Magic Kingdom has a new nighttime show- Happily Ever After- which replaced the Wishes fireworks. I have only seen this show twice so far, but here’s my initial take on it.
First, I love the new projection show- the level of technology is off the charts and it shows. There is a focus on characters that are not typically highlighted, including a beautiful song by Tiana to start off, as well as a spot by the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and even Mulan. They also incorporated Moana as one of the newer movies- of course Frozen is in there but only briefly, and this time it's not Let It Go. Olaf appears to tell you some people are worth melting for, and then Love Is An Open Door plays, but Anna and Hans themselves are never seen on the castle and the song has been re-recorded with new singers. I enjoyed the selections of the characters they chose to highlight, though the classic characters, such as Peter Pan and Alice, were missing beyond a few images. There are a few different themes incorporated into the idea of Happily Ever After, ranging from friends/partners (Carl and Russell, Buzz and Woody, Ralph and Vanellope, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde); heroes and villains (Mulan and Shan-Yu, Mr. Incredible and Syndrome, Scar and Simba, Jafar and Aladdin, Maleficent and Prince Philip); and some romantic couples (Eve and Wall-E, Eugene and Rapunzel, Aladdin and Jasmine, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Lady and the Tramp), as well as a host of other characters, including Tarzan, Pirates, Mufasa, and Baloo. My favorite part was the lanterns projection from Tangled during I See the Light- absolutely teared up during this! And Tinkerbell is still around, though her appearance is held for a much more opportune moment. Overall, the projections were on point and the music was engrossing.
There are also some amazing new uses of technology that Disney has started to show off, such as the newer use of lasers as introduced in the Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! holiday show at Hollywood Studios. The lasers have a unique interaction with water (as can now be seen during Rivers of Light in Animal Kingdom), resulting in a breathtaking sparkle- the creator of Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! explained during Destination D in November 2016, that this was a happy accident discovered whilst making it "snow" during the holiday show. I have to say that the laser effects were very well done, adding subtle accents to the projections on the castle, as well as projecting over the guests- at one point creating an under the sea effect. There were also special fireworks created just for the new show, including fireworks shaped as bells, hearts, smiley faces, bugs, and even the spiral from Moana, all placed at perfect intervals during the show to highlight either the music, the character, or both. Clearly this show does not lack attention to detail.
However, this show has become just that- a new nightly show and not necessarily a "fireworks" show, which may be for good or bad, depending on the individual. On my first viewing, I felt that I was too close to the castle (I was on the back side of the Partners Statue where my back was facing Mickey's and Walt's backs) and was unable to enjoy the fireworks as I was too focused on the castle projections. Upon a second viewing where I positioned myself farther back across the hub (on the corner before the circular portion that holds the Partners Statue), I was able to see more of the fireworks that were happening behind the castle. Now, I made it a point to focus on the fireworks this time, and I did feel that I missed a lot of the projections on the castle because I was trying to see the fireworks. And, while the music is lovely and I’m happy with many of their selections, the individual song tends to go on longer than the projection it is related to, resulting in multiple images happening while one song is playing- such as Cars and Ratatouille being on the castle while Tiana is singing her song.
All of these elements add up to a true nighttime show versus a typical fireworks show, such as Illuminations, which can be seen from most places around the lagoon. With the focus on the castle projections, a view of the castle is more than a must now than it was with Wishes. So, while they expanded the hub to accommodate many people, it also cuts down the other places from where Wishes could once be enjoyed- such as the top of the train station- leading to all of the people filling into the expanded hub and leaving much less room than there once felt like there was after the initial expansion.
With all of these “however”s, I’m still not sure how I rate this show. It does showcase the newest technology with the projections and special fireworks, making great work of each. It also emphasizes some underappreciated characters and music, which I feel is a great way to introduce these things to a younger generation who may have bypassed Hunchback or Mulan. For this alone I am happy with the show. I know that this is one that is to be viewed multiple times before finalizing my opinion, but I would encourage everyone to go and see what this show has to offer and let me know what your thoughts are too!