Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom will debut “Happily Ever After,” a new nighttime spectacular featuring fireworks, pyrotechnics, lasers, projection mapping, original animation, and an all-new original score on May 12, 2017. (We have an update on the original song for the fireworks below…)
‘Happily Ever After’ will inspire guests to seek out and fulfill their own dreams and adventures by showcasing those of Disney animated classics who achieved their own happily ever afters. The show will feature more Disney characters than ever before, including those from Moana, Brave, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, The Princess & The Frog, Aladdin, and many more.
While Walt Disney World does not indicate as much in its release, the Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular will replace Wishes! A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams as the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks spectacular. It is unknown whether Once Upon a Time will continue to run once Happily Ever After debuts, or if it was meant as a temporary stopgap. (We are guessing it will continue on select nights.)
March 24, 2017 Update: Walt Disney World has announced that the fireworks will feature a new theme song titled “Happily Ever After,” which will be a duet sung by country music artist Angie Keilhauer and singer Jordan Fisher (from the Moana soundtrack!) Disney released a behind-the-scenes video from the recording session and is providing a first listen via the video below. Personally, we are not going to listen to this because we’d rather have our ‘first-listen’ be when we see the show for the first time, but if you want a preview, here it is…
The news of a replacement fireworks show is sure to disappoint a lot of longtime Walt Disney World fans, as Wishes! has enjoyed nearly a 15-year run, and was the first modern fireworks ‘spectacular’ at Walt Disney Word. The last performance of Wishes! will occur on May 11, 2017, so prepare to say goodbye before then if you want to see it one last time.
While we enjoy Wishes and the nostalgics in us will miss the show, it has a good, long run. Moreover, Disney Creative Entertainment has demonstrated what it is capable of in the intervening years, fully harnessing technological innovations to create an entire new generation of nighttime spectaculars. If Wishes was Disney Fireworks 2.0, these new shows (starting with Disney Dreams in Disneyland Paris) are Disney Fireworks 3.0.
Given this, we are pretty excited to see what Walt Disney World has in store with Happily Ever After. Magic Kingdom deserves a “3.0” show like Paris and Shanghai, and we are really rooting for this to be a worthy successor to Wishes! The big question is whether it will deliver on an emotional level, because all the technology in the world is meaningless if it doesn’t have heart.
We suspect Disney will deliver. They no doubt realize the stakes are high: fans love Wishes and many are going to be predisposed to favoring their nostalgic favorite over anything new, no matter how good.
It’s reassuring to watch the video Disney has released (above) and see all of the names involved at Disney Creative Entertainment, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. (The involvement of all 3 is a positive sign that this is a big-budget addition.) It’s also good to see that effort has gone into recording an original score.
A couple of things are cause for concern, though. First, there’s no indication that Happily Ever After will utilize mist screens or fountains, and it seems unlikely that such a detail would’ve been omitted by mistake. This is disappointing, as those elements at Disneyland Paris are one of the highlights of their Fireworks 3.0 show.
Second, the mention of more characters than ever before is also concerning. More is not necessarily better when it comes to characters in a nighttime spectacular. To the contrary, we’ve found that fewer characters chosen more judiciously for their fit into the story of a show works far better than parading out ‘the whole gang’ to check off every box and ensure that everyone’s favorite makes an appearance. The latter approach can result in an overwhelming, disjointed, and overtly montage vibe, whereas the former approach seems to serve the flow of shows better.
With that said, we remain cautiously optimistic and hope you will keep an open mind, as well. Nostalgia is powerful, especially with something that tugs at your heart-strings like Wishes! However, Disney entertainment is meant to change (I’d argue that Wishes! has overstayed its welcome with a 14-year run). Resisting change and clinging to the past is how you end up with the Main Street Electrical Parade continuing to wobble the parade route decades after it should have been retired. Now we can only hope that Disney realizes exactly how attached many fans are to Wishes!, and pulls out all of the stops in delivering a worthy emotional successor. What do you think?