Enchantment Fireworks to FINALLY Honor Walt & Disney World?!
Significant changes could be coming to the Disney Enchantment nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. In this post, we’ll run-through the updates spotted during overnight fireworks testing at Walt Disney World, why these could be happening, and the timeline for a refreshed show.
At the last minute, Walt Disney World scheduled overnight fireworks testing at Magic Kingdom, alerting nearby communities of this so as to not be alarmed by loud explosions at 1 am. Normally, these notices are released with a bit of advance notice–I can’t recall one previously going out on the same day (but that could just be bad memory).
They’re usually fairly standard testing, with teams getting ready for the seasonal shows or special events. Recently, more attention has been paid to testing by the fan community as we’ve gotten our collective hopes up that one of the tests would be an updated version of Happily Ever After.
While today’s news is not that good–still nothing on Happily Ever After–it is an incremental step in the right direction. This overnight testing was for Disney Enchantment, but with a twist.
This test was of a modified version of Disney Enchantment, which included a new introduction featuring clips of Walt Disney, Roy Disney, Central Florida prior to development, and opening day. Segments included scenes the famous “Florida Project” video that Walt Disney filmed to pitch what would become Walt Disney World, as well as footage scouting and surveying the site, other archival footage, and early-era ‘Vacation Kingdom’ clips.
The recent test showed clips in the 50th Anniversary medallion, as well as on the lower sides of Cinderella Castle–not much on the higher turrets or what you’d typically expect in the way of projection mapping. The new footage is approximately two minutes long and plays prior to the normal Disney Enchantment. It’s a lot like a holiday tag, but as an intro rather than an outro.
It’s unclear whether what was tested is the finished product. It’s always possible that more projections will be added or tweaks will be made prior to debut. It’s also possible that nothing will come of this for regular guests–one of the coolest tests recently was a montage medley that ran during Cast Member EARidescent Evenings.
With the “what” out of the way, let’s turn to the “why” and cover the company’s potential motivations for making this change to Disney Enchantment. Guest satisfaction is the big one, and everything else really flows from that.
At this point, I want to turn back to an article we published last July, long before fans started clamoring for its return or anyone had even seen its successor: Happily Ever After Ending “Permanently.” That post came after Walt Disney World officially announced that the beloved nighttime spectacular was being permanently retired, a statement of which we were highly skeptical at the time. (Hence the air quotes around permanently.)
In particular, we shared this: “Happily Ever After’s guest satisfaction scores are through the roof…It’s my understanding that a decision about Magic Kingdom fireworks post-50th Anniversary will depend almost entirely on which nighttime spectacular scores better. If it’s close, Disney Enchantment will continue.”
I haven’t heard anything precise for Disney Enchantment, except that its guest satisfaction is considerably lower than its predecessor. Honestly, this isn’t saying a ton. It’s my understanding that Happily Ever After had one of the highest guest satisfaction scores of anything ever at Walt Disney World. Surpassing it was going to be a herculean task for even a great new nighttime spectacular, which Disney Enchantment is not. This is why we were confident as far back as last summer (long before knowing Enchantment was a dud) that Happily Ever After’s fate had not yet been determined.
With that said, I do want to be fair here. Disney Enchantment is undeniably popular and reasonably well-received by first-time visitors and infrequent guests. Even in our scathing review of Disney Enchantment, we mentioned that there’s a minimum baseline to guest satisfaction for any Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular, and even a “bad” one is still “good” relative to most other attractions.
All Magic Kingdom fireworks shows have the same core qualities, with pyro exploding over Cinderella Castle to conclude a long, memory-filled day at Walt Disney World. The music is pulled from sentimental moments in memorable Disney movies and the visuals are dazzling. The whole production tugs at the heartstrings, overwhelming the senses and emotions in the best way possible. While fans can easily compare memories of Happily Ever After to Disney Enchantment and reach the conclusion that the former is far better, most first-timers lacking that frame of reference still love Enchantment.
We’ve joked before that Walt Disney World could take 18 minutes of the “Meow Mix” song on loop, add some projections of cats doing cat things, set that to pyro and cool lighting, and guests would still leave Magic Kingdom happy. Granted, those feline fireworks (or “Felinetasmic!”) do sound marginally better than Disney Enchantment, but that’s not the point!
Rather, it’s that Disney Enchantment is still achieving respectable guest satisfaction scores relative to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin or whatever, but not compared to Wishes, Happily Ever After, or any of its direct counterparts. However, that was always going to be a tough task. None of the other contemporary castle park nighttime spectaculars anywhere in the world hit the same high notes or form a cohesive whole like Happily Ever After. That nighttime spectacular truly captured lightning in a bottle.
