REVIEW, VIDEO: Happily Ever After Debuts at the Magic Kingdom, The Nighttime Spectacular That Disney World Deserves

Tonight marked the debut of the Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime spectacular “Happily Ever After”, which replaced the beloved Wishes show after a 13 year run. So, how was it?

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

Getting straight to the point: I loved it. I felt the same way I felt when I saw Wishes 13 years ago. The show is a technical marvel that ties-in beloved Disney characters and music, modern and classic, with fantastic original arrangements and a theme song that will (I think) live on through the annals of Disney Parks history long after this show is gone. Fantasy in the Sky and Wishes have a more than suitable replacement which will be cherished as much once the nostalgia dies down over the weeks and months ahead.

The inclusion of most of the animated film canon is tastefully done, never feeling forced. This show rips through a lot of IPs, but does so without taking the show into and out of too many songs. You may have not thought it would make sense to throw a mixture of Disney classics into a scene with music from just one, but it works here. Think of it as the bubble scene from Walt Disney World’s Fantasmic, but on steroids, and a copious amount.

The show has so many jaw-dropping effects and such worth noting, but here’s what stuck with me:

  • A shooting star firework zips across the sky and seemingly lands on the facade of Cinderella Castle.
  • Illuminated smoke creates the illusion of fire from cannon blasts.
  • The Castle is attacked by Villains with several really unique lighting and pyro effects.
  • Lasers create a Vegas-style lighting effect on Cinderella Castle.
  • The new spotlights surrounding the Castle are phenomenal. They are used in so many creative ways from start to finish, making the scope of the show seemingly larger than life.
  • There are plenty of new fireworks shells the likes of which we have never seen before, and certainly more pyrotechnics than Wishes ever had.

There are so many great scenes to talk about, but the “I Can Go the Distance” sequence might be my favorite in any fireworks show that I’ve ever seen, maybe even in any nighttime show. It emerges from the Villains portion so perfectly and is fantastically uplifting. It’s a great lead-in to the finale. I would name a few others that I liked, but I quickly realized that the list I created included every other sequence. I’m not kidding, I made a list and all of them were on it. I went through the show video to check, and somehow I remembered all of the scenes and enjoyed them all that much that they all made my list of what I enjoyed. If you forced me to pick a second favorite, my sentimental choice would be “Out There” from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Disney Dreams may be gone from Paris, but this scene has made it stateside and was everything I dreamt it would be.

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

The narrative of the show is not overstated, but I think resonates more strongly than Wishes. Now, please hear me out before you run to the comments section. Happily Ever After takes us from setting out on adventure, to finding friends and romance, to facing adversity, bringing yourself to the the triumph of learning that you can “go the distance” and “you can fly”, reaching your Happily Ever After. The show shares a theme of many recent Disney animated films: you can have your wishes come true in this world if you work hard enough. “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Now, who said that?

Having only seen the show from one vantage point, I don’t have any tips for viewing just yet, but I can tell you that there are a lot of unique and cool places you’ll likely want to see this from. Up close will give you a better view of projections and lighting effects, but standing farther back will allow you to take in the full scope of the spectacle (which you will see in the video below). I’ll let you know what I think after a few more viewings. I also need to see all the new lighting in the trees to the left and right sides of the Castle, because whatever was going on there at certain points in the show looked really neat.

If Walt Disney World is the flagship of the Disney Parks, and the Magic Kingdom is the pinnacle park for the company, than this is the nighttime show it deserves. Taking what was learned from shows like Disneyland Forever, Disney Dreams, and others to combine so many high tech show elements, Happily Ever After is the next step in nighttime spectaculars and the new crown jewel of evening entertainment at Walt Disney World. It is a must see and will likely remain so for a long time to come.

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom

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30 comments

  1. Albert

    I´ve been able to watch the online stream only, but one thing is for certain, it´s absolutely jaw-dropping, you are definitely right on this, it´s the crown jewel of Disney nighttime entertainment!

  2. Spencer

    I completely and totally disagree. Happily Ever After feels like the replacement to Celebrate the Magic we should’ve gotten (since WDW decided to butcher Once Upon a Time during its translation from Tokyo). While the pyro and the effects are impressive, it does not at all compare to Wishes. The story, the emotion, the soul just isn’t there. I feel like Disney is really slipping at WDW in the nighttime department. The Main Street Electrical Parade is gone, IllumiNations (by far my favorite at WDW now) is getting old (18 years in October), Fantasmic! desperately needs refreshing or replacement, Rivers of Light is a massive disappointment, and now Happily Ever After joins the ranks of the disappointments.

