As of the middle of December, Disneyland has initiated a Fastpass system for the Fantasmic show at Disneyland on the Rivers of America. The Fastpasses are separated by colored viewing areas and are issued at new mobile machines that are back on Big Thunder Trail behind Big Thunder Mountain. When I was there for my family’s Christmas vacation to the park, I saw the system but didn’t have the opportunity to experience it.
Next week, I and a couple friends and co-workers will be going to the park for a couple days. One friend has an annual pass and is a Disney nut like me but has never seen the show. For another co-worker, this will be only his second trip to the park and he also has never seen the show. So I will be taking this opportunity to try out the new system and see how it works.
Now, let me take you through what used to happen before the Fastpass system was started. At anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon, you would start to see people come out to the Rivers of America with blankets. They would take these blankets and essentially “mark” their territory for the show. From other annual pass holders and other blogs I’ve read online, these people were referred to as the “blanket brigade”. I’ve heard in some instances that some of these people would lay out their blankets and ask one of the other blanket brigaders to “watch it for them” and they would go off to do other things.
I remember on several of my recent trips seeing the same older gentleman in a rascal scooter with two six foot tarps on either side of him right in the middle of the prime viewing area. He was there every time I went to the park.
What has been frustrating for me is this is my absolute favorite show at Disneyland. It’s another one of those things that takes me back to my childhood and since I’ve been going again, I’ve never been able to get a closer center viewing area than the third section back. On my fist trip a year and a half ago, I managed to get a seat right on the railings to the Rivers of America…but it was a side view. We were close enough to get wet from the water screens but we couldn’t see much of what happened on the stage. That particular viewing area was a 2 hour wait with a 3 year old…that was tough.
A couple of times, I’ve gotten a spot right on the railing of the third section back. So it allowed me to stand my son up on the railing and not have to hold him in order for him to see the show (BTW, he also loves this show), but it was still a tough viewing area.
For my son’s birthday this last year, it was just he and I that got to go the park. A little Father-Son bonding time. I had decided as we left from the previous trip to stop by City Hall and buy tickets for he and I to do their dessert package. For $54.00 per person, you got an actual “seat” in the second section back (that’s right, further back than the blanket brigade) and a dessert box and drink. The dessert box was huge and had a lot of stuff in it but one of them was plenty for my son and I. I ended up bringing the second box back to my hometown for my wife. Now, here was the other downside of this $108.00 adventure that I decided to try with my son on his birthday…people could check in and pick their seats 2 hours before the show. The line to check in started forming 2 hours before you could check in. So 4 hours before the show, people got in line to choose their seats for Fantasmic premium viewing. I wasn’t going to do that and when I got there to check in, they tried to tell me that my 4 year old son and I weren’t going to be able to sit anywhere near each other. Um…..no. After about 10 minutes and several conversations with what I would think was “park entertainment management”, we got seated with he in one row and I was seated right behind him. The next issue, there was a large pillar on our left hand side so the entire left side of the “stage” was impossible to see. We couldn’t see the second half of the Peter Pan sequence.
So let’s not forget, I did the dessert package so that we could sit down, have a good viewing area and not have to spend 2 – 4 hours before the show staking out our territory. All this because as of about 2 hours before the first show, the entire first section of the viewing area was completely full of people.
There was one other option before the Fastpass. You could hover around the Rivers of America as the first show was ending. As everyone is exiting the area, you could get a fairly decent view and the show started about an hour later. I however, had a 4 year old and staying up until midnight is a challenge.
So that was then. Now, there are separate viewing areas that are color coordinated and depending on which option you take, you get a different viewing area. You can get to the park and just get a Fastpass, you can eat at 4 different restaurants and do the Fantasmic dining package: Blue Bayou, River Belle Terrace, The Hungry Bear Dessert Package and Aladdin’s Oasis Grab ‘N Go. All the packages are different prices and I’m assuming that your viewing area is based on how much you paid for dinner.
So what I think is going to happen is there is the best seating area and that is for people that do the Blue Bayou dinner package. Then a slightly less desirable, but still great area for the River Belle Terrace dinner package. Then another one for the Hungry Bear Dessert Package. Another for the Aladdin’s Oasis Grab ‘N Go package. And then the rest of the area for the regular Fastpasses that were handed out on Big Thunder Trail. You can also line up 90 minutes before the show for a chance at stand by seating if there’s room but there’s no guarantee.
So the point of this is that I’m going next week and going with at least 2 people that have never seen the show. So I’m going to pick one of the above options and see how the process works and what kind of seating is available for which packages. When I come back, I’ll complete this blog entry with the results of how things went.
Personally, I did not like the blanket brigade…AT ALL. I hated that in order to get decent viewing for the show, I had to camp out for 4 hours. I always thought that maybe 2 hours before the show, they should have cleared out and blocked off the area and 1 hour prior, opened it up on a first come, first serve basis. I understand why they couldn’t do that though. It would have been a mad dash of people running, pushing and falling to try to get the area they wanted. Fights would have started. It would have just been ugly. So I get it…but people staking their claim 4 hours ahead of time? And 72 square feet of area? That’s excessive.
Check out the updated page on Disneyland’s Fantasmic Fastpass…