Disney debuted fireworks a couple of years ago for Frozen Summer Fun before introducing a Star Wars fireworks show to help promote The Force Awakens this past December. You know, just in case you weren’t aware that there was a new Star Wars movie.
Back on February 19th, Disney released this concept art along with the following description:
And starting this summer, fans won’t want to miss the grand debut of a new Star Wars fireworks show, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular.” This new nightly show is the next generation of the current Star Wars-inspired fireworks show. The show will combine fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections that will turn the nearby Chinese Theater and other buildings into the twin suns of Tatooine, a field of battle droids, the trench of the Death Star, Starkiller Base and other Star Wars destinations. The show will be punctuated with a tower of fire and spotlight beams, creating massive lightsabers in the sky. This new show will be the most elaborate fireworks display to take place in the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The concept art is (mostly) accurate for both positive and negative reasons. There are two keys to enjoying the show – the first is that the projections on the Great Movie Ride facade/Chinese Theater are an integral part of the show and you probably want to be close enough that you can see them. The second is that almost all of the fireworks appear off to the right as you look at the front of the theater.
That means that the buildings on Hollywood Boulevard behind where this picture was taken will block your view. And from here, the trees to the right will mar it enough that you’ll want to be in front of the projection towers on the right and left sides of the street. This picture will give you a good idea about what kind of view you can expect from further back on Main Street: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGx0Qq_lFxL/.
With the fireworks being shot off to the right, you’ll enjoy the best view if you’re positioned a little to the left so that your eyes are angled towards the launch sites and also able to take in the extent of the projections on the Chinese Theater.
For the previous show, Symphony in the Stars, my advice was to avoid the Hollywood Boulevard crowding situation and instead see the show from the Echo Lake area in front of 50’s Prime Time.
And you could still do that, but you’ll miss virtually all of the projections on the Chinese Theater, which is what really carries the show.
The amount of pyro in the current show is considerably less than its predecessor, which some number of people have found disappointing. And if you’re basing the quality of the show on the number and power of the bursts, then this show will be “less” than Symphony in the Stars. There is little doubt about that.
The fireworks in A Galactic Spectacular are more of a complement to the projections than the star of the show. In this scene, Emperor Palpatine is shooting force lightning in the form of lasers shot towards the crowd, lighting up nearby trees, and culminating in the explosions overhead.
So the show, while still visible from a lot of spots around property, is going to “feel” less spectacular without the projections in view. It’s not a show that you probably want to see from outside the Park. Or at least if you do, you might lower expectations as it’s going to be less fantastic than the previous version. Above is the current show visible across the water at Epcot.
The Star Wars Fireworks are currently scheduled nightly through July 31st with the expectation that Disney will add the show to the schedule through the end of August at some point in the future. It is somewhat frustrating that Disney refuses to commit to dates and showtimes for the fireworks. Symphony in the Stars had been scheduled nightly from the end of December through March before Disney cut the nighttime spectacular to just four nights in April and then to three nights in May with very little notice. With the necessity of scheduling some dining reservations 180 days in advance and certain FastPass+ experiences like Frozen Ever After 60 days in advance at a minimum, it doesn’t “feel” fair that we don’t yet know what the fireworks schedule will be for August. If you had wanted to see the fireworks in May, you would not have known which days that they were going to be scheduled until mid-April. And if you wanted to see the show and it happened to be on the day that you had booked an 8am breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table followed by a 9am-10am Mine Train FP+, 10am-11am Anna/Elsa FP+, and 11am-12pm Peter Pan’s Flight FP+, then it might be frustrating to find out two weeks ahead of leaving that your options are cancelling all of that or being forced to skip the fireworks.
But my point with the screenshot above is that beginning July 3rd, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is going to be scheduled just 30 minutes after what is usually just one Fantasmic show per night. With one Fantasmic scheduled, it makes it virtually impossible to see Fantasmic and A Galactic Spectacular on the same night. And even if you leave Fantasmic half way through, which would be a waste of sitting there for an hour to secure spots, in addition to bugging everyone around you, you’d end up filing in too far back on Hollywood Boulevard to enjoy much of the fireworks/projections. So it’s going to be an either/or thing or you’re going to have to wait to see which dates see a second Fantasmic added. We usually see a second Fantasmic added on days that are expected to be busier, including most days with Extra Magic Hours attached.
As far as which show you want to see, I think most people that have already seen Fantasmic will want to forego it in favor of the Fireworks.
If you’ve never seen either and only have one night to visit the Studios then you potentially have a somewhat difficult decision to make.