    • Dave

      Those are my thoughts exactly. I watched on Periscope, then in big screen HD to see all the projections. They didn’t seem to make any sense to me. All the different movies thrown together, over and over again. How many times did I have to see Moana? And in 10 years Moana is really going to still be a classic? They’ve already all but shut Frozen out with only a snippet of Open Door, but Moana gets a full 2 minutes (or so it seemed). Maybe they’ll update projections as new films come out. The should be able to shoehorn any new movie in there somewhere since it all sort of got mixed in a big pot anyway.

      I know I’ve now only watched it twice vs 100s of Wishes, but I can’t see any emotion. I certainly don’t see myself singing along and getting choked up like I did with every Wishes performance.

      • S

        Finally! People with some sense in this world!!!! I completely and totally agree with both of you. Thank you for being willing to share your opinions.

        • The Disney Lord

          You guys need to rethink what you have said. True Wishes was a good firework show, but I didn’t particularly feel sad when it left. Being lucky enough to be at the last showing made me realize it was time for something new and this delivers. I agree with the fact that rivers of light wasn’t what we expected, and that illuminations needs an update( I haven’t seen it in 8 years). I saw this show on Friday and it was fantastic. 100% better than Wishes was and could have ever been.

        • Joan

          I am glad I am not the only one. Totally agree. I was excited to see it, I was expecting something refreshing and worth it, but no, I got really disappointed. Effects are awesome, give credit for that, but there is no emotion. Music score is simple and has no feeling at all. What is going on with Disney? Focusing on revenue and setting aside Magic.

    • Ken Reiter

      Right now I am in the disappointed column too. I was there for it’s debut and was going to wait before a said anything negative but I can’t help it. First of all , I am afraid that Disney is going to depend on projections too much. Little kids, short people, and people on scooters and wheelchairs will not see the castle projections. These projections remind me of how Epcot decided to use cheaper movies and videos as opposed to animatronics in their attractions and how almost all of them are not worth seeing. Now Disney will throw movie clips on the castle without having too build beautiful parade floats. The main song has no emotion and sounds like a Disney Channel pop tune. The fireworks are amazing but this show has no emotion and won’t tear anyone up. Wishes told a story starting with the girls haunting lyrics that stick with you. Where is Walt, Mickey and Donald? I was so hopeful that this would be emotional and memorable. It wasn’t.

      • Melissa Brown

        I was bawling my eyes out, so you might want to check your hyperbole. I wonder at this rejection of technology. ANimatrons were the tech toy of their day- Walt used any and all tech as fast as he could dream it up. I am glad the music style is updated to something more current. I love the song- I’m considering using it at my 10 year vow renewal (I used promise from Illuminations at my wedding). I was sad Mickey wasn’t in it, but it’s a million times better than Wishes, which I had always felt thrown together, especially with the hackeyed voice acting on some of those clips. Snow White always made me cringe.

  3. I completely agree. I was there last night, and while the crowds where new year like, it was very excited crowd. Disney did not disappoint.

  4. Jess

    You are spot on. This was an amazing and beautiful show, just to watch online! I can’t wait to see it in person next year.

  5. Deb

    I loved it as well, the only criticism I have is there was no substantial introduction or lead in into the Villains portion of the show. It just came out of nowhere (unless I missed something?) otherwise it was fantastic.

  6. Ashley

    We watched it from home on the live stream and thought it was jaw dropping! The parents/family section totally hit home and I think it’s great that they included it!

    Seriously we watched it again this morning and I was catching even more details. There is so much to take in and while I will always love Wishes, this is a more than suitable replacement. Well done WDW!

  7. Stewart Buchanan

    Thanks for the review Tom. It looks spectacular from what I have seen, and is getting overwhemingly positive accolades online. Of course some won’t like it, but that’s the case with absolutely everything. I know too that video, no matter how great, can never, ever do justice to a show and replace the feeling of being there. Seeing a show live with the people, the atmosphere, and all the subtle effects and sounds that are all around, is something that has to be experienced. I certainly loved Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular and Rivers of Light much, much more in person that watching online, and I expect this will be the same (even thought it does look amazing online as well). Thanks for posting the review!

  8. Ryan D

    Wishes will always be special to so many people, its meaning will always be special to me but this show was simple amazing, as Tom said its the nighttime spectacular Magic Kingdom deserved & needed

    I wanted to hate it so much but I just can’t

    • Heather

      Same here. I wanted to hate it so much because I love Wishes to death. It will never replace Wishes as my favorite in my heart, but the show is impressive and it’s better than anything I could’ve ever expected.

