ANAHEIM — The official premiere is not until later this week, but thousands of Disneyland guests were treated to "dress rehearsals" of the new Fantasmic! show over the weekend.
Some eager fans waited more than two hours for a choice spot from which to view the multimillion-dollar show along the banks of Disneyland's Rivers of America. The show featured a fire-breathing dragon, Peter Pan battling the evil Captain Hook in the rigging of the sailing ship Columbia, and a 50-foot-tall villainess rising over a cowering Mickey Mouse.
The shows appeared to have gone fairly smoothly, as Walt Disney Co. officials had hoped. Chairman Michael D. Eisner is scheduled to attend an official preview on Wednesday, and the show officially opens to the public on Friday. Park sources said the rehearsal was held to work out any last-minute kinks and to gauge the audience reaction.
Judging from the oohs and aahs of the crowd, Fantasmic! may well be a success.
"I think the show is fantastic. I just wish my kids could see," said Tom Craig, of Chino, who had to hoist daughters Lauren, 8, and Melissa, 6, on his arms and shoulders to get a glimpse of the show.
Chris Godfrey of Laguna Niguel said, "I thought it was pretty amazing. Once they refine it, it will be the best thing they have." He said the show needed a stronger story line, a criticism that some Disney officials reportedly share.
"I thought it was excellent," said Mike England of South Pasadena.
Much of Disneyland's potential success in attracting strong summer attendance this year is riding on Fantasmic!
Publicists have dubbed the show an "attraction," which in Disney parlance means that it is as important as a major ride such as Splash Mountain or the Matterhorn Bobsled.
Its importance has also been reflected in the show's cost, which reportedly ballooned to as much as $30 million. Props and sets for the show have been under construction in Frontierland for months. The river was drained so the new equipment could be installed, and a new "sawmill" was built on Tom Sawyer's Island, where Mickey Mouse could perform his feats of sorcery in fighting back demons and lobsters.
The show incorporates a new technique of projecting movie images onto screens of mist. Unfortunately, the mist screens also leave onlookers vulnerable to being caught in a heavy fog. But the winds were calm at the show Saturday night, and everyone left dry.
In addition to the water problem, some Disney executives have reportedly been worried that the fireworks explosions might be too loud, that the monsters and demons could prove too scary for small children, and that the show's audience capacity of 6,000 per performance might be too limited.