By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Kids, Fear, and Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

MBTeal Logo 2013Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Teal. Enjoy the ride as we explore this month the unexpectedly scary side of Walt Disney World!


For reasons explained here, this site mostly focuses on kids eight and older. Kids that age can “get” pretty much everything at Disney World, and on average aren’t likely to be freaked out by much on offer.

But every kid is different, so you never know.  I was scared of Space Mountain well into my 30s–which I think of as the middle of my childhood–and until then would ride it with my eyes closed.  (Why it helped to close my eyes on a ride that happens in the dark is something I still haven’t been able to explain to myself…)

And there’s a lot at Disney World that might trouble the younger set–preschoolers. When leaving Fantasmic a month ago, I walked behind a family whose little boy–probably around five–in tears kept repeating “Never again! I’m never seeing this again!”

So this made me wonder where I’d marked Fantasmic on the Comprehensive Guide to Rides, and if that marking was right…

The Comprehensive Guide to Disney World Rides from yourfirstvisit.netThis guide (above) is meant to help families not using one of my itineraries to prioritize what to see, based on both the time they have and the ages of their kids.

The vertical axis is for preschoolers, and it divides rides for them into rides to avoid, best-loved rides, and “other”–rides neither best loved nor to be avoided.

Most of the scary rides are in “Avoid,” but I have Fantasmic in “Other.”  And I’m wondering what those of you with preschoolers who have seen Fantasmic think of this?

Fantasmic–like many other story-based attractions at Disney World, and many other stories in the Disney canon–has both good guys and bad guys. The strength and fearsomeness of the bad guys makes us care more about the struggle of the good guys, and makes the ultimate victory of the good guys (this is Disney, after all!) that much more to be savored!

And Fantasmic has villains everywhere, in images, as characters, and as the world’s biggest snake (I close my eyes when the snake comes out, and think instead of Space Mountain).

For those not freaked out by the villains, the quality of the antagonists makes the ultimate victory of the hero of Fantasmic, Mickey, that much more fun…but some little kids don’t get that closure, as they remain lost in unhappiness at the bad guys.

So what do you think?  For preschoolers, should I leave Fantasmic–one of Disney World’s best offerings, and a favorite of millions–as “other”?  Or should I move it for these little ones to “Avoid”?


Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on today’s Magical Blogorail Teal Loop is  Disney-Lovin’ Spectrum Mom.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Teal loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard!

1st Stop ~
2nd Stop ~ Disney-Lovin’ Spectrum Mom
3rd Stop ~ The Disney Babies Blog
4th Stop ~ The Disney Kids
Final Stop ~ Capturing Magical Memories

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1 Tracy { 10.22.13 at 7:55 am }

Fantasmic was my daughters favorite show when we went 3 years ago. She was barely 3 years old at the time, but she was never frightened by it. In fact, one of our favorite memories of that trip was when the fireworks came off of Mickey’s sword and the dragon (dragon, right?) went down.. my daughter yelled “Yea!! Mickey saved the Day, Mommy!!!” hahaha It was precious. However, you are correct.. every kid is different. My children have never been afraid of characters or rides (age appropriate ones, of course) so I guess I’m not really the best person to ask. :o) Looking forward to our next trip to Disney.. TOMORROW!!! hahaha And you can bet we will be seeing Fantasmic!!!

2 Dave { 10.22.13 at 8:09 am }

Thanks, Tracy!!

3 Gretchen { 10.22.13 at 9:00 am }

Hi Dave,
We just saw Fantasmic for the first time last week. I had heard that some kids get scared at Fantasmic so we sat higher up in the stadium. Also, I think for some young kids, being too close to the stage and feeling some of the splashes of water or the heat from the fire parts would make some kids anxious. My three and a half year old and five and a half year-old were a little nervous during the villain parts. I just kept reminding them that it was all pretend. My five year old did wake up that night scared and that is very unusual for him. I think the villain parts were more unsettling for him than I realized. Again, we reminded him that it was all pretend and he did not have any nightmares the next night. If you are concerned about your child getting scared, and you have the time in your schedule, try going to HS on a night when Fantasmic is shown twice. Some members of your family can see it at the first time and if they think it is okay for your child, you can all go at the second showing. Hope this helps!!!

4 Mary @Capturing Magical Memories { 10.22.13 at 9:04 am }

We took our son when he was 2 to see Fantasmic. Luckily we were in the back as he did get scared. But he still wanted to see it so he stood behind Dad and watched over his shoulder.

After it was done he wanted to see it again. So it definitely is on the fence. I would warn parents that it can be scary but would give it a try.

5 Heidi { 10.22.13 at 10:09 am }

We have yet to see Fantasmic. It’s on my list for our next trip. I don’t have preschoolers anymore, though. I think it’s one of those things that the parent needs to decide based on their child’s personality, fears, etc.

6 Kathleen Kelly { 10.22.13 at 10:33 am }

Hi Dave!