Speaking of guest satisfaction, another driver of the changes could be recent surveys that Walt Disney World has sent out centering around the 50th Anniversary. These have questioned guests about the degree to which they felt the milestone was being celebrated and what’s encompassed in the event.
Most notably, the survey proactively listed off shortcomings of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. There were specific line-items that included pretty much every conceivable fan critique, an interesting indictment coming from Disney’s own surveying.
This was actually notable and a bit surprising, as past surveys by Disney have often included leading lines of questioning to reinforce decisions that Disney had already decided upon. This was the case for years, to the point that it felt futile to respond to Walt Disney World’s surveys.
That has changed in the last few years, and not just with this survey. It’s a bit of an aside, but we’d attribute this to CEO Bob Chapek, who is famously analytics and data-driven (whereas Iger was more of an instinctive leader). I know hating on Chapek is the popular thing to do for any number of valid reasons, but we’ve heard multiple times that he expects the parks division to be more responsive to guest feedback and that decisions are being made on the basis of guest satisfaction. (Before you get too excited, just remember that a lot of people visiting the parks go for very different reasons than longtime fans.)
In any case, it’s possible that this historic introduction is being added to Disney Enchantment to improve perceptions of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Until now, the World’s Most Magical Celebration has been salute to all things Disney…but mostly characters that are popular on the Disney+ streaming service. Not much in the way of tributes to the man who made the magic possible or Walt Disney World’s legacy. (Unless you want merchandise or food…they’ll happily sell you some park nostalgia!)
From that perspective, this intro would definitely help. Personally, it’s still tough for me to get excited about this. My perspective is somewhere between “better late than never” and “too little, too late.” More than both of those, though, is one of bewilderment that it took the company this long to realize the 50th Anniversary should be a celebration of Walt Disney and the Vacation Kingdom of the World, and not characters created within the last 10 years. I very much want to applaud the company for doing the right thing and correcting mistakes, but c’mon. How was this not patently obvious during planning for the milestone celebration?!
On a more optimistic and slightly cynical note, I think it’s also possible that this change is being made to reposition Disney Enchantment as the 50th Anniversary nighttime spectacular. Again, the company stated that Happily Ever After was being permanently retired, with this replacing it. Not just for the duration of the 50th Anniversary, but for an open-ended run.
Adding a couple minutes of Roy and Walt Disney to the front of the show turns Disney Enchantment into the Magic Kingdom 50th Anniversary fireworks, even if that’s not what the rest of the show is in the least. That makes for easier revisionist history, and claiming that Enchantment was always intended to have a limited run, through March 2023 along with the rest of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
I don’t think I need to spell out what that would pave the way for in April 2023.
On a less optimistic and also slightly cynical note, there’s an outside possibility that this change is being made to reposition Enchantment as the Walt Disney Company’s 100th Anniversary nighttime spectacular. To freshen it up and extend its run another year or longer for that milestone celebration…which will also probably just pay tribute to whatever is new on Disney Plus.
I doubt this is the case. This intro is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, and the last minute nature of the testing suggests to me that it’s a near-term band aid. It’s likely coming very soon, not months down the road.
On that note, let’s switch gears and discuss the “when” of this. There are two highly obvious dates on the horizon, one for an announcement and one for the intro’s debut.
First, there’s the D23 Expo next month in Anaheim, California. The big Parks & Resorts panel happens on September 11, 2022, and would be the perfect place to announce this addition to Disney Enchantment while recapping all of the “big” offerings for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
October 1, 2022 is the obvious choice for a start date.
However, I’m skeptical of both dates. What I think is more likely is that the intro debuts almost immediately, giving Magic Kingdom a bit of a boost during the fall off-season (which is pretty much just now through late September). It would also offer a bit of counter-programming to Fantasmic, which is nearing its debut date. (It’s finally going to happen, I swear.)
The Walt-centric opening could still be highlighted during the Parks & Resorts panel as they recap the 50th Anniversary, but to demonstrate Walt Disney World’s “ongoing commitment” to honoring Walt Disney’s wishes by continuing to change, innovate, keep moving forward, etc. [insert your own favorite out-of-context Walt quote here to justify the change].
All of this is totally speculative on my part, but I think debuting this on October 1, 2022–the date of Walt Disney World’s 51st Anniversary–is just a bit awkward. It would invite the obvious question: why wasn’t this here LAST year?!
