The Loss of Maleficent in Fantasmic! is More Than Just a Dragon

On Saturday night the skies at Disneyland were aglow in a way that nobody wanted to see. Rather than fireworks brightening up the light, the Maleficent dragon in Fantasmic! caught fire and ended up burning to the ground in front of thousands of guests who were watching the second show of the night. The glow from the fire and the accompanying smoke could be seen throughout the park. By mid morning the following day, what was left of the dragon was hidden behind a scrim. Any guests who didn’t know any better would assume that regular work was being done in the area. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Come with me as we take a look at other impacts that this accident had.

The loss of the dragon on Saturday night at Disneyland wasn’t just an animatronic showpiece. The impact goes much further than just destruction. It undoubtably also had an impact on the cast members who were working in and around the show. Some cast members were working on Tom Sawyer Island and saw the centerpiece of their show go up in flames. There had to be some level of concern for safety at that point. I can’t tell you how many people in the last 48 hours have texted me with concern over how close Mickey Mouse was to the dragon when it went up in flames. Mickey Mouse is just what could be seen. There also are other performers and show support cast members in the vicinity. In the moment, this had to be terrifying.

As I continue to think about different impacts of Maleficent going up in smoke, there is also another one that comes to mind. Fantasmic! is a show that the many people who bring it to life invest their hearts and souls into. Think of how proud and honored people are to work on the show in any capacity. Many of them just watched a major piece of this beloved show go up in smoke right in front of them. If they weren’t there, they undoubtably saw it on the internet. Either way, it had to be horrifying and heartbreaking.

Moving forward and over to the internet, the reaction has been across the boards. First the internet was full of videos of that terrible moment. Then the discussion moved on to how sad people were for the animatronic dragon. This came before the memes started appearing. All of these things had to have been seen by the cast members who live on social media and the internet just like you and me.

Why do I bring all of this up? As I’m watching the posts on the internet, almost everything is focused on an animatronic dragon that went up in smoke on Saturday night. They focus on the fire, the loss of a dragon, and the hilarity some find in the moment. They aren’t focused on the people who are most impacted by this incident, the cast members. It is very easy to see a dragon on fire and to talk about it and make jokes about it. It is much more difficult to see beyond the flames and into the shadows behind it where cast members are being impacted by this incident.

The loss of the Maleficent Dragon in Fantasmic! on Saturday night also means the loss of some level of stability for those who work on and around the show. This could be emotionally and for some potentially financially. It undoubtably has lead to anxiety for some of those who have been impacted. This was not wanted, this was not fun, and it is not over.. but only beginning. There will be a lot of ground to cover before it will become a distant memory.

As part of the Disney community, let’s take a moment to recognize how hard this could be for those who were closer to the situation. Let’s show some grace and kindness. Let’s hold out a helping hand or even a hug to those who are struggling with this and show the good that can come from the Disney community. Let’s also show that the Disney community doesn’t just care about the consumers but the cast members who make the magic.

I will be honest, I don’t know how many cast members are struggling today with the aftermath of this weekend. I do, however, think it is a good idea to err on the side of caution and kindness. One simple act of kindness can change the world. I would like to be remembered for acts of kindness that changed the world for the better, rather than for a sensational story or a witty post. It is possible that I’m simply thinking about one or two cast members, I would guess, however, there are more, that are struggling in some way after this weekend. Even if it is just one or two, I think it is worth it to keep kind and try to make the world a little bit better and a little more positive.

In the coming days, weeks, and potentially even months, guests visiting the Disneyland Resort will not be seeing Fantasmic! and the powers of Mickey’s imagination come to life along the Rivers of America. This will be a piece of the magic of Disney that will be missing for the foreseeable future. However, the impact will be felt by more than just those experiencing the magic. The impact will be felt by those who made the magic. As we visit the parks during this time, as we post on social media and websites during this time, let’s keep that in mind and #keepkind.


3 responses to “The Loss of Maleficent in Fantasmic! is More Than Just a Dragon”

  1. Angela Reynolds Avatar
    Angela Reynolds

    Well said, Mr. Daps! My heart hurts for everyone who went through the trauma of that night, as well as those whose livelihoods and mental health have been affected negatively going forward. We all miss Murphy, certainly, and losing her is a painful blow. But the tragedy we also have to keep in mind is to the lives of the cast members, performers, and technicians who put such love and care into the show. They deserve our wholehearted support during this difficult time.

    1. Perfect commentary…..and I agree…..the fear, sadness, sense of loss….those of us spectators on the outer rim.can only imagine and try to empathize. A show of that magnitude is only successful with many working together…..under intense duress and a certain level of risk but also a unique passion and love to share this story and its message to the world of Disney admirers. Being a Mom to a Lifelong performer…..I see and feel this first hand.
      Yes… kind… loving….listen…..and actually hear….what those involved have to say.
      Moving forward… it comes to a harsh reality what risks these performers and support workers take EVERY time this show is presented….hopefully they are duly compensated. They work at an extreme level and should be shown THAT every time they go out there and share the Magic with passion and grit.
      Bless you all… grateful for what you all give….and that you all made it safely off the island.
      Thank you Mr. Daps for making us simply think and care.

  2. It was terrible about Maleficent, I’m embarrassed to say that I never thought of people working on the show that night.
    Something like this also happened to a dragon during a parade at WDW. I can only imagine what cast members go through when something like this happens. Here’s hoping that everyone is alright.

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