Must-See Live WDW Shows
Back in February and March it was Disney-mania around The Tipsy Verse. We have covered wild and mild thrill rides, table service dining, quick service dining, and character dining. Now that summer is in full-swing and many families are actually headed to Walt Disney World, we wanted to pick up where we left off and share some of the must-see live-action shows at Walt Disney World. I am specifying “live-action” because there are some great animatronic and pre-recorded shows as well that we will probably cover another day. Also, this list doesn’t include any of the “street-performer” style performances in EPCOT around the World Showcase or Animal Kingdom, but most are worth catching!
And now… on with the show!
Courtesy of Walt Disney Co
Festival of the Lion King
Aptly located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Festival of the Lion King brings vibrantly colored costumes, acrobatics, song, and puppetry together in a wild circus of entertainment. When you step into the Harambe Theatre you are not just a spectator… you become a part of the show! Each section of the audience is designated an animal: lion, elephant, giraffe… or warthog. The interactive fun begins when audience members are chosen to give their best impression of which ever animal they are representing. It’s great fun and I am never not amazed by the pagentry of this show.
Finding Nemo- The Musical
To see the other must-sea (see what I did there?) spectacular at Animal Kingdom, make your way across Africa and Asia and just across the border to DinoLand, USA. This visually stunning stage show transports you into Nemo’s big, blue world and takes you on an musical (abridged) rendition of Marlin’s adventure to find Nemo. I don’t know what it is about the show, but I practically forget that the underwater friends are accompanied by their puppeteers throughout the entire show.
Nighttime at any Disney Park is my favorite time of day. It’s kind of like Christmas I think… there are often twinkling lights and most nights there are some kind of pyrotechnics on display at any given park throughout the year. Although it is my least favorite nighttime performance at Walt Disney World it is still one of my favorite shows. Fantasmic is the adventurous story of Mickey’s imagination and it is a really lovely way to end your day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Fair warning though… if you sit in the first 10 rows (15-20 if it’s a breezy night) you will probably want a poncho.
While on my college program I learned that this show was a transplant from Disneyland and according to many friends, it paled in comparison to the original. Several years ago Kevin and I stopped at Disneyland on our way back from our very delayed Maui honeymoon. After seeing Fantasmic at Disneyland I have to say that I agree with that observation. If you haven’t seen the original though, I definitely recommend seeing Fantasmic one night.
Beauty and the Beast
I will admit, that this isn’t one of my personal favorites, but Michelle and Katie both love it so much that I couldn’t not include it. Similar to the Finding Nemo show at Animal Kingdom, this performance at Hollywood Studios relives the story of Beauty and the Beast… abridged of course! When I hopped on to the WDW website for pictures, I found this little nugget of information that I thought was fascinating:
Performed in the 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars along Sunset Boulevard, this attraction premiered on November 22, 1991—the same day that the animated feature filmBeauty and the Beast opened in theaters across the U.S. This was the first time that a stage show opened the same day as the movie that inspired it.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
The prize for favorite nighttime show at Walt Disney World is a tie between IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and Wishes A Nighttime Spectacular. Each of the three nighttime shows are very different from one another, so it’s really quite difficult to compare them and pick a favorite. I love IlluminNations. The music, the lights, the pyrotechnics. Clearly Disney has a way with storytelling, but even before the show starts a voice comes through setting the stage for what is going to be an absolutely fantastic performance. Maybe it’s Disney magic or just my hippy tendencies, but there is something so peaceful and calming about this show, even in the climax. I’m listening to the music as I write and I am literally getting chills. I love it.
WISHES! (Nighttime Spectacular)
My other favorite nighttime show is the fireworks display at Magic Kingdom. Despite the fact that I saw this show pretty much 5 nights a week, I will never, ever get tired of it. There is something amazing about fireworks, especially Disney fireworks. It doesn’t matter if I’m a kid, a twenty-something, or 67, I think I will always look at this show, or any Disney fireworks show, with a childlike wonder and amazement. I wish that I could fully explain the nostalgia and love that I have for this show. Many nights in 2008 ended with Tink flying overhead, songs from classic Disney fairy tales playing (and a few newer ones), and the oohs and ahhs from crowds surrounding Cinderella’s Castle. Personally I think it’s one of the very best ways to end a night… so much so that I played a version of the Wishes song as our last dance at our wedding. It’s so magical.
Bonus: Cirque du Soleil- La Nouba
If you have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show (and even if you have) I highly recommend La Nouba. The only thing about this show is that it’s in Downtown Disney West Side and therefore, not included with park admission– according to the WDW website, tickets start at about $59. Cirque du Soliel and Disney partner to make a spectacular acrobatic and magical performance. Bright color and comedy paired with intense, soulful, sometimes hauntingly beautiful music accentuate the amazing athletic ability of the talented performers. Pro tip: be sure to get to the theatre early so you don’t miss any of the preshow antics.
So even though it’s been years since I’ve been to Disney (something that I hope to rectify soon!) these are some of the shows that I vividly remember and will always be among my favorites. Do you get chills watching or listening to the nighttime shows like me? Do you have a personal favorite that slipped past me? Let me know and let me know what your thoughts are on my favorites!