Ultimately, that’s my big question and why it’s tough to muster much enthusiasm for this. I’m pleased to see a positive change, and hope it’s the start of a trend. With that said, it’s a relatively minor addition to a show that is otherwise underwhelming–the biggest disappointment of a celebration with no shortage of them. The nighttime spectacular could have been so much more had Walt Disney World just followed the template that was right there for them in the anniversary fireworks shows presented by Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland.
Honestly, this intro is much more exciting to me when reading between the lines. It makes the likelihood that we’ll only have to endure Enchantment for another ~7 months, at which point, the king will return. Now, if we could just keep this intro as a 100th Anniversary tag to Happily Ever After, I think that would be about perfect.
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!
Thoughts on Walt Disney World adding a historic intro to the Enchantment fireworks? Expect it to actually occur? If so, what do you think are the driving motivations for the change almost a year into the 50th Anniversary’s run? When do you think it’ll be announced and/or debut? Implications (or lack thereof) for Happily Ever After? Think we’re reading way too much into this, and it’s cut and dry “plussing” that was always planned? Excited about the enhancements coming to the Disney Enchantment fireworks? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!
From what I know of what I have read of Walt Disney. He was all about the present and the future and pushing boundaries of what can be done. He wouldn’t spend a bunch of time in the past. As much as I loved Wishes and all the “original” Disney. year of a million wishes was a great year I digress. I think staying in the past is not what Walt would do or want. It’s hard to change and sometimes it fails but he would pick up and keep going and keep pushing forward with the new and exciting. Just my 2cents.
In addition, catchy wonderfully sentimental songs for Paris 30th. Look it up, just great
Finally! Went to Paris 30th on opening day in March and the celebration far exceeded the 50th at WDW we went to last October, from the get go. Drone show, fireworks and water show, parades, amazing. And that was Europe, mask mandates lifted right before. THAT was magical! Happy to see SOME improvement, missed Walt at celebration. Thanks for the update!
Another Wishes fan here. Bring it back, bring it back, bring it back (she chants with fists in air)
Ok to update it and add projections.
But that was seriously far and away our fave.
We were huge fans of Wishes and didn’t care for HEA as much but admittedly the show grew on us and we really liked it. So when Enchantment was announced for the 50th we were expecting a bigger step up from the previous shows and it absolutely fell flat. We thought there would be more nostalgia to it and there was very little to none of that after we saw it and we all left very disappointed. We have been back 2-3 dozen times now and can honestly say we have only watched Enchantment one other time and it just never has hit us the same. I hope they may have learned from their mistake but as long as they get new fans that have no baseline how good Wishes and HEA were then they are happily oblivious – which is too bad.
I love HEA and also love Enchantment. I think the hate for it is a little over the top and limited to the fan community. If they’re going to retire enchantment soon, I’d prefer something entirely new then HEA which would be 6 years old in 2023. Replace the show every 5 years and keep it fresh
I just wish more emphasis was on creative rather than stockholders (of which I am one). I love Disney but instead of making me happy anymore it makes me sad. Feels like imagination and magic are seriously lacking.
Am I the only one who remembers a decent amount of grumbling among fans when Happily Ever After debuted? It wasn’t bashed on the same level as Disney Enchantment but I remember a fairly vocal and somewhat large segment of the fandom in the “They should have kept Wishes” camp even after Happily premiered. Maybe I made it up, but I have a memory of going into Happily Ever After being prepared for it to be “just okay” based on online chatter (for the record, I absolutely adored it).
I’m not trying to say Enchantment is as good as Happily Ever After as I haven’t seen it. I just wonder if part of the hate for it is because it is the new thing, and that if it ran long enough without any tweaks it would become the show people are shocked is being removed. (I wasn’t around for the introduction of FastPass+ but it is my understanding it was largely reviled when introduced, and now all anyone in the fan community seems to want is for it to come back.)
I actually proactively addressed some of this in our initial Disney Enchantment fireworks review as your sentiment was shared by others when it debuted to ‘tepid’ (charitable) reviews.
In a nutshell, no. The actual reviews of Happily Ever After were mostly positive (ours was downright glowing). There was a vocal minority who hated it, but that was hardly the consensus. (A lot of their complaints also centered around the projections and literally made no sense–it was as if they hadn’t seen the show in person and were grasping at straws to knock it.)
It’s also fair to say that anything lasting a decade or longer at Walt Disney World is going to garner a fan following of people who will be upset to see it go, irrespective of quality. The same thing happened with Innoventions and Stitch’s Great Escape, despite nothing of value being lost in either case.
