An Enormous Animatronic Dragon Caught on Fire at Disneyland
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“Thousands of stunned guests were on hand Saturday night to watch a Disneyland malfunction for the ages,” writes SFGate — when a 45-foot-tall animatronic dragon burst into flames, and continued burning for several minutes in front of the stunned crowd.
The fire occurred during the 10:30 p.m. performance of Fantasmic, a show staged on the Rivers of America. The elaborate show uses ships, barges, projections on the water and fire effects to tell the story of Mickey Mouse’s dreams and nightmares. Near the end of the show, the dragon form of Maleficent from “Sleeping Beauty,” emerges from the island.
The big finale went awry Saturday, and flames engulfed the entire dragon. Video taken by shocked spectators shows the fire beginning on the dragon’s face and rapidly spreading down its body as chunks of flaming debris fall to the ground. Smoke and heavy flames billow from the prop as firefighters begin hosing down the dragon. The remainder of the show was canceled, and guests were escorted out of the immediate area…
The dragon, one of the most memorable parts of Disneyland’s beloved nighttime spectacular, has jokingly been referred to as Murphy, a reference to Murphy’s law. Over the decades, it’s been part of countless malfunctions and mishaps, although none quite so destructive as this. Though it is supposed to breathe fire, there are times when the effect doesn’t work at all.
“Disneyland employees armed with garden hoses and fire extinguishers were no match for the inferno,” reports the Orange County Register. “The dragon’s head erupted into a fireball and a flamethrower effect from the dragon’s mouth shot directly toward the stage, according to MiceChat.”
The newspaper has a picture of the charred mechanical skeleton that was still lying on the ground Sunday on Tom Sawyer Island — and a 146-second video of the blaze. (Apparently realizing they’re witnessing an unplanned fire, one spectator can be heard telling another one wryly, “Happy birthday, Danny.”)
“Some spectators thought it was part of the show,” reports the New York Times. One visitor told the newspaper, “My sister and I were talking about how it was impressive. I was like, ‘Man, they can set that head on fire and it just stays perfectly intact?’ So we were kind of amazed at Disney at first…”
When interviewed by the Associated Press, Ryan Laux, a frequent Disneyland visitor, “said Mickey vanished from the stage as soon as the dragon’s head became engulfed in flames.”
Then a voice over a loudspeaker announced the show wouldn’t continue “due to unforeseen circumstances…” (as heard in the video). “We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause — and hope you enjoy the rest of your evening here at Disneyland. Once again, this performance cannot continue due to unforeseen circumstances. Thank you.” At that moment the head burst into more flames, some members of the audience gasped in unison — and the announcement continued playing in Spanish. (“No podemos continuar con este presentacion…”) Then cheery banjo music began playing.
At least six workers were eventually treated for smoke inhalation from the burning dragon prop, reports the New York Times.
In a statement Disney said they were now “temporarily suspending fire effects” in “select” shows in their parks around the world — “out of an abundance of caution.”