We first saw Fantasmic! the summer it opened. We very well may have seen it on opening weekend or the weekend thereafter, but maybe not, because we tend to go on Thursdays, so it might have been during the week. On the other hand, I know for a fact that the park was open until midnight that night, because we saw the eleven forty-five show.
Parents keep talking about how their kids must all be asleep for that show, but I remember watching all of it...I think. And of course, I can't vouch for how awake we were while we waited for it to start. I think we were wide awake, though, because for one thing, we were already staying up pretty late on a regular basis by that time. Our friends would talk about not staying up until midnight on New Year's Eve, and we'd be like, "Why?"
For another thing, I remember the jazz band that played the pre-show. We were in our elementary school's chorus, and that must have been the year we'd performed Alexander's Ragtime Band, because we remember being haunted all day that day by that very song. We hated it, because the chorus teacher made us do these ridiculous motions to go along with it. It wasn't until we were in the audience of one of Sarah's chorus concerts that we realized the motions were not ridiculous so much as ridiculously adorable. We were young and of little understanding. So when the band played that song YET AGAIN (actually, the band only played it once, but we'd already heard it at least once during the course of the day (somewhere on Main Street), and that was enough for us to be convinced that we were being HAUNTED! (but we probably wouldn't have said we were "haunted" back then, because why would we freak ourselves out with anything even remotely close to a ghost story? are you kidding me?)).
Anyway, the band played Alexander's Ragtime Band, and we were like, "Noooooooooooooo!" And then maybe they played some more stuff (they played a bunch of things, of course, but I don't remember the order; that was 20 years ago, are you kidding me?), and then when the band's barge made it back to where it started, they were done playing and it was time for the show! Oooooohhh...
At the time, we had no idea what kind of awesomeness was in store. In fact, at the time, we didn't even understand the kind of awesomeness we had just witnessed. Obviously it was cool, and we went home and told all our teachers and classmates about how they made a screen! out of water! A water screen! And they put pictures on it! Moving pictures! (It was a little more coherent back then; we were Smart kids.) And Aurora, even Smarter, quipped that it was made for blind and deaf people a mile away. Now that we know better, we have to contest that argument, because we have not once been able to hear the music from the Disneyland parking lot.
The sad part of the story is that we gave in to the weakness of most Disneyland regulars and proceeded, now that we'd seen Fantasmic! once, to ignore it. Though to be fair, there was never a more perfect time to go on rides back then. It was before they cancelled the Electrical Parade, which happened to go on at exactly the same time! So half of the tourists are watching Fantasmic!, the other half are watching the Electrical Parade, and the lines are non-existent! We went on the Sky Way (ah, Sky Way...) four times in a row! And we didn't even have to get our of our sky bucket! We'd get to the other side and say, "Can we go again?" and, since there was literally (and I do mean literally) no one in line, they'd say sure and just push us around again. The best part? We could totally see the Electrical Parade from the sky.
It wasn't until about six years later, when we got our first annual passports, that we were reminded how amazing Fantasmic! is. The annual passes made it easier to feel like we could stop and smell the roses (or gunpowder, as the case may be) a little more. So we watched it again and completely fell in love. And now it's one of our favorite things ever!
...But it makes us a little sad, because they shrank the dragon to make it look "more realistic" or something. We've gotten into massive arguments with Gaston about it. With suspension of disbelief, piece-meal Dragon-Head on a Stick was much better than pansy little robot dragon. Dragon-Head on a Stick covered the whole island! ...Or would have, if it were a real dragon and not just a head on a stick. But that's beside the point! (And to further my argument, I want to point out that with all the smoke and mist in the air from all the fireworks and waterscreens, it's really easy not to notice that it's just a head on a stick.)
...Anyway, they set the river on fire, and that's just awesome.
One of these days, we'll get to see the Tokyo version... *wistful*
Today I'm thankful for twenty years of the super awesome amazingness that is Fantasmic!, all the rides we got to go on when it teamed up with the Electrical Parade (thanks Disney entertainment!), Dragon-Head on a Stick, having grown past my aversion to Alexander's Ragtime Band, and getting a paycheck yesterday.