Review: The Magic Kingdom’s fantastic new Happily Ever After show

by on May 13, 2017 45 Comments

Filed under: Magic Kingdom

About ten minutes into the Magic Kingdom’s new Happily Ever After nighttime fireworks show, my friend Steve turned and said “I almost don’t need to see the fireworks.Happily Ever After - Pink Castle” And that’s true because the visual effects being projecting on to and around Cinderella Castle for Happily are so incredibly vibrant and rich, with so much detail, that you can’t take your eyes off them. When combined with the new fireworks, lasers, and area lighting, the whole show is so good that I’d recommend a special trip to the Magic Kingdom just to see it.

New Projection Technology Makes a Huge Difference

Happily is one giant leap ahead of previous projection shows because of how the film clips are displayed on the castle. In previous projection shows, the film clips were played directly on to the castle, essentially using it as a giant movie screen. In Happily, however, it looks like Disney edited the film scenes so they fit into architecturally correct parts of the castle.

Along with that, Disney seems to have added firefly-like laser light effects to the trees around the Magic Kingdom central hub, plus landscape lighting surrounding the castle that’s color-matched to the  show scenes. It’s far more ambitious that anything Disney’s done at the park, and it all seems to work, both technically and artistically.

Happily Ever After - Scroll DetailThere’s a scene in Happily, for example, from Hunchback of Notre Dame, where a circular stained glass window is projected on the front center of the castle, while a perfectly scaled image of Quasimodo climbs one of the towers to the right. The stained glass window projection is so clear, so realistic that I had to stare at it for a few second to remember that there isn’t a real stained-glass window there.

Besides Hunchback, characters from every major new Disney film make an appearance in the show. The scene from Moana seemed to get a lot of cheers from the audience, as did the one from Brave, and, of course, Frozen. Speaking of Frozen, Disney deserves credit for not using Let it Go in the Happily soundtrack. It’s not needed here – the visual elements do all the work – and including that overplayed song would have just meant that the show writers had a checklist to go through. I don’t think the Happily soundtrack is quite as memorable as Wishes, a classic, but Happily is good enough.

Because there’s so much detail, I think it’ll be possible to watch Happily several times without seeing everything. I’m looking forward to going back.

Happily Ever After - More Scroll Detail Happily Ever After - Beauty and the Beast Happily Ever After - Frozen scene?



Posted on May 13, 2017

45 Responses to “Review: The Magic Kingdom’s fantastic new Happily Ever After show”

  • Thanks for the review Len!

    Do you have any sense of how the show holds up when viewed from other parts of the Magic Kingdom? What about viewing from the monorail resorts? I can’t remember the last time I watched Wishes from the hub, as you could get 90% of the experience watching elsewhere since the show was mostly fireworks.

    • The show will still be good from other viewing areas, but you’re not going to see the incredible detail or lighting effects around the castle. Rob’s comment below seems relevant here.

  • I was watch the live stream on Disney parks blog and I loved it. However, I had two major problems with it. From the camera at the main Street railroad station, it wasn’t difficult to follow the graphics, but it was obviously much more difficult than at the hub. The other issue I personally had with it was that the projections were so captivating that at times I forgot to watch the fireworks.

  • Im wondering the same thing as Tim. How much of the show is viewable from the beaches at the Poly or from the top of Bay Lake Tower?

  • by disneybroadwayfan on May 13, 2017, at 8:24 am EST

    Since they didn’t move the castle or any of the hotels before HEA opened, it seems logical to assume you’ll be able to see the same amount of area as you could when it was Wishes. Will you be able to see the details of the projctions? Of course not. But you couldn’t see details of Wishes from afar, either. I guess the only real variable is how high they are now shooting the fireworks. From the live feed, they looked as high up there as ever.

    So, unless Disney Magic moved buildings, or they don’t pipe in the music to Poly Beach, it is logical to think the view or sound from there isn’t any different now.

    • With Wishes, it really didn’t matter whether you were close to the castle or not. The story was told with the fireworks and the castle just changed color. You could enjoy Wishes from different angles whether at MK or the resorts and not miss anything. HEA is different in that you need to be inside MK facing the castle to enjoy the full effect. If you’re outside MK, I just hope there are enough fireworks so that you can enjoy it anyway.

    • It is my understanding from others on Lines that the music has not been around at the Poly beach for a little while, at least when it was still Wishes.

  • It was amazing… but not the same connection as Wishes. With Wishes it was a great finale to a day spent in the parks. Everyone can make a wish… not everyone feels like a hero or has a happily ever after but seeing your kids connect the idea of making a wish was magic. Disney doesn’t have to go all out to make us feel special.. I wish they could have kept that.

    • I totally agree. Unlike Jiminy Cricket, the narrator doesn’t make me feel any connection to the show whatsoever. I don’t even know who he is! Also, the children singing in Wishes made me feel that youthful sense of wonder and magic that makes WDW such a happy and wonderful place to be. The new show seems like little more than a showy spectacle of technology and glitz.