Fantasmic is probably the more elaborate production featuring dozens of live actors, pyro, lasers, water screens, characters, music, audio-animatronics, and a lot of Pocatontas. If you have very little interest in Star Wars and don’t care much for fireworks then you’ll have an easier time choosing Fantasmic. If you love Star Wars and fireworks then the answer is also obvious. If you’re torn, the good news is potentially that there isn’t a bad choice.
For the Fireworks, I’d look at securing ideal spots at least 30 to 45 minutes before the show is scheduled to start. If you’re planning to see the show in front of 50’s Prime Time or further back on Hollywood Boulevard then sauntering up ten or fifteen minutes early is more than fine.
But how good your view ends up being is going to be left up at least partly to luck.
I had a perfect straight on view of the theater until this guy on the right walked up three minutes before showtime. You might also notice a smattering of shoulder kids up ahead and off on the far right.
Overall, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a fantastic show if you are able to secure a prime viewing spot ahead of the projection towers and you don’t get stuck behind me and/or a shoulder kid. The story could be tighter and I think the show is missing some of the emotional appeal of Symphony of the Stars with a weaker musical selection, but it’s certainly a unique overall experience that isn’t going to be replicated at your neighborhood park this Fourth of July.
One other tip – try not to rush back to your car or the bus immediately after the show ends. The mass exodus after the show always means a traffic jam at the exit. Consider holding back and doing a little shopping on Hollywood Boulevard.
Disney does of course offer a dessert party to the tune of $69/adult and $39/child. It’s currently located in a prime viewing location in front of the Chinese Theater. Beginning July 10th, the party will move to Star Wars Launch Bay and then guests will be walked out to their viewing area, which will presumably be in the same spot without the tables. The problem with the current setup is that people that are paying this much money end up arriving 60+ minutes before the start of the dessert party to get the best tables up front. And those that arrive when they’re told to arrive end up in back with a less-than-stellar spot. Here during the summer, the outdoor location is not any more pleasant than standing elsewhere and the party is often moved to Disney Jr. due to the threat of rain. From July 10th on, dessert party goers will walk out to their reserved viewing spot 15 minutes before showtime.
The website does not usually advocate in favor of the various dessert parties because the whole purpose of it is to try to get around “having” to spring for the additional cost. But if you are going to turn the dessert party into appies/drinkies/desserties then there may be some value there. Consider Disney charges $10 for mixed drinks and you can put back three in the hour. That’s $30. The emphasis is definitely on dessert, but you could probably eat ten dollars worth of cheese considering Disney prices and then regret everything as you go to town on the BB-8 cupcakes and “Galactic Warm Space Debris Bread Pudding.” And no I am not making that up.
Personally, I would try to arrive 45 minutes early and find spots behind someone that doesn’t look like they are physically able to lift their 7-year old child on their shoulders and doesn’t appear to have any iPad Pros on their person. Put the 70 bucks a head towards sushi and cocktails at California Grill, adding Park Hopper so you can come back on another night, extending your vacation by a day, or what have you. But the dessert party is here if you’re convinced that those that spend more money have a better time.
So what have we learned…
- You want to be in between the stage in front of the Great Movie Ride and the projection towers. If you’re off-center a bit to the left, you’ll have a little better angle looking at the fireworks, almost all of which are shot off to the right. Lining up further back on Hollywood Boulevard is almost the worst thing you can do as the buildings will hide virtually all of the fireworks.
- Arrive 30 to 45 minutes before the start of the show. Arriving earlier means fewer people and more options.
- The amount of pyro is reduced compared to the previous show, making it “less spectacular” for those without a view of the projections on the Chinese Theater facade. Watching the show from in front of 50’s Prime Time is still viable, but you’re missing the essence of what the show offers.
- Beginning July 3rd, the fireworks will be scheduled just 30 minutes after Fantasmic, which is not enough time to see both shows if a second Fantasmic isn’t offered. You’ll need to pick one or the other based on what you think you’ll enjoy most. You might preview portions of both shows on YouTube ahead of your trip if you’re unfamiliar.
- A dessert party at a cost of $69/adult and $39/child is available. Beginning July 10th, the party will move indoors to Star Wars Launch Bay and the comfort of air-conditioning may provide even more value to those looking to chug drinks and have a cheese eating contest with their in-laws.
- The show is pretty spectacular in my opinion though they did certainly go a little chintzy on the size of the shells. Personally, I would stay late for it over the other current offerings. But it’s also “new” and “new” is always better than “old.”
Overall, A Galactic Spectacular is just that, blending projections, fireworks, music, and other physical effects into a uniquely satisfying production. The show would be more spectacular with additional pyro and due to construction and other considerations, the placement of the fireworks isn’t exactly ideal, but by following a couple of easy tips you should be able to find an ideal viewing location without a significant amount of trouble.