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Happily Ever After is Disney’s Best Nighttime Show in Years. But Will It Stand The Test of Time?

When Disney announced that Wishes was ending, fans were crushed. Though this show certainly had a good run for over a dozen years, it became quite the favorite and sentimental fans packed the park earlier this week to say one last farewell to this long-running show.

However, now that Wishes is no more, Happily Ever After has finally made its big debut, and we can confidently say that this show is quite unlike its predecessor, relying heavily on projection technology to help viewers connect with what is an unexpectedly emotional show. You can check out a video of the first-ever performance of this new nighttime spectacular below:

While its tue that the show doesn’t have a lot in common with Wishes, it does a great job of connecting with guests' emotional connection to the characters and stories Disney is famous for. And while Disney has introduced three other nighttime spectaculars in the last year (Once Upon a Time, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, and Rivers of Light), Happily Ever After is definitely the best of the best. And here’s why:

Projection and pyro

Image: Disney

As was revealed previously, Happily Ever After is unique as it seamlessly blends projection and pyrotechnics. Some complained that this development makes this show too much like One Upon a Time (the projection show that directly precedes this nighttime spectacular), and to some degree, the criticism is fair, as this new show feels a lot like a sequel of sorts to the show before it, as there are tons of film clips that bring the castle to life, and there are definitely themed "segments" that emphasize certain characters and themes. 

However, this show also has quite a bit of pyrotechnic power, which makes it feel way more immersive than Once Upon a Time. While Once Upon a Time feels a bit like you're watching a movie on Cinderella Castle, Happily Ever After has plenty of special effects that bring the action into the audience, and of course the thrill of fireworks going off in the distance cannot be matched. 

Image: Disney

The mix of pyrotechnics and projections of course isn't new, as Disney's Hollywood Studios has been employing this technique for a year now as part of the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular show. However, while that show feels a bit disconnected (in part due to the far away placement of the pyrotechnics), Happily Ever After does a great job of seamlessly blending the action on the castle with the explosions for some really dramatic effects. One of the most memorable moments in the entire show is when Ping lights a firework from the window of Cinderella Castle and then a blast seems to shoot right on up from the castle itself. It's a thrilling moment, and highlights how projections and pyrotechnics should work together to create memorable experiences. 

Long lost friends

Image: Disney

A common complaint when it comes to new Disney attractions is the focus on newer Disney characters, like those from Frozen, Tangled, and even the recent Star Wars films. However, Happily Ever After pulls from deep within the Disney archive, showcasing clips from under-represented Disney films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog, and even Hercules. If you're a fan of some of the less popular Disney films, this show is certainly an unexpected treat. 

However, though there were plenty of things we liked about this show, there are a few things that we think could be improved as well... 

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