Last Updated on September 15, 2023 by Heather
Live entertainment is a big part of the Disney experience at the Walt Disney World theme parks. From Main Street to Africa it’s around every corner. In addition to the small-scale stage shows at Disney World, the parks also offer much larger scale shows in a variety of forms.
The Carousel of Progress, a show that relies exclusively on audio-animatronics, is claimed to have more performances than any other stage show in the history of American theater.
This all might be true but we are going to focus on the large-scale live shows at the theme parks. Most of these stage shows at Disney World include live vocalists, and your favorite Disney characters and some might just end with a bang. Here are our picks for the top 7 best stage shows at Walt Disney World.
7. Voyage Of The Little Mermaid
Voyage of The Little Mermaid opened on January 7th, 1992 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The show is over 25 years old and it has practically remained unchanged since it opened.
The show does have one major downfall and that is that it tries to cram the entire movie into a 17-minute performance, which makes the story feel very rushed. It does, however, feature some really cool blacklight puppetry with over a hundred puppets performing the classic song under the sea.
All of Ariel’s vocals in voyage of the Little Mermaid are Live, which is a big reason why this show even made the list. Live vocals tend to add a lot more depth to any stage show.
The show is long overdue for an update and could really use some new digital animation in the projections. But if you’re a fan of The Little Mermaid movie then you’ll definitely enjoy the show.
6. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
Just around the corner at Hollywood Studios is the home of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. The show opened on August 25th, 1989, back when the park was still MGM studios.
The 25-minute stunt show, modeled after Raiders of the Lost Ark, gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what it would be like to be on the set of an Indiana Jones film. Hollywood Studios is rapidly changing and has definitely moved away from the behind-the-scenes aspect of Hollywood.
This stunt show is probably one of the last attractions left that reference this idea. With that said, even though the show is almost 30 years old, it’s held up really well and is still very entertaining. I mean it never really gets old seeing Indiana Jones running away from the 400-pound rubber boulder or the impressive finale sequence.
There is no way that this show will be around forever, so definitely enjoy it while it’s still at the park. One side tip is to try to get there a bit early because these shows they’ll fill up really quickly.
5. Mickey’s Royal Friendship Fair
Even though Magic Kingdom is the flagship park at Walt Disney World there’s only one major stage show where you can see Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s royal friendship fair opened on June 16th, 2016 and has performed multiple times per day on the castle stage. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Daisy are all joined by characters from The Princess and the Frog, tangled, and frozen.
It’s a fun 22-minute show filled with songs from your favorite Disney films. Back in the 90s, there were three places to see Mickey Mouse live on stage at Magic Kingdom. The extinct Galaxy Place Theater in Tomorrowland, The Theater in Mickey Star land, and of course the castle stage.
But now sadly there’s just one at the castle stage. Mickey’s real friendship fare might not be the most technical show and it can get very hot standing out in the Sun for 22 minutes. However, if you want to see the mouse this is the place to be.
4. Beauty And The Beast Live On Stage
Theatre of the stars at Hollywood studios is home to Beauty and the Beast live on stage. The show opened in the original theater of the stars off Hollywood Boulevard on November 21st, 1991. The same day the animated Beauty and The Beast film was released in theatres. It was used as a way to market the new film allowing audiences to become familiar with the music and the story of Beauty and the Beast.
Unlike voyage of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast has a running time of 25 minutes which allows for much more cohesive storytelling. The show also includes eight songs from the animated film with Belle and Gaston both being live vocalists at every show.
Does Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage give away that it was conceived and designed in the early 90s? Sure! Could it be time to upgrade or close the show to make way for something new? Honestly, it’s probably on its way out but while it’s around it’s still a fun and entertaining tale as old as time.
3. Festival Of The Lion King
The Harambee theatre at Animal Kingdom is home to the festival of the Lion King. The show originally opened in Camp Minnie Mickey on April 22nd, 1998, and was an opening day attraction at the park. The show relocated to the Harambee theatre in June of 2014. Festival of the Lion King is a 30-minute show presented in what’s known as theater-in-the-round so there’s really no such thing as a bad seat in the theatre.
A traveling troupe of performers celebrates the Lion King film through a musical revue-style show which isn’t anything like the Broadway musical. This isn’t a retelling of the story but more of a concert that features your favorite songs from the movie, like the circle of life and can you feel the love tonight. This is all told through dance, acrobatics, fire twirling, audience participation, and four live lead vocalists.
Different actors bring something fresh in you to any live performance and on any given day there are usually two different casts that alternate every two shows. So you can experience a slightly different show with different performers on the same day. The dancers and acrobats in the show are also some of the most enthusiastic performers you’ll find at Walt Disney World.
Although nothing in the show has really changed since it opened in 1998; I can’t say it’s ever felt outdated or has overstayed its welcome. There’s just something about this show that’s fun and entertaining no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Fantasmic is one show that is definitely one of our family favorites. Fantasmic opened on October 15th, 1998 and takes you right into Mickey’s imagination. the show is commonly referred to as a nighttime spectacular and it’s definitely just that.
You get right in that Disney spirit as soon as you hear the start of the great musical score. Fantasmic features some amazing pyro and firework effects, water screens, lasers, floating barges, and lots of Disney magic. Oh, and we can’t forget the show’s 40+ performers that bring this 22-minute spectacular to life.
One little tip is that if you sit in the first few rows you’ll probably get wet so take that into consideration when choosing one of the almost 7,000 seats in the amphitheater. Although Fantasmic is one of my personal favorites, it could really benefit from some updates; since it’s the exact same show that opened in 1998 and nothing has really changed. Nonetheless, not only as Fantasmic the perfect stage show to end your day at Hollywood studios it’s also a must-see in terms of nighttime entertainment at the park.
1. Finding Nemo The Musical
The last one on our list is at Theater in the Wild at Animal Kingdom. Finding Nemo the musical officially opened on January 24, 2007. This show is the closest thing you’ll find to a Broadway musical at Walt Disney World. This 40-minute adaptation of the popular Pixar film uses puppetry music and dance to tell the story of Marlin the clownfish on his journey to find his son Nemo.
The show has 14 original songs composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez who, at the time, were Tony Award winners for Best Original Score for Avenue Q; they’re also the team responsible for the music and frozen.
If you’re a big fan of musical theater then this is the show for you since the entire cast including the ensemble sings live. There’s a very talented group of actors in Finding Nemo and you actually have enough time to fully invest in these characters to go along the journey with them.
Like Festival of the Lion King on any given day, there are two sets of lead cast members that split the performances in half. So if you see the first show and the last show of the day then you’ll definitely get to experience different actors in the roles. This show alone is arguably worth the price of admission so you definitely don’t want to miss Finding Nemo the musical.
We know it’s subjective, but these are our top seven stage shows at Walt Disney World. Most of these shows have multiple performances a day so be sure to check the times guide for exact showtimes. If you are planning a trip to Disney World we hope you find this information helpful and that you check out some of the related content below.