5 Fantastic Firework Shows from Walt Disney World History
Fireworks will soon be returning to Walt Disney World, a fact that makes us giddy with anticipation. There’s nothing like a fireworks show after a long day of exploring the parks. It’s the perfect way to end the evening, especially if you pair it with a good snack while sporting a pair of Mickey or Minnie ears on your head. To celebrate the return of fireworks, here’s a look back at some of our favorite shows from over the years.
5. Sorcery In The Sky
From May of 1990 through October 1998, Sorcery In the Sky light up the nighttime at Disney’s MGM Studios. Beginning with a call for, “Lights! Camera! Action!” the show took Guests through a celebration of movies. Films like The Wizard of Oz, Singing In the Rain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others were highlighted before segueing into a medley of pieces from the Disney classic Fantasia. An enormous inflatable Mickey Mouse, complete in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice robes, appeared atop The Great Movie Ride and shot sparks from his finger.
The show had some memorable changes over its run. In 1991, the Rocketeer played a brief role in the spectacular. In addition, the host of Sorcery In the Sky was originally the legendary Vincent Price (known to Disney fans as Ratigan from the 1986 animated feature film The Great Mouse Detective). The second host of the show was Michael Marzella, one of the Citizens of Hollywood.
4. Fantasy In the Sky
Fantasy in the Sky entertained Guests of the Magic Kingdom for over three decades. It was the first fireworks show at the park, opening in 1971 and it didn’t close until 2003. Even after it closed as the nightly spectacular, the show continued to live on at the parks. To this day, Fantasy in the Sky can still be seen as part of the Magic Kingdom’s New Year’s celebration.
The show has a history that predates the Magic Kingdom. In addition to being the Magic Kingdom’s first fireworks show, it was also the first show at Disneyland with a debut in 1958. In that early incarnation, Disney Cast Members manually set off the fireworks. The tradition of Tinkerbell flying from the top of the castle also began with Fantasy in the Sky, with the first instance occurring in 1961.
The Magic Kingdom version changed over the years, but songs featured included The Second Star to the Right, When You Wish Upon A Star, Mickey Mouse March, Grim Grinning Ghosts, The Ballad of Davy Crockett, and more.
In terms of pure spectacle, it’s hard to imagine a show more engaging than Fantasmic! The show was originally created for Disneyland for the Rivers of America area in 1992, but opened at Disney’s MGM Studios (now Hollywood Studios) in 1998.
Despite debuting at Disneyland, Fantasmic! can trace its roots to Epcot. The Laserphonic Symphony debuted in 1984, introducing technology that allowed for projections to appear on water. This technology would go on to be utilized in the creation of Fantasmic! (originally titled simply Imagination).
Taking place in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, Fantasmic! features Mickey Mouse moving through sequences of beloved Disney films like The Lion King, Mulan, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, and more. Later, Mickey battles wave after wave of Disney villains, ending with a jaw dropping confrontation with the dragon form of Maleficent.
2. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Two different iterations of IllumiNations proceeded IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which arrived on the scene in 1999 and would become one of the most beloved nighttime shows of all time in Walt Disney World History.
Originally part of Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration, Reflections of Earth in Epcot told the history of the world in three segments: Chaos, Order, and Meaning. Fireworks, fountains, pyrotechnics, music, and an enormous rotating globe (28 feet in diameter and carried on a barges of 320 tonnes) were all a part of the show, which began with voice actor Jim Cummings declaring, “We’re gathered here tonight around the fire as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us… to share the light… and to share a story. An amazing story as old as time itself, but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one. We hope you enjoy our story tonight: Reflections of Earth.”
The show took Guests from the chaos of creation, to order (represented through segments about space, life, adventure, home, and celebration). The song “We Go On” played as the show finale moved into the segment on meaning, a portion which was highlighted by the opening of the globe which revealed a torch signifying unity.
It was a show which ran until 2019, and perfectly embodied the spirit of Epcot: a place that celebrates progress, the unique cultures of our globe, and our shared humanity.
1. Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams
While it’s a completely subjective statement, Wishes was (and perhaps always will be) the perfect Magic Kingdom fireworks show to me. That’s not to take away from the brilliance of the shows that came before and after, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t even hear the music without misting up a little. It doesn’t even have to be the whole score. Just singing the word “Wishes” and the waterworks will start.
Steve Davison, VP of Parades & Spectaculars, worked to create the show which would replace the long running Fantasy in the Sky in 2003. The show was hosted by Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, and took us on a whirlwind tour of the wishes of our favorite Disney characters, as well as the more sinister wishes of some notorious Disney villains.
Over 683 fireworks were used in the show, including a “Wishing Star” which would crest approximately 100 feet over the spires of Cinderella Castle. Tinkerbell also made an appearance, flying from the top of the castle to a point in Tomorrowland.
The last performance of Wishes took place on May 11, 2017, but it continues to play on in the hearts and imaginations of all who experienced it.