Of Missing Spires and Sorcery in the Sky
The first picture in the above set of photos isn’t of The Disney-MGM Studios under construction, despite having a spire missing from the facade of the iconic Chinese Theater. What it IS however, is proof positive of a fascinating little detail that I’ve been trying to track down for quite some time.
When MGM was being conceived and built, its headliner attraction was conceived to be the working studio elements of the park- guests would devote most of their time to a tour of the facilities that Disney built specifically in Florida for post production and promotion. Considering this, entertainment for MGM was relegated to the secondary part of the budget for the park, and delayed. However, a nighttime show for the park was planned, and a few pieces of infrastructure built. That’s where the above picture comes in.
When MGM Studios opened in 1989, it proved to be vastly popular and actually held longer hours than any other Disney theme park open, so as to serve guests. With capacity dictated by the amount of guests that could take the backlot studio tour that practically defined the entire park, Disney hurriedly fast-tracked development of the nighttime show that they had thought could wait in the wings of a later (and possibly larger) budget. Sorcery in the Sky premiered on May 29th, 1990, a year into operations at MGM Studios.
The missing spire on the Chinese Theater is one of the first parts of the park “altered” for use in Sorcery in the Sky. Considering that Sorcery in the Sky was created in under a year, MGM Studios had to adapt the park to fit the show itself. In this, the missing spire isn’t really missing at all- it was hurriedly reconstructed to be fully retractable. The picture above gives us a rare glimpse of it folded into the facade of the Chinese Theater during daylight hours.
The reason for all this? The simple lack of space in the park to effect a nighttime spectacular such as Sorcery in the Sky. The spire, if left standing during the show, would block guests’ view of the finale of the whole event; An inflatable Sorcerer Mickey would dramatically rise up from behind the facade of the Chinese Theater, and shoot an array of sparks from his finger. The spire usually retracted just after the show began making its motion rather invisible, set against a backdrop of sparkling pyrotechnic bursts.
Also of note- The Disney MGM Studios itself didn’t (and still doesn’t!) have a central pyrotechnic launch location like The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, or even Disneyland has. All of Sorcery in the Sky’s launch locations were designed to be located on the rooftops of the Chinese Theater and the surrounding buildings. Although unintended, Sorcery in the Sky’s scale and sheer impact on viewers was much more profound (and certainly loud) and would later inspire Disney Entertainment to supplement other shows with in-park launch locations. The Magic Kingdom’s Wishes and the newer Fantasy in the Sky use supplementary launches around Cinderella Castle to great effect…. though they don’t have to alter the facade of any surrounding buildings with retractable spires and changeable architecture.