July 22, 2024

Review: Disney World’s Best New Experience for Summer 2024!

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Over the last several days, we've been checking out the new-for-Summer 2024 additions at Walt Disney World. These really run the gamut. Some are relatively minor 'are what they are' sorta things, like character meet




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Over the last several days, we’ve been checking out the new-for-Summer 2024 additions at Walt Disney World. These really run the gamut. Some are relatively minor ‘are what they are‘ sorta things, like character meet & greets. Others are also minor but could’ve been more, like “¡Celebración Encanto!” or the Lion King 30th stuff.

Then there are the major permanent things: CommuniCore Hall & Plaza and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. I’ve already hinted at how I feel about the former, and I’m sure you’re sitting on pins and needles awaiting more complaints about that space. As for the latter attraction, I won’t spoil the coming ride reviews (plural) with a throwaway line here.

There’s one new offering that’s practically perfect in every way, including the price tag for experiencing it, which is FREE. It’s the only new experience that earns a 10/10 score from me, along with a ‘go out of your way to experience this must-see’ recommendation. That strongest addition at Walt Disney World for Summer 2024 is the Disney Dreams That Soar drone show.

Before digging into what makes Disney Dreams That Soar special, let’s cover the basics. The show consists of over 800 state-of-the-art drones “dancing” across the sky above Disney Springs, choreographed to a soaring musical score of iconic Disney music and memorable dialogue from beloved Disney movies. The drones fly in a constant state of transformation, designing towering elements that are 400-feet tall and creating images of some of your favorite Disney characters from Toy Story, Coco, Dumbo, Peter Pan, Up, Star Wars, and more.

Disney Dreams That Soar is approximately 10 minutes long and is presented twice nightly, currently at 9 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., from now through September 2, 2024. The viewing area is on the Disney Springs West Side—along the waterfront between Cirque du Soleil and the Aerophile balloon.

Note that this a formal viewing area, meaning that when demand is high (as it has been), you’ll need to enter either by House of Blues or Starbucks on the far ends. This could change, especially on weekdays or for the 10:45 p.m. showing, but just be aware that Disney Dreams That Soar is very popular.

For the same reason, we’d also recommend taking Disney bus transportation instead of dealing with driving and parking. In theory, you could also watch from the waterfront in Congress Park at Saratoga Springs if you’re staying there and don’t mind seeing everything backwards. The optimal approach, though, is the official viewing area along the waterfront on the West Side of Disney Springs. It’s the only spot to get the full effect and hear the soaring soundtrack.

I’ve had high expectations for Disney Dreams That Soar since it was first announced, saying it was my second most-anticipated new addition for Summer 2024 after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Following the rave reviews and fan excitement for the Disney Electrical Sky Parade at Disneyland Paris, I was surprised by just how much the Disney Dreams That Soar announcement flew under the radar.

Presumably, that’s because it’s at Disney Springs instead of one of the four theme parks and also because it’s for a limited time only. If this were a permanent nighttime spectacular announced for, say, Animal Kingdom, the response to Disney Dreams That Soar hopefully would’ve been far more enthusiastic.

Anyway, as high as my expectations were for Disney Dreams That Soar, the actual show/spectacular exceeded them. And it’s not like this is simply a matter of me not seeing a drone display since the last time Disney Springs had one, back at Christmas 2016. Literally last week we saw a drone show for the opening of Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea. While that new land and its attractions are making U.S. fans jealous, Disney Dreams That Soar is one of the rare examples of Walt Disney World getting something far superior to Japan.

I had seen photos and video of the Disney Dreams That Soar drone display prior to seeing it in person, and none of that came even remotely close to doing it justice. Nothing I can say or show is going to ‘spoil’ the experience of standing there, seeing those scenes soar overhead.

Dots on a screen have got nothing on these drones in real life. It’s akin to the difference between watching Peter Pan’s Never Land Adventure or Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge and actually riding them and being enveloped in the experience. It doesn’t help that my photos here are not very good (I was kind of distracted by, you know, enjoying the show). But even if they were, it’d look like depictions of a Lite Brite in the sky instead of one of the coolest things I’ve seen at Walt Disney World in a long time.

So just bear that in mind if you’re looking at what’s here and thinking, “that doesn’t look very magical, majestic, etc.”

Starting at the beginning, I love the entrance sequence of the drones in Disney Dreams That Soar. The fleet takes flight, illuminated in blue, gliding from the surface parking lot at Disney Springs over Lake Buena Vista. It’s such a simple thing, but it’s downright entrancing and flips the script on drone shows that normally try to conceal their nature. Here, the technology is showcased rather than hidden, and guests get chance to savor the tech during this subtly stunning sequence.

