Disneyland Fireworks 1994

Busy Summer Nights – 30 Years Ago at Disneyland

The return (again!) of Fantasmic! brought back some very specific memories of Disneyland from thirty years ago. These days, crowds jostling to get good viewing spots for the nighttime spectacular have no idea what it was like back in the early 1990s. In previous columns I have already touched on those first season adjustments that had to be made to longstanding procedures, as well as on the loss of quiet summer evenings on the New Orleans Square waterfront.

What this year’s guests cannot appreciate is just how dedicated the Disneyland cast was in handling a rather complicated summer schedule. You see, in addition to the full slate of nighttime entertainment, there were three massive events that created huge crowds, and huge issues of dispersing them in an orderly manner. These were the fireworks, the nighttime parade, and Fantasmic!

Fireworks had been a part of Disneyland since 1956. By 1958 they were a nightly occurrence in the summertime. “Fantasy in the Sky” was a fairly standard show (with each rocket originally lit by hand!) and accompanied by a medley of Disney tunes. Tinker Bell was added to “kick off” the show in 1961, and this is what guests were still viewing in the early 90s.

One of the rites of summer for Disneyland Annual Passholders was the arrival of fireworks on the Friday preceding Memorial Day Weekend. The year’s viewing window was relatively short— just through the farewell performance on Labor Day weekend. This schedule held true until the arrival of “Believe: There’s Magic in the Stars” in 2000. This show, and its successors (Imagine: A Fantasy in the Sky, Remember: Dreams Come True, Magical, Disneyland Forever, Together Forever, Mickey’s Mix Magic, and Wondrous Journeys) would run throughout the year, though only on weekends and special holidays in the fall and winter.

In 1994, fireworks typically ran about 9:30, carefully scheduled to follow the first evening performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade, which stepped off at 8:50. The Electrical Parade was another harbinger of summer, and attracted its own huge fan base. Crowds on Main Street could stay for the fireworks, or return for the second parade at 10:25.

Meanwhile, over at the Rivers of America, crowds were clamoring for viewing locations for the 9:00pm showing of Fantasmic! Due to the high demand for this relatively new show, there were three showings, scheduled at 9:00, 10:30, and 11:45pm. (Incredibly, there were even 1:00am performances on some Sunday nights!)

If you are keeping score at home, that meant that this was the schedule for those summer nights at Disneyland:

  • 8:50: Main Street Electrical Parade
  • 9:00: Fantasmic!
  • 9:30: Fantasy in the Sky fireworks
  • 10:25: Main Street Electrical Parade 2
  • 10:30: Fantasmic! 2
  • 11:45: Fantasmic! 3

In addition to this, the summer 1994 nighttime schedule also accommodated Beauty and the Beast live on stage at the Fantasyland Theatre, swing dancing at Carnation Plaza Gardens, and the Aladdin’s Oasis Dinner show, in its final season in Adventureland. How did they keep it all running smoothly for an entire summer? My hat is off to those frontline Disneyland cast members who kept on “creating happiness” on those busy, busy summer nights, thirty years ago at Disneyland.