I am one who loved Wishes, and not Happily Ever After, where you have to be in the right place to see the projections. Wishes could be enjoyed everywhere. I found Wishes the best firework show, and would love its return. But reading what you say about Happily Ever After and people liking it so much (how much of that is just the love of newer technology and “see what we can do—impressive isn’t it”), It appears my wish for the return of Wishes will not come true.
If Disney brought back Wishes, it would most likely return with projection mapping added. The same has occurred with updates to Disneyland’s older fireworks shows.
Would that make Wishes worse, or would you simply enjoy it as before—via music and pyro—from other areas of the park?
Whatever the answer, the same logic should apply to Happily Ever After (or any new fireworks show, for that matter).
Tbh, Chapek mucked up the WDW 50th anniversary celebration so badly that it’s an embarrassment. No new parade. Crappy merch. What a shame. Had he not seen any 10, 15, or 25 stuff to see how it’s done? Tencennial should be the standard.
We started going to Disney World in 2017 so I assume we saw mainly Happily ever after. Possibly wishes the first time- and obviously enchantment.
I would say our favorite is HEA based off that.
We saw it on the actual 50th last year in the handicapped section (my mom’s in a wheelchair), and we HATED it. I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t get the “full picture” with the projections on Main Street, but the story line just seemed weird to us. We want to see it again on Main Street, but I’m honestly afraid of being crushed by the waves of people trying to leave afterwards and not being able to get around with my mom’s wheelchair (it’s a manual one, and people don’t pay attention to the handicapped no matter what they use). All that being said, I wish Disney would quit with the projections on the castle (with that said, I also hate Happily Ever After — but not as much as Enchantment) and bring back normal fireworks that have an outstanding soundtrack like Wishes had. I could write a ten page dissertation on why I prefer Wishes to HEA/Enchantment, but I won’t, unless you want me to haha.
I agree with you Chrissy. Thank you for stating that.
The projection mapping and necessity of being in the right place causes such bad crowds and unpleasant viewing experience. Wishes was pure joy.
Julia, my words cannot express how much I loved (and still love) Wishes. It was in 2005 that I saw it for the first time when I was on the college program and I cried all the way through it because I had always dreamed of working at Disney, and I was finally doing it. I could sit outside at Bay Lake Tower (my mom has DVC) and just watch Wishes and listen to the soundtrack and yep, cry throughout it.
I wouldn’t even care if they updated Wishes and did *some* projection mapping on the castle, but that shouldn’t be the star of the show. I wish they would bring it back.
The skeptic in me is wondering if this is just a stunt that they will role out to celebrate “Disney+ Day” and then stupidly shelve it immediately afterwards.
The current Disney Enchantment is already the perfect celebration for Disney+ Day. They could easily call the show “Disney Plus Fireworks: A Magical Gathering of Streaming Surprises, Presented by Disney+” and it would make complete sense.
This intro is like the exact opposite of that.
I don’t even care if it’s the same clip from Opening Day that we usually see Roy in, that’s obviously appropriate.
The map projections on the castle are nice. But for me nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever top Spectro Magic night time parade my family and I saw back in 93. I’ve seen all fire works, night time parades and shows Disney has done since the early 60s. My last trip to WDW was in 2019 when we saw the map projections for the first time and loved it and the fire works for that night’s show. But nothing has ever blown my mind and stayed locked down deep in my soul like that Spectro Magic night time parade did. My daughter and I are booked for the first week of Oct. This is the first Disney trip I’ve ever had any dread in me about. Even though I’ve read everything I can about Genie I’m still filled with dread about it.A vacation to the Disney parks or any other vacation should never cause feelings of dread. Makes me wonder what Walt would think about that.
1) I wouldn’t have dread about Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. If they’re already causing this much anxiety, just don’t use them. Seriously, you can completely work around the system with Early Entry or staying late, especially in early October.
2) SpectroMagic was amazing and still sorely missed. There are few things Disney has done that I consider “unforgivable” and destroying the SpectroMagic floats was one of them. At least Dreamlights lives on!
I LOVED LOVED LOVED SpectroMagic!!! I did not know the floats were destroyed…That breaks my heart.
Yes I read that they were stored for many years until mice ate away at them and spider webs were all over them and then they were dismantled and destroyed. That ended any hope of ever seeing Spectro again. Remember that amazing one of a kind music that went with it? I’ll never forget it as long as I live. The sound of that music and the sight of those floats that seem to be actual living creatures themselves. I wish every human being could have a chance to have seen it up close at least one time in their lives. IMO nothing Disney has ever done out does Spectro. That creation was a hit it out of the ball park show stopper.
