OK, while busting moves on the dance floor may not make my “Favorite Things” list, the evening entertainment offerings at Walt Disney World Resort theme parks most certainly do.
Recently, the folks at Magical DIStractions asked readers to rank their favorite evening events, choosing from Wishes nighttime spectacular and the Main Street Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom park, Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular and Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot.
I admit, I found one of the results really surprising…Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular (one of our family’s favorites) came in last place, not even registering enough votes to garner a single percent. But, when I really thought about it, that makes sense. Previously only presented during Star Wars Weekends, Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular was reworked a bit and re-released for nightly presentation this past December. Only guests visiting during these relatively short windows of time would have experienced it. Check out my video of Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular here.
Tied for second place among readers were the Main Street Electrical Parade at Magic Kingdom park and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot.
The former is definitely an acquired taste. A regular evening offering at Magic Kingdom Park since 2010, the Main Street Electrical Parade features floats decked out in thousands of lights synchronized to the synthesized tune “Baroque Hoedown.” Characterizations of this composition frequently reference an unattributed quote describing it as a “harpsichord gone country.” Yeah, that’s about right. While I love this “ear worm” of an event, many people (including my best friend) cannot stand to listen to the synthesized piece for more than a few seconds. I have to admit; the vocoder bit at the end isn’t helping my case.
The current incarnation of the Main Street Electrical Parade at Walt Disney World Resort is a copy of the original 1972 Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade. And, for that reason alone, I think it’s worth a look and a listen.
The later event tied for second place, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, shows nightly around the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot. I first saw this presentation as Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth during the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration and was excited to see it continue after the celebration ended (dropping the 2000 from the name, of course) The show is presented in three acts (though I think they are more like movements) including; Chaos (my favorite), Order, and Meaning. Unlike the Main Street Electrical Parade, the music composed for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth earns near unanimous approval. The moving score, fireworks, fountain & flame barges, lasers, and the centerpiece Earth Globe have garnered many awards during its 16 year run, including the 2015 Golden Ticket Award for The Best Outdoor Night Show Production.
And lastly, tied for first place among Magical DIStraction visitors are Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park and Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Replacing Fantasy in the Sky in 2003, Wishes nighttime spectacular (formerly Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams) illuminates Magic Kingdom Park nightly (weather and special events permitting). Though traditionally viewed from the beginning of Main Street USA to the castle forecourt, this crowd pleaser offers great views around Magic Kingdom Park. Catching glimpses of the fireworks while riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or camped out behind Cinderella Castle are two of my favorites. Though, if seeing Tinker Bell make her nightly flight from the castle is a must, more traditional viewing areas are recommended.
I’ve saved Fantasmic! to finish this list on purpose. I usually don’t like to use clichés like “perennial favorite,” but seriously, I’ve never seen a low turnout. Even on the lightest attended park days, Fantasmic! packs their huge outdoor amphitheater full of Guests waiting to take a journey through Mickey Mouse’s imagination.
With mist screens used for projections, pyrotechnics, live actors, water effects, lasers, and a giant fire-breathing dragon, if you can’t find something to like in Fantasmic! you’ve successfully killed your inner child. A word of warning for parents of small children, the villains sequence can be quite intense and frightening for the littlest ones. A second word of warning…there is a reason this show is a tier one FastPass. Seats start filling up early. If you don’t have a FastPass, I recommend grabbing dinner or snacks you can take on-the-go and report to the amphitheater about an hour before showtime. I’m also a big fan of the Fantasmic! Dinner Package offered at three Disney’s Hollywood Studios restaurants. The number of packages are limited, and it is not automatically included if dining at any of those locations without having previously reserved the package.
Having revealed our readers’ favorite existing nighttime entertainment options, let’s take a quick look at what’s on the horizon…
Beginning this Earth Day (April 22nd), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park will present Tree of Life Awakenings and Rivers of Life. With color and light, “at various times,” Tree of Life Awakenings will bring animal spirits to life, “swarming with vivid color and animated imagery.” While, around Discovery River Lagoon, Guests will experience storytelling as never before. “Featuring evocative, never-before-seen footage from Disneynature, grand theatrical imagery, virtuosic live performances, a soaring original score, and innovative special effects—this nighttime spectacle employs a host of magical devices to create an experience unlike any other.”
Set to replace Symphony in the Stars, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, is scheduled to debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios this summer. Upping the ante, the new show will combine “fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections that will turn the nearby Chinese Theater and other buildings into the twin suns of Tatooine, a field of battle droids, the trench of the Death Star, Starkiller Base and other Star Wars destinations. The show will be punctuated with a tower of fire and spotlight beams, creating massive lightsabers in the sky. This new show will be the most elaborate fireworks display to take place in the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.”
With these new offerings and an already exciting line-up of evening entertainment, there are plenty of reasons to “love the nightlife”and play at Disney Parks after dark.
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