What Separates Disney Fireworks from the Rest?

By James Hall


Fireworks amaze us by lighting up the sky keeping us mesmerized since America’s earliest settlers brought their enthusiasm to the United States. The Walt Disney company has been giving us fireworks since 1956, one year after Disneyland opened. In 2004 Disney was identified as the largest fireworks consumer in the United States. What makes Disney fireworks so great and entertaining to watch?


Fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland had only been open for a year and Walt Disney noticed that guests were only staying in the park until the late afternoon at the most. This was a loss financially in terms of opportunity. Walt Disney requested a fireworks show be created to keep guests until closing hours of the park. Walt being the visionary that he was wanted fireworks that weren’t shown just on the 4th of July. Once the Matterhorn opened, a wire was set up at the top of the attraction to the Sleeping Beauty Castle. This allowed a cast member dressed as Tinker Bell to fly overhead using her pixie dust to start the show. The first Tinker Bell to take the skies was former circus performer, Tiny Kline who was 70 at the time. The original fireworks were all lit by hand making it difficult each night to get the right timing for the show. Beginning in the 1960s imagineers developed a system for firing the shells electronically, synchronized to a musical soundtrack. During this period Disney started choreographing the fireworks with what they do best, storytelling. The first full Disneyland fireworks show was called “Fantasy in the Sky” and fireworks shows have evolved ever since at many Disney locations.


Epcot's departed IllumiNations show

​Since their debut, Disney fireworks shows have grown. Technology has improved for better storytelling. In 2004, Disney started using fireworks with compressed air rather than gun powder. This allows the display shell to explode in the air using a electronic timer. The advantages of the compressed air launch are a reduction in fumes with greater accuracy in height and timing. Not only have the fireworks themselves gotten better, but so has the storytelling of the nighttime spectaculars giving us a variety of entertainment. We have shows during the holiday season telling us to believe in holiday magic as it snows on Main Street. We have shows like “Remember Dreams Come True.” This one is absolutely one of my favorites as it takes us around Disneyland attractions. Fireworks are displayed depending on what ride they are

Fireworks at sea

representing like shooting off to look like cannon fire for Pirates of the Caribbean. Another great show utilizes projections. In “Happily Ever After” we see the next stage of nighttime spectaculars where projections go along with the fireworks. Disney parks around the world continue to evolve their fireworks, continuing to give us entertainment that ends our day with magic and fulfillment.


​These days, Disney Parks are not the only spots to see these wonderful displays of fireworks. Disney uses them on the open sea on the Disney Cruise Lines and was the first to do so. To set the mood, a themed deck party goes anywhere from Marvel Day at Sea to Pirates of Caribbean to get guests excited. Don’t worry about the sea life! There is nothing to fear as the shells are made from materials that are safe for fish to eat. While we all are in awe of the fireworks, fish are getting a free dinner.


Believe in Holiday Magic!

​Disney will continue to grow and perfect its fireworks shows for years to come. The storytelling aspect of the shows make them unlike any other. Make sure you don’t miss out on this spectacular nighttime entertainment the next time you are in a Disney park.

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