Is Fantasmic! at Walt Disney World Too Scary For My Child?
Should I Take My Small Child To See Fantasmic! at Disney's Hollywood Studios Theme Park in Orlando, Florida?
There's a show at Disney's Hollywood Studios called Fantasmic! and it is only offered a couple of times a week. It's about 26 minutes long and is very popular - however, there is a fairly significant villain section in that lasts about 8 minutes and it includes a dragon. This article will give you all the information you need to decide whether or not the Fantasmic! show at Disney's Hollywood Studios is appropriate for your child. Fantasmic! is an impressive show and is generally suitable for older children and adults but it may not be appropriate for preschoolers, anyone who does not yet comprehend the difference between reality and make-believe, or to individuals who are prone to nightmares.
Note: Disney's Hollywood Studios used to be named "Disney-MGM Studios".
What Fantasmic! Is All About
A brief outline of the plot of Fantasmic!
Stylistically, Fantasmic! may remind you of Fantasia, Mickey's Philharmagic (3-D attraction at the Magic Kingdom), or the Disney Silly Symphonies. There is very little dialogue and most of the action corresponds with the tone set by the musical score. There are live action sequences with characters from the Disney movies along with familiar images being projected on a screen of water mist. The storyline follows the classic Disney model of a fairly peaceful beginning, followed by a conflict with a villain, good overcoming evil, and a happy ending. In this case, Mickey is having a dream but his imagination runs away with him causing a montage of classic Disney villians come to intimidate Mickey - in the end, he announces "Hey, this is my dream!" and everything goes back to happiness and dancing princesses. Although the story itself is very simplistic, adults will be impressed with the elaborate affects and scene changes. Lightning, giant puppets, fountains, mist screens, flames, and pyrotechnics are impressively incorporated into this spectacular production.
Things in Fantasmic that Might Frighten Small Children
If you have any concerns about your child becoming frightened or upset by Fantasmic!, we highly recommend you take the 27 minutes necessary to watch the Fantasmic You Tube video below. You know your child best so you will be able to evaluate the show and pick up on any less obvious elements that might frighten your child. The list below includes some of the things in the show that we think could be potentially frightening to preschoolers or timid souls.
- Starting at about 7:19 minutes into the youtube video - or about 7 minutes into the show - you'll notice that the tone of the music and the images starts to change in subtle ways. The whale from Pinocchio is projected onto a screen, there is a fight scene from the movie Pochahontas, and we start to see some elements of conflict introduced into the plot. Mickey, in the Sorcerer Mickey, costume gets caught into a typhoon and calls out "What's Going On!?!".
- The most intense portion of Fantasmic begins at about 13:45 minutes into the You Tube video or about 13.5 minutes into the actual show. Maleficent (from Sleeping Beauty) appears and threatens Mickey Mouse. Her image is always a bit frightening but we also see the images of other Disney villians like Ursula (Little Mermaid), Hades (Hercules), Jafar (Aladdin), Cruella (101 Dalmatians), & Scar (Lion King) morph from one to the next on a mist screen. The voice track during this portion is ominous. Later on, this segment also includes some wraith, ghost, dragon or demon figures set to the more intense portion of the soundtrack.
- At one point, the entire lake catches fire, with actual flames (approximately 21 minutes into the show). People in the lower rows can actually feel the heat from these flames. Flames, in smaller amounts, are also used in other scenes. A comet-like ball flies through the air and causes a bright flash in the scene from Pocohontas. Flames and flashes are a part of Maleficent's spell.
- There is live action snake-like dragon with glowing eyes that appears and moves menacingly. This occurs between 16:30 - 17:35 minutes and at 20:43 - 22:45 minutes into the video and roughly around the same duration into the actual show. This dragon gets absolutely huge.
- Magic - Maleficent has a big cauldron and casts a spell to turn Mickey's dream into a nightmare. Mickey Mouse rubs a Magic lamp, hoping that will help but he inadvertently releases Jafar (who was trapped in the lamp in the Aladdin movie), causing even more problems.
Watch Fantasmic! on YouTube
This video is about 26 minutes long. You can watch the whole thing or we'll give you the times in the video you need to decide whether the show will be too scary or not.
Ways to Help Your Child Watch Fantasmic Without Getting Scared
Depending on the maturity of your child, the following tips may help your child enjoy Fantasmic and deal with the scary portions.
- Tell your child the whole storyline or let them watch the You Tube video - knowing what to expect in advance can make the intense sections manageable. Don't worry about spoiling the show; young kids love familiar things - think of how many times they've watched their favorite DVD.
- Do you have a smart but sensitive older child? Consider arming them with good information and technical details.
Tell them that the whole lake will catch on fire. Then explain that Disney uses a carefully measured amount of propane that will float on the water. Assure them that Disney has practiced this over and over so they know the exact amount of gas to use to burn the exact right amount of time. If they express concerns about accidents, tell them that the concrete steps and metal bleachers are not things that easily catch fire.
