My favorite current TV show is Ted Lasso. Every episode brings a smile to my face with its warmth, wholesomeness, and heart. For me, it’s above reproach because it brings so much joy and happiness to my life–while I have favorites, every episode is some degree of good. As it has blown up in popularity, more criticism has entered the discourse. I couldn’t care less about any of that. It’s the rare piece of art or entertainment about which I’m not interested in reading reviews or hearing critique, just enjoying the magic of Ted Lasso.
For many people, Magic Kingdom fireworks shows are a similar story. All of them 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.
Consequently, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a bad nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom or any other castle park in the world. Those foundational qualities outweigh any perceived flaws, and always manage to win me over. Basically, there’s a minimum baseline for any Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular, and even an arguably “bad” one is still “good” in the grand scheme of things. I know the same is true for a lot of Disney fans, many of whom may not even be interested in fireworks critique. If that’s you, it might be time to close out this review, because Disney Enchantment is pretty close to that minimum baseline for me.
I’ve held off on publishing this review of Disney Enchantment until well after its debut because I want to like the new Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular. We’ve revisited it numerous times from an array of angles and vantages in an effort to give it a fair shake. I truly want to see in it what its defenders do.
In response to the backlash over Disney Enchantment, some have suggested that Walt Disney World fans are resistant to change, never satisfied with new offerings at first, and have opinions colored by nostalgia. Generally speaking, these are all fair points. Some have pointed to the outrage over Wishes being replaced by Happily Ever After, which quickly became beloved.
“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…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.”
Then there was our Happily Ever After Review published immediately after that show’s debut, which put it bluntly: “Happily Ever After is the best regular fireworks show to ever grace the skies above Magic Kingdom.” Moreover, “it’s better than Wishes, and also better than the nighttime spectaculars in Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.”
The point is that at no time were we against Happily Ever After replacing Wishes, despite our nostalgia for the latter. Likewise, in the lead-up to Disney Enchantment, you won’t find any feet-dragging on our part about the change. We went into this new nighttime spectacular with an open mind, assuming that Walt Disney World was pretty confident in it if they already announced it would not just be a temporary replacement for Happily Ever After.
The above review is potentially worth revisiting now, as it compares Happily Ever After to other castle park nighttime spectaculars. Much of the review revolves around how Happily Ever After avoided common pitfalls of those montage shows.
In part, I think the backlash to Disney Enchantment stems from many Walt Disney World fans never experiencing one of those choppy and uneven shows. Many of us–even fans of Happily Ever After–didn’t realize how good we had it with that nighttime spectacular.
There’s also undoubtedly the matter of expectations. I’ll be the first to admit that for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, I wanted a show that was a love letter to the park itself. The Vacation Kingdom of the World turning 50 is a big deal, and one worth proudly celebrating with explosions.
In several posts, we expressed hope that the new Magic Kingdom fireworks would be like Celebrate Tokyo Disneyland or Remember… Dreams Come True. That fizzled over the summer when Disney began releasing details and the new fireworks were clearly going to focus on films.
No matter, as I assumed Enchantment would go the direction of Disneyland Forever, the 60th Anniversary fireworks that bookended dazzling animated film segments with sentimentality and Walt Disney.
Despite it not being my beloved Remember… Dreams Come True, I loved Disneyland Forever. (Sorry for the prior post callbacks, just trying to “prove” I have an open mind when it comes to nighttime spectaculars and am not blinded by nostalgia.)
Disney Enchantment is unlike even that.
Rather than trying to balance the nostalgia of longtime fans with the expectations of casual guests, the new Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular seems to actively repudiate sentimentality. It leans heavily on animated movies from the last decade, including many that are far from classics. It’s essentially the antithesis of an anniversary show.
Why Walt Disney World so steadfastly refuses to lean into its own history (except when there’s food or merchandise to be monetized) will forever confound me.
The place has thrived for five decades on its inherent sentimentality, and now has a loyal army of APs, DVC members, and other regulars who are wistful for the past. It becomes more like Disneyland with each year, and even first-timers will either buy into that nostalgia and become repeat visitors…or won’t and won’t. But all of that is another lengthy topic for another day.
I understand that the company really wants to push Disney+ and whatever is hot on there, but I think it’s a mistake to insert the latest new thing into shows unless the nighttime spectacular is not intended to be long-term or it’s done as a pre- or post-show tag (World of Color used to do this exceptionally).
