Disney Shuts Down Dragon Show Because Of Too Much Fire

By Phillip Moyer | Published

dragon fantasmic
Sleeping Beauty

Dragons breathe fire — this we know. It would make sense, then, to fireproof a fire-breathing dragon, but Disney must have forgotten this step, since the dragon at Disneyland’s night-time show Fantasmic went up in flames. The studio promptly canceled the show, but Deadline now reports that it will be coming back next year — without the dragon.

Disney’s animatronic Maleficient dragon, part of its Fantasmic show, burst into flames during a live performance.

Disney’s Fantasmic show, which has been performed at Disney parks since 1991, ends with a battle between Mickey and Maleficent, who has transformed into a giant fire-breathing dragon. The climactic battle involves the dragon setting much of the stage alight and breathing fire into a river on the stage. In April, attendees witnessed more fire than was anticipated, as the animatronic dragon burst into flame onstage.

The incident happened just weeks before Disney planned to temporarily close Fantasmic for routine maintenance.

According to witnesses, the fire seemed to start inside the dragon’s head before spreading to the rest of the body. The fire forced Disney to evacuate the entirety of Frontierland, where Fantasmic is performed. Nobody was injured in the fire.

The incident happened just weeks before Disney planned to temporarily close Fantasmic for routine maintenance. It’s unknown whether the need for maintenance had anything to do with the fire.

dragon fantasmic
Sleeping Beauty

Disney canceled Fantasmic immediately and temporarily halted the use of fire effects in other shows. While the use fire is now back in other shows, the ill-fated Fantasmic won’t have its fire-breathing dragon when it returns in Spring 2024. Rather, Disney will replace the final battle with a special-effects-driven throw down between Maleficent and the studio’s iconic mouse.

Ongoing Troubles At Disney Parks

Disney’s Fantasmic going up in flames is hardly the only trouble that the company’s parks have run into in recent months. This summer, Fewer and fewer people have been going to Disneyland and Disneyworld, and the parks have also closed several attractions, including Splash Mountain.

Most prominently, Disney’s immersive Star Wars Hotel, called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, is set to close just one year after the extremely-expensive attraction opened to the public. 

Beyond Disney’s parks, the company itself has been struggling. Many of its recent movies, including Elemental and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, failed at the box office, while other films such as Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania and the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid had disappointing returns.

Meanwhile, Marvel’s Secret Invasion has disappointed many fans, and Disney+’s loss of 4 million subscribers signals that Disney’s streaming strategy isn’t working as well as they had hoped.

With both SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild of America striking, it seems like Disney as a whole is set to join Fantasmic‘s animatronic dragon in going up in flames. CEO Bob Iger himself has complained that the strike has only added to widespread industry disruption and that the writers’ actors’ demands are unrealistic — a comment that has only drawn ridicule from the outside. 

With so much in flux, there’s no telling what the situation will be for Disney in Spring 2023 when Fantasmic reopens. The company, which only recently dominated pop culture, may end up being a shadow of its former self.