Disney dragon
Disneyland's new dragon Maleficent will not debut with the updated Fantasmic show. It is having mechanical problems.

Disney dragon's debut will be delayed

Disneyland's new dragon Maleficent will not debut with the updated Fantasmic show. It is having mechanical problems.
Maleficent, the star of Disneyland's new and improved version of Fantasmic, will be a no-show when the new show premieres Friday night. Disney will only say the dragon's problems are mechanical.
By Tony Barboza
June 12, 2009
When the creative forces at Disney dreamed up a new and improved version of Fantasmic -- a light, water and pyrotechnics spectacle billed as the surefire hit of the summer at the Anaheim theme park -- this probably is not what they had in mind:

A broken-down dragon.

Alas, Maleficent -- an automated, fire-breathing dragon from "Sleeping Beauty" that was to be the star of the summer-long show -- will instead be a no-show when the revamped version of Fantasmic is unveiled tonight.

On message boards and blogs where Disney fanatics gather, rumors abound over what felled Maleficent.

Miceage.com, which is dedicated to tracking even the smallest of Disney details, reported that the dragon's head fell off during testing. Elsewhere, there were rumors that its neck had snapped during a dress rehearsal.

Disney isn't saying exactly what happened to Maleficent, other than it is mechanical in nature. But it confirmed that the 40-foot-tall, 10,000-pound mechanical dragon -- so massive it had to be helicoptered onto the stage -- won't be joining the show until later in the summer.

Al Lutz, editor of miceage.com, said he heard that the dragon now rests in pieces in a staging area beneath Tom Sawyer Island.

It's a predicament for image-conscious Disney, which had peppered television and the Internet with ads featuring the red-eyed dragon shooting flames onto an artificial river.

The show is an updated version of Fantasmic, which has been running for 18 years and, in the eyes of some, had grown a tad dated. The once-captivating battle between Mickey Mouse and a manually operated dragon puppet, for instance, now seems clunky.

With a down economy and attendance sagging slightly, Disney is banking on new and improved characters -- giant eels mounted on jet skis, a huge crocodile and Maleficent -- to draw visitors to the theme park.

But the show must go on, even without its star, said Suzi Brown, a spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

She said an image of the dragon projected onto a mist screen will serve as a stand-in until the real thing is in working order.

Brown did dispel one rumor. "Its head did not fall off," she said.

"It's a very technically complex mechanism," Brown said. "It's huge and it's just not ready."


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