      • The narrator is Jeremy Irons, well-known actor, voice of Scar from Lion King, and previous narrator of Spaceship Earth (before Judi Dench replaced him with the kindergarten-teacher version).

  • by Daffystardust on May 13, 2017, at 9:27 am EST

    I am a grumpy old man who wishes there were a couple more songs from before the Renaissance. There were literally 2 songs included with any connection to Walt that had any lyrics sung and they lasted probably a grand total of 10 seconds between them. Meanwhile there were 2 songs featured from Tarzan. Tarzan, ladies and gentlemen.

  • We watched from home and the whole family LOVED it. The only question my kids kept asking afterward was… “Where was Mickey?” Did we miss him?

  • I didn’t care for it. The hub is going to be packed because you really need to see the images projected on the castle to appreciate it. Fireworks were not necessary as they didn’t really tell a story. And the songs and images were a mish-mosh like they had to add in all these movies. And Hunchback getting its own private song? That was weird. The technology is amazing but I thought poorly executed.

    • So much going on at once that I felt a sensory overload. It seemed like too much mashed together so fast that I didn’t feel any flow from one thing to the next. While the colors were beautiful, I felt somewhat exhausted at the end by everything they threw at us!

    • by Larry Ziegler on May 14, 2017, at 10:26 pm EST

      Just finished watching the new fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom
      and I was totally disappointed compared to wishes. We had the whole family
      there including my mother-in-law !!! We were all silent after the show
      Then everyone starting saying how disappointed they were. Everyone said
      there was no emotional connection like wishes gave you. PLEASE BRING BACK WISHES!!

  • I have many of the same concerns after watching the feed. The projection technology is amazing but I’m not sure they’ve found the right way to use it in a narrative. It also seems like it renders the fireworks an afterthought. Online it definitely felt like less fireworks than in Wishes.
    Hopefully they take a page from Disneyland’s 60th and create additional projection viewing areas because the hub was already crazy packed, and that was with being able to enjoy Wishes from Beast’s castle, O’hana, etc.

  • by Ruth Woodhouse on May 13, 2017, at 2:52 pm EST

    Not sure if this is a silly question – but does Tinkerbell still fly from Cinderella’s castle at the beginning of the show?

  • Wish Disney would of had Mickey and or Walt in the show.

  • Is it difficult to get a spot in front of the castle if we’re on scooters? We have real ambulatory problems and will be dining at the front of the park (Tony’s) around 7, so we may not find a spot close enough by the time the show begins. Guess we’ll be in good shape for the parade, though.

    • If you mean the night time parade, there isn’t one any longer. 🙁

    • Anyone on a scooter, wheelchair, or under 5’7″ will have a terrible time seeing the projection show unless they are in front of a fence where nobody can stand in front of them. Of course you can see the fireworks in the sky bit that is it.

  • We watched from Grand Floridian last night- we obviously couldn’t see the projections but we thought the fireworks were absolutely amazing- unlike any fireworks we had seen before!

  • I consider Happily Ever After a replacement for Celebrate the Magic as opposed to a Wishes replacement. Wishes used beautiful music, interwoven with fireworks to evoke nostalgia and emotion. The castle changed colors and you could experience the show from many places, not just the Hub. It was subtle and haunting. You remembered the song from Wishes long after it was done.

    Happily Ever After is a projection show with a lot of cool fireworks, lasers, and spotlights. It’s a good show but lacks emotion and is impossible for kids and short people to see from Main Street. I have a sad feeling that Disney is going to overuse the projection technology and substitute it for beautiful night parades, story telling, and music. Just like They over used movies and video at Epcot too and almost all the original attractions there are either gone or are forgettable and bad. Wishes, Illuminations, Spectro Magic, The Main Street Electrical Parade, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, to name a few lasted a very long time because they are, or were great. Truly great. Wishes was great, this new show is not, even though everything about it is technologically better.

    • Well said. The new song is not memorable in the way that the music in Wishes was. I really miss the voices of children. That, and hearing Jiminy Cricket, is what tugged at my heart and made me feel the magic of Disney. Wishes wasn’t flashy and fast. It was a beautiful way to end a day at the MK.

