The entrance sign for Fantasmic!

Profile: Fantasmic! at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (2016)

Let’s take a look at one of Disney’s largest nighttime shows.

Introduced in 1998 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Fantasmic! is a nighttime water show featuring live performers, pyrotechnics and large-scale staging effects. The show is held at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, which is large-scale open air theater that is among Disney’s largest.

Fantasmic! is based off a version that debuted at Disneyland in California in 1992. Though unlike Disneyland’s original (which must hide its tech infrastructure among existing park space accessible to guests during the day), Disney’s Hollywood Studios features a purpose-built theater with all the necessary lighting and audio infrastructure you would need to produce this massive show.

A broad look at the primary structure holding audio and lighting

The seating area is a continuous curve, but the show equipment is divided into three sections. A large truss houses the bulk of the primary audio and lighting equipment. Meanwhile, the show takes place on a man-made island at the center of the amphitheater, separated from the audience by a lagoon.

Vari-Lite and High End Systems fixtures

Fantasmic! uses a variety of fixtures from Vari-Lite and High End Systems. Given the harsh Florida climate of sun, rain and heat, every exposed moving head is housed in a Tempest Tornado enclosure that protects the fixture from moisture in a climate controlled bubble.

To provide primary lighting, the show uses a mixture of Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash and Spot* fixtures. These are installed along the truss, but they’re also sprinkled throughout the amphitheater on dedicated lighting poles and within the rock work of the main stage.

A look at the Vari-Lite lighting fixtures on the main show platform
A close-up of two Vari-Lite fixtures

High End Systems Studio Spots are also installed in multiples along the truss and on the island on retractable masts, providing additional lighting support and effects. Unlike many modern lights, these moving heads are traditionally convection cooled, with no active fans within the fixture. Inside the Tempest enclosures, the Studio Spots receive constant airflow to prevent overheating.

Vari-Lite and High End Systems lighting fixtures
Lighting from High End Systems, Vari-Lite and audio from Electro-Voice

The show features two retractable masts on the main stage that remain hidden prior to show time with High End Systems Studio Spots and Studio Colors. Each mast has six High End Systems Studio Spots and six High End Systems Studio Colors. There are also two what appears to be Vari-Lite fixtures on the top of the stack as well.

For audio, the show uses Electro-Voice X-Array Xn point source boxes for its primary front-of-house system. These are three-way boxes with a 3-inch compression driver, 12-inch mid-frequency driver and a 18-inch low-frequency driver, producing high output for their size.

They’ve also been weatherized with a multi-layer grille, protected input connectors and a special cabinet coating to withstand the Florida environment.

A close-up of Electro-Voice X-Array speakers
Electro-Voice MTL-2 subwoofers and X-Array speakers
A close-up of Electro-Voice X-Array speakers
Electro-Voice X-Array speakers

The Xn boxes are supplemented by weatherized Electro-Voice MTL-2 subwoofers, which house two 18-inch low-frequency drivers in a manifolded vented box. These are clustered in a four-box array at the center of the arena, with three-box clusters in the left and right sections, making a total of ten visible MTL-2s used in the show.

Electro-Voice MTL-2 subwoofers
A broad look at the primary structure holding audio and lighting

To supplement audio for those at the front, highly weather resistant Community WET speakers are used as front fill. These are typically subjected to water effects during the show.

Community WET speakers used as front fill
A Community WET front fill speaker

Side fills are supplemented by what appears to be JBL boxes from the AE Series mounted between sections and at the far ends of the amphitheater.

What appears to be JBL speakers used as side fill
A side fill speaker

Rear fills are handled by Community speakers from the R-Series (specifically the R2) and what appears to be a subwoofer from the WET Series (most likely a WET125).

Fantasmic! takes a wide variety of lighting and audio equipment to create a show that serves a massive audience nightly under adverse environmental conditions. Florida’s challenging weather conditions for equipment — coupled with the complexities of running a large-scale show on a daily basis — make this a notable installation.

Equipment list:

  • Vari-Lite VL3500 Wash
  • Vari-Lite VL3500 Spot (*may also be a VL3000 Spot)
  • High End Systems Studio Spot
  • High End Systems Studio Color 575
  • Tempest Tornado
  • Electro-Voice X-Array Xn
  • Electro-Voice MTL-2
  • Community WET
  • Community R2
  • JBL AE Series

These photos were taken on June 20, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.