Okay, it's time to stop putting this off and start talking about Fantasmic. I think my biggest problem with it, and why I'm so reluctant to talk about it, is that I fully realize that it may only be a matter of our being resistant to change, paired with having different tastes than most people (I think everybody thinks they have unique taste, but the point is, what's popular today is stuff I mostly just think of as meh). The point is, a lot of people like it, so even though I hate it, it doesn't mean it's bad
, just different than I like. But the fact remains that my favorite thing ever has been replaced with something that is decidedly not my favorite thing ever, and I want to go on a violent rampage about it (not super violent, just, like, throwing stuff, like stuffed animals, because I don't want to break anything). But I also have to come to terms with the fact that the new version isn't going away and the old version isn't coming back, and for most people it has virtually no bearing on their lives. But for me, I am crushed.
So here goes. The first thing we noticed about the new Fantasmic is that they changed the guest control costumes. Before, they wore fluorescent yellow shirts with a black stripe across the chest--very attention grabbing, designed for high visibility. Now, they wear a light matted blue, designed to fit in with the Rivers of America theme, we assume. They kind of blended into the background as early as dusk, but that's okay, because their traffic control wands are super super bright now. Of course, we immediately hated it, because we were primed to hate all changes, especially if we could justify not changing them to that. Actually, the outfits themselves are kind of cute, but we were like, "Do they NOT understand that the fluorescent yellow was there for A REASON!?" Gaston said that bright colors actually aren't more visible in the dark, and we were like, "Not in total darkness, but if there's any light at all (which there is during Fantasmic, duh), you're a heck of a lot more likely to spot a white shirt than a black one." I also want to point out that Fantasmic is all about lights and sparkles, not really about fitting into the Frontierland motif. So I will contend that the bright yellow costumes were more appropriate, but what does my opinion matter anyway.
The next thing we noticed was that they had in fact switched out the Peter Pan scene, because we got off of the Haunted Mansion in the middle of the first show and went to hide in Critter Country until it was over so as to avoid spoilers. As we walked that way, we saw the Columbia docking, with the new characters hanging on to the rigging. And as we waited in Critter Country, all the way by the Winnie the Pooh ride, we noticed that the show seems louder, because we could still hear it. On the other hand, it's been ages since we've seen Fantasmic, or heard it from Critter Country, so it's possible that it's the same volume.
We ended up watching it from what used to be our usual spot before they implemented Fastpass seating, so that was kind of nice. It was probably also for the best that we discovered the couple standing next to our group was from Gaston's very favorite city, so they were able to pass the time talking about that while we waited for the show. It wasn't so nice for us, since the conversation wasn't very relatable, and I was too far away to make out all of it over the ambient noise. Instead, we just waited for the show to start, and seethed over the existence of a new screen hanging above the little house on Tom Sawyer's Island. The stage for Fantasmic is the rivers, with two ground levels of the island, and a building in the back. It used to be that the building was just a backdrop until the finale. With a screen above it, now they would project images on top of the house before the finale. We already knew they were going to use even more projections than the original Fantasmic, and as I mentioned yesterday, we're so over that stuff, so seeing that not only were they going to project onto the house, but onto a screen above it, we were like, "...yay."
Okay, so the show started with the opening narration, which was changed very slightly, but was mostly the same, about how we were going to go into Mickey's imagination and stuff, and then there was the musical tone and all the spotlights. Originally, it was just spotlights moving around, but of course now there are projections of sparkles. The music builds and Mickey appears, and he starts waving his hands as if conducting the fountains. I think the choreography was mostly the same, but instead of just moving fountains around, there are more projected sparkles. Originally, Mickey was silent during this, but now they've added him saying, "Ooh," and, "Aah," and it seriously annoyed me at first, and it took me a while to figure out why. First, it makes it seem like he's all, "I didn't know I could do that!" while before it was more like, "Look what I can do." It's kind of like they took Mickey back to level one and want to keep him there. Second, because they had him like, "I didn't know I could do that!", it's more like he's in his own head, and we just happen to be watching, whereas as before, it was more like he was putting on a show for us
. It's a very subtle but significant difference, because we're the type of people who have a hard time just jumping into someone else's circle; we still feel like outsiders. But if Mickey is putting on the show for us, we've been invited, and we feel more like we belong. (Athena: The problem with being vampires, I guess.)
