Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Magic Kingdom's 'Happily Ever After' Firework Show

By Rebekah Coley

Before the new Magic Kingdom fireworks show, Happily Ever After, made its debut this May, many wondered if it would live up to its predecessor. Check out today’s new article by contributing writer Rebekah Coley to hear her thoughts on this new nighttime extravaganza...

When the retirement of WDW’s long-running fireworks show, Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams, was announced, (most) fans wrung their hands in despair. What could possibly follow up such a beloved creation? What show could give the same satisfactory goosebumps that everyone experienced hearing “Go the Distance” or watching Tinkerbell literally fly from the castle? After all, these fireworks had a long-running time for a reason. It was excellent. Thanks to its lifespan, many a Disney fan came to associate this show with countless trips, and even life-changing events. And yet, despite that, the sister parks in California and overseas were finding great success with nighttime entertainment that not only tugged at our heart strings, but pushed technical boundaries further than ever before. It was the Magic Kingdom’s turn to catch up.

Personally, while I also loved Wishes, I couldn’t help but feel that WDW enhancements were taking a backseat in the non-seasonal entertainment department. Although it was not my favorite, I was somewhat perturbed when the Main Street Electrical Parade was sent across the country. (I mean, the CA parks had just enjoyed a slew of 60th anniversary nighttime spectaculars.) Nevertheless, when the new fireworks show, Happily Ever After, announced its debut for May 12th, not everyone was convinced it would be a success. The supposed enhanced replacement would feature castle projections, an original score, and a massive collection of films from Moana to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Would the ambitious vision pay off?

Spoiler Alert: Happily Ever After exceeded my expectations beyond my wildest dreams. If I simply stated, “This show is the beautiful child of Wishes and the recently departed, Celebrate the Magic”, that would be an accurate summary. Allow me to embellish though …

For a show that was set to feature so many stories and so many technical effects, it is amazing that the final product turned out to be cohesive, and frankly, heart-wrenching. The show’s theme song, sung by artists Angie Kellihauer and Jordan Fisher, may have been borrowed from Hong Kong Disneyland’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, but make no mistake about it – everything else in this production rings of originality and sincerity. Although Happily Ever After doesn’t have much of a storyline besides the narrator encouraging you to “follow dreams”, each segment walks the audience through a fulfilled life. These chapters include: Figuring out what you long for, forming meaningful relationships (romantic and otherwise), facing your fears, and embracing who you are. And all of these pieces are told beautifully through each of the various show elements.

First of all, the soundtrack is without compare. The songs selected from the 20+ featured films weave into one another seamlessly at an appropriate pace. Unlike recent fireworks shows, the playlist features many underrated tunes, and not just the easy fan-service songs like “Let It Go” or “A Whole New World”. (Personally, I’m all for shows that feature Tarzan’s music over Frozen.) One could argue that the tracks cater to 90s kids, but the overall selections truly touch upon multiple generations. As an official soundtrack has not been released, you’ll notice that countless fans have been uploading their own versions to YouTube. (We are all striving to perfect the audio… just give us the MP3 file Disney!)

Artists Jordan Fisher and Angie Kellihauersing sing the Happily Ever After theme song featured in the show.

Secondly, while Disney coined the practice of coordinating music to firework bursts, Happily Ever After also benefits from the use of lasers, spotlights, and gorgeous projections on the castle. The only downside to the projections is that there are so many, the show warrants multiple viewings just to catch 45% of the visuals. On a positive note, if you snag a great viewing location or scour YouTube, you can appreciate how the cut scenes were so artfully selected. I don’t want to spoil the key moments, but one particular section features shots of various characters breaking down before their victories. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t choke back tears every time.

Simply put, I can’t give enough praise for how much this show pleased me as a fan and maybe even reignited my passion as an adult visitor. Sometimes it’s harder to maintain the magic when prices increase, or visits are postponed due to life hurdles. And it’s harder still to maintain the magic when I don’t feel like Disney is keeping up their end of the bargain. However, I can report that Happily Ever After is an inspiring masterpiece that will continue to remind me, and certainly many others, why one visit is never enough. Bravo.

If you don’t have a current visit booked or just can’t imagine waiting to enjoy this spectacular and haven't done so already, you can watch the full show in the video below. Happy Viewing!


Rebekah Coley is a Pittsburgh native who has been obsessing over Disney films (and the corporation in general) for her entire life. Starting with a childhood of constantly dressing up in princess costumes, memorizing songs, and watching the newest Disney VHS tapes on repeat, her love and passion for Disney magic has not faded over time.

In addition to loving the most popular Disney movies, Rebekah has a soft spot for underrated works that didn’t receive the same fanfare (e.g. A Goofy Movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.) It is a passion of hers to remind other fans of their existence and excellence.

By day, Rebekah works in professional development and holds a Bachelors degree in Human Resources Management from Point Park University. By night, she performs in community theater musicals, reads and exercises compulsively, and strives to stay on top of any Disney-related news. As a lover of entertainment, Rebekah’s blogs focus on reviewing Disney’s theme park productions, stage adaptations, films, and books.

You can find additional examples of Rebekah’s work on her personal blog- https://toeachhisownblog.wordpress.com/.

You can find all of Rebekah's articles here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great review, I am looking forward to seeing it when I go in Feb 2018.