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Maleficent the dragon to pull a no-show for Disney summer spectacular [Updated]

June 11, 2009 |  3:28 pm

Dragon Board 3b 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 Friday night.

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’s heard 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 seemed 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.”

[Updated at 3:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the show is called Fastasmic. It is called Fantasmic.]

-- Tony Barboza

Disneyland dragon not ready for Fantasmic reboot

First look: Tinker Bell float in Electrical Parade at Disney’s California Adventure

Disney CA Adventure on Travel blog

Image credit: Disneyland Resort

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