Happily Ever After – the analysis.

I’ve often said that the day would come where the Magic Kingdom would stop doing separate fireworks and projection shows, and merge them together. That day finally came.

And it was glorious.

Disney has been producing fireworks shows since 1958 and projection mapping shows for the last 6 years. I believe everything led them to this. But replacing a 13-year-old fireworks show wasn’t going to be easy. In the face of their west coast and international counterparts, they had to bring a new kind of nighttime magic, and do it in a way that was more Disneyland Forever and less Once Upon a Time Tokyo.

The end result was a show right in the ranks of Disneyland Forever; if anything, dare I say, they outdid DLF just a tad. The sky, and the castle, were lit up in ways no Disney World guest ever saw. Seriously, there was just enough aerials to satisfy (though there’s room for a few more), and there was some very creative use of the ground (rooftop and castle) pyro. The technological hardware upgrades were what really won me over. Actual lasers, more skylights than I ever thought possible, and lighting in the trees and (gasp) in the water fountains.

The music – wow. If the tone of “Wishes” was intended to be grand, with an air of legacy and grace, the tone of “Happily Ever After” can only be described as aggressively, powerfully epic. Let me use the intro as an example – after that lovely fanfare, it starts small, as if a child is learning to crawl. By the time it hits to the second stanza, it feels like the child is walking (with impressive dance moves by the skylights), and when we hit the full force – “The story comes alive!” – we’re beyond running, and just flying. That’s how you start a show. In addition, the possibilities a 75-piece orchestra could do with Disney songs are endless, and there was no way we were expecting them to Kidz Bop this project. But I never expected to have a different outlook on “Love is an Open Door”. Folks, it was that good.

I’ll be honest, it took a while to gravitate to Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer as the lead singers instead of a precociously cute child, but with time, I adjusted. The composers of the title song, Adam Watts and Andy Dodd, originally worked on it for Hong Kong Disneyland, but reworked it for use here, with help from Melissa Peirce. If you don’t know who Andy and Adam are, just know they were responsible for Disneyland 60’s “Live the Magic”.

One of my concerns in my last post was the flow of the show. After the year of “Frozen” – “Let it Go” ad nausem in every current nighttime spectacular – who wouldn’t be concerned? But it looks like those fears have been put to rest once and for all. If we take a look at the general making of featurette, we would realize we already knew the breakdown of the show all along; we just didn’t know who would be represented. And each segment was introduced by a specific yet appropriate character. Tiana introduced Dreams, Merida introduced Adventure, Aladdin with Friendship, Olaf with Love, the Emperor of China with Adversity, and Mufasa with Triumph. The arrangement of music helped the flow immensely. And the character selection – talk about a cavalcade. For a second, we remembered “A Bug’s Life” existed. Tarzan made a (pardon the pun) “trashing” comeback. Quasimodo rang those bells so loud, I wouldn’t be surprised Hulu got a headache with the amount of extra views “Hunchback” will get. And what mattered to me most, if only a few seconds, I got my Baymax.

I also mentioned that one of the other things I was unsure about was a framing device, but it turns out we have it here too. Not a specific character, but a philosophy attached to a quote by Walt – “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” All the characters we saw in that spectacular had a desire of their own, and whether we saw their journey in full or not, we knew they made it happen. And at the end, it drove home one important point – what some could see as a proverbial diss to the outgoing fireworks show – just wishing isn’t enough to find your happily ever after. You have to chase your dreams, reach out for them, grab them and hold on to them, for only then can you unlock your own magic and will them to happen. The power is yours. (Thanks, Captain Planet)

So, let’s cut to the quick. I loved it. For its message, the characters represented, and for the tools they used – fireworks, projections, lights, lasers – to drive it home. It’s true, Wishes can’t be replaced, nor will it ever be. But Happily Ever After will win you over with a style all its own…if you let it.

Your move, Universal.

PS – I’ve seen this show 4 times now. And I regret nothing.

Written by: MP

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