Bob Chapek is a numbers man for sure. Not an ounce of creative spark or thinking outside the box. Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison…. started successful companies using their creative imagination. Joseph Campbell said it best… follow your bliss
I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with being a numbers person. It’s just odd at the top of the Walt Disney Company, which has always been a creative enterprise.
Historically, the best eras of this company have been when it has had the best of both worlds–Walt/Roy and Eisner/Wells.
It’s too bad Chapek’s worst instincts aren’t offset by creative counterpart (Feige seems perfectly suited for this, but already has his hands full with Marvel).
We almost skipped enchantment a few weeks ago based on the blog but were really glad we didn’t. I saw happily ever after 5 years ago and I enjoyed this version just as much. I particularly thought the pyrotechnics had some creative inclusions such as a star and a spiral that must have required some serious math/science programming! I also loved the tinker bell-wasn’t expecting it. We had a great view on main st near plaza ice cream and didn’t feel at all more crowded than 5 years ago (it was a one show night too). So if you’re a relatively infrequent visitor I recommend going to see enchantment for sure!
Oh for sure–we don’t recommend first-timers skip it, either. From the conclusion of our review:
Ultimately, neither of us care for Disney Enchantment. I truly hope you disagree, and love it as much as Happily Ever After. Emotion is a funny thing, and different entertainment hits differently for different people. Disney Enchantment might be your perfect nighttime spectacular.
With all of that said, we have heard plenty of cheering and clapping at the end of each scene in Disney Enchantment every single time we’ve watched it, and the crowd going wild following the finale. Plenty of guests seem to be enjoying it, and like me with reviews of Ted Lasso, couldn’t care less about online criticism.
The fact of the matter is, it’s still fireworks in Magic Kingdom. It still offers pyro exploding over Cinderella Castle to conclude the evening in the park. It still features nostalgic and sentimental music that tugs at the heartstrings. At the end of the day, fireworks shows in Magic Kingdom are inherently enchanting (lowercase “e”), so Disney Enchantment at least delivers in part on its name.
Just to point out, Happily Ever After also had Tinkerbell flying from the top of Cinderella Castle. To be fair, I have not seen Enchantment in person (only on Youtube), but the buildup in HEA to the moment Tinkerbell flies off the castle is incomparably better and more natural than in Enchantment. I’m talking musically and lyrically. I’m fully aware that the mechanics of Tinkerbell flying off the castle are identical between the two shows. I’m going in September and will watch Enchantment, but the music and progression of the show don’t really do anything for me from what I’ve seen. I hope that it will be different in person!
Yes I thought maybe there was a tink in the last show but there were lots more shoulder held children in front of us in 2017 so maybe that’s why we liked this version lol. At any rate it was fun and that’s what matters!
I love me some speculation! Happily Ever After returning would be a huge PR win for Disney, and I hope that’s what we’re leading up to. You didn’t mention it here, but have you seen Jordan Fisher on Twitter recently bringing up HEA, perhaps as foreshadowing or perhaps as trolling? Either way, that’s another breadcrumb here.
And thanks for mentioning Fantasmic in passing – the way you phrase it, I suspect you know something that you can’t tell us yet but that one has been long overdue.
I have seen Jordan Fisher’s tweets.
I do not believe for a second that they’re contrived viral marketing orchestrated by Disney. Normally, there would be a few subtle signals or signs of Disney’s fingerprints–those don’t exist here.
I think he’s acting on his own, as a fan/entertainer with a vested interest in Happily Ever After. I hope he keeps it up.
I have been going to the parks since I was a child, for 30 years, and I like Enchantment. That being said, I do prefer Wishes and Happily Ever After. I am a big fan of the original Disney moves and rides. I want Walt and Roy Disney to be honored and I think this could be a very good thing. I am hopeful. Yes, it is absolutely late! But, better late than never. It is a step in the right direction and has given me hope, which I have been losing in The Walt Disney Company lately. I am anxious to hear your review if/when the change occurs. And Fantasmic better be coming back soon!
I totally agree with you Ashley and with what Tom says in this article. The 50th should be more about Walt and Roy and all the other forefathers of the company and its parks. And its first beginning stories. Its very sad that more and more each year it seems we are seeing the world of Walt Disney and his ideas and dreams that started all of this just being made to vanish in the shadow of time and replaced by something that is not even a pale shadow of what Walt dreamed and was so determined to share with the world.