My love affair with Disneyland began when I was six years old. It wasn’t a particularly auspicious beginning, as the very first ride I ever went on was Star Tours; a terrifying experience for a child who had never been on a motion simulator ride. To this day, I still remember the exact shape of the armrests on the seats of that attraction because I was holding onto them so tightly that fateful day over two decades ago. But the terror soon gave way to exuberant delight as we moved on to Peter Pan’s Flight, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the Casey Junior Train, King Arthur’s Carousel, and much to my mother’s chagrin, It’s A Small World, an attraction that I promptly forced her to ride dozens of times. Subsequent visits to the park revealed even more treasures as I graduated into the more grown up rides, and now as an adult, I visit Disneyland at least once a year to marvel at the new attractions and spectacles, re-visit old favourites, and to let my inner child gleefully run free for a couple of days. People always think I’m being melodramatic when I say that Disneyland changed my life, but it’s the truth, because my life changed forever when I saw Fantasmic! at Disneyland when I was eight years old.
Debuting in 1992, Fantasmic! is a live nighttime show that is performed along the front of the Rivers of America in Disneyland Park. An instant success, Fantastmic! has been running ever since, and both Walt Disney World and Tokyo DisneySea have since opened their own versions of the show. Featuring live actors, pyrotechnics, lasers, special effects, water projections, fire, lights, and a soaring soundtrack, Fantasmic! is an incredible live show for anyone to witness, but for an eight year old little kid, it was nothing short of a revelation. The story follows Mickey Mouse’s journey into his imagination as he encounters all sorts of familiar Disney characters, and ultimately has to defeat the Disney villains who are led by a fearsome Maleficent who transforms mid-show into a towering, fire breathing dragon.
It is hard to overemphasize how much of an impact this show had on me all those years ago. I watched as images and characters from my own imagination literally came to life before my eyes, and the show’s message that any dream that comes from your imagination can come true was a powerful one for an impressionable young kid. Watching the show, I was very aware that it was happening live in front of me, and I directly attribute this experience to my pursuit of a career in theatre. The wonderment of watching it all unfold left me in awe, and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a part of something so magical. When we returned home, I listened to the soundtrack over and over again, visualizing the show and “directing” it in my head. I would cue each character’s entrance and all of the special effects, and in particular, I would take great delight in launching the fireworks on cue during the finale. I suppose it was always in the cards that I would end up working as a Stage Manager.
While I have since grown up and I’m no longer that wide eyed eight year old little girl, I’m still just as in love with the show as when I first saw it. The soundtrack is among one of the most played albums in my iTunes library, and it never fails to raise my spirits when I need a pick me up. I just close my eyes, imagine Sorcerer Mickey standing high above the crowd, and cue up the finale fireworks in my head, imagining the day that just maybe I’ll be able to stage manage the show for real. I guess that is what’s so amazing about Fantasmic! Over two decades later, it’s still inspiring me to dream.