Drones Likely Replacing Fireworks at Disney Parks, “There’s More to Come”

in Disney Parks

Happily Ever After fireworks and Castle projection display

Credit: Disney

Get ready for more drones and less fireworks at Disney Parks.

Nightly fireworks shows are as much a part of the Disney theme park experience as Mickey Mouse ears, churros, and “it’s a small world.” Since the first nighttime spectacular, Fantasy in the Sky, debuted at Disneyland Resort in 1958, Disneyland-style parks across the globe have embraced the tradition towards the end of operating hours.

Wondrous Journeys fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
Credit: Disney

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As of November 2023, Walt Disney World Resort is home to Happily Ever After – the fan-favorite that “captures the heart, humor and heroism of favorite Disney stories,” set to a rousing soundtrack by Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer. Originally retired in 2021, it made a triumphant return to Magic Kingdom in April this year following disappointing reactions to its replacement, Disney Enchantment.

Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are both fireworks-free (the former previously had a Star Wars show and the latter will most likely never host a display), but EPCOT currently hosts EPCOT Forever over World Showcase Lagoon each evening. This will be replaced by a brand-new nighttime show, Luminous: The Symphony of Us, in December.

Meanwhile, Disneyland Resort will usher in the return of Believe…In Holiday Magic Fireworks Spectacular from November 10. Guests will be sprinkled with faux snow while taking in this festive fireworks display until the show bids Disneyland Park adieu on January 7, 2024.

Fireworks of Tokyo Disneyland's Cinderella Castle
Credit: Tokyo Disneyland

Further afield, Tokyo Disney Resort has Sky Full of Colors, a show specifically launched for the resort’s 40th anniversary. Shanghai Disneyland has ILLUMINATE! A Nighttime Celebration, Hong Kong Disneyland has “Momentous” Nighttime Spectacular, and Disneyland Paris has both Disney Dreams! and Avengers: Power the Night.

The latter nighttime show is a standout for Disney. The French resort – which is famously ahead of the curve when it comes to entertainment – has increasingly adopted drone technology in its nighttime spectaculars.

Performed nightly at Walt Disney Studios Park, Avengers: Power the Night sees drones light up the sky for eight whole minutes with recreations of Marvel Cinematic Universe favorites like Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and more.

Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel on the Tower of Terror
Credit: Disney

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First launched in January 2023, Avengers: Power the Night cost Disney $13 million to develop and is the company’s first daily drone show. However, it seems like it won’t be the last.

Steve Davison – Lead Creative Executive of Parades and Spectaculars for Disney Live Entertainment – recently addressed reporters at a preview of Behind the Attraction, the Disney+ series offering viewers backstage access to their favorite attractions. According to The Orange County Register, Davison said that Disney hopes to expand its drone usage in the parks.

“[Drones] are very cool,” he said. “They’re kind of a new thing. We’re doing a lot of work in that. So all I’m going to say is, there’s more to come.”

Drones over Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris.
Credit: Disney

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While Davison neglected to specify which parks would adopt drone technology in the coming years, it seems inevitable that all of them will in time. The past few years have seen Disney divert further from its usual fireworks displays. Until recently, Disneyland Paris hosted a pre-show for Disney Dreams! known as Disney D-Light, which exclusively used drone technology above Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant.

Meanwhile, Disneyland Park over in Anaheim now goes fireworks-free on select evenings, instead hosting projection-only shows down Main Street, U.S.A. and on both Sleeping Beauty Castle and the façade of “it’s a small world.” Magic Kingdom Park also incorporated more projections onto both Cinderella Castle and Main Street, U.S.A. for Happily Ever After when it returned in April.

Both resorts are slowly lessening their reliance on fireworks. Considering Disney’s focus on slashing costs lately and the fact that each fireworks show is estimated to cost the parks between $40,000 and $50,000 each night, this is hardly surprising.

Disney Dreams! lights up the sky with fireworks behind Sleeping Beauty Castle
Credit: Disney

Related: As Disney Removes In-Park Entertainment, Drone-Heavy Extravaganza Likely Replacing Classic Castle Show

There has also been pushback against the environmental impact of Disney’s fireworks displays. The Walt Disney Company previously worked with contractors and Disney Imagineers to patent a firework producing lower carbon emissions. Ultimately, however, nothing makes fireworks more eco-friendly than doing away with them altogether.

It seems likely that drones are being primed as their replacement. In 2022, a report emerged that Disneyland Resort was looking into using the technology for its nighttime spectaculars. With the resort already edging away from fireworks, could we see a drone show take over the skies above Sleeping Beauty Castle soon? Or is the most likely outcome that it’s drones, not fireworks, that do most of the heavy lifting, with pyrotechnics only used as a magical finishing touch?

Considering the passionate fanbase Disney fireworks shows tend to foster, we can’t imagine that abandoning one for the other going down too well with the parkgoer community. Watch this space (or the skies).

Would you prefer a nightly fireworks or drone show at Disney Parks? Let us know in the comments!

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