Mickey Mouse on the Mark Twain for Fantasmic!

Profile: Fantasmic! at Disneyland (2015)

A case study on how to hide a massive show infrastructure for a nighttime show.

Introduced in 1992, Fantasmic! is a nighttime show combining live performers, pyrotechnics, fountains, lighting, audio and large-scale staging effects in one very complex production. Held at the Rivers of America, the nighttime show is a Disneyland original that has also spawned variants in Florida and Japan.

Unlike its younger Florida counterpart, Disneyland’s Fantasmic! takes place in existing park space – mainly the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island – that must remain accessible to guests during the day. With this requisite, the show’s creators were presented a challenge: to design a complex nighttime show infrastructure that can remain hidden in a well-established segment of the park that wouldn’t corrupt the area’s thematic integrity.

The main stage for Fantasmic!

Since the show uses an existing portion of the park, Fantasmic! does not feature dedicated seating. Instead, guests make use of existing pathways around the Rivers of America, which serve as sitting and standing areas. This produces a viewing area that effectively wraps around Tom Sawyer Island in a semicircle.

To address this 180-degree viewing area, technology for the show is distributed into three distinct viewing areas which are served by three large mist screens and fountain grids. Each section also features its own cluster of pyrotechnics that combine into one larger effect for the show.

Fountains at Fantasmic!

For lighting, Fantasmic! employs three large masts that remain hidden during the day in large vaults on the mainland.

A large lighting tower for Fantasmic!
A large lighting tower for Fantasmic!

Prior to each show, cast members form a safety perimeter around the vault as show technicians elevate each lighting mast.

A large lighting tower for Fantasmic!

Each lighting mast features a large array of Claypaky Alpha Wash 1200s and Alpha Spot 1200s, Martin Atomic 3000 DMX strobe lights, two manually-operated followspots from Strong Lighting and two Syncrolite MX4 xenon lights. The Syncrolites are installed on retractable platforms that slide towards the center of the lighting tower for safe storage when not in use.

A large lighting tower for Fantasmic!
A Syncrolite used at Fantasmic!
Claypaky Alpha Wash 1200 fixtures at Fantasmic!

For effects and supplemental lighting, Fantasmic! also features two masts that emerge and retract several times during the show on Tom Sawyer Island. Like the mainland towers, these contain Claypaky Alpha Wash/Spot 1200s and Vari-Lite VL5s topped by Syncrolite MX4s.

Because of their close proximity to the mist screens and fountains, these fixtures are frequently exposed to moisture.

One of two main lighting towers at Fantasmic!

Meanwhile, audio for the show can be divided into three sections: mains, delays and effects.

The main system consists of four stacks of speakers from d&b audiotechnik’s J-Series on Tom Sawyer Island. Each stack contains two J8s line array elements stacked on top of two J-SUB subwoofers aimed across the Rivers of America towards the viewing area. Like the lighting infrastructure, the J-Series stacks remain hidden during the day in vaults or behind set pieces.

d&b audiotechnik J Series used as mains at Fantasmic!
d&b audiotechnik J Series used as mains at Fantasmic!

Fantasmic! uses fountains, large mist screens and fire effects, so the primary speaker stacks are subjected to brutal environmental conditions during showtime.

d&b audiotechnik J Series used as mains at Fantasmic!

On the mainland, delays are supplied by Meyer Sound UPA-1Cs installed on retractable masts that surround the perimeter of the viewing area.

Two Meyer UPA-1Cs at Fantasmic!
Two Meyer UPA-1Cs at Fantasmic!

The large lighting masts contain Meyer Sound MSL-2As that serve as delays for viewing areas that stretch further back.

Finally, supplemental fills between the Meyer Sound UPA-1Cs are supplied by an embedded speaker beneath each light post. These are notably used for foreground audio during the day.

For effects audio, the show uses a mixture of show-specific speakers and existing land speakers that supply foreground audio. Show-specific speakers from the d&b audiotechnik C-Series emerge before showtime, and a variety of cabinets in Adventureland and New Orleans Square are used to supply effects audio during the performance.

Two speakers from d&b audiotechnik's Ci Series

Like many of Disney’s other nighttime shows, Fantasmic! uses a complex blend of technologies to produce a large-scale production nightly for thousands of guests that can be repeated year-round.

However, the original production of Fantasmic! serves as a great example of how designers can integrate technology in an existing space, transforming any land into the setting for a nighttime spectacular. This is all the more impressive when you factor in the level of equipment used and the budget necessary to hide this massive infrastructure without corrupting an existing area of the park.

Equipment list:

  • Claypaky Alpha Wash 1200
  • Claypaky Alpha Spot 1200
  • Martin Atomic 3000 DMX
  • Strong Lighting followspots
  • Syncrolite MX4
  • Vari-Lite VL5
  • d&b audiotechnik J8
  • d&b audiotechnik J-SUB
  • d&b audiotechnik Ci
  • Meyer Sound UPA-1C
  • Meyer Sound MSL-2A

These photos were taken in 2014 and 2015 in Anaheim, California.