When news dropped that Wishes – A Nighttime Spectacular, was coming to an end, the reactions were less than favorable. After all, Wishes had become something of an institution at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Tonight, Happily Ever After, the new show on the block, held its debut performance and we were lucky enough to get a chance to check it out. Packed into a tight crowd, we waited anxiously to see if Happily Ever After could dethrone the beloved Wishes. Was it practically perfect in every way? Or did it flop like Nemo on dry land? Read on to find out!
The big difference from Wishes is easy to spot the moment the show starts. This isn’t just a fireworks show. It’s a castle projection show with fireworks which pulls out every trick in the book. The castle transforms before our eyes and we are quickly pulled into the wonderful world of Disney with the new song “Happily Ever After” which gives us a feeling that all things will end well, even if there’s a bit of adventure needed to get to that point.
What Happily Ever After does very well is being able to jam pack as many characters as possible into the relatively short show. What’s great about this is that just about everyone will see a favorite at some point. Yet as a huge Disney fan what really made this hit home was the inclusion of many characters that are often forgotten in the parks. In particular was the addition of Quasimodo and the song “Out There” which got a huge fan cheer. Other characters included Mulan and Remmy from Ratatouille.
That leads to another great part of the show which was the fact that Pixar characters were just as involved In the show as Disney proper characters. Carl’s floating house from Up made an appearance as well as Mike and Sully. Not to mention Joy and Sadness as well as Buzz and Woody and Merida. Not only this, but Pirates of the Caribbean also had a feature spot, which makes sense with the final film in the franchise about to hit theaters.
And what’s great about all of this is that no stone felt unturned. From new hits like Moana and Big Hero 6 to old goodies like Snow White and The Jungle Book, the show really felt all encompassing and I think you’d be hard pressed to not by dazzled by the sheer amount of films represented in this show.
While projection shows are no stranger to Disney, this one did a stellar job of seemlessly mixing the projection with the fireworks. Watching a firework like a star pass behind the castle only to have it replaced by the star in the projection was a very cool effect, and little touches like this happened often. Because of this, the show feels very integrated and the projection and fireworks really play off each other in fun and interesting ways. The small spires outside of the castle also take part in the projection and the threes around the central hub all twinkle to life near the end of the show. It really does a great job of making you feel like you are inside the show itself.
There are a lot of little surprises and a lot of reasons I want to watch the show a few dozen more times to make sure I catch everything, but after a first viewing, one thing is for certain. Happily Ever After is the show we all hoped it would be. It takes what shows like Wishes and Celebrate the Magic did so well and tops them in every way possible. It feels big and grand but also moving and heartwarming. It’s a brilliant spectacle of light and sound and I couldn’t get enough of it. Yet, while I never want things like this to end, it didn’t overstay its welcome. It ends on a high note and sends us, the viewers, off to have our own tale of adventure and our own happy ending. It’s brilliantly crafted and beautifully realized. When I saw Once Upon A Time, I thought, man, I wish Celebrate the Magic. My fear was that this would happen here. Fortunately, Happily Ever After is the realization of why Wishes had to end. This show is everything we could have asked for and more and easily takes the crown spot of best nighttime show at the Walt Disney World parks. The moment you get the chance, go see it. It’s simply amazing in every way possible.
Want to check out the show for yourself? Watch Disney’s livestream of the debut below.