Elaine Gilmer has seen the performance of “Fantasmic!” at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, over 100 times, but Saturday evening’s show was one to remember.
“The dragon’s head started to glow, and I see fire and kind of smoke coming out,” she said with hesitation. “I was like, ‘Oh … they added some new stuff because that didn’t didn’t happen like that before.'”
However, Gilmer’s daughter Elyssa began to realize that the fire from the animatronic dragon’s mouth appeared to spread to the body of the 45-foot creature, which is styled after the storybook villain of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent.
“We saw some small explosions coming out of the head, and then, all of a sudden, the whole dragon was just engulfed, and then, all of a sudden, the worker started coming around escorting everybody out for safety,” Elaine said.
Videos of the incident quickly circulated online, showing the massive dragon wholly engulfed in flames — an uncharacteristically chaotic ending for the show that usually climaxes with Mickey Mouse casting a spell to defeat Maleficent.
All cast members were evacuated from Tom Sawyer Island, where the show is staged, due to the fire, according to a Disneyland official. The Anaheim Fire Department reported no injuries related to the incident, according to ABC News affiliate KABC.
“The cause of the fire remains under investigation at this time,” wrote the official.
Dark plumes of smoke emanated from the dragon and impacted nearby attractions, prompting Disneyland to clear some guests from the area.
“I would love to say that I was cool for the whole thing, but obviously there comes a little moment where it’s worrisome because it starts to spread a lot,” said Brenda Coutiño, who was visiting Disneyland from Tucson, Arizona. “I thought it was gonna cut into the buildings, and since there’s so much connected to that little island — I was just a little scared that it would spread out.”
Park guests reported that the incident was shocking initially, but the response, including moving some guests from impacted regions, went relatively smoothly.
Videos of the incident show guests watching and recording the show’s unplanned conclusion while a loudspeaker informs them that the “performance cannot continue due to unforeseen circumstances.”
The live show uses water and fire special effects to tell the story of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, interspersed with clips from classic Disney movies.
Disneyland describes the show as “Daring heroes and epic villains do battle on a grand scale in an incredible nighttime show — starring Mickey Mouse.”
The fire cut off the show as it neared its conclusion. Recently refurbished, the show typically concludes with fireworks and visit from a steamboat full of dancing Disney characters and fireworks.
“The dragon is usually the highlight — that’s what most people look forward to,” Elyssa Gilmer said. “We always love that part, so it’s exciting to watch; it’s kind of sad knowing that [the fire] happened.”
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