  • Not sure if some opinions are based on being there or watching the stream, but as I watched it from the garden in front of the Plaza Restaurant, I can confirm the show was stunning and much more beautiful than it looks on the feed. There’s a lot going on and I will want to re-visit many times to take it all in. The integration of projections, lights, fireworks and music worked magic and there were times when the huge crowd around us fell almost silent, as if to make a noise would spoil what was coming next – for sure, to strike dumb that many excited people is a major achievement!
    Just like watching the feed, watching from a distance will be inferior to being close, but then I never complained when I watched from the Contemporary with its completely skewed perspective on the fireworks that I pretended wasn’t a problem (which it was!).
    If you’re still wedded to Wishes, I suppose nothing is going to change your mind, but it was dated and no longer ambitious. Walt never saw the finished MK, never mind imagining Wishes, however I believe it’s in the spirit of what he created and how he himself was always wanting to try new things, that the new show is pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Whether you like the new show or not (seen as it was meant to be seen and not from over a mile away at The Polynesian please!) it’s all just a matter of taste and bias.
    In my view, this is currently the best show WDW has put on. Maybe my opinion will change after 40 or so viewings, as it did with Wishes, but I’m not going to object when Disney next tasks its best resources to bring us something new.
    While I might not lose sight that it was all started with a mouse, that doesn’t mean Mickey has to be in everything!

  • Curious how was the view from the dessert party viewing areas like the Garden or Tomorrowland Terrace. I find from the live feed view that this is something you should watch from a close, non-obstructed view of the castle (especially for kids) because of the projections on the castle.

    • Hi Mauryn, the view from the garden was great. Its raised position relative to the area in front of the castle and that cast members keep a clear walkway in front help a lot, though little ones will need to be near the front of the garden.

      Can’t comment on the view from the Terrace area, though it is a way off to the side, which changes the perspective. Having said that, for smaller ones or those with difficulty standing, it would be a good choice I think.

      It’s definitely going to be better being close up, just as it was with Wishes

  • I’m not a fan. Pales in comparison to Wishes for me. It felt like a jumbled mess and nothing that I’ll ever be sentimental about.

    I’m also coming from a place where I’m not sure why projections were necessary when there’s Once Upon A Time? Or how Once Upon A Time is still necessary now that there is this? How many projection shows are needed in one night? I understand that this one is a “fireworks” show, but like others have said the projections seemed to be the focus and completely distracted me from viewing the fireworks.

    In any event, there is a silver lining for me 🙂 I won’t have to deal with the hub/Main Street chaos while this is going on! I won’t be taking the time to see it on my trips. More time for rides!

  • A lot of people seem to be saying that the new song “isn’t as memorable” as Wishes. In all fairness to the new show – Wishes ran for nearly 14 years. OF COURSE we all know every note of it and have seen it over and over again. But, besides the kids saying “Wishes” again and again, how well did you remember Wishes after seeing it once? I think we’ll all remember the new song just as well as Wishes after, you know, a decade of hearing it.

    • I think people mostly mean that it doesn’t have the same emotional impact on them as the soundtrack from Wishes, not necessarily that they are or aren’t familiar with it after 14 years. I hope that makes sense. Of course after 14 years it is comfortable and familiar, but I and I think many other people felt emotionally connected to Wishes upon first viewing, and I feel like some people this time around, myself included, are having trouble feeling that EMOTIONAL connection. The only moment I can think of that I felt emotionally connected would be the “I Can Go The Distance” segment…and maybe it’s just because I’m a huge Hercules fan 🙂 That all being said, I know many love it and do feel an emotional connection to HEA and that’s great! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and preferences.

  • I have only seen the live feed and watched some other videos from Attractions Magazine and Dis. That said, it appears to me that it is an amazing projection show, and an amazing fireworks show. Together they don’t seem like a multimedia project that is twice as amazing. It seems like two viewings needed: once for each aspect. Whomever directed the live feed seemed to have the same thought. Quite a few of the fireworks were off the screen.

    I did like seeing Wreck it Ralph on the castle. Maybe it means Paint the Night is coming to Magic Kingdom!

  • Wow…. seems that people are being super harsh. I love, love, loved Wishes! and have spent the past 10 years of WDW vacations ending days at Magic Kingdom captivated by it. I was very sad to see it go. I think Happily Ever After is amazing! I feel like they both tell a story, just in a different way. I like the musical scores for both shows. Happily Ever After does some amazing things with the projection mapping and all. I love both of them really. I like to be very open to new things especially in regards to Disney. In my honest opinion the best Disney fireworks show was Villainy in the Sky at Hollywood Studios, but I’m a villains person so yeah. I get the comments about lack of classics and all of that, but I personally am happy with the new show. Haters will always hate I suppose ;D

  • People will whine & complain anytime something new replaces a previous long running show/attraction. It’s human nature and as predictable as could be. It should be taken with a grain of salt.
    I’ve been going to WDW for 3 decades, loved Wishes, but can’t wait to see the new show in person.
    I promise you, when it is eventually replaced, there’ll be a whole new set of people complaining about whatever replaces it.

  • I love the new show but do wish they included some older movies, at least Cinderella since it’s her castle!

  • For those who were disappointed with the live stream (as I was), please withhold judgment until you experience it live. This show is not a fireworks display but is a theatrical event! Also, location, location, location matters! We typically stand about 100 feet directly behind the Partner’s statue where the tracks meet. Here we are completely enveloped in the sound and our peripheral vision takes in every aspect of the show. It is worth the wait. What a spectacle!!