Making Nightastic... Fantastic

by Mike Scopa
AllEars® Feature Writer

Feature Article

This article appeared in the May 18, 2010 Issue #556 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Mike Scopa Summer Nightastic! is just around the corner. It brings with it the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade to the Magic Kingdom, along with a special summertime fireworks spectacular. Also in the Nightastic basket of goodies are the return of the "Sounds Like Summer" Concert Series at Epcot, a new wrinkle to Disney's Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and the addition of more nighttime hours to Disney's Animal Kingdom. More recently we have also learned that on top of all that an old favorite, Captain EO, will be returning to Epcot in July.

Are there any other surprises waiting around the corner? This Disneyholic can only hope. But besides this hope and in anticipation of Nightastic and everything that comes with it I have thought about what else I would have liked to see in the Nightastic package this summer.

Of course when fantasizing about such things one has to be realistic, and when it comes to Nightastic it's important to try to think how decisions were made as to what to bring in for the summer. My guess is that these decisions were driven by two important factors.

The first factor is obvious: cost. Now the argument can be made that it is quite costly to bring parade floats across the country and spend a considerable amount of time tweaking parade theme music and acclimating the parade performers to the parade and the floats.

There is no argument there.

However it must also be said that the parade floats were already built, that the parade and music is something we all know -- unless that is changed -- and the parade performers should have next to nothing to learning what they need to do in the parade. It's still costly, but not as costly as the design, development, and bringing to the stage a brand new nighttime parade. 

Imagine... designing the floats, the theme, the lights, the costumes, the choreography, etc. That takes time and money.

So for a relatively inexpensive amount of investment, guests will see the Main Street Electrical Parade, with some guests enjoying this nighttime favorite for the first time while others revel at the return of a much-favored Magic Kingdom event.

We do need to recognize that designing a new fireworks presentation at the Magic Kingdom can be costly. Think about the design of the show, not to mention rehearsals and the timing of the fireworks with lighting and music. Except for those guests who simply adore "Wishes," everyone should enjoy this summer special fireworks presentation.

OK, here comes a segue... and I don't mean the two-wheeled vehicle.

It's understandable that there is significant cost to bringing in performers for the "Sounds Like Summer" concert series at Epcot, but relatively speaking it's a much better investment than throwing a lot of money at something new and taking a risk that it may not be received well by guests. We know that the Nightastic events all have a very good chance of being welcomed with open arms because there's some nostalgia here. It seems to me that every summer night the America Gardens Theater will be filled with guests who want to be entertained. Guests love these concerts. They are truly guest or fan favorites.

And that is where we come to the other factor in determining what to include in Nightastic -- the factor of history, of being able to ensure that what was to be part of Nightastic would put smiles on the faces of the guests. In other words, pretty close to a guarantee that what is delivered will be "a home run," so to speak. Knowing what was received well in the past and what would be welcomed back, if just for a short term, would almost guarantee Nightastic to be a success.

In February when Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton announced the return of the Main Street Electrical Parade there was applause and comments like "Yay!" and "About time!" from those sitting in the audience. It was amazing, as if everyone was dusted with pixie dust. I get the feeling that the general public feels the same way.

Would there be such a reaction if Ms. Crofton had announced a nighttime parade dedicated to the adventures of Stitch? Hardly.

So having said that cost and nostalgia (or proven success) were two huge factors in the construction of the Nightastic entourage, I have to confess that I started to wonder and fantasize as to what else I would have loved to see be pulled in to the Nightastic celebration.

Before listing attractions we need to be realistic and think about what could be brought back that would fit the criteria of not being too costly, while at the same time to be a good bet to be received well by the guests. So here are some suggestions.

How much more excitement would have been generated had Meg Crofton also announced that during this summer of 2010 guests would once again be treated to the Tapestry of Dreams parade at Epcot's World Showcase?

Originally known as Tapestry of Nations, which made its debut in 1999, the parade was renamed in 2001 to Tapestry of Dreams and carried the theme of the wishes and dreams of children from around the world. If you have ever seen this parade you would remember the characters and the six huge puppets that were manned by the cast members as they strolled around World Showcase. The parade had a haunting melody that can still be heard around World Showcase every night following IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

There was something about that parade that remains with me today. Perhaps it was the music or maybe it was those unique puppets that populated the parade. Either way I would have loved to see the return, if just for the summer, of Tapestry of Dreams. It may not have had the following of the Main Street Electrical Parade, but for many guests it was very much a part of Epcot's charm and legacy.

Speaking of IllumiNations, I have often held a strong belief that this wondrous presentation over the World Showcase Lagoon every night was influenced by another nighttime spectacular that I would have also liked to have seen added to the Nightastic family, and that is Disney's Hollywood Studios' "Sorcery in the Sky."

Prior to IllumiNations "Sorcery" was the first Walt Disney World nighttime spectacular that illustrated how fireworks, lighting, and music can partner to present a most entertaining show. For many people "Sorcery" was a true predecessor to what we have come to appreciate with IllumiNations.

"Sorcery" made its debut in 1990 in the then-named Disney-MGM Studios theme park, and a major portion of this show was dedicated to Fantasia. Perhaps it was a coincidence that 1990 was the 50th Anniversary of the release of Fantasia... maybe not. "Sorcery" was shown above The Great Movie Ride back when there was no 50-foot Sorcerer's hat and guests would line up and sit along Hollywood Boulevard in anticipation of the show. The entire production involved famous movie music themes and these themes were accompanied by fireworks displays that seemed to take their cues perfectly from the theme being played at the time. These themes were from both Disney and non-Disney films.

Those who have witnessed "Sorcery" will recall the ending, as a huge Mickey dressed as the sorcerer's apprentice would rise from on top of the Great Movie Ride and as the music approached a climactic ending Mickey's finger would produce an explosion of sparks.

In recent years, "Sorcery" has been shown on special nights but those nights are very few indeed -- not every night as between 1990 and 1998 when "Sorcery" was in its heyday. Wouldn't it be nice to have "Sorcery" as part of the Nightastic family? Sigh, but alas -- other than perhaps the night of July 4th (my suspicions only) Sorcery will not be making an appearance this summer.

One of the most notable signature components of a Disney theme park over the years has been the presence of both live and recorded music.

For Nightastic I would have loved to have seen Walt Disney World pump up the music for the summer and turn back the clock to the '80s and early '90s when you had such wonderful experiences as the All-American College Band in the Magic Kingdom, Future Corps in Epcot's Future World, and other musical ensembles that would roam throughout the parks.

The All-American College Band would show up almost anywhere in the Magic Kingdom and entertain with approximately 20 minutes of wonderful music, which would find guests clapping and in many cases joining in with singing and impromptu dancing. Future Corps was a percussion band that strolled around Future World from 1982 to 2000. The music they brought to Epcot gave the park so much life. It would have been great to have them back, if just for the summer.

It seems to be that Nightastic is focused on bringing to the guests what brought them back to the Walt Disney World resort time and time again. These components are what made all of us Walt Disney World fans and it stands to reason that Nightastic, with a little more of what we have known to love when we visit Mickey and friends, could then have a great chance of becoming...

... FANtastic!



Other AllEars® articles by Mike Scopa:


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 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast and writes a regular blog, The View from Scopa Towers, for AllEars.Net: In addition, Mike is co-captain of Team AllEars® -- the AllEars.Net Running Team that will participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in 2011.


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.