The scariest part of Fantasmic for my kids was the lake full of pyrotechnics. We always choose seats in the rear of the theater so they do not feel the intense heat you experience in the first one-third of the theater. I agree with the above post; whether or not the show will be frightening for your child is one of those things you have to determine via educated guess based upon the individual child.

7 Hedy @ WDW Not Just for Kids { 10.22.13 at 10:46 am }

Not a parent, but I might go with avoid–I know my nephew was not a fan as a tot.

8 Tricia from Return to Disney { 10.22.13 at 12:03 pm }

Ultimately, it’s the parents who are in the best position to make that call. I have four kids – my 5 year old would probably love Fantasmic, but my 8 year old might be freaked out by it. Every kid is different, and they all have things that bother them. Thanks for the heads’ up about what to expect though – that information makes it a lot easier to decide whether a show or an attraction is “right” for my kids!

9 Amanda { 10.22.13 at 1:23 pm }

I think a lot of it depends on the kid. My daughter is 5 and Fantasmic is out of the question for us right now. She gets freaked out by certain villains and too much darkness – for example, you have Voyage of the Little Mermaid at HS as Best-Loved and that was my daughter’s most hated attraction because of Ursula and the pitch black of the theater! Yet she loved Barnstormer because it was open air and not a villain in sight. 😉 So, yes, as others have said, you know your kids best and what they can and cannot handle. I’m sure one day we’ll get to experience Fantasmic; it just isn’t on our radar for the time being!

10 Steve From - Military Moderator { 10.22.13 at 7:18 pm }

You might want to add Tough To Be A Bug to the list.

We went to AK shortly after it opened, our daughter was 10 at the time and it freaked her out, the poke in the back and the “bugs” under your but.

We were just there with her and her boyfriend (she’s 25 now) and we kept teasing her that we were going on TTBAB, she said “Fine, but I’m sitting up and scooting forward!”

11 KE { 10.22.13 at 8:14 pm }

My daughter is almost 6 and we would definitely have to do a little pre-show discussion about the villains and understanding that everything is really okay. She’s already made comments that she hopes she doesn’t see certain villainous characters on our upcoming trip. I’ve gone over a few characters (Hook, Stepmother, Stepsisters, etc.) that may pop up in the parks or at our dining so that she is aware that she may/will see them and that they are there to talk with her and sign autographs, not to hurt or be mean to anyone. It also helped to show her some videos on YouTube of other children interacting with some of the more villainous characters. I totally agree with all of the above posts; you have to know your kid/s and plan accordingly. I think placing a little disclaimer within your rating that it may not be suitable…would be the best way to distinguish it for those families who may need to think twice or do some pre-show discussion.

12 MJ { 10.22.13 at 9:33 pm }

My 5-1/2 year old’s very favorite ride is Tower of Terror, followed by Haunted Mansion. She likes spooky things, but didn’t love Fantasmic. After sitting for 30+ minutes waiting for it to start, she seemed a little bored by the show, but she did like seeing the princesses and princes on the boats (my 3 yr old daughter really loved that part too). None of the children near us seemed frightened. I think by the 9pm show time they were just tired. We will see it at 6:30pm in November and now they are 6 and 3.5 yrs old so we’ll see if our experience is different.

13 Dave { 10.23.13 at 1:33 pm }

Lots of great thoughts, all…I’m thinking I will move Fantasmic and It’s Tough to be a Bug to “avoid”

14 Anonymous { 10.23.13 at 7:57 pm }

My son (just turned 4) LOVED Fantasmic! He actually fell asleep towards the end because it was 9pm but he talked about it all the next day. And the “HUUUUUUUUGGGGE snake was AWESOME!” He also did Haunted Mansion and he thought it was spoooky but not really scary.

15 Jen { 10.23.13 at 9:29 pm }

Definitely add Bugs Life on list to avoid, my three year old was totally freaked out. We visited AK our first day and it was scary for her every time we entered a theater from there out.

16 Kuleen at { 11.01.13 at 10:15 am }

As a Disney blogger that focuses on preschoolers and young elementary, I don’t give Fantasmic a thumbs up for that age group. Each kid is different, but this is an attraction I wouldn’t bring a young child to unless I had researched it thoroughly and new exactly what to expect. I know my kids weren’t ready for it until they were 8+ years old. Then again, my 4 year old son had a total melt down from The Little Mermaid at DHS.

17 Dave { 11.02.13 at 10:07 am }

Thanks, Kuleen! BTW, at least one other has noted an issue with the Little Mermaid–Ursula in that case. Same for you?

18 Kimberly { 10.15.15 at 1:30 pm }

As someone who was never scared of much as a kid and didn’t see Fantasmic! until I was an older kid, I’ve never really thought of it as being scary. But I think you are definitely right! The giant snake and the scene with Monstro are both a bit creepy, not to mention there are Disney villains everywhere! Plus all of the fire could definitely be frightening to a young child.

19 Dave { 10.16.15 at 8:17 am }

Hi Kimberly long time no see!!

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