We hate Disney Enchantment. Between the two of us, our collective desire to see the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary fireworks ever again is zero, zip, zilch, nada, nothing. So then why on earth do we think it’s actually a good thing that this nighttime spectacular is returning for 2024 After Hours at Magic Kingdom?
For several reasons–but we want to be clear up front that none of those are a matter of revisionist history. We aren’t falling into the familiar Walt Disney World fan trope of missing something only after it’s gone. We have absolutely no nostalgia or love lost for Disney Enchantment. (See above.)
If anything, the return of Happily Ever After along with the debut of Wondrous Journeys further cemented for us just how much we disliked Enchantment. That it wasn’t just negativity because it didn’t comport with our expectations or preconceived notions about what the nighttime spectacular should’ve been.
Getting to the point, the first reason we think it’s a good thing that Disney Enchantment is returning is for the precedent it sets. Aside from Happily Ever After, which literally came back by popular demand and thanks to its stratospheric guest satisfaction scores, it’s incredibly rare for Walt Disney World to bring back retired entertainment.
Meanwhile, Disneyland practically invented the “McRib Playbook” and routinely rotates an assortment of nighttime spectaculars and other entertainment. Even right now, we have literally no clue which fireworks show will return there in January 2024. Wondrous Journeys would seem to be the odds-on favorite given its popularity, but everything from Mickey’s Mix Magic to Disneyland Forever are equally plausible. Heck, if they announced the return of Believe, Magical, or Together Forever, it wouldn’t be that surprising.
If you’re reading this post, there’s an above-average possibility that you’re a longtime Walt Disney World fan who visits the parks somewhat regularly. (Likely more than once every few years.) If so, I’d imagine that you would like to see Walt Disney World adopt a philosophy more akin to Disneyland, with more offerings that are geared towards locals, repeat visitors, and ardent fans.
Thankfully, exactly this is starting to happen. We were much more optimistic about this year’s Destination D23 announcements than most, and that’s because they reinforced that there’s an internal drive to be responsive to Walt Disney World fans. So much of that was aimed squarely at longtime fans, and wouldn’t have even registered with a casual audience if shared on Good Morning America.
It’s one thing for Disneyland to bring back something on a seasonal basis–that happens all the time, every single year. It’s another entirely for the flagship vacation destination to do it. Over the years, I’ve lost count of how many times someone from within Walt Disney World has claimed that they couldn’t possibly have seasonal overlays or limited-time offerings like Disneyland because guests would complain.
That’s a lame excuse that maybe would’ve passed muster years ago, but not anymore. Central Florida’s population continues to explode and Disney Vacation Club’s membership grows. Despite ever-increasing prices and complaints, there are more Annual Passholders and diehard fans than ever. Beyond that, most first-time tourists won’t know what they’re missing and might very well end up preferring the thing that regulars and locals love. (See Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland.)
Disney Enchantment is a bad example of this new mindset, but still, it is an example of this. It’s bringing back something from the past to give its fan(s) a chance to see it again. It may not seem like much–and it definitely isn’t!–but it’s one of those things that’s more meaningful for what it represents than the thing itself.
Some fans have openly wondered why, if Walt Disney World wanted to reprise an old fireworks show, didn’t they bring back Wishes! A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams? That’s the much more obvious choice and so many diehards would’ve not only bought After Hours tickets, but taken trips to see it. By contrast, Enchantment might actually help keep crowds lower.
If I had to explain this decision, my first guess would be that Enchantment still has an eternal champion, and there’s a desire to see how it performs outside the 50th. My second guess would be that Wishes! would need more work to be brought back. (They added some projections for a special Cast Member fireworks show, but more would need to be done.) My final guess would be that Enchantment’s return is the start of testing this type of thing, but not the end of it.
Regardless, I agree with the fan sentiment that Wishes would’ve been the savvier fireworks to sell After Hours tickets. However, I’m happy that they didn’t do it. That’s not because I don’t want to see Wishes again–quite the contrary–but because I don’t want to see it again like this. If we’re dropping $125+ each on event tickets, we’d rather pay another $20 to $40 and have a fully-fledged themed night.
For years, I’ve been pleading with Walt Disney World to pull a page from the Disneyland After Dark playbook and do ‘Nostalgia Nite’ with Wishes and SpectroMagic 2.0. Projections on Cinderella Castle to turn it into a cake, characters and photo ops from Disney Afternoon, classic background music and announcements from Jiminy Cricket, and everything that actually should’ve been part of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
This might sound like wishful thinking, but I don’t think it’s really that far off. Again, Disneyland already does ‘After Dark’ events like this and has done both a Throwback Nite and 90s Nite in the past few years. It’s hardly an original idea of mine. As Walt Disney World dips its toes deeper into the nostalgia pool, they’re going to see just how untapped of a market there is for offerings like this. It’s an inevitability at some point.
