When it was announced in early February that long-running Magic Kingdom fireworks show "Wishes" would be retired permanently, there was outrage and upset among many fans. The show had its final performance this week, and last night, the new "Happily Ever After" show took its place.
So how does the new show compare, and what are its merits? Let's break it down by its structure! Follow along with the live stream below!
Part One: Introduction
- We start with pretty standard, with a narration from some deep-voiced, British man (if anyone has any ideas as to who this is, please let me know. I haven't been able to find who it is anywhere, and I know it's someone famous!)
- Our theme, "Happily Ever After." It's sung by Angie Keilhauer and Jordan Fisher, but is relatively generic, sounding very much like the theme for the "Disneyland Forever" show.
- The fireworks here are very pretty and shimmery, but there's nothing too terribly memorable about this sequence.
Part Two: Dreams
- Here we see memorable Disney characters begin their journeys with a simple dream.
- Tiana begins by singing her evening star song, but it's a pretty slow way to begin.
- Things start to kick off when an orchestral version of "Part of Your World" begins, and we see projections from The Little Mermaid, Ratatouille, and Tangled.
- I Think I Ghost Wrote This Show #1: "Out There" from Hunchback starts playing, one of my favorite songs ever. It's important to note here that this is really when "Happily Ever After" starts to become distinct; This is a projection mapping show first and foremost, and boy does this emphasize this!
Part Three: Chasing Your Dreams
- It begins with Brave, which caused me to groan. Nothing against Brave, but I think I am merely triggered by how annoyingly long the Brave sequence from Disney California Adventure's "World of Color" stayed in the show. However, I thought this was the first time the fireworks didn't feel like a sparkly afterthought in the production. I love how Merida fires an arrow that is expertly timed and placed to look like it shoots off the castle as a firework and hits another firework target.
- Another merit of this show is how it will begin with one song, and will pair relevant other characters beneath the same score. Here we see imagery of Lightning McQueen, the balloon house from Up, and Finding Nemo.
- This chapter ends with Moana, which was SO incredibly awesome. The projections immediately make a marae structure and cover the castle with Polynesian imagery. The concentric spirals of the heart of Te Fiti are shot into the sky as fireworks, and once again, there is a projection-firework integration that gives you chills when Tala's stingray spirit soars up the castle and explodes into the sky as white fireworks.
- And can we just take a moment to talk about the sound design? The Moana sequence pairs "How Far I'll Go" with the "How Far I'll Go Reprise" seamlessly, and will continue to work magic with sound and music like this throughout the show.
Part Four: Friendship
- These shows always have to have a showstopper, and "Friend Like Me" is a go-to. This sequence stars and ends with different versions of this song, which makes a really fun bookend.
- This whole montage is a great: "Trashin' the Camp," from Tarzan, "Hakuna Matata" from The Lion King (with a fun little flavor of, "I've Got No Strings" between bars), "You've Got a Friend in Me," from Toy Story, and "The Bare Necessities" from The Jungle Book. Here we also get to see some awesome, little-appreciated characters like Mike and Sully, Baymax and Hiro, and Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope.
- These were my FAVORITE projections: The turret of the castle that takes off like a rocket? The Zootopia donut rolling by? The Inside Out memory balls falling down the castle? Bring it ON.
Part Five: Love
- Ehhhh...Frozen. I was cringing as soon as I heard Olaf's voice, but I think what they did with it was very cute. An acoustic cover of "Love is an Open Door" plays with a beautiful projection of a full moon. Very nicely done.
- I'm also loving that recently, Disney shows' "love" segments have become less about romantic love and more about familial love. The "You'll Be in My Heart" segment is beautiful and features appearances by Kala and Tarzan, Carl and Russell, Dumbo and his mother, and Dory and her parents.
- I Think I Ghost Wrote This Show #2: Silhouettes of the classic Disney couples appear in the different turrets of the castle, while Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi's "I See the Light" plays. Soon the castle is taken over by projected lanterns, and I sob my eyes out.
Part Six: Villains
- What a great transition between love and adversity- with a quote about that very thing. Here, we hear Mulan's father give the quote, "The flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all," then we literally launch into action with an explosion of fireworks!
- We see some epic fights, including Ursula vs. Eric, Maleficent vs. Phillip, Jafar vs. Aladdin, and my personal favorite, the battle for Pride Rock between Scar and Simba!
- I Think I Ghost Wrote This Show #3: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN! These battle scenes culminate in an epic finale with the "He's a Pirate" theme, and we see fire and silhouettes of swordplay on the castle as fireworks just go absolutely crazy! I think the only figure that we see clearly is Captain Salazar from the new Dead Men Tell No Tales film, which is a little concerning. This may date the show, preventing it from being timeless. It reminds me of the random insertion of a Star Wars Episode VII trailer in the middle of "World of Color: Celebrate" two years ago. It does keep with the "villain" theme, but I'm just worried that if the movie isn't a success, it will severely date the production.
Part Seven: Resolution
- After the epicness of that last section, we become grounded once again with an incredible projection of Mufasa reminding us to "remember who you are."
- I Think I Ghost Wrote This Show #4: If there's one song I love more than "Out There," it's "Go the Distance" from Hercules. Here we see our heroes appear one after another, including Tarzan, Aladdin, Mulan, Hercules, and Ariel. Then an incredible swell of the song begins, featuring a full orchestra and a choir 90 strong!
- The heroes become immortalized one by one in stained glass that appears projected on the castle. Cinderella is front and center, appearing larger than the rest in her rightful spot on her palace.
- Our narrator returns with a very beautiful and important message:
“Grab hold of your dreams and make them come true. You are the key to unlocking your own magic. […] Reach out and find your own happily ever after.”
- Tinkerbell flies by, a classic fireworks staple, although here it just feels like she was rather haphazardly thrown in. Like, "Oh yeah, we forgot to do that earlier...um...well, let's put her at the end somewhere."
- We end with the classic swell of the show's theme, followed by a massive finale of fireworks and chills galore!
The show follows a typical structure typical of "World of Color" or "Fantasmic;" dreams, fun, foes, love, and hope, however some of it feels a bit disjointed, and there's no overarching theme that comes through.
While perhaps not surpassing the nostalgia and seamlessness of "Wishes," which will be sorely missed by many, I personally think "Happily Ever After" is a worthy replacement.