From there on, it was a lot of the same feeling. He still shot the fireworks from his hands, but because there were so many sparkles leading up to it, it had a much smaller impact. The sparkles were in rainbow HD, and the fireworks were just clumsy white sparks. They also had Mickey appearing in much more of the show, like this version is more of a dream that Mickey had while he was asleep, being visited by all of these characters and scenes from his imagination. The original version was more like a daydream--he's imagining things, but deliberately. Although he did sometimes get off course, like when he started drowning and Monstro attacked, and then the ship was in a storm, but then he regained control, the ship was okay, and it was Peter Pan.
They also switched Mickey into his Sorcerer's Apprentice outfit way early on. In the original, after he does his fireworks hands, the stage goes dark, and we see projections on water screens of him controlling the stars and the waves, and yeah, he's in the red robe then, but it's just on the screen, like this was his ideal, but it was still just a dream. That way, when he shows up at the end in the red robe, it's like, "Yeah, he has ALL the magic now!" The story did a much better job of building to a climax, whereas this new version is ALL THE LIGHTS ALL THE TIME!!!!
Also, the fountains and little firework accents were a perfect match for the projections, when he was controlling water and lights. In the new version, instead of having that part of the Sorcerer's Apprentice animation, they opt for the brooms. And this is where we see one of the drawbacks of the show that I think is a legitimate complaint and not just me being picky about story: because they're now projecting things onto the island as well as the water screens, they had to lower the images that were projected onto the screen. And of course, to be in the very front, you either have to get a Fastpass (which tend to run out by 11am every morning, a cast member tells us), or buy one of the dining packages. And that all means that those of us standing up in the back (and we were in the front of our section) can't see the lower levels of the projections. Ah, but there's so much to look at anyway, who cares if we can't see the important stuff? Let's just look at the frenetic pictures on the island. Or at Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey on that stupid screen above the building, much earlier than he should have ever been there. We're not even supposed to know that's part of the stage yet.
Okay, after the Sorcerer's Apprentice stuff, we move on to the Lion King section. It's mostly just projections, with a kind of tribal pattern projected onto the building backdrop, except when they showed the "walking across the log" bit from Hakuna Matata. They still have Kaa, only with fancier designs, but I don't remember being wowed when his spotlight eyes turned on. They still have King Louie, but the monkeys dancing with him don't look like the ones from the movie anymore. Instead, they look like the ones from DisneySea's Fantasmic, and you all know how we felt about that one. And of course we were so thrilled to find more evidence of them copying it.
They still have the Pink Elephants part, but instead of being a super cool rock and roll version, now it's dubstep. We couldn't stay focused enough to pay attention to whether or not the music and visuals were in sync; they were all so perfect before. The whole show was perfectly in sync before. But we were a bit distraught to hear one of my very favorite musical arrangements from the original had changed. It felt kind of lifeless, but I'll admit that might just be my resistance to change again. We had a friend raving to us (pun intended) about how amazing electronic dance music is, and how it's, like, the new evolution in music, and we were like, "Well, if you like it, you can go ahead and like it." But now it has infiltrated my beloved Fantasmic!, and I'm not sure I'm okay with it anymore. It could just be bias, and I'm sure we'll end up seeing the stupid thing again because Gaston really liked it, so maybe if we watch it when we're not too busy being disappointed that it's not the old show, we'll learn that the new one isn't so
bad. From a storytelling perspective, I don't think we're ever going to like the new show better than the old one, but it's too soon to tell whether or not we'll hate it eternally. (Based on our opinions of World of Color, odds of us coming to like it are not good.)
