s standby line, you’re unlikely to get a seat in the center section because the best spots are reserved for those with restaurant dining packages. Fortunately, the stadium is designed with good sightlines, even towards the extreme ends.

If you’re planning to eat at any of the park’s five table-service restaurants starting November 30, you can book a Fantasmic! dining package for $49-$73 ($22-$47 for kids under age 10) and obtain a voucher for the members of your dining party to enter Fantasmic! via a special entrance and sit in a reserved section. This saves you 30–90 minutes of waiting in the regular line to be admitted. If you know you’re going to eat at one of these locations, the dining package is a better way to see Fantasmic! than lining up in advance. You won’t have assigned seats—it’s first come, first served—so arrive early for the best choice. Finally, if Fantasmic! is canceled due to weather or other circumstances, you’ll get a voucher for another performance within five days.

Rain and wind sometimes cause Fantasmic! to be canceled, as happened in the middle of the reopening press preview; unfortunately, Disney usually doesn’t make a final ruling about whether to proceed or cancel until just before showtime (or even after). We’ve seen guests wait stoically for over an hour with no assurance that their patience and sacrifice will be rewarded. In any case, we don’t recommend arriving more than 20 minutes before showtime on rainy or especially windy nights. On nights like these, pursue your own agenda until 10–20 minutes or so before showtime; then head to the stadium to see what happens. If you do brave the rain, be sure to bring ponchos and umbrellas, and, whatever the weather, be prepared for a long, slow slog out of the stadium after the show.

What do you think of the 2022 version of Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios? Let us know in the comments below!

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube

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