Happily Ever After Ending “Permanently”
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 ~120Âº 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 180Âº 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!
Do we know if HEA will go on the nights of Boo Bash? or should we expect HEA to only be nights without Boo Bash? There are no show times listed in September yet.
You had me at Stargate and giant water tacos…
I agree, more pyro is ALWAYS the answer. Big…bada…boom! The newer projections are nice, but the early ones just plain SUCKED. They were absolutely horrible. New ones are very cool though. Illuminations had gotten stale and boring for me versus the original version with more lasers and without the slow middle part that dragged. I’m excited to see the new water tacos!
What I don’t understand is that they still list RoL on their website as closed. It’s been gone for a long time and was boring to begin with. Why keep listing it at all?
I gotta say Tom that your fireworks pics are stunning. I have yet to master the pyro pic, but I am also lazy and not interested in carrying an actual tripod any more. Maybe because I am more interested in making and launching the pyro than filming it?
I don’t know, I guess it depends if WDW starts refreshing MK firework shows as often as it does projection shows. Celebrate the Magic lasted four years, and the MK version of Once Upon a Time almost made it that long already. (No mention of Once Upon a Time?)
Plans for Fantasy in the Sky 50th Anniversary are undoubtedly stored in the original snow globe for “that interminable mirrored castle float.”
The best thing about this article is that I now know how to perfectly sum up Harmonious: “The ambitious new nighttime spectacular consisting of a Stargate and several giant water tacos.” LOL!
I agree with DL and Jill. When it comes to night shows and parades, soundtracks are very important to me. HEA’s soundtrack was weak in comparison to Wishes, the holiday versions of Wishes, Remember Dreams Come True, SpectroMagic, Reflection of Earth, and even the Celebrate the Magic projection show. HEA never evoked the same emotions as the prior shows I named.
I can totally understand and respect that perspective. I don’t agree, but soundtrack quality and sentimentality are subjective, and different things resonate emotionally with different people. (I do totally agree about every other show you listed!)
It’s disliking the use of projections that’s odd to me. They are pure enhancements–just as much pyro is used and the show still has a soundtrack. You can watch from elsewhere inside or outside the park and still have a comparable experience in terms of the pyro, you just won’t see the projections…which didn’t exist with Wishes, anyway, so there’s no loss there.
HEA is a great show but unless you are right up at the hub with a direct view of the castle a lot of what happens on the projections can’t be seen. Which really detracts from its enjoyment. Wishes and more so Fantasy in the Sky were, for me, better.
I can understand the sense that people feel like they’re missing out without a view of the projections, but it’s not like they’re necessary to understanding or appreciating Happily Ever After–they’re an enhancement.
We regularly watch from behind Cinderella Castle or even outside the park. From my perspective, the pyro and soundtrack stand on their own just as well as Wishes.
Well…huh. Sad, but, Intrigued? We loved Happily Ever After, and were blown away by it. We also loved Wishes. The one weakness I’ve felt about Happily Ever After is that it was weak on fireworks, as the castle projection technology had gotten so amazing that they didn’t want to overshadow that portion of the show with fireworks.
A reworked Happily Ever After with the new fireworks setup could work quite nicely, though it might need some editing for an increased fireworks load. Now I’m in the mood for SpectroMagic and the Main Street Electrical Parade.
“a Stargate and several giant water tacos.”
I like Happiky Ever After but I loved Wishes also. I keep hoping as well the Main Street ElectricL Parade would come back. I was hoping my grandkids would get to see it and it ended before they got to go to WDW for the first time. November will be their 3rd trip. They are 8 and 7.. I remember the first time I saw it and it was magical. It lives in my heart!
Main Street Electrical Parade is still sitting in a warehouse in Southern California. If it comes back somewhere this year, it’ll probably be DCA.
