By Carlye Wisel
June 09, 2017
Courtesy of Walt Disney World

If you were sad to discover the Wishes, A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams evening fireworks show at Magic Kingdom has “gone into the Disney vault” so to speak, don’t fret. Its replacement, Happily Ever After, doesn’t just live up to the original — it exceeds all expectations.

We knew the projection mapping technology would be major, but boy, does it deliver. When the castle transforms into The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s namesake cathedral, you can easily spot Quasimodo ringing its clock tower bell; even Moana’s wayfinding mission comes alive on the 189-foot tall Cinderella Castle as though it were a movie screen.

Courtesy of Walt Disney World

Still, it’s the thoughtful approach and integration of unexpected songs and characters that has made Happily Ever After one of the best ways to experience your favorite Disney films in the park. That’s because the Magic Kingdom’s new nighttime display operates as multiple shows in one, compiling vignettes from beloved Disney animated films and Pixar favorites into layered scenes, each pairing a thematic song — like the ambition anthem “Touch The Sky” from Pixar’s Brave — with vignettes of like-minded characters, such as Cars’ Lightning McQueen and Carl Fredricksen in his soaring balloon house from Up.

There’s a friendship medley featuring Zootopia, Lion King and The Jungle Book bookended by Aladdin’s “Friend Like Me," and even a heartwarming montage set to You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan. It’s not a Frozen fest, either, as Happily Ever After’s creators chose to highlight ‘90s classics like “Go The Distance” from Hercules in lieu of another family vacation soundtracked by “Let It Go." Frozen does make a limited appearance, but the new Magic Kingdom nighttime entertainment doubles down on deeper cuts, opting instead for a slowed-down rendition of “Love Is An Open Door” that’s nothing short of perfection.

Though most nighttime shows are best when you have a clear view of what’s happening, the fireworks, soundtrack, and castle projections are so in sync that you don’t need to see all three to enjoy the performance. Whether Cinderella Castle appears to be fully engulfed in flames during Simba and Scar’s iconic Lion King battle or the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song roars while firework effects mimic cannonball explosions, you’ll easily feel the essence of both, even if you’re towards the back of Main Street, U.S.A. Don’t curse any trees around the hub blocking your so-called perfect view, either — they’ll come to life at the show’s end with a bit of pixie dust which is a true delight if you’re directly beside them.

A heartstring-tugging, favorite-featuring fireworks show that doesn’t require a perfect vantage point? Disney’s Magic Kingdom has achieved the impossible yet again.