Summer Nightastic: A Closer Look

by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the March 9, 2010 Issue #546 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Mike ScopaWell the dust has settled since the night of the Summer Nightastic announcements a few weeks back and with that let's take a closer look at each component that came with the announcement and what they mean.

First and foremost was the announcement of the return in early June of Disney's "Main Street Electrical Parade." The ELP, as it is sometimes referred to, left Walt Disney World some nine years ago in 2001 and has been residing in Disneyland all this time waiting for that moment to be whisked back to Walt Disney World. If you remember that parade you also may recall that the first float leading the parade was actually that of the Blue Fairy, synonymous with the ELP.

Not so for 2010.

When the ELP graces the streets of The Magic Kingdom in June it will be led by Tinker Bell and not the Blue Fairy. Tink will be waving to guests from what I've been told is sort of a balloon float -- or is it from a basket in a balloon float? The parade will also contain a few more new floats dedicated to Pinocchio and Snow White.

When it comes to the Electrical Light Parade and SpectroMagic I really don't have a favorite. I have always been a fan of both parades and recognize that each one has its own unique personality and a place in each of our hearts, so when it comes time for a change like this I find it best to embrace the change. After all, who is to say that SpectroMagic will not return?

Also announced for Summer Nightastic were the new special effects for Disney's Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Whenever an announcement comes talking about new effects for an attraction I lead the way in speculating as to just what those special effects may be. The announcement said that a new drop sequence would be introduced to the attraction. I don't know how I would ever know if there is a new drop sequence if it hit me in the face.

Ask yourself, "How will I know I'm experiencing a new drop sequence on the Tower of Terror?" Easy. It would have to be significantly different than the random drops we have gotten to know over these past several years. So my take on this is that the new drop sequence is involved with the new special effects. And what are those special effects? My guess, and it's only a guess, is that we may see a few more images in the darkened shaft, maybe somewhat ghostly images, which means we will find our elevator stopping more often in the shaft. I would also like to think that we would hear something different as we drop, but again that's pure speculation on my part. Obviously the Imagineers want to spark some new interest in this attraction, so my guess is that these new special effects will do just that -- they WILL be significant enough for you and me to make a beeline for TZTOT as soon as we enter Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The announcement of the new Magic Kingdom fireworks kind of caught me by surprise.

What really surprised me was that there were no indications whatsoever that this was in the works. More of this later. "Wishes" seems to be so entrenched in this theme park that I never even imagined someday it would be replaced. Well, actually it's not being replaced because the assumption is that the new fireworks are slated to entertain us just for the summer months.

What puzzled me about the announcement was that I kept waiting for such information as the name of this nighttime spectacular and the theme, which would give me a hint as to what kind of a musical score we will hear when we watch the sky over Magic Kingdom light up. All we were told is that there will be vivid special effects that will be part of the show. As far as when this new nighttime spectacular will make its debut, the hope is that it will also be in early June when the ELP makes its return engagement. It would make sense to have them both start on the same evening.

One announcement that brought a huge smile to my face was the return of the Sounds Like Summer concert series in Epcot. I have fond memories of past trips in which I sat at the America Gardens Theater across from the American Adventure and was thoroughly entertained by whoever was performing that evening. Having the concert return during the summer helps invite guests to take a break, sit down, enjoy the summer air, and listen to some top-notch entertainers. I am curious to see the list of performers for this returning concert series.

I welcomed with open arms the announcement of extended evening hours during the summer for Disney's Animal Kingdom. This announcement means that during the summer guests can now work into their touring plans some days in which they will enter DAK in the mid- to late afternoon and still have ample time to do everything they want to do. I have observed that, unlike the other three theme parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom does not enjoy a significant rush of guests to its turnstiles much in the afternoon. Instead, a large majority of the day's guests come to the park between opening and noon.

The extended operating hours will effect a change there and perhaps lessen the crowd at the other theme parks at night as well. Walking through the Animal Kingdom at night is such a different experience that you have during the day and now more guests will have a chance to experience the park at night and such attractions as Expedition Everest after dark.

So what do I make of all these announcements? Well, for many people the feeling is that these announcements were made to counter the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida.

Many feel that the group of announcements were hastily thrown together over a period of perhaps no more than 6-8 weeks. I have not bought into that theory as wouldn't you have expected bigger and better things for Spring and Summer 2010 to have been announced perhaps a year ago to counter the anticipation and fanfare over Universal Studios' "Potterland?" So do not include me in that group that subscribes to the theory that the Nightastic announcements were for that reason.

I think that what Nightastic does tell us, or better yet, reminds us, is that Walt Disney World has a legacy and it comes in many forms and it is this legacy that allows the imagineers to just tweak a few things here and there to rumble up some excitement. I was in person when Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced the return of the Electrical Light Parade and it was clear to me that this announcement was music to a lot of ears of those in the audience with me. It speaks to WDW's legacy attractions and how bringing back an old friend works for the WDW resort and you cannot say that for other entertainment venues.

Having an attraction like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror offers flexibility to the imagineers and perhaps an endless number of opportunities to adjust, tweak, change, and improve the attraction as the years go on. Making your attraction experience different every time seems to be the overriding theme lately with new WDW attractions.

Disney nighttime spectaculars like Wishes, Fantasmic, and Illuminations are very much part of the recognizable quality of a Walt Disney World vacation so I feel that what we will see this summer will be a highly charged and very entertaining fireworks show and am looking forward to it.

The announcements of the return of the EPCOT Sounds Like Summer concerts and extended Animal Kingdom hours are welcomed announcements for me and I hope that these two changes are permanent. So does it really matter as to whether or not the Nightastic announcements were made to counter Harry Potter's appearance on the Orlando attractions dance card? No it doesn't.

What matters is that there was acknowledgement that something was needed for summer 2110 for WDW guests to get excited about and that need was met.

Bring on Summer Nightastic!



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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World, and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.