So I’d rather that point be a complete event that goes all-in on nostalgia, rather than a grab bag of After Hours plus Wishes. And I know wanting SpectroMagic 2.0 behind a paywall might be a monkeypaw moment, but it’s been how many years without one at this point?! If a hard ticket event is what it takes for Walt Disney World to justify spending on another night parade, so be it, I guess.
Regardless, the point stands. Wishes could be the centerpiece of a fully-themed After Hours/Dark at Magic Kingdom event that diehards would plan trips around. That lucrative Childless Millennial demo would happily drop $175 per ticket, and so would at least 2 parents wanting their kid to experience what was formative in forming their parents’ fandom. Wishes is an ace up Disney’s sleeve, and one that shouldn’t be squandered on a ‘regular’ After Hours.
The next reason Enchantment coming back, and this probably should’ve been #1 but I first wanted to establish why we prefer this to Wishes (for now), is because it’s basically bonus fireworks. This is pretty straightforward.
The nighttime fireworks spectacular “Disney Enchantment” is returning exclusively to After Hours, and will be performed sometime during that event. But Happily Ever After isn’t going anywhere, and will still be performed at the end of regular operating hours at Magic Kingdom.
This means that on event nights, After Hours attendees who arrive during the mix-in will have the opportunity to see both Happily Ever After and Enchantment. Even as someone who hates Enchantment, that’s better than just HEA x2, and with low-capacity and low-demand for Enchantment, it’s likely you could show up 30 seconds before the fireworks start and score a great spot.
If I were attending the 2024 After Hours at Magic Kingdom, even I would try to see Enchantment under those circumstances. It’s super low stakes, and even if it’s not the ‘blast from the past’ that I’d like, it’s better than nothing.
I’d also watch Enchantment because, admittedly, I’d want to see if it did cause me to reevaluate the show. With zero pressure of being the replacement for Happily Ever After or Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary fireworks, I think it might hit differently. Enchantment’s fatal flaws were that it failed in both regards fairly spectacularly, but how would it be when divorced from those factors?
My guess is still not great, but not as awful. As we’ve noted repeatedly, it’s still pyro exploding over Cinderella Castle–there’s only so bad that can be. Fireworks set to music over Cinderella Castle while you’re standing on Main Street have undeniable appeal, and that would be true even if set to the “Meow Mix” song on loop. Enchantment’s soundtrack is arguably better than the “Meow Mix” jingle.
At the very least, the ‘Florida Project’ introduction they belatedly added was good. And joking aside, there were other kernels of good ideas in there. Aside from the aforementioned issues, the problems with the show itself mostly came down to pacing and song choices–Enchantment was not all bad. I don’t expect any changes to be made for After Hours, but I’d be curious to see how much better an even slightly remixed version of the nighttime spectacular could score.
(This is even more pronounced with Harmonious, which I’ve already gone on record and said will develop a cult fan following over time. I’d say that about half of that show was really, really strong. It was dragged down by the rest, plus the water tacos and Stargate. I’d be really curious to see how it would rate with guests minus the infrastructure and with a slight remix.)
Ultimately, that’s my view on Disney Enchantment returning for the 2024 After Hours at Magic Kingdom. It’s nice as a free bonus for those who would already attend the event, but certainly not enough to move the needle for us. And frankly, we’re fine with that. Dropping over $125 for one fireworks show would be excessive…but something we’d strongly consider were this Wishes!
The good news is that this further reinforces the notion that Walt Disney World is finally starting to see the value of its hardcore fans. Bringing back Soarin’ Over California was a huge step in this direction, even if it seemed small. (That would’ve never happened even a decade ago!) It’s a similar story with Test Track 3.0, Pirates of the Caribbean Tavern, return of Figment’s meet & greet, and several other things we’re starting to see happen. They missed the mark–badly–with the 50th Anniversary celebration focusing on Disney+ synergy, but it seems like they’re finally starting to wake up to the value of nostalgia for the parks themselves.
The precedent Enchantment’s return sets is good. In terms of guest satisfaction, this has gotta be one of the lowest scoring fireworks shows in Magic Kingdom history (all of them have high scores compared to rides, but again, there’s a low floor on fireworks). If we can get Enchantment back, it’s only a matter of time before the reprisal of Wishes…and maybe even HalloWishes and Holiday Wishes. Here’s hoping that Walt Disney World doesn’t phone in the comeback of those, and gives fans excellent events or special celebrations!
What do you think of Walt Disney World bringing back the Enchantment fireworks for the 2024 After Hours at Magic Kingdom? If you were on the fence, does this push you towards buying tickets? Do you wish it were Wishes! that were returning, or do you agree with our assessment that an entire event should be built around nostalgia for that show? Are there seasonal events, entertainment, or attractions you’d like to see resurrected? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? 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!