Sorry, I have to pause before I keep writing, and go wipe my eyes. I’d blame it on allergies, but that would be dishonest. I’m just a crier. It’s not empathetic, or sympathetic. It’s just pathetic. I cry when I see feats of amazing creative endeavors and accomplishments. The opening notes of the overture of every Broadway show I’ve ever seen. Including Spamalot. My three-year old’s dance recital. And pretty much every single moment I’m at Walt Disney World® Resort.
This is why hydration at Walt Disney World® Resort is important. It’s not the humidity. It’s the buckets of happy tears that fall from your face.
One culprit of my embarrassment is the new Magic Kingdom® Park Nighttime Spectacular, Happily Ever After, which opened May 12, 2017. And I was lucky enough to be there that evening!
Whenever Walt Disney World® introduces a new show or attraction, there is a three-step process that guests’ brains go through:
- Denial that the previous attraction is being replaced (some of us are still at this stage about Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride).
- Experiencing the new attraction.
- Accepting change and forgetting you ever dissed the idea of something new.
Happily Ever After replaced the long-running (2003-2017) Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, which had a rabid fan base. Wishes played upon the idea of dreams and, well, wishes. With a random nightmare sequence in the middle. The music was gorgeous, Jiminy Cricket’s narration rang clear and true to all of us dreamers in the crowd, fireworks danced along to the music, accentuated by various hues lighting up Cinderella Castle. On the final evening of Wishes, I stashed myself on the second floor of the Main Street U.S.A. Train Station, looking out on the crowd that had steadily gathered since early that afternoon, all of us singing along to the soundtrack that encompassed many of our Disney Parks formative years.
Everyone knew Happily Ever After would have to be special to have a chance at staking a claim in the hearts of those Wishes fans, who fervently believe the message of the importance of wishes and dreaming. It was pretty clear less than one minute in that Disney was changing its thesis: dreams are great, if we’re brave and bold enough to take the journey, and our happily ever after is waiting for each one of us.
It’s a subtle difference in message, but one which incites action instead of passive dreaming.
A single firework had yet to launch, and I was already crying.
What followed the invocation that evening was a smorgasbord for the senses: familiar music propelling the audience through a litany of their favorite Disney films, now focused on films between 1989-2017; the lighted hues of Wishes replaced with projections from animated films, turning Cinderella Castle into a canvas of unbridled visual imagination; fireworks perfectly timed to both the music and projections; the fireworks’ smoke mixing with lasers to turn the sky into an emotional background. I don’t want to talk about specifics too much because this show is something to experience in person. But I will say that this is on par with the technical intricacy of Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park, except where Rivers of Light is subtle in its beauty and technological advances, Happily Ever After shows off more than a 13-year-old at the skate park. It knows it’s impressive.
I had chosen to view the opening night from the observation deck of California Grill, on the fifteenth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. I wasn’t sure if it was a failure of the show to produce a message that resonated with an audience, or the lack of a cohesive “story” that Wishes had. My fellow Happily Ever After watchers and I began to remark on everyone’s lack of tears (except for me, of course).
And then “Go the Distance” began. We all looked around at each other again, and every single person was crying. And then we all started laughing, because it was HERCULES. WHO CRIES AT HERCULES?!?!
Apparently, everyone in Magic Kingdom® Park that evening.
The overall feeling that first evening after the show, one that hasn’t faded, was hushed awe. We all left the observation deck with our heads held high, determined smiles shining with the glimmer of happy tears on our faces, the narrator’s closing words replaying in our mind:
And so, our journey comes to an end. But yours continues on. Grab ahold of your dreams and make them come true. For you are the key to unlocking your own magic. Now go. Let your dreams guide you. Reach out and find your Happily Ever After.
On a scale of 1-10 Buckets of Happy Tears, Happily Ever After rates a solid 10.
I totally warned you to wait and not spoil yourself. However, human nature probably already has you opening another browser tab to find a video. HERE, I saved you the effort! WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK OF RUINING YOUR KEYBOARD WITH SALTY HAPPY TEARS.
Suggested Viewing Locations for Happily Ever After
Happily Ever After can be viewed from a myriad of places around Magic Kingdom® Park plus several locations around the monorail loop, but I definitely have my favorite spots!
Because Happily Ever After is so dependent on the castle projections to flush out the story, the back half of the Hub, the Plaza Gardens, or Main Street U.S.A. from Casey’s to Uptown Jewelers. Crowds start forming way before showtime, so one way to ensure an epic location is to book a Fireworks Dessert Party! This event includes an all-you-care-to-eat dessert buffet at Tomorrowland Terrace for roughly 75 minutes before Happily Ever After begins, and either a standing view in the hub grass or table seating at Tomorrowland Terrace.
If you do not care about the projections, really hate crowds, or have someone in your traveling party averse to loud noises, my favorite outside the park viewing location is Disney’s Contemporary Resort. If you have a reservation at California Grill (excellent signature dining location with a seasonally rotating menu, two dining credits if you have a Magic Your Way Package Plus Dining or Deluxe Dining), you can see the fireworks from your table, or either the front or back observation deck. The soundtrack is piped in to all three locations.
Pro tip! If you do not have a reservation that coincides with the fireworks, save your receipt and return to the California Grill check-in desk (floor 2) about thirty minutes before fireworks, and you will be able to go up to the observation deck. If you do not have a reservation, limited seating is available at the bar and lounge area, with full menu service.
If you are afraid of heights, the fourth-floor observation deck (opposite Chef Mickey’s is also an excellent, lower elevation option! Note: smoking is allowed on this deck.
Suggested movies and music to familiarize yourself with to fully enjoy the awesomeness
Can you quote the lyrics to The Apple Dumpling Game theme song, name the lead animators on all Disney animated films between 1989 and 2002, and affect a French accent to sing along to “Les Poissons” in The Little Mermaid? Congratulations! You are a bona fide Disney expert and need no preparation.
For the rest of us mere mortals, here’s some Disney homework for you and your family to epically enjoy Happily Ever After.
Presented in alphabetical order to avoid spoilers:
- Peter Pan
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- The Jungle Book
- The Lion King
- The Little Mermaid
- The Princess and the Frog
- Toy Story
Quick! Be brave enough to listen and bold enough to pursue your dreams! Pack your bags (don’t forget the tissues!) and hop the next plane Walt Disney World® Resort! I bet you’ll be able to catch tonight’s showing of Happily Ever After!
If that’s slightly too spontaneous, contact your favorite and awesomest Key to the World Travel® planner right now, and they’ll make sure you don’t miss Happily Ever After on your next Walt Disney World® Resort vacation. And will also remind you to pack the tissues.
All Key to the World Travel® planners are experts and offer the highest level of exemplary customer service. Contact your travel planner to book your vacation, or click here to request a quote today.