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Disneyland Article
7 Tips For Watching The Return Of Fantasmic
Press Enterprise
Brady Macdonald
“Fantasmic” has returned to Disneyland after a two-year pandemic pause and an extensive reconfiguration of the waterfront viewing area that will require first-time and longtime visitors alike to adjust their strategies for watching the venerable nighttime spectacular.

Disneyland presented the return of “Fantasmic” along the Rivers of America on Thursday, June 2 as part of a summer kickoff media event for national and international news outlets.

Let’s start with a quick review of the show before diving into our tips for watching the return of “Fantasmic.”

For me, watching a 30-year-old show again after a two-year pandemic hiatus was filled with familiar favorite scenes that I’d missed as well as a few moments that I’d forgotten about.

The projections on the mist screens looked sharper than I remembered. I was mesmerized by the collapsing floral scenes on the mist screens that transitioned into the massive Pringles potato chip-like flower petals on stage. Watching the Rivers of America catch on fire within 10 feet of the shore never grows old. The Pirates of the Caribbean stunt show on the Sailing Ship Columbia remains a jaw-dropping highlight.

I forgot just how wacky and trippy “Fantasmic” could be in places — particularly in the pink elephant sequence. My favorite part of watching “Fantasmic” is spotting something new in the show — like the luminescent blues and greens that shimmered in the oily mist floating high above the Little Mermaid segment. That’s part of what makes the show so lovable and repeatable for longtime fans.

This time around, I was surprised at how much of the storytelling was carried on the mist screens rather than on the Tom Sawyer Island stage or the watercraft along the Rivers of America.

Of course, some things never change. Murphy the massive animatronic dragon — so nicknamed for Murphy’s Law and his tendency to break down — failed to work during the media screening.

But ultimately “Fantasmic” is for the 3-year-old girl sitting on her father’s lap next to me watching the show for the first time with a mix of wonder and awe. The toddler waved with excited glee as Rapunzel floated past on a river raft during the Disney princess segment.

For the 30th anniversary of “Fantasmic,” Mickey has once again brushed the dust off the sleeves of his black sequined tuxedo jacket to deliver a nighttime spectacular that can still pack in the crowds and delight an audience night after night.

So what has changed about the viewing experience? Where should you sit or stand? And how should you get there?

First-time visitors and long-time annual passholders will want to arrive with a viewing strategy in mind if they want to snag a prime spot to watch the return of the popular nighttime spectacular that draws thousands of fans to the banks of the Rivers of America.

We’ve got seven tips for watching “Fantasmic” that should ease your arrival, streamline your seating selection and enhance your viewing experience.

1) Find a spot in front of the mist screens Some things have not changed. As everybody who has seen “Fantasmic” knows, the best viewing spots are in front of one of the three massive mist screens on the Rivers of America.

If you’re not familiar with the show, just look for the three giant projection towers, which will give you a good sense of where the mist screens will be located.

Ideally you will want to sit between the projection towers and the waterfront. But as you’ll see in a bit, that can often be easier said than done.

As always, you can show up early and secure a good spot or roll up at the last possible moment and try to slip in where you can find space.

2) New planter viewing areas offer more room Disneyland has spent the past few months shrinking the footprints of the planters in the “Fantasmic” viewing area along the Rivers of America.

Gone are the raised viewing platforms and steps that created more problems than they solved. In their place are grade-level viewing spots that are more functional and useful.

If you’re watching “Fantasmic” for the umpteenth time, give the planter viewing areas a try. They seem perfect for people like me who like to roll up 30 seconds before showtime and slip into an open spot. I wouldn’t camp out in the planters for an hour or more — there are better spots if you plan to arrive early.

There is a ton more space now in the “Fantasmic” viewing area thanks to the shrinking of the planters and a lot more walking space as well in front of the French Market. You can see just how much the planters were trimmed back if you look at the light posts now sitting on brick islands. Disneyland trimmed 10 feet off of the planters in some places. Most of the older trees along the waterfront have been maintained, but Disneyland’s horticulture crews have planted new trees in a few places.

On media night, some of the planter spots were used for seemingly random stroller parking. Those spots could work as a last-minute viewing area — if you don’t mind standing next to a stroller.

3) Avoid the River Belle Terrace pinch point Despite all the traffic flow improvements, the pinch point in front of River Belle Terrace is still a hot mess. Avoid the Frontierland approach to the “Fantasmic” viewing area at all costs.