  9. Alex

    I doubted this show when I first saw it on the live stream yesterday, or it could’ve been the guy with the ugly suit jacket that made me angry, but that’s besides the point. The soundtrack was incredible and that finale, especially with the accompaniment of the gospel choir, gave me goosebumps through my computer screen. It was spectacularly done, and while they overwhelmingly shove every IP they have down your throat, the projection mapping and fireworks were stunning. I can’t wait to see it live. My only negative about the show is since it is so fast-paced, there is no cool auxiliary after-show song like Wishes, only the title song repeated. The sing-along that you guys did after the final Wishes show gave me as much goosebumps as watching the HEA finale, but they subtracted the song with projection mapping, so they took a plus and replaced it with a plus. Win-win situation.

  10. Matthew

    Was down for a final wishes last week. It was a great show but it was time for a change. Seems like this was a good one. Also, so glad to see Hunchback represented. Can’t wait to see this july!

  11. Progressive Music Lover

    Unbelievable!! Trump would be proud of the censorship and fascist tactics that are employed by the moderator of this site. The suppression of free speech that takes place currently is an affront to the very nature of a free society. I refuse to be silenced, and I will continue to challenge the revolting tactics taken against the progressive ideals!!

  12. James Gordon

    Does anyone know what usually happens as regards the fireworks during the Christmas season? We are coming to Orlando for 2 weeks in November, and have our Christmas party tix so will obviously see Holiday Wishes (or whatever ends up happening during the xmas party, I guess its possible they update that show too?) that night, but is Happily Ever After going to be on the non-party nights?

    I really want to see it because all the videos I’ve seen online in the last 24hours look incredible, so I’m very much hoping we will get the chance on one of our non-Party days at MK

    • Heather

      If it’s anything like Wishes before it. Happily Ever After will play on nonparty nights, while during the party you’ll get Holiday Wishes. The only exception is Christmas week, where if I remember correctly from last year they play a lot of Holiday Wishes/.

  13. Mark Nowak

    Depending on where you saw the show will make or break your review. Since the show revolves so much around 3D projections on the castle some videos zoomed in on just the castle and we missed seeing the pyrotechnics. Other reviewers complain that they could not see the cast projections because they were too far off to the side or too far away. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great I expected more special effects with the fireworks. I would like to get a count of the number of births just settle which show had more fireworks. I knew this was going to happen. That we were going to get a cheaper version of fireworks after watching the grand opening in Shanghai where they relied on Castle projections and very little pyrotechnics especially in China where fireworks were invented.

    • Heather

      Not gonna defend Happily Ever After since I prefer Wishes, but they didn’t really cheap out on the amount of fireworks. There are twice the amount of pyrotechnics launched.

      That being said…Wishes’s finale was definitely stronger and with more wow, but I knew since I heard the video of the song and realized where the finale lay that this finale wasn’t going to be as strong as the one in Wishes. So it wasn’t really a surprise when the finale felt a lot less finale like.

  14. CAP

    Not sure how anybody can get on social media and have any real opinion on this unless you saw this live in person. Social media is full of negative people giving their opinions about things they know nothing about. All the reviews I’ve seen on the internet by people who have seen it live in person loved it and that includes die hard Wishes Disney fans. You can watch and compare this shows all day but the fact is that nothing compares to seeing it live plain and simple.

    • Spencer

      Mate, I saw it in person, standing front and center in front of the castle, and I absolutely hated it. My opinions are expressed near the top of the comments section.

    • Heather

      Seen it twice live already.

      Like it, don’t love it. Show misses a lot without the projections, which can only be viewed on Main Street, causing a lot of crowding and makes for a lot of uncomfortable viewings. (First time I was by Confectionary and completely lost the castle, second time my friends and I decided to try to watch from Hub and I had to shift at awkward angles so I could see it over the tablets and children on shoulders and tall people around me. Very uncomfortable, I was more comfortable during the last Wishes showing and I was watching that over by Casey’s Corner and once the fireworks started I was as comfortable as when I would watch it from Confectionary.) The show would be better if there were more than a couple of moments that could carry themselves without projections, and I actually enjoyed the show more on video than I did live because I could at least see everything on the castle while comfortable.

      Wishes was a show I could never miss and I used to be genuinely disappointed when I’d leave the park early because it was my favorite part of the park (especially during the Christmas season when the castle would light up at the end) and I could stand wherever I wanted and still get a lot of enjoyment out of the show just for its soundtrack alone. Happily Ever After, while a technical marvel, is probably a pass just because as a smaller person, the show is really hard to see in its entirety and without the projections and everything else, it’s just…meh. Nice fireworks I guess?

  15. mark

    I ve changed my mind. After the live viewing of the debut, I thought it was a let down relaying on to much 3D projection. but after watching it again, I was able to notice more of the fireworks special effects all coming together. And since it did bring a tear to my eyes, it passes. It will grow on me. We have a winner.

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