I was already planning on finishing out my day on September 29th in the Magic Kingdom, so this will be…interesting. I’ve never seen Happily Ever After so it’ll be a first for me in this year of firsts! However I’ve got the evening of the 30th at Epcot so here’s some speculation I’d love to see you make…what do you think MK and Epcot are going to do on the 30th in-between shows? I did notice that MK closes at 8pm that night, but it’s still boilerplate hours so who really knows…
My guess is that there will be a night or two of media previews and a potential CM preview, as well. I would not expect an actual soft opening/debut, but I would LOVE to be wrong about that!
I loved SpectroMagic much more than the Electrical Light Parade. The music was so beautiful. Each time something new premiers it will become the favorite of someone on their first trip and thus continue on.
I actually don’t really enjoy Happily Ever After and found Wishes to be much more magical! I remember the first time I saw Wishes, it brought tears to my eyes and Happily Ever After doesn’t come close to evoking such emotion. I do hope I haven’t seen the last of Main Street Electrical Parade!
I’ve been waiting for your posts as I find you the most reliable source about Disney facts. I was incredibly sad to read other notices about happily ever after ending. It’s such an inspirational event for me to watch and I haven’t seen it since December 2019.
You’ve given me help with your comments about the wiggle room. And who knows maybe the new show will be truly inspirational as well. I was a huge wishes fan who was upset about it being canceled but happily ever after eclipse anything I’ve ever seen at Disney
Thank you as always for your spot on analysis
Personally, I suspect Enchantment will match or surpass Happily Ever After. Disney Creative Entertainment has produced several nighttime spectaculars like this for the worldwide castle parks in the last several years, and they’ve really fine-tuned the approach. The projections on Main Street will be a huge, welcome addition and expanded perimeter bursts will be pretty impressive.
I’m really optimistic about Disney Enchantment. The team behind it knows what they’re doing.
bring main street electrical parade back to WDW!!! Used to be great, fireworks desert at one of the shops, MSEP to close out the night. Sometimes an encore of fireworks. Was there last week, and the crowds were bad to get a good view. We stayed at BLT theme park view so we at least got a good view from there. well at least an unobstructed view.
I was never a big fan of Happily Ever After, so from my perspective this is potentially great news! :p I preferred Wishes for its more emotional tone. I’m hoping since it’s for the 50th anniversary, maybe this new show will be more in line with my tastes. It seems like the right time to bring something heartfelt, and less IP-eriffic back.
Of course it could also be a way of introducing something cheaper than Happily Ever After, in which case… meh. I guess we’ll see.
Miss that parade. Was the first parade I saw as a kid and I fell in love with it. The music and floats were great.
“… 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.”
When I read this I saw you and Sarah in ninja outfits with you dangling on a thin line suspended from the ceiling, headset on, flashlight clenched between your teeth rifling through a filing cabinet marked TOP SECRET in a locked and guarded office off the utilidor while Sarah lies flat inside a tight air shaft above you, headset on, an open laptop bathing her serious face in a bluish light revealing floor plans along with the current location and movement of all security people.,,and the country bears.
Keep up the great undercover reporting.
Haha, that certainly makes it sound exciting and fun, but in reality it’s an incredibly tedious process of searching online records.
Do you think they’ll have discounts for hotels in November. We already booked our trip but was hoping to get better prices.
I’m hoping you’re right about a pre-50th lull, since my upcoming plans are based on the same prediction. I try to avoid crowds but also want to be there for the 50th anniversary, so I’ve got a trip in late September extending to the first couple of days in October. Goal: low crowds for most of my stay, then see the anniversary.
So as well, I’ll take the opportunity to enjoy my “last chance” at Happily Ever After, if that’s what it actually is, and see the new show as well.
I agree with your take, and think that the reimagined scenario will play out in a few years, expanding it to include the new projection and launch sites.
Most of all you’ve just reignited my craving for the Main Street Electrical Parade.
After an apocalyptic nuclear war turns earth into Planet of the Apes, the Main Street Electrical Parade will still be there, on the beach right alongside that interminable mirrored castle float.
I assume you’ll get to see MSEP a few times before then. 😉