It’s one of a few little things done by Disney Dreams That Soar that, honestly, kind of feels like Walt Disney World showing off. This drone display has a sense of self-assuredness–a swagger that almost says, “we better show them the drones now, because unlike other drone shows, the infrastructure is fading into the background after this!” I loved this little twist. It works really well here because of the contrast with the rest of the show, and I’m one who thinks Walt Disney World is often a tad too tech-forward (see Harmonious for a recent example of this approach running amuck).

The opening arrival visuals are accompanied by narration over the Disney Dreams That Soar original song. It’s simple and straightforward, but it’s the perfect start. Well, almost perfect. This show feels like an ideal opportunity to bring back Jiminy Cricket as narrator. (Sorry, Mark Daniel–you’re still great.)

I’m not going to do a scene-by-scene recap of Disney Dreams That Soar; there’s no shortage of video if that’s what you’re after. What I will say is that it all flows really well. One of the reasons the ascension of the drones flips the script and is a smart move is because you don’t see any of that during the show itself.

The transitions are smooth, with the drones disappearing and reappearing in some cases. In other, more impressive, scenes there’s an actual transformation or shift from one scene to the next. For instance, Dumbo fading away but his balloon remaining as the house from Up materializing around it.

All of these transitions are done purposefully, rather than out of necessity. Unlike other non-Disney shows, you don’t see the drones visibly rearranging in the sky–except when that’s done for a reason, as it’s the most engaging segue between scenes. But in most cases, the slate is cleared completely between scenes.

Again, words don’t do this justice–the best I can say is that the transitions, whatever they are, are graceful and purposeful–fitting for the visuals and arc of the show. (Like I said, Disney Dreams That Soar has swagger, and this is an example of that.)

The animated sequences are also a lot of fun, like when the Death Star (larger than Spaceship Earth!) appears and blaster fire is simulated in a battle sequence. There’s another fun animated ‘number’ during the Guardians of the Galaxy sequence, which breaks up the show nicely and amps up the energy.

It might sound jarring or incongruous to have Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation, and theme parks IP all in the same show, but it’s not. The thematic through-line of Disney Dreams That Soar is flight (fitting for a drone display). All of these stories celebrate the joy of flight, which is about as cohesive as you’re going to get from a modern Disney montage production.

Between that and the transitions, I felt the flow of the show was fantastic. I also very much appreciated the inclusion of underutilized, fan-favorite films and characters. That made Disney Dreams That Soar feel less like a glorified Disney+ sizzle reel than a couple of other recent nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World.

The animation and transitions are also added by spotlights along the Congress Park area of Saratoga Springs across the water. These give Disney Dreams That Soar a bit of depth and help elevate it above just a simple drone display. (Another reason I’m inclined to call it a nighttime spectacular even if Disney doesn’t. It’s certainly better than the projections shows at DHS!)

Spotlights aren’t the only way that Disney Dreams That Soar has dimensionality. While several sequences have a 2D quality, like the traditional animation upon which they’re based, there are others that look 3D. That’s apparent even just as they float through the sky (Up house) but it becomes crystal clear with the visuals that actually rotate, like the characters from Wall-E or ship from Guardians of the Galaxy. Again, words/photos/videos don’t do this justice–it’s also another place where it feels like Disney Live Entertainment is sorta showing off.

By contrast, the finale excels thanks to its simplicity. Disney Dreams That Soar is done showing off, now it’s time for a fun ending featuring fan-favorites.

The Disney Dreams That Soar original song starts playing and a montage of characters takes flight. These are all more basic and less ‘wow-worthy’ than the previous scenes, but that’s for good reason–they’re appearing simultaneously. Here you can spot Mary Poppins, Zero the Ghost Dog, Elliot the Dragon, Flora, Fauna, & Merryweather, Mandalorian & Baby Yoda, Launchpad McQuack, Pegasus, Genie, and Tinker Bell. Oh, and my personal favorites–Figment, Orange Bird and the Rocketeer!

There’s literally something for everyone here, and I can almost promise that you’ll squee in delight as your favorites appear (100% of the adults in our crew did). It very much reminded me of the finale of a light parade–such as SpectroMagic–that may not have the most wowing floats, but that more than make up that with a barrage of characters and soaring score.

In fact, this whole finale had a distinctly 1990s quality that really, really endeared me to Disney Dreams That Soar. Rather than having a trying-too-hard at relevance contemporary pop music sound, this has a wholesome and timeless 90s quality. (It might as well be sung by Kellie Coffey!)

At least to me as an elder Millennial who grew up on that era of Walt Disney World, there’s an oddly sentimental quality about Disney Dreams That Soar. It connected immediately on a nostalgic level, making me feel like a kid again and sparking memories from when Sarah and I first watched SpectroMagic or Wishes together. I can’t think of the last nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World that did this. Even Wondrous Journeys or Happily Ever After, both of which I love, didn’t evoke this type of emotion.

