There’s really nothing else like a Disney nighttime spectacular. Every time I watch one, I find myself swept up in awe and emotion, transported to my inner happy place. Nighttime shows have become a staple of Disney parks, and for good reason. There’s something extra magical about that “kiss goodnight” after a long day in the park. Today I’m reflecting on my gratitude for nighttime spectaculars at the Disneyland Resort and all the wonderful memories they’ve provided over the years.
Picture it with me. You’ve been in Disneyland all day and twilight has fallen. The lights of Main Street are glowing cheerily. The bustle of the park changes, and guests start gathering in the central areas. Although the day’s fun may be starting to catch up with you, you’ve been looking forward to seeing fireworks all day. The eagerness of finding just the perfect spot takes over, and the search begins. Position selected, your mind turns to anticipation for the spectacle to come, and maybe occasionally to your sore feet. Finally, the lights go down and the overture begins. And in that moment, the wait is worth it, and the discomfort is forgotten. Magic takes to the skies as your imagination takes flight.
I became an annual passholder in 2007, but I’ve been going to Disneyland since 1985. In that time, I’ve been privileged to take in many nighttime shows. The first fireworks spectacular that I recall vividly, and perhaps the most iconic to me, is Remember… Dreams Come True. First launched on May 1, 2005 for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary celebration, Remember… showcased the majesty of park itself. Narrated by Julie Andrews, Remember… acted as a highlight reel of all the very best things about Disneyland. I was fortunate to view this show during the 50th celebration, and I will always remember how blown away I was by the theme and story. I got chills hearing Walt Disney recite the opening day speech, his words echoing with the gravity of history those fifty years later. Remember… took guests on a pyrotechnic tour of the park, from Main Street to Adventureland, New Orleans Square to Frontierland, then Critter Country, Toontown, Fantasyland, and finally Tomorrowland. The beloved strains of “When You Wish Upon a Star” were the perfect backdrop to reflect on a day well spent in the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
Another show that made an impact on me was Disneyland Forever. Starting on May 21, 2015 as part of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration, Disneyland Forever established a new precedent for what was possible with fireworks spectaculars. Intertwining pyrotechnics, projection mapping, inflatables, snowfall, and lasers, this show was truly a “street-to-sky” experience. I recall standing on Main Street, staring up, and being absolutely flabbergasted by the layered elements. I almost didn’t know where to look—gorgeous fireworks? Dancing buildings? Larger-than-life coral sprouting from rooftops? Lasers reflecting through falling snow? Disneyland Forever was an experience more than a show. It had to be seen in person to grasp fully. It was really unlike anything else I have seen before or since.
But of course, fireworks aren’t the only way to make the night spectacular. Fantasmic! and World of Color have both captured my heart. Both shows are multimedia powerhouses, and feature projections onto mist screens. Fantasmic! takes guests through Mickey Mouse’s dream and showcases the power of imagination. World of Color is inspired by the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color television series. It uses colorful dancing fountains to celebrate the spectrum of Disney characters both past and present. There is a certain enchanting quality to seeing images projected on a spray of water. The images dance with an ethereal glow, as if creativity itself has been made animate. The addition of fireworks in Fantasmic! and mighty fountains in World of Color add a thrilling jolt of excitement to the warmth of the stories.
The question has been posed to me several times before: “what’s your favorite show?” Ask a group of friends and there’s almost guaranteed to be a range of passionate replies. The wonderful thing is that everyone’s response is valid—there’s no wrong answer. We all love one show or another for different reasons, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. It may be the technical wizardry that ranks one spectacular over another for you, or maybe the sheer beauty, how the music is intertwined with the characters, or just the way it makes you feel. I’m thankful that nighttime spectaculars are multifaceted enough that there’s room for everyone to connect with a favorite.
I believe that that what makes nighttime spectaculars so special is not the fireworks or the fountains or the projections by themselves. Don’t get me wrong, of course those things are wonderful and form the necessary core elements. But it’s been my experience that these shows are great because of how story, characters, music, color, and emotion layer together to make something more than the sum of their parts. Nighttime spectaculars have an ability to inspire our imaginations, to draw on something deeper. If you’re like me, you’ve shed a tear or two when Mickey defeats the forces of evil in Fantasmic! and the Mark Twain Riverboat emerges from the gloom—sparkling white, full of beloved friends reassuring us that everything will be okay. Or maybe you’ve also gasped during the Lion King sequence in World of Color, after Mufasa falls and Simba shouts heartrendingly, “Dad…?” The moments that stick with each of us may be different, but we are all touched in some way by these shows.
So today I am thankful for the magic of nighttime spectaculars and how they’ve contributed to my enjoyment of the Disney Parks. I will always treasure that warm hug at the end of an eventful day.
During Daps Magic’s journey through the 24 Days of Thanksgiving, we’d love to hear from you! Which nighttime spectacular brings you the most joy? What are your most cherished memories surrounding nighttime shows? Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments below, and Happy Thanksgiving!