Walt Disney World has announced the return of several shows in August 2021. Along with that, the company strongly suggested that Happily Ever After will end permanently in September 2021. In this post, we’ll share the details and offer extensive commentary about the likelihood that this is actually a true statement at this moment in time.
For starters, we already know that Disney Enchantment is a new nighttime spectacular debuting at Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021 for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. This is Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary event, which will run for at least 18 months–or until around April 1, 2023.
We also know that Epcot Forever is ending on October 1, 2021 for the same reason. It’ll make way for Harmonious, the ambitious new nighttime spectacular consisting of a Stargate and several giant water tacos. From day one, Epcot Forever has been treated as a temporary, limited-run nighttime spectacular bridging the gap between IllumiNations and Harmonious. It was never intended to be permanent, but rather, was always a stopgap show that would allow Epcot to have fireworks while Harmonious construction occurred on World Showcase Lagoon.
By contrast, no such statement was made with regard to Happily Ever After when Disney Enchantment was originally revealed in June. The announcement simply indicated that Disney Enchantment was created to launch with “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” and is an evening extravaganza that will take you on a journey filled with adventure, wonder and empowerment.
Inspiring everyone to believe in magic, “Disney Enchantment” will feature music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, USA.
Since the announcement of Disney Enchantment, we’ve uncovered new South Florida Water Management district permits for work behind Magic Kingdom to build additional pyro launch sites around the rear perimeter of the park.
These new perimeter launch sites mean that Disney Enchantment will have ~120º degrees of pyro. That’s more than Happily Ever After, and should feel close to the Halloween and Christmas Party fireworks from 2019 (not prior years when there was 180º coverage).
These details are significant when it comes to the future of Happily Ever After. This is because the enhanced lighting, immersive projection effects on Main Street, and new perimeter launch sites mean that Disney Enchantment is a fundamentally different fireworks show than Happily Ever After.
Its infrastructure is different (and for once, by “different,” we actually mean much better). That alone calls into question whether the current incarnation of Happily Ever After would return to Magic Kingdom.
On that note, here’s Walt Disney World’s new statement about Happily Ever After (and Epcot Forever):
“This summer is also your last chance to come out and catch the current fireworks shows before they sparkle into Disney history. ‘EPCOT Forever’ will conclude its limited-time run on September 28, and you have until September 29 to take in the spectacle of ‘Happily Ever After’ at Magic Kingdom Park.”
On its face, that sounds pretty cut and dry. The plain language reading of that statement is that both Epcot Forever and Happily Ever After will end permanently on September 28-29, 2021.
It’s clear enough, but I don’t buy it.
Every credible rumor that I’ve heard prior to today has indicated a decision about the future of Happily Ever After has yet to be made. Moreover, that a permanent decision will not be made until Walt Disney World has a chance to gauge guest response to Disney Enchantment.
Unsurprisingly, Happily Ever After’s guest satisfaction scores are through the roof. By Magic Kingdom fireworks standards, Happily Ever After is also still relatively new and incredibly popular. 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.
Despite today’s announcement, I have no reason to believe this calculation has changed. Now, it’s entirely possible that Disney Creative Entertainment has a high degree of confidence in Disney Enchantment. It’s probably more likely than not that Disney Enchantment will continue indefinitely throughout 2023.
That still doesn’t make it true right now that Happily Ever After will permanently end as of September 29, 2021. It could be true, or it could not. If the aforementioned rumors are accurate, that’s not yet knowable, since no guests have seen Disney Enchantment, and by extension, no guests have rated it.
I’m not trying to be a contrarian or create false hope among the Happily Ever After faithful. Let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of Disney’s statement since they don’t exactly have the best track record of transparency when it comes to entertainment farewell runs.
I have personally seen Main Street Electrical Parade for its “final” night several times now, and some longtime Disneyland fans have no doubt seen the parade’s “last” night several more times than me. That is far and away the most notable and extreme example, but there are several instances of Disney retiring entertainment only to resurrect it.
The verbiage of the announcement also leaves plenty of wiggle room. It encourages guests to see the current fireworks shows before they “sparkle into Disney history.” Following that, it states that you have until September 29 to “take in the spectacle” of Happily Ever After.
Nowhere are any words of finality used to describe the end of Happily Ever After’s run. I’m not trying to parse language here, but technically, each and every night’s fireworks “sparkle into Disney history” upon their conclusion for that particular evening. History is constantly being written and rewritten. Time is a flat circle. Etc.
Perhaps I’m overly cynical, but part of me also wonders if Walt Disney World wants to encourage fans to book last-minute trips to see Happily Ever After in September during a time that is historically the off-season and typically the month of the year with lowest attendance levels. (Who knows what this year holds, but even as summer crowds are rising right now, we are still expecting a pre-50th lull in late August through September.)
In the future, if/when the plans change or “evolve” with regard to Happily Ever After, Disney can easily just issue a press release stating that “by popular demand, your wish has been granted and Happily Ever After will return to Magic Kingdom!” The template for such a post already exists and has been used several times. It’s a great look for Disney and pleasing to fans as it makes them feel like their voices are being heard. Win-win.
Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised if today’s press release about the end of Happily Ever After’s run proves true down the road. I also wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t. Although the wording strongly suggests Happily Ever After won’t be back, I have an incredibly difficult time believing that decision has been made–or will be made this year.
More than anything else, intimating Happily Ever After will conclude its run at the end of September strikes me as advantageous for Walt Disney World. Like Disneyland’s rotation of nighttime spectaculars, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent the projections and pyro in Happily Ever After to be enhanced and expanded, and for that nighttime spectacular to “re-debut” in 2023 as a “reimagined twist on a beloved tale.” I guess that might technically make it true that the current Happily Ever After is ending permanently, but for now, I don’t believe the spirit of the statement.
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What do you think about Walt Disney World’s statement on the future (or lack thereof) of Happily Ever After? Think we’re reading way too much into this, and it’s cut and dry that the nighttime spectacular is retiring? Or, have you likewise seen the “farewell run” of Main Street Electrical Parade a half-dozen times, and take anything Disney says about entertainment retiring with a grain of salt at this point? 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!