For lack of a better explanation, Disney Dreams That Soar just hits differently. I’m not saying it’s better than Wondrous Journeys or Happily Ever After (it’s not–but that’s also an apples to oranges comparison), just that the feeling it gave me was distinct from those shows. It was like an unexpected shot of sentimentality, but during a first viewing, that I haven’t felt since Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland (that was a nostalgic show, so it’s also not the same).

It should go without saying, but obviously I cannot promise that this will be your reaction to Disney Dreams That Soar. While I can say that it is objectively very good and punches well above its weight, emotional resonance is very much a subjective thing. If your circumstances or Disney history differ, perhaps so too will your response. But that was ours, and in discussing Disney Dreams That Soar with similarly-situated friends, it sounds like theirs was similar (albeit in different words).

With all of that out of the way, the practical planning question is if it’s worth visiting Disney Springs to see the Disney Dreams That Soar drone display? Our answer might seem obvious given our effusive praise, and to be sure, it mostly is an emphatic YES. If you’ve ever visited Walt Disney World before–probably 95% of the audience for a review like this–we would highly recommend a special trip to Disney Springs to see the show. Not only that, but we’d recommend it early in your trip so you can pivot and see subsequent showings should it wow you as much as it did us.

If you’re a first-timer, the recommendation is not as clear-cut or unequivocal. For as much as we absolutely adore Disney Dreams That Soar, it’s also not on the same level as Happily Ever After, Fantasmic, or even Luminous. The first two of those are absolute must-dos, and are world-class nighttime spectaculars that deserve to be seen at least once. I also really like Luminous, but even those who are more mixed on it would probably concede that it’s a larger-scale nighttime spectacular deserving to be viewed at least once to form your own opinion.

The good (?) news is that Animal Kingdom does not have a nighttime spectacular and also closes early. Seeing Disney Dreams That Soar on your DAK day is a no-brainer! So, definitely do that if you have at least 4 days in the parks. That’s a fairly obvious and easy recommendation.

But let’s say that you only have 3 days. In such a scenario, our recommendation is double-dipping! You can watch the 9 p.m. showing of Luminous at EPCOT, exit out International Gateway, walk to one of the Crescent Lake resorts, catch a bus to Disney Springs, and easily make the 10:45 p.m. showing of Disney Dreams That Soar. (It’ll be more difficult with Fantasmic, especially when it has 9:30 p.m. showtimes, but might still be feasible if you’re fast.)

This is precisely what I plan to do on research trips to Walt Disney World over the next 3 months. My goal is to see Disney Dreams That Soar a total of 10 times to firmly embed it in my memory, have maximum nostalgia for the drone display, and savor those flashbacks to the 90s and early aughts that it evokes in me.

Ultimately, we both absolutely adored Disney Dreams That Soar, as is probably obvious by this point. I had high expectations going in, and this easily exceeded them. Part of that is probably that I expected this to be a pilot project. Proof of concept for a future show in one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks. (It’s something we’ve been covering this year in Will Walt Disney World Get a Dazzling Drone Display? We lay out the ‘why’ in that post, but our answer has been that it’s an inevitability, and sooner rather than later.)

I still believe that Disney Dreams That Soar probably is a trial balloon or test flight. But it’s not simply a hastily thrown-together tech demo (or if it is, they really captured lightning in a bottle by not overproducing it). This is a fully-fledged production, and there’s a very good chance it’ll be the best drone show you’ve ever seen. (Guaranteed if you’ve never seen one.)

While I’m still slightly concerned that Disney Dreams That Soar is it, and we’ll go another 7+ years before seeing drones again at Disney Springs because legal won’t give them clearance to fly anywhere near guests, I doubt that’s the case. The guest response has been resoundingly positive and crowds are colossal. That has to have executives salivating, knowing the kind of shot in the arm that a drone display could give Animal Kingdom. They’ll figure out whatever liability and staging concerns might exist.

Above all else, I’m excited for what I think this signals–ushering in a new era of entertainment at Walt Disney World. Again, I’m fairly confident that Disney Dreams That Soar is the starting point for drones at WDW, but certainly not the endpoint. That this is a test, and (hopefully!) the real deal will come to Animal Kingdom in 2025. The upside to drones in a theme park at Walt Disney World is too high–they’ll find a way to make it work.

It’s more than just that, though. This same entertainment team is also working on bigger and better things for the parks at Walt Disney World. If this is what they’re capable of creating for a temporary display that can be seen for free, just imagine what they could do with a totally hypothetical new night parade for Magic Kingdom.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you seen Disney Dreams That Soar? What did you think of the drone display? Do you think this is testing for a fully-fledged, drone-driven nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World in 2025? Or do you think it ends here, at Disney Springs? Do you agree or disagree with our review? If a drone show comes to Walt Disney World, at which park would you like to see it? Any other thoughts or commentary to add? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!




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