So I finally got around to seeing “Happily Ever After,” the new fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom, and holy cow – do I have a LOT to say about it. I know some of you are probably wanting to avoid spoilers until you can see the show yourselves, so beware: after this paragraph ends, the spoilers are going to start! However, you can skip to the last paragraph of my review to read a spoiler-free summary of my thoughts!
Before I get into my thoughts on “Happily Ever After,” you should know that I absolutely LOVED “Wishes.” It’s been my favorite thing at Disney World since I was a little kid, and the thought of it being replaced was something I was really skeptical about. When the reviews for the new show started coming in, I was feeling pretty cynical – I mean, how could anything possibly be better than “Wishes?” As it turns out, the answer is this: the new show is not better than “Wishes.” I say that because I don’t think you can compare the two at all – they’re completely different experiences, with different themes and stories. Beyond that, it’s hard to compare a show that was designed with today’s technology to one designed over a decade ago. “Wishes” will always be a 10/10 in my book, but “Happily Ever After” blew me away. The show is broken down into different segments, each focusing on a different storytelling theme, so that’s how I’m going to break down this review. Let’s get started!
The show begins with the new song that serves as the title of the show, “Happily Ever After.” My fears of pop music dominating this show were totally unfounded – this is an amazing song with a beautiful message, and it fits the show perfectly! I was also really happy to hear that the narrator for this show is the same one for Festival of Fantasy and Royal Friendship Faire – what a cool touch that adds some continuity to the entertainment! It reminds me of when Jiminy Cricket was narrator for both “Wishes” and “Spectromagic.”
2. Wishes and Dreams
The show kicks off with a beautiful solo from Tiana, one of my favorite Disney princesses. This beautiful section also features a few brief notes from “When You Wish Upon A Star,” which I thought was a nice way to pay tribute to “Wishes.” Even better: Quasimodo finally gets some much deserved attention when he sings “Out There.” I loved it, and I thought focusing on wishes and dreams was a great way to start off the show.
The second theme that “Happily Ever After” focuses on is adventure, and it’s a certainly a thrill! It begins with a tribute to Merida featuring the song “Touch the Sky,” and then it goes on to feature several other Disney characters who represent the spirit of adventure. The house from “UP” floats across the castle in one particularly awesome part! The section is capped off with Moana and the song “How Far I’ll Go,” which I daresay is one of the most inspiring Disney songs ever. Combined with fireworks perfectly timed to the music, this was an incredible section.
After adventure comes friendship, kicked off by the Genie and the extremely fitting song “Friend Like Me.” So many different Disney friendships are covered in this segment, from Nick and Judy to Vanellope and Ralph! One of the most underrated Disney songs is also featured in this segment: “Trashing the Camp”! I thought this was such a cool celebration of all of the different friendships featured in the Disney movies. The only thing I didn’t really dig about this part was the castle singing – I thought it was kind of random and out of place, and also for some reason I can’t wrap my head around the castle having a baritone voice.
This section of the show was so beautiful, which is obviously fitting given its subject matter. I didn’t really love the slow cover of “Love Is an Open Door,” but the scenes chosen to feature on the castle were so perfect! Wall-E and Eve get to fly around a little, and Simba and Nala get featured front and center! The song then changes to “You’ll Be In My Heart,” (one of my favorite Disney songs ever), and the focus shifts to familial love, which I thought was so perfect because Disney and family are so deeply connected for me. Not going to lie: I cried a little bit! This beautiful section is made even better by the fact that the floating lanterns from “Celebrate the Magic” make a return!
6. Adversity and Villains
It wouldn’t really be a Disney fireworks show if the villains didn’t get a section! This part kicks off with a beautiful firework timed to the best quote from Mulan: “the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” Then, it transitions into a full-on dramatic showdown between the Disney villains and their respective heroes. Eric fights Ursula, Maleficent makes her transformation, and Scar stands menacingly on Pride Rock. Then, the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean” kicks in, and things get really cool when the silhouettes of the Disney heroes are lit up against the flames in time to the music and fireworks. It’s hard to describe, but it is SO incredible to see.
With the villains defeated, the show takes a quieter turn. In a moment that quite literally gave me chills, Mufasa’s ghost appears and reminds us to “remember who you are,” and a fantastic cover of “Go the Distance” from Hercules plays as the mosaics of some of the most notable Disney heroes cover the castle. This section is really moving, and I actually would have been happier if the show ended here…
Surprisingly, the show has a really obvious ending when the narrator returns and tells us that it is now our turn to find our own happily ever after. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s beautiful, but I’m not sure why we needed to hear the same song from the beginning of the show all over again. The castle projections combined with the fireworks are incredible, so I guess that makes up for it! Believe me when I say this show seriously ends with a bang! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Now that I’ve told you how I feel about each section of the show, here’s a couple of other random thoughts that I had that didn’t fit anywhere else in this review:
- No “Beauty and the Beast”??? I get it, they’re featured heavily in “Once Upon a Time,” but a romance section is unacceptable if it doesn’t have the most romantic Disney story (at least in my opinion!)
- The show flowed so much better than I thought based on pictures and video! The different themes work really well together, and having quieter moments in between helps make the transition smooth.
- I wish they had a quieter version of “Happily Ever After” to play after the show instead of just playing the same song for a third time. I loved the version of “Wishes” that played when the show was over, so I’m probably just bitter I won’t ever hear that will walking down Main Street again.
- I loved the little touches in the show that payed tribute to “Wishes”!
- The timing of the fireworks with the music and projections are absolutely spot on.
- I don’t think this is a show you can really appreciate until you see it in person – there’s just so much to take in! At times I found myself being a little distracted by the amazing projections, but I think that’s something that won’t be an issue once I’ve seen the show a few times and get more used to it.
So there you have it! My final score of “Happily Ever After” is a solid 9/10, with the potential to change to a 10/10 with time. I think the nostalgia I have for “Wishes” is part of what makes it a 10/10, and that’s something that only comes with making memories with a show, which obviously takes time! I’m really happy with what Disney did with “Happily Ever After,” and I can’t wait to see it again in the fall when block out dates are over. Thanks for reading my review, and let me know in the comments if you have anything additional thoughts or disagree with some of mine – I’d love to talk to you guys about this!