Next they do Friend Like Me, featuring the Genie, who is now singing to Mickey instead of Aladdin, because Mickey is not in control like in the original; he's just a wanderer in his own mind. The Genie, of course, is all projections, but Mickey is a live actor in, you guessed it, his Sorcerer's Apprentice costume, and when the Genie is showing off all his tricks, they go under the sea, where we catch a brief glimpse of Ariel before a super long sequence of stingrays just swimming and swimming. It looked like a computer screen saver. And then we hearken back to the original again, for the scene of Jiminy Cricket in a bubble, which switches over to some dramatic Monstro stuff (this is all just projections and splashing now), and then, as in the original, the scene morphs into the flood in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, with Mickey calling for help, the lights go off, we see just Mickey's eyes as he asks either, "What's going on?" or "Who turned out the lights?", we see a ship in a storm (a la The Little Mermaid), and then we go back into new material.
Originally, we had the ship in the storm, then BOOM!, the lights came up, and there was Peter Pan, fighting Captain Hook on the Jolly Roger. Now, we see a ship in a storm, then Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean is projected onto the screen and asks, "What happened to my ship?", and then the lights go up, and Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swan are running around doing something. I had a hard time following the action, which again, I'll admit may have had something to do with my knee-jerk hatred. I do think the voiceover for Elizabeth was genuinely annoying, though. Something about her delivery, I guess? All I remember is that it started with Elizabeth bouncing up and down...in fact, I think almost all the stunts were Elizabeth this time. In the original, there was random stuff happening to all the random pirates, like getting shot down from the mast, and swinging on the side of the ship. I think all that stuff happens, but just to Elizabeth. Except maybe Jack was the one swinging back and forth behind the ship at the end? Apparently they were trying to get Jack's compass for some reason? And it was glowing so the audience could see it. And he says, "Do you still need that rescue?" and, in one of the rare instances when nothing is actually happening to her, she says, "What does it look like?" in a "duh" tone of voice, and he says, "Right, I'm on my way then," and goes to rescue her from...the tightrope she unwisely decided to walk across because no one was really following her? I'm going to apologize for my interpretation of this scene, because it's possible that if I had been more lucid, and my mind not so clouded with rage, it would have made more sense.
The pirate ship sails off, and the music calms down. Originally, this led into the princess part, but now we have a brief magic carpet interlude first. Aladdin and Jasmine appear on what looks like a raised, bobbing platform, and they bob up and down while A Whole New World plays and various scenes from that part of the movie are projected on the various levels of screens. It didn't seem that magical, but again, rage tends to close your mind to magic. That
part was followed by the princess barges, and again the music had been rearranged. It sounded very tired to us, an idea that seemed to be reinforced by the fact that Eric and Ariel were practically offstage by the time their song ended, but on later evaluation, we realized it's possible that that was because the action had all been shifted to the right a bit. Why? Because originally, when Eric and Ariel finished, Snow White and the Prince did their thing, and their barge lit up right when they were at center stage. But Snow White has been replaced by Rapunzel, and naturally the main focus of that scene is
the loving couple
the floating lanterns. So Rapunzel's barge was also a little to the right when her scene started, so that we could all better appreciate their lantern projections. (On the other hand, it's possible that they're still working out the timing on the barges, and when they finally get it all down, Rapunzel and Eugene will be more centered when their song starts.)
When the lights go down on the princess floats, originally, the Wicked Queen came along and said hey, that's not cool. I don't like the way this mouse's imagination works, so I'm going to take over. She transforms into the hag version, which I will admit, is the one part of Fantasmic! that never made any sense to me, but thinking about it now that it's too late, I realize that maybe it was all part of her "I'll make his dream into a nightmare phantasmic!" thing. Obviously, she thinks she's too pretty to be the stuff of nightmares unless she transforms herself. But it doesn't matter now, because now, the Magic Mirror shows up, and says, "Hey, Mickey, you know there's a bunch of characters that are, like, waaaaaaaaaay more powerful than you. Wanna see how they do it?" And Mickey says, "...Sure!" (The mirror was a paraphrase. Mickey was not.) And the mirror says, "Okay...ha! You are now trapped inside me!" and now we don't have a Mickey actor, just an animation projected into a mirror. We seem to remember Mickey getting trapped in the Magic Mirror in the DisneySea version, too, but that's another show that had us too bored to remember much detail on.
