With Fantasmic! slated to officially return to Disneyland Monday July 17 after an 18-month absence, we have some news and rumors about this popular Disney spectacular. And be sure to read all the way through for a surprise ending.

New Duds

The biggest murmuring among cast members hasn’t been about all the changes to the show—but rather about the new costume for employees working crowd control.

Gone is the old bright yellow and blue color scheme. Instead, according to photos unveiled last week on The Hub, guest control cast members will now wear blue long-sleeved shirts with brown pants. But what’s really raised some eyebrows is HOW the new uniform is to be worn. The blue shirt is to be worn untucked. And the sleeves can be rolled up or pushed up with the cuff exposed. The long pants can be worn traditionally with the hem down. But evidently you can also roll them above your ankles and not wear any socks.

The initial reaction among the troops was a collective “WTF?” One employee said, “Operational Costuming has hit an all-time low.” Another remarked that the park has gone “ghetto.” But, style choices aside, the new color scheme appears to achieve the opposite effect of what the original hue aimed for; dressed in darker colors, crowd control personnel will now be less visible and guests looking for help from a cast member will have a harder time spotting them.

Use Your Imagination

Early 1992 Fantasmic marketing ©Disney

As for the reworked show itself, it has been undergoing dry runs over the last several weeks. Technologically, the entire show has been upgraded, with new lighting, 21 new fountains, and three new 60-foot-by-30-foot mist screens. But projections won’t be confined to the mist screens. Projections will now be cast upon the entire island (a la the projection mapping on Sleeping Beauty Castle in the fireworks show).

The soundtrack has been completely rewritten, maintaining the familiar Fantasmic! theme music, but weaving in music associated with the many added characters and sequences. And a number of favorites, including the Tick-Tock float, have been retired.

Here’s the lineup (thar be spoilers, ahead!):

• The show opens on Mickey: During the test runs, there was no voiceover to introduce the show. Instead it’s light, pxie dust, sounds and straight into Mickey on stage. The classic opening music remains, although it plays significantly longer. The Mouse will be featured much more prominently and sprinkled throughout the updated show, unlike before when he basically disappeared until the finale.

• The old Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence features new animations.

• The previous flower scene is accompanied by newly recorded vocals and animation. They’re the same lyrics, but they sound gentler, almost like they’re rocking us to sleep.

• Jungle scene has brand new music. The wildly dancing monkeys remain, but their costumes have been redone.

• A new Lion King segment begins with “The Circle of Life.”

• Pink Elephant scene is familiar except for the order of the animations and some audio.

• The Genie sings “Friend Like Me.” The number replaces the Pinocchio segment, but keep an eye out for a well-placed reference to him in this segment; a nice nod to the original Fantasmic!

• Underwater scene, opening with The Little Mermaid and featuring Finding Nemo and other underwater characters, including Cleo the goldfish from Pinocchio. This provides a nice transition to old Pinocchio/Jiminy Cricket scene where they encounter Monstro.

Pirates of the Caribbean, replacing the Peter Pan scene. Instead of the sudden open with a cannon shot, this scene now transitions with Barbosa answering Mickey’s line: “Hey, what’s going on?” The Captain talks about his ship, as the Sailing Ship Columbia enters stage left. During previews, the ship was lit dramatically, but nothing over the top. The plan was to transform the Columbia into an “eerie ghost ship,” but the digital mapping projectors still aren’t working properly in the scene, and it’s unlikely the problems will be solved by the time the show debuts for the public.

Concept art of new Aladdin scene ©Disney

• The iconic Princesses scene now starts with Aladdin and Jasmine on a flying carpet, floating across the stage over a bed of magic fog. They are followed by a trio of barges featuring Belle and the Beast, Ariel (now standing on human legs) and Prince Eric, and finally Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (who takes Snow White and Prince Charming’s spot). Notable omissions: no dramatic princess lift and no appearance by the Evil Queen.

• Mist screens become the magic mirror. The dialogue between the mirror and Mickey has been revised. It transitions into the Old Hag, post-transformation, rising with the cauldron on stage. She still wants to turn “that little mouse’s dream into a nightmare Fantasmic….”

• Ursula segment, minus floats.

• Chernabog now has a more prominent place perched way up high on the new screen between the two trees on the island and above the cabin. Pretty cool.

• Maleficent and Mickey—the classic showdown, with her rising from the stage and challenging him. There’s now a more dramatic entrance for Murphy, the 45-foot-tall dragon. She slowly rises from the stage, in full view of the audience. Mickey defeats her as usual, but in previews the scene was lit so brightly, the audience could see her being lowered back into the stage after being slain. Hopefully this can be corrected.

• Classic close with Tinkerbell, followed by the Mark Twain, and cut to Sorcerer Mickey atop the cabin.

Previewers’ early reviews of Fantasmic 2.0! have been mixed. The new digital projectors and improved water screens received universal high marks. The preview performances continue to contain a lot of kinks, all of which probably can’t be ironed out by Opening Night. Content-wise, one previewer complained, “It appears the show was changed for change’s sake.” I have to wonder if reaction will mimic my own in experiencing Soarin’ Around the World. On paper, the changes seem sure fire—freshen up an aging favorite by simply swapping in new sequences of wonder, while retaining the basics of the show’s structure and soundtrack. But because people loved the early incarnation so dearly, the familiarity only served to remind them how much better the original version was.

Following the soft openings this weekend (three shows are expected on both Saturday and Sunday) and the official performances starting Monday, please let us know what you think!

Come and See at D23

Anyone and everyone who has an opportunity to attend D23 this coming weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center: please do it! Yes, just by virtue of moving across the street, Disney will seem to have forgotten everything they ever learned about efficient queueing. Yes, the halls will be too small to provide half the space needed for everyone who wants to see each presentation. And, yes, once every couple of hours you’ll be shaking your head mumbling, “Why didn’t anyone read the complaint letters and fix this problem from the last five expos?”

But, despite all the unnecessary head-scratchers, Disney will also stage a show unlike all others—providing a glimpse at concept art, film clips, theme park models, movie stars, historic artifacts, and expansion plans unlike anywhere else. I adore seeing fans dressed in their ingenious costumes. And I especially love the opportunity to renew old friendships and start new ones.

This year, I’ll be signing and selling my books at MiceChat’s 40-foot-long Hallowed Table of Disney Legends (spaces 712 thru 718). Meet Bob Gurr, Floyd Norman, Mike Peraza, Bobby Burgess, Garner Holt, and numerous other terrific artists and Mouseketeers who will rotate in and out of the MiceChat booth. Bob Penfield, the last of the Opening Day employees to retire from Disneyland, will be signing his book The Last Original Disneylander in paperback and hardcover from 11 AM to 2 PM Friday, 12 noon to 3 PM Saturday, and 11 AM to 2 PM Sunday. I’ll be there all three days from open to close.

PLEASE stop by and say hi!

Surprise Fantasmic! FastPass

Finally, the current plan is for everyone who gets in to the D23 Expo Parks & Resorts presentation on Saturday will be given a FastPass for that night’s soft opening of Fantasmic! Folks who are not going to D23 Expo or who can’t get into the Parks presentation should try to get to the River as early as possible on Saturday.

Who’s ready for the return of Fantasmic?  Let’s hear from you below.

Some imagination, huh?!