Show your child the snake segment (16:30 - 17:35 minutes into the video) and talk about how it is regular humans that are carrying each segment of the snake. You can show them the You Tube Video below of the Chinese Dragon Dance to show how it is done.
- Give your child a "weapon" for self-defense. Some people may find this method objectionable but many, many years ago, my son was frightened by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. His grandma purchased a plastic sword from the gift shop and gave our son permission to fight off any pirates that attacked us on the ride. She carefully explained the difference between pirates and the other tourists in the boat. My son brandished his sword throughout the ride, managed to avoid whacking any of the other guests, and felt brave throughout the whole experience. If you don't want to buy a sword, consider teaching your child a few good karate chopping motions accompanied by "Hi Yah!" type exclamations before going into the show. The ability to defend oneself goes a long way towards feeling confident in this world.
- We've given you approximate show times for the most intense, potentially frightening portions. You may be able to distract your child with a snack or a toy. Failing that, you can always take them to the restroom beginning about 12 minutes into the show. If you plan to use this tip, try to sit at the edge of a row so you won't be stepping over other people as you make your way to the aisle.
- Always keep in mind the possibility that you may have to come to your child's rescue by taking them out of the show, should it become too frightening. You have a choice here - you can react with irritation at the fact that you had to leave the show and you can belittle your child for being frightened. Or...(and this is what we recommend) you can be your child's hero by protecting his/her precious heart and mind until she/he is older and better able to deal with these types of images. Keep smiling, assure your child that you didn't mind leaving the show, and tell him/her about a time when you were a child and got frightened by a movie or a scary story. Let your child know that you're on their side. Remember that you're making memories - they can be memories of shame and frustration or this can be a situation where you child sees that they can trust you with their fears and with their feelings.
Chinese Dragon Dance Video
Here's a You Tube Video of a group of people in a parking lot doing a Chinese Dragon Dance. This is not scary and can be used to show a child how Disney creates the snake in Fantasmic!
Tips for Seeing Fantasmic at Walt Disney World
- The entrance to the Fantasmic! Amphitheater is on Sunset Blvd., between the Beauty & the Beast Live! stage and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.
- Except during peak travel times, Fantasmic! is no longer offered every night of the week so check the Walt Disney World calendar of events before you go and plan to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park on a day when the show is offered.
- Avoid any day where Disney's Hollywood Studios has an "Extra Magic Hour" (special times reserved just for Disney resort hotel guests) and Fantasmic! The combination of these two things will make Disney's Hollywood Studios disproportionately busy on days that offer both incentives.
- Fantasmic Dinner Package - You reserve an early dining time (generally before 4:20PM) and you receive a voucher for a spot in a reserved section. This can save a lot of time you would otherwise spend in line. The three restaurants that participate in the Fantasmic Dinner Package are Hollywood & Vine (buffet), Mama Melrose (Italian), and Brown Derby. The Fantasmic Dinner Package reservation must be confirmed with a credit card and you will be charged a "no-show" penalty if you skip the reservation. There is a 48 hour cancellation policy.
Are you on a Disney Dining Plan? The Fantasmic Dinner Packages at Hollywood & Vine and at Mama Melrose each only take one Disney Dining Plan table-service credit per person; the Brown Derby is a Signature Dining Location and will require two table-service meal credits per person.
There is very limited availability for the Fantasmic Dinner Package so reserve early (up to 180 days prior to arrival). You must specifically reserve a "Fantasmic Dinner Package" to receive these benefits. These restaurants will have regular reservations available that do nto include the Fantasmic seating vouchers.
- You don't have to have a Fantasmic Dinner Package to see the show. It is included as part of your admission to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park. However, the show may fill to capacity. The gates open about 90 minutes prior to the show and, during busy seasons, it is essential to line up at least 70 minutes prior to showtime. It may be possible for one parent to hold a place in line while the other parent gets food at Catalina Eddie's, Rosie's All-American Cafe, or the Backlot Express to eat while you wait for the show to start. Combining mealtime with waiting time will reduce the sense that you are wasting time.
- There isn't any meal type food sold inside the amphitheatre but snacks like popcorn and sodas are available for sale. There are restrooms inside the theatre.
- Are there two performances of Fantasmic! on the day you're visiting? If so, the second performance will always be less crowded than the first. The other advantage to the second performance is that it gives you more time to enjoy Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park rides and attractions.
- There are no bad seats but we think theseats just to the right or to the left of the center from the middle row of the amphitheatre back to the top row are the best seats. This show has a pretty wide scope so sitting too far forward can actually make it harder to take it all in.
- The show is about 25 minutes long. Your showtime might be such that you have about an hour of park time after the show ends. If you hope to get in a few last rides after the show, consider sitting on the right side (as you face the stage) so that you're closest to the exit when the show ends. Get up and leave promptly so that you don't get stuck in a slow moving crowd.
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Give us your opinion of Fantasmic! or tell us how your children reacted to the show. We're also happy to answer your Walt Disney World related questions.