Fantasmic and the Walt Disney World alcohol turning point in 1998.

UPDATES:

  • 2019-04-19: Added a 2014 version of the “beer tray” photo, compliments of DisneyDrinking.com.

In 1955, Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California. After he passed away in 1966, his brother Roy continued part of Walt’s vision of his Florida Project. In 1971, he opened Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom theme park.

The 1970s were the era that I grew up in, and was exposed to Disneyland and Magic Kingdom during one amazing family road trip from Houston, Texas.

In 1982, EPCOT Center opened. It was the first Disney theme park that did not feature Disney characters! Yes, Virginia, there was a time when you couldn’t meet Mickey and every fairy tell princess at Epcot… Another first was the addition of alcohol to guests (if you ignore Holidayland at Disneyland, which served beer back when Walt was still alive and in charge).

In the early years, alcohol was limited to restaurants. You could buy a margarita at the quick service food stand in Mexico, but a cast member would make sure you did not carry the drink out to the rest of the park.

Obviously, at some point both of these things changed and now about the only thing you can’t get at the park is a photo of you holding a beer while standing next to a Disney character.

But I digress…

I don’t recall when the open carry policy for alcohol changed, but I do recall the first time I ever saw booze being sold “in the lanes.” I had visited Universal Studios Orlando earlier, and noticed they were selling booze in the lanes, and I clearly remember thinking “I wonder how long it will be before Disney does it?”

Within a year, apparently. The Disney/MGM Studios was opening a version of the Disneyland smash-hit Fantasmic!

Fantasmic! coming soon sign at Disney/MGM Studios on May 19, 1997.

By coincidence, I happened to be in town when they first did a soft-open preview performance. The wikipedia says the show opened on October 15, 1998, but I thought it was later, and that the earlier shows were for cast members only. I remember waiting in a long line for a chance to see it and the (first?) show was cancelled (or full?). The earliest photos I have are from October 16, 1998:

Fantasmic’s first public showing on October 16, 1998.

I don’t recall the details, but something happened that caused a swarm of people to go to guest relations that night:

Disney fans swarm guest relations on October 16, 1998.

I guess Disney fans were whiney back then, too. I seem to recall they did a second show and that is that one I watched. Perhaps this first night didn’t happen at all and I am remembering a second attempt later? I don’t seem to have any photos of the show from that night.

I have a photo from October 23 that shows was cancelled:

The brand-new Fantasmic cancelled on October 23, 1998.

Tonights? I guess people forget apostrophes even at Disney World!

It appears the first photos I took of the actual show were from October 24, 1998:

Fantasmic! on October 24, 1998.

Well, either my memory is wrong, or the Wikipedia is wrong, or the Mandela Effect is real. But that’s okay, because that has nothing to do with this article.

THIS is what I am writing about today:

Popcorn being sold to folks in line for Fantasmic! on October 16, 1998.

Well, not those popcorn sellers, specifically, but the whole concept of people walking around with trays of stuff to sell to folks standing in line. More specifically, people walking around with trays of beer to sell to folks standing in line! That’s what I saw the first time I tried to see this show.

Beer being sold to people in line on October 16, 1998.

Can you believe it? Disney had cast members walking around with a tray of beer cans, selling it to people standing in line for Fantasmic!

And that, my friends, may have been the first time Disney sold alcohol “in the lanes.” Do you know of any earlier instance?

Today, most ice cream carts seem to have a few beers on tap.

UPDATE: And, it seems the “beer in the lanes” trend continued. Here is a photo taken by DisneyDrink.com on June 1, 2014, showing a Fantastic-aproned cast member selling beer from a tray:

A Fantasmic! cast member selling bottled beer (poured into plastic cups) from a tray, and @DrunkAtDisney of DisneyDrinking.com, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 1, 2014. (Photo by DisneyDrinking.com).

My, how things have changed from the early years of Walt Disney World (no alcohol from 1971 to 1982, then limited alcohol at EPCOT Center) to what we have today (shots, ice cream “bars”, spiked drinks at coffee stands, etc.).

Until next time…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: