Once Upon a Time Coming to Magic Kingdom!

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The popular nighttime spectacular Once Upon a Time is coming to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom starting November 4, 2016. Disney announced today that Celebrate the Magic would end its run on November 3, with Once Upon a Time starting the following day.

Once Upon a Time will likewise utilize projection mapping and other effects (likely pyro, lasers, and fire) and will feature Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast telling bedtime stories with Chip, as they are pulled into the stories of numerous classic animated films, including Cinderella and Peter Pan. 

A version of Once Upon a Time currently plays at Tokyo Disneyland, and we’ve seen it many times. The show is so popular there that it utilizes a lottery system (on select nights) for seats near Cinderella Castle, and also has a seasonal Frozen version from January through March.

My favorite scene from Once Upon a Time is unquestionably the Winnie the Pooh scene, in which Pooh’s dreams of honey come true…but he also encounters Heffalumps. Peter Pan’s flight over London is also awesome and, naturally, the Frozen scene with “Let It Go” is a guest favorite.

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It remains to be seen what extent Magic Kingdom’s version will parallel Tokyo’s. It’s doubtful the Magic Kingdom version of Once Upon a Time will be a direct clone from Tokyo Disneyland. For one thing, the Florida version will probably be in English. 😉

Beyond that, the Tokyo Disneyland version is long, clocking in at over 18 minutes. This works fine there, where there are no fireworks (well, there is a laughably bad ~4 minute show between the parks that gets cancelled maybe 75% of the time). By contrast, Celebrate the Magic is around 9 minutes long–so half the duration. In Magic Kingdom, running two feature length shows around Cinderella Castle back to back might test guest attention spans.

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Then again, maybe the plan is not to run them back to back? With the departure of Main Street Electrical Parade, there’s a gap in Magic Kingdom’s nighttime lineup, and this could be how Walt Disney World intends upon filling it for now.

That would be my guess, and why I think Once Upon a Time will retain a 16-18 minute duration. (The scene list Disney posted also mirrors the existing version, so it’s pretty unlikely this will be less than 10 minutes.) If anything, it might lose some of the fire or pyro effects, but there really aren’t that many in Tokyo’s version, anyway. It could end up being a direct clone (save for the language), which would be great.

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I’d be pretty happy if Once Upon a Time is not condensed at all, but I think regardless of how it’s truncated, this represents another improvement in the evolution of Magic Kingdom’s projection shows.

While Once Upon a Time highlights fewer films than Celebrate the Magic, I think the great strength of Once Upon a Time is that it devotes more attention (and a song) to each film. It’s not just a cursory character cameo meant to quickly highlight all of Disney’s “important” properties.

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Don’t get me wrong: I really like Celebrate the Magic is an excellent show, and under-appreciated among fans. However, I like how Once Upon a Time has the pretense of a narrative thread, and spends more time on each scene. For me, this makes the emotional payoff greater. It also helps that the music is really good. (Here’s the complete source audio soundtrack for Tokyo’s Once Upon a Time if you want something stuck in your head the rest of the day.)


Walt Disney World receiving its own “feature-length” projection show has been a long time coming. These projection shows started back during the “Let the Magic Begin!” (they all sound the same now) promotion with The Magic, The Memories, and You, as a de facto pre-show for the Wishes! fireworks, with Celebrate the Magic later replacing it.

Magic, Memories & You probably also served as a proof of concept test for Disney Dreams, the mixed media show featuring fountains, water screens, lasers, floodlights, pyro, fire, and more at Disneyland Paris.

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Rather than being a pre-show, Disney Dreams proved a lavish, fireworks replacement; in my opinion, it is still the gold standard for shows like this. Following the lead of Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland received Once Upon a Time, a scaled back version sharing similar bloodlines; Disneyland received Disneyland Forever, a balance of mixed media and more traditional fireworks shows; and, Shanghai Disneyland received Ignite the Dream, another balance.

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised Magic Kingdom still has not received its own full-fledged next-gen fireworks replacement. Back when Celebrate the Magic was announced, I predicted that would be Disney’s long term plan: “I think it could be a remote step in the direction of Disney Dreams. Guest reaction to ‘The Magic, The Memories, and You!’ was so resoundingly positive and pyro is so expensive that Disney is likely considering ways to eliminate or scale back on a dedicated fireworks show like Wishes!, so a hybrid show might not be too far away.”

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The great part of this news, in my estimation, for Magic Kingdom is that the hybrid show is finally here…but so is Wishes. We have our cake and eat it, too. That’s potentially at the expense of a nighttime parade right now, but given the hasty end of Main Street Electrical Parade, it seems like Walt Disney World was left scrambling there. My guess (emphasis on a guess) is that a new nighttime parade is in development for Magic Kingdom, and this is an interim stopgap solution.

Regardless, if it’s anything like the original version in Japan, Once Upon a Time should prove to be a smash hit with Walt Disney World guests. We are very excited to see it on our next trip!

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the news about Once Upon a Time coming to Walt Disney World? Have you seen the show in Tokyo Disneyland? Are you excited for it, or do you wish a new nighttime parade were announced? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!

14 Responses to “Once Upon a Time Coming to Magic Kingdom!”
  1. Jess October 28, 2016
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