Edit: If you’re wondering where you can see these shows “officially,” here’s how.
2. There’s a dropdown menu right above the calendar where you can select your month. Pick July, August, or September.
3. Mouse over the Park hours for any date and click. It will show the Fantasmic time as well as the opening/closing/parade times.
4. You can change the day from this view by clicking the “previous day” and “next day” arrows above the date. Note that if you click the “back” button on your browser that it may revert back to the current month and you’ll need to reselect July, August, or September.
Disney has unexpectedly added Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios to every night from July 1st through September 30th. As you may be aware, Disney has limited the number of Fantasmic shows per week since January 2009, scheduling the show on as few as two nights each week. This made it relatively easy to visit the Studios on low crowd days as any day without Fantasmic or Extra Magic Hours, particularly early in the week, would be an excellent day to tour.
Scheduling Fantasmic every night has both positive and negative implications. On one hand, the show may very well be easier to see and require an arrival time closer to the start of the show. Since 2009, it has been necessary to arrive at Fantasmic 60 or more minutes early to secure seats for the first show of the night. The Theater seating is horrendously uncomfortable and temperatures are only marginally lower around 7pm – not to mention the evening humidity. On the other hand, if they limit the shows to one each night, they may still not be able to meet demand. The Hollywood Hills Theater, where Fantasmic is shown, seats just under 7,000 people, with standing room for another 2,000-3,000. On an average day, 30,000 people visit the Studios. That means only about 30% of the people that enter the Park will be able to see Fantasmic, assuming only one show is scheduled. While not everyone has intentions to see the show, many do. Prior to January 2009, Fantasmic “sold out” most nights, even when the show was featured every night. Since June, July, and the first two to three weeks in August will see above-average overall crowds, it’s likely that most Fantasmic shows will continue to play to a packed house, at least until the latter half of August.
One of the other major benefits of days without Fantasmic was that Studios’ crowds lowered significantly after 4pm, leading to significantly lower wait times by 5:30pm. Because so many people will be sticking around for Fantasmic every night, we can expect less of an evening dropoff. Plus, Fantasmic won’t be starting until the official Park closing time, meaning Fantasmic begins at 9pm when the Studios’ operating hours are 9am to 9pm. This means many people will be doing the attraction thing until at least 8:30pm, keeping wait times high. The 9pm start throws some people off because it seems like the show is starting after the Park closes. While this is technically true, it’s worth pointing out again that the theme parks don’t actually shut down at the closing bell. Shops often stay open for 30 to 60 minutes after the official close and many restaurants accept reservations right up and sometimes after the posted closing hour. That means those people will be eating inside the Parks well after close. While Fantasmic technically begins at “Park close,” everyone is welcome to stay for the show. Disney is well aware of the crowds that will be pouring out of the Hollywood Hills Theater at 9:30pm and they’ll have as many buses as possible on hand to deliver guests wherever they may be headed. Another consequence of Fantasmic ending after the rest of the Park closes is that nearly everyone will be headed directly for the exit and many will be headed right for their Disney bus line. This creates quite the bottleneck, with uncomfortable tension between thousands of people that are shoulder-to-shoulder after spending a few too many hours in the Florida heat . As I pointed out earlier, you can expect at least a few of the major Hollywood Boulevard stores to remain open for those exiting Fantasmic and looking to buy. My advice is always to hang back and let the masses exit in front of you. Take a minute to stretch, tell a joke, smile, and loudly tell your partner how much you LOVE EASYWDW DOT COM. Then proceed to a store with its lights on and peruse the goodies for about 20 minutes until the Park clears out. You’ll have a much easier exit and spending that time looking at Mickey coffee cups is a lot more pleasant than standing outside in the humid Florida night, even if you have no intention of purchasing anything.
Unfortunately, the additional Fantasmic shows seriously change crowd patterns and ultimately the recommended Parks. While there have been rumblings that Fantasmic would return to daily performances, there was no indication that this change would be implemented now. I’ll be reworking the Crowd Calendars for July, August, and September. Hopefully changes will be minimal and easily worked around. After I go over the new information, I’ll be back with some tips for those of you who want to keep your itinerary the same, regardless of any recommendation changes. If there is one positive about Fantasmic, it’s that it does cause people to arrive at the Park later in the morning, causing waits to increase slower. If you are planning to see Fantasmic, your best plan of attack will be arriving prior to Park opening and then heading straight to Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours. Get these out of the way and you have nothing to worry about. You can then take a break around 1pm-2pm and return around 6pm for dinner, additional rides on the headliners with FASTPASSes collected earlier in the day, and then enjoy Fantasmic. If you have no interest in seeing Fantasmic, the three-quarter day may be your best bet, where you arrive prior to Park opening and stay until 4pm or whenever you complete your itinerary.
While Fantasmic certainly has its detractors, it’s one of my fondest memories growing up at Walt Disney World. I keenly remember the first time I saw it in 2002 and have enjoyed each and every show since. Sure the story doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense, but the spectacle and technology are still relevant and fun in 2011. Hopefully the additional shows will allow more people to enjoy throughout the summer.
Thanks to Ellie from the comments section for pointing out that Fantasmic is not currently scheduled on September 2nd or 27th and the Studios will be closing at 7pm on those dates.