Equally crowded and tightly confined is the bridge over the Pirates of the Caribbean entrance. What is different — for the moment anyway — is the space in front of the Pirates entrance with the extended queue removed during the attraction refurbishment. That means the El Toro Y-like interchange in front of Pirates is far less crowded than usual — even during “Fantasmic.” That could – and likely will — change once Pirates of the Caribbean reopens this summer.

As always, the goal in getting to “Fantasmic” is to avoid the crowds flowing from Main Street U.S.A. after the Main Street Electrical Parade and nightly fireworks show. My recommendation: Approach the “Fantasmic” viewing area from the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Critter Country side of the park.

4) Find a spot near the French Market Approaching the “Fantasmic” viewing area from the Haunted Mansion is much better than from Frontierland or Adventureland.

Whatever you do, don’t pick a spot to watch the show in front of the River Belle Terrace. That pinch point is a mosh pit with a constant flow of traffic behind you.

Follow the advice of the cast members directing traffic and head to the Haunted Mansion end of the “Fantasmic” viewing area. You don’t want to head all the way down to the Haunted Mansion, but rather pick a spot in front of the French Market or somewhere in that general area.

Avoid the new Pelican’s Landing dining area — unless you’re a longtime “Fantasmic” fan looking for a new and novel point of view. It’s hard to see the mist screens from Pelican’s Landing. But the waterfront dining spot does offer a unique perspective for viewing the Sailing Ship Columbia and Mark Twain Riverboat segments of the show.

5) Pay your way to the best viewing spots If you show up early for the show, the first thing you’ll notice are giant swaths of roped off and empty viewing areas along the Rivers of America waterfront. Those are reserved areas for paying customers who purchased dining packages that come with premium “Fantasmic” viewing locations. Disneyland tends to wait to load in the crowds for the dining package viewing areas until just before showtime.

The dining package viewing areas stretch from the Pirates of the Caribbean down to the French Market. Visitors who haven’t purchased the dining packages can find viewing areas along the waterfront and the terrace areas just above on the extreme far ends of the “Fantasmic” viewing areas.

But if you want a premium viewing spot for “Fantasmic” you’re going to have to pay to play. To paraphrase the Mandalorian, this is the way Disneyland works. You have to pay for premium experiences — and there are plenty of opportunities for you to spend more money than you expected at Disneyland.

For now, the River Belle Terrace and Hungry Bear restaurants offer “Fantasmic” dining packages that range from $25 to $75 per person — depending on whether you want the standard or premium package. The dining packages come with a meal and a “Fantasmic” viewing spot. Blue Bayou will eventually offer a “Fantasmic” dining package as well once the fine dining restaurant fully emerges from its seasonal refurbishment.

6) Don’t get too close to the waterfront There is such a thing as being too close to “Fantasmic” if you pay for the dining package or manage to snap up a waterfront spot on the wings of the viewing area.

For the most part, visitors sit on the cobblestone walkway lining the Rivers of America. Expect to stand throughout the show if you’re farther away from the waterfront.

Ideally you want to sit about 10 to 15 feet back from the edge of the waterfront — for two reasons.

If you get too close — especially if you land a seemingly coveted spot in the “front row” — you will end up watching the show through the railing lining the riverfront. Longtime Disneylanders refer to this as “Fantasmic Jail” because you are forced to watch the show through prison bars.

The other reason to sit back a bit from the water’s edge is to avoid the misty spray that regularly wafts off the river during the show. If you’re like me, you don’t want to get soaked while watching a nighttime show. Especially in the winter months when it can be chilly in the evening at Disneyland.

This is “Fantasmic” and not the Shamu show at SeaWorld. There’s no need to sit in the Splash Zone — especially if you’ve paid for the privilege. Think of “Fantasmic” like a Broadway show and avoid the first five rows if you want to get the best possible view.

7) Catch the second show of the night If you’re trying to avoid the crowds — and who isn’t at Disneyland — then you will want to opt for the second show of the night for “Fantasmic.”

Typically, Disneyland presents “Fantasmic” twice a night at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Occasionally there is only one show at slower times of the year.

The second show of the night is usually less crowded than the first performance. I like to watch the nightly fireworks show from the “Fantasmic” viewing area — which offers a different perspective than in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle or It’s a Small World.

Catching the fireworks show on the Rivers of America is also a good way to secure a spot for “Fantasmic” — if you’re willing to camp out for 45 minutes or so after the pyrotechnics are over.

Seasoned Disneylanders know how to swoop in just after the 9 p.m. “Fantasmic” show breaks and snag a premiere viewing spot for the 9:30 p.m. fireworks show and the 10:30 p.m. “Fantasmic” presentation. When in doubt, follow the pros.

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