Disney fans underwent some weeping and gnashing of teeth a few months ago when Disney announced its plans to end Wishes, the long running nighttime fireworks spectacular at the Magic Kingdom. Wishes holds a sentimental spot in many Disney fans hearts so I understood their worry. On May 12, 2017 Disney debuted the new Magic Kingdom Nighttime Spectacular: Happily Ever After. So one simple question: is Happily Ever After a worthy successor to Wishes?
In this traveling dad’s opinion, the answer is 100% yes. Yes, I loved Wishes and will definitely miss it, but Happily Ever After more than makes up for the loss. I truly believe it will one day enter the pantheon of Disney nighttime shows alongside Wishes. (I’ll update my list of best Disney nighttime shows shortly!) Let me share six reasons you need to check out this magical nighttime show.
Disclosure: Disney invited Traveling Dad to experience both Happily Ever After and Pandora: World of Avatar. Opinions are my own.
Let’s start from the top – the show kicks off with the song “Happily Ever After”. Fans of Hong Kong Disneyland’s excellent stage show might recognize the song (it made my list of top attractions in Hong Kong Disneyland). But assuming you don’t regularly fly 15 hours across the Pacific, it will be a new song to your ears. I love this song, and the version recorded for the show sounds much better than the Hong Kong version. With all due respect to the actors in Hong Kong, who sound great in their own right, Angie Keilhauer and Jordan Fisher absolutely kill it on this track.
I got the chance to interview Angie and Jordan who told me “it’s been a journey…a dream come true.” Fitting words, because that’s the theme of the entire show – that we can all find our “happily ever after” if we undertake the journey, regardless of its ups and downs. A positive, uplifting message complemented perfectly by the new music.
Projections and fireworks
If you’ve seen the Once Upon a Time castle projection show or Hollywood Studios’ impressive Star Wars Galactic Spectacular, you’ve seen some of the amazing things Disney can project onto a building. Happily Ever After combines amazing video projection onto Cinderella’s castle with an impressive array of fireworks. People worried that Disney changed the show to save money on fireworks, but I didn’t notice any less.
In fact, the show has so much going on that I missed a lot the first time. Disney has hidden a lot of easter eggs in the projections, characters from movies whose music doesn’t play, little cameos, and some effects combining the projections with the fireworks that genuinely wowed me. Combining projections with fireworks really takes this nighttime show to the next level.
Underrated movies, characters, and songs
Happily Ever After also does a great job working in some lesser heralded films and music into the projection show. I won’t spoil it here but Disney definitely doesn’t rely only on the recent hits (though they definitely make their presence felt). The requisite Frozen portion is very understated and shorter than I would have expected, but that’s a good thing.
But one of my favorite parts of the show is how Disney brings back music that you forgot you once loved. Roger Butterley, Senior Music Producer for Disney, told Traveling Dad his favorite song of Happily Ever After is “That’s What Friends are For.” If you don’t remember what song that is or what movie that’s from, it’s okay – just enjoy it. Butterley himself said “the title didn’t ring a bell to me.”
In Happily Ever After, Disney created a love letter to its fans and its history. You will hear motifs from songs that never get sung out loud, but the entire package works together in perfect harmony.
Disney always positions itself not only as a company at the top of the game, but one that always wants to top itself. Happily Ever After represents Disney’s attempt to show how far they’ve come with their sound, fireworks, and projection technology over the last ten years. Hands down, it’s the most impressive technical display I’ve seen at Disney or any other theme park.
Like Pandora’s Flight of Passage ride, I feel like Happily Ever After presents a culmination of some of their best Imagineering technology. (See TDAD’s Pandora review and guide here). Think about Wishes, Once Upon a Time, and Star Wars Galactic Spectacular (in that order). It feels like Disney keeps improving on and topping itself – with Happily Ever After the pinnacle: for now, at least.
Emotional moments and Disney magic
Technological feats mean nothing if they don’t service something greater. In true Disney fashion, Happily Ever After takes the technical wonders and couples them with huge emotional payouts. The fireworks show is arranged thematically and each section of the show contains at least one, if not more, emotional payoff. The projections, fireworks, music, and characters all work together to pull on your heart strings and play on your nostalgia. More impressively, there is very little narration in the show, yet even on first viewing the emotional arc of the story is readily apparent.
Happily Ever After, quite simply, is full of Disney magic. This show has it all. New fireworks that you didn’t even know were possible. Jaw dropping moments that morph into quiet, reflective moments. It’s a must see for any Disney fan and any fan of fireworks in general. You might need to wait a little while to get a good view, but a central view of the castle is more than worth it.
Have you seen Happily Ever After yet? Do you think it’s a worthy successor to Wishes? Let us know in the comments!
Pinterest and featured images courtesy of JD Andrews