Maybe this is “old man yells at cloud” territory–a blind spot because I don’t have kids who love the latest movies–but if a show is going to run for several years, it should only include movies with a certain timelessness. Onward does not have that standard (yet?). It would’ve been equally misguided to insert Brother Bear, Treasure Planet, Chicken Little, or Meet the Robinsons into Wishes back in the day (sorry, fans of those, but they’re not classics).
There’s also a lot of overlap between Enchantment and Harmonious. As much as I love Moana and think it’s already a modern classic (see, not totally an old man!), it’s overkill to have it featured heavily in both.
Same goes for Aladdin, Hercules, Brave, and others. When the announcement came that Happily Ever After was being retired, it seemed potentially driven by the overlap between that and Harmonious. Guess not.
Speaking of which, Enchantment also includes songs and properties that were present in Happily Ever After, inviting direct comparisons. None of those are favorable.
The musical renditions, pyro arrangements, and even the projections were superior in Happily Ever After (how is that last one even possible–technology has progressed since then!). I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that, at points, Disney Enchantment feels like a bootleg Happily Ever After.
Sticking with the Happily Ever After comparisons, that show had great cadence, flowing from scene to scene with smooth transitions and, to the extent possible for a montage nighttime spectacular, compelling storytelling. All of this is absent from Enchantment.
Paradoxically, Enchantment is both slow and fast. If you’re focusing primarily on the music, it’s the former. The show never develops a rhythm–and don’t even get me started on that lengthy instrumental segment. (I’ve never said this about a castle fireworks show before, but the middle of Disney Enchantment drags.)
By contrast, the projections are moving at lightning speed, bouncing among various sets of characters with little rhyme or reason, often divorced from the tone of the accompanying music. There’s the vague sense that Enchantment is building to something towards the end of the core show, but I couldn’t tell you what.
There’s no through-line whatsoever, not even the vague one offered by Disney of going on a journey or adventure. It’s just a bunch of songs and characters, popping up at random.
We’re not entirely negative on Disney Enchantment. I genuinely like “You Are The Magic,” which does a good job presenting positivity and inviting introspection. I’d even say that song meets the moment, and is the perfect choice for this time, something that might become more apparent with the benefit of hindsight.
That song is one aspect of the show about which opinions will soften over time. It might be a bit schmaltzy, but the same could be said for almost any parks’ theme song. Once “You Are The Magic” has its own nostalgia formed from visits during the show’s run, it’ll become beloved by fans.
Same goes for Angela Bassett’s narration. She sets the perfect tone for “You Are The Magic” and its underlying message, and her commanding voice gives those lyrics even more resonance.
The problem is not her or what she says, but that there’s absolutely no support from the show in between. On top of that, there’s the matter of who doesn’t speak at the show’s opening or closing. No Walt Disney or Mickey Mouse was certainly “a choice” by the show’s creative team–how is even that too much nostalgia? Nevertheless, the conspicuous omission of Walt and Mickey shouldn’t be taken out on Ms. Bassett or her otherwise strong narration.
There’s also mesmerizing pyro, pretty arrangements of innovative and unique bursts (even if they’re sometimes discordant with the music), and great lighting effects. While some technical aspects are a downgrade as compared to Happily Ever After, there are enhancements, too.
The projections on Main Street are one such feature. However, and maybe this is unfair, but as someone who has seen these for years at Disneyland, it’s hard to shower Walt Disney World with praise here for bringing a rudimentary version of what has been done there for a while. If anything, this is overdue–and so too is adding projections elsewhere in Magic Kingdom to help spread out the crowds.
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. We’ve tried to give it a fair shake, watching from several viewpoints to see if any of them offered that “special” perspective that does the trick.
None did, and the nighttime spectacular hasn’t grown on us in the least even after multiple in-person viewings. Even attempting to be as objective as possible and removing all expectations about what a Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary fireworks show should entail, it falls short for both of us. Disney Enchantment is lacking in emotion, heart, and the flow necessary to make for a truly transcendent fireworks show.
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.
Are you excited to see Disney Enchantment in person? If you’ve watched video, what’s your first impression of Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime spectacular? Does Enchantment “work” for you, or is it a misfire that fails to evoke emotion? Is Enchantment a worthy replacement to Happily Ever After? Is this an appropriate fireworks show for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Do you agree or disagree with our review? 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!