From there on, it's very much the same as the original. The Wicked Queen shows up already in hag form, and I don't know if they rerecorded the dialogue or not, because they didn't have to. It was exactly the same. For the Ursula part, they added some more fountain action to look kind of tentacle-y, and some animation of Mickey trapped in the mirror, with fancy smoke like what Ursula used to steal Ariel's voice. And for the Chernabog part, they added more demons and fireworks. Then Maleficent shows up, only she's standing on a different part of the stage than she used to, because they don't have her rise up like they did before (which is a super bummer, because that part was totally awesome). They're using different projections to hide the dragon's appearance now, and the dragon...well, the robot is bigger than that last one, I think. But we always seem to remember the robot being smaller than it is, because it still always seems smaller than the original dragon, and therefore it is always less impressive. Mickey confronts it as before, only not in the Brave Little Tailor outfit (he's still in that Sorcerer's Apprentice outfit), and zaps her with fireworks instead of a sword. I guess they thought it would be cooler to defeat her with magic, and maybe it is, but as stated many times before, I am resistant to change. And the Sorcerer Mickey thing should have been saved for the end.
The dragon defeated, everything goes dark, and the water screens come up. As before, we see some sparkles, which eventually reveal themselves to be Tinkerbell, only now she's the CGI version. The finale music starts playing, leading into the main fanfare. That's when the lights go up on the Mark Twain, revealing all of the Disney characters dancing and celebrating, and it always made me tear up before. This time, it did make me cry, but not for the same reason. First of all, somehow the contrast between the introduction to the fanfare and the fanfare itself wasn't as big a thing. Like the whole show was at the same volume the whole time or something. Anyway, when those lights going up didn't elicit a reaction from me, I was like, well, it's over. My beloved Fantasmic! is gone forever, and it's never coming back, because this is the kind of thing people like these days. And those thoughts had me bawling throughout the finale.
The Mark Twain went by, and then Sorcerer Mickey appeared on top of the building, like it was supposed to be special somehow, even though neither the costume nor the location nor the amount of sparkles was anything new. They did, however, change the choreography, so now the fireworks aren't as perfectly matched with the music as they were before. Although, in fairness, I was busy crying during this time, so it's possible that they synced in a different way, but I can say with certainty that the fireworks were different. I can't say if they were better or worse, but I can say that I thought they were perfect before, and, despite people's overuse of the word perfect to mean things like "really good," when I say perfect, I mean "the best they can possibly be," so it's not likely that they were better. But again, in fairness, sometimes our own imaginations put a limit on what we think
is the best possible, and maybe it surpassed them.
I was still crying when the show ended and the exit music started. This, too, had been replaced, and guess what! It was the song from the DisneySea Fantasmic! You can guess how we felt about that. I literally screamed. I mean, not like a shriek of terror kind of scream, more like a guttural cry of rage, with a pretty hard R throughout, like, "URRRRRRRRRRRGH!" Regardless, it was enough to startle the very lovely English woman who was standing nearby. Athena apologized, and we explained that our childhood had just been completely destroyed (okay, not our childhood; we didn't really love Fantasmic! until our late teens, but still), and we told her all about what the show used to be like. She was very sympathetic and understanding, and we really appreciated it. In retrospect, it was a very good thing that Gaston was distracted talking to his new friends from before the show, because his response when we explained something we didn't like the new show was to be like, "The old version was dumb anyway!" So I'm very grateful that this sweet English lady happened to be there, and that Gaston's new friends happened to be there as well.
And in fairness to the show, the English lady said, as someone who's never seen any Fantasmic before, she was still very impressed and she liked it very much. She and her family were going to try to get fastpasses on a future day so they could actually see what was happening on the water screens. If I remember correctly, I think the word she said in reaction to the show was "gobsmacked."
And that's that. I will say that, if I had to say, Fantasmic is still the one thing that Disneyland California has that's better than Tokyo Disney Resort. But before, it was better enough to make us care. Since neither show is good enough to make me want to stick around to watch it, I'll just go to the park that has more overall appeal, thanks. (Or I'll keep going to the California park, because, you know, I live here. Sigh.)
Today I'm thankful for getting to see the new Fantasmic, running into very understanding people after the show, having the soundtrack to the original version, A Table Is Waiting, and Out of Shadowland.