Creating ‘Fantasmic!’ for Disneyland Park

Shawn Slater

by , Senior Communications Manager, Disney Live Entertainment

Fantasmic!”, the incredible nighttime spectacular at Disneyland park, marks its 20th anniversary this weekend. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the show. What had been a tranquil scene during the day was magically transformed at night by the power of Mickey’s imagination, and when the Sailing Ship Columbia fired its cannon and suddenly appeared as Captain Hook’s galleon during the show, it gave me goose bumps. It still does!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Barnette Ricci, Vice President/Show Director of Special Events for the Walt Disney Studios, who 20 years ago was senior show director for Disneyland park. She shared some of her memories of creating Fantasmic!

'Fantasmic' debuts at Disneyland Park in 1992

We had no new attraction opening that summer of 1992, so I was asked to create a show that could be marketed as something really special. I always felt that the [Rivers of America] was a truly unique venue, but I wanted to use it in a new way to create something different for our guests.

We researched all kinds of water-related special effects, and we discovered these water screens in France. We found that projecting animation footage on the water looked absolutely spectacular! By layering the dancing water fountains, special lighting, lasers, pyrotechnics and black light, along with live performers on watercraft and this new way to project animation on water, I was convinced all of these elements combined would create a rather exciting show!

It took months of searching through Disney film footage to find the right clips for the storyline and to create the film elements so they would look great on the water. We spent three months of ‘all-nighters’ out there on the river, programming all the effects and meticulously finessing the timing based on the time code of the film. Every burst of water, pyrotechnic, laser and live element had to be exactly timed and rehearsed to be in sync with what happened on the screen and with the fantastic musical score.

The show was originally called ‘Imagination’, as the title song implies, but everyone felt it needed a stronger title, so finally – and fortunately – it was renamed ‘Fantasmic!’

The first time we performed the show for a real audience, I was thrilled watching and hearing their reaction to the show. Words cannot express how proud I am of ‘Fantasmic!’ and how proud and thankful I am of everyone who worked so hard to bring it to life, and who continue to keep it going strong, night after night.


  • What! we never got a notice about this special event. Strange!

  • I saw this show when it first opened I was 6 years old. I was blown away by the show I remember asking my uncle (who was once a Matterhorn climber) “How did they DO that?!!” His answer was “Disney Magic!” To this day I am still in awe when Maleficent appears as a dragon towering above the river. This show was even my inspiration for getting involved with technical arts. I can’t believe the show has been running for 20 years! Congrats!

  • With all the amazing special effects, animatronics and pyrotechnics, my favorite part still is and always be the neon monkeys that dance on the rafts. Every time I see them, I want to stand up and do that dance with them! They make me smile. : )

  • What restaurants will have special menu items for the 20th anniversary?

  • Lacey, I’m so glad someone else has this ringtone! I occasionally let my phone ring almost all the way to voicemail just so I can listen it 🙂

    The one time I was lucky enough to dine at Club 33, we were seated by the window and sat down during the first showing. For the second, they let us watch from the balcony. Unbelievably magical. It was a rare night where they did a third show, and that was happening as we finished our meal. So we watched a bit from the balcony again and then down below as we left (it was empty by that time). 3 shows in one night, and I still feel like I could watch Fantasmic every night I’m in DL (if it weren’t for the crowds).

    I dread the day they decide to retire it.

  • WDW is my favorite Disney place; we visit twice a year. But I have to say that Disneyland’s “Fantasmic!” is MUCH better! I love the Peter Pan scene, and their dragon is INCREDIBLE! I know people love WDW’s Fantasmic, but I’d love it if it got an update… especially if those could be added!

  • will Maleficent be doing meet and greets after?

  • Happy Birthday Fantasmic! And thank you so much Barnette Ricci for working to create such a amazing piece of timeless magic. I saw it opening summer and will continue to see it every year and cry every time. The Disney team really does have “some imagination, huh”

  • Those of you that have seen it in Florida but not at Disneyland yet you’re in for a treat someday when you do!

  • My wife and I are going to the 20th Anniversary AP Special Show on the 15th which is also our 20th Wedding anniversary!!!

  • The best show on either coast!!

    The first time I saw Fantasmic! I was 8 1/2 months pregnant. My love of the show has only grown as the years go by. I try to see it as often as possible at Disneyland.

  • Fantasmic is my absolute favorite thing at Disneyland. I can’t believe it has been twenty years since it opened! I remember the first time I saw it, the way the lights went out and everything came to light, absolutely fantastic, and the show gets better and better all the time as they keep improving the lighting, special effects and sound.

    Does anyone know exactly how many times Fantasmic has been performed at Disneyland? Do they even keep track of that number?

    • Great question, Patrick. I asked the Disneyland Entertainment team, and it turns out they do keep track! As of today, Fantasmic! has been performed at Disneyland 7,655 times!

  • 20 years later and this show still knocks my socks off! Love it! And love it even more as I watch my two boys fall in love with the show too. Peter Pan and Captain Hook are favorites in this house! Thank you to all who helped create this amazing show. Happy birthday Fantasmic!

  • Love Fantasmic at Disneyland and happy to hear there is one at Disney World. We’ll have to catch it when we visit next fall. I feel like the show has a little bit of everything. 🙂

  • Can’t wait to see it in June. Have seen the one at WDW a couple times and it’s amazing!

  • I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the original Fantasmic in Disneyland, but the Fantasmic at Disneyworld is my family’s favorite show. We never miss seeing it at least once every time we go! There isn’t a bad seat in the house and it gives us all goosebumps every time we see it! How long has Fantasmic been at Disneyworld?

    • Grace, there are actually three versions of Fantasmic! at Disney Parks around the world, each one a little different. Fantasmic! opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort in October 1998, where it’s presented in a custom-built amphitheater just off Sunset Blvd. Just last year, Fantasmic! premiered on Mediterranean Harbor in Tokyo DisneySea park at the Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan.

  • Fantasmic! is truly an amazing entertainment experience! I remember the first time I saw the show at Disneyland…simply amazed by the beauty of the fountains, energized by the soundtrack, and of course…seeing Sorcerer Mickey conduct all this nighttime magic! To Barnette Ricci and the entire Fantasmic! team, thanks for creating such an amazing show and congratulations on this Disney milestone!

  • Fantasmic at Disneyland is awesome!

    and I love the new Maleficent dragon that Disneyland has.

    • That dragon really is cool, isn’t it!

  • Thank you, Barnette Ricci, for helping create a show as powerful and wonderful as Fantasmic! From the moment I first saw the show as a child, I *KNEW* that creating such spectacular entertainment was what I wanted to do with my life, and to this day am continuing to pursue that dream.

    To the entire Fantasmic! team: THANK YOU!!!

  • i have never seen the Disneyland version, but i am IN LOVE with the one at Hollywood Studios. The music is even the ringtone on my phone!

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