Welcome to another Disney Top 5. Fall is definitely upon us here in New York. The leaves are still green on the trees, but the air gets cooler and cooler in the evenings and the sun is setting earlier and earlier each day. Fall means a lot to a lot of people. Apple picking, soccer, falling leaves, and all the cafes and donut places that burst the annual pumpkin flavors help put summer behind and welcome the season. In this house, late September means more than moms and apple cider, it means it’s time to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year has turned out to be a big year, our 25th. Diane and I celebrated by spending the weekend at a beautiful resort on the east coast of Connecticut. It was definitely surreal being together again after a year and a half at home. We had a great time together relaxing, reconnecting and, quite simply, not thinking about… well… nothing!
Let me tie all of this to my Top 5 Topics for the Week. On our second night sitting outside at the resort’s waterfront grill, we were treated to a terrific fireworks display celebrating the 100th anniversary of the local fire department. Sounds modest and quaint, doesn’t it? Truth be told, it was the longest fireworks display any of us – or any of us dining out that night – had ever seen. Without exaggeration, this show lasted almost 30 minutes. Bigger than any 4th of July show we’ve ever seen. Dare I say it, bigger than a Disney fireworks display? More durable perhaps, but as any Walt Disney World fan knows, there is nothing but Disney fireworks. And it just so happens that this week, the Magic Kingdom said goodbye to one of its most epic fireworks of all time, Happily Ever After.
This article is scheduled for October 1, 2021 – the day Walt Disney World begins its 18-month celebration of the resort’s 50th anniversary. Fireworks and Disney go back a long way. The very first show to light up the sky over the Lagon des Sept Mers took place during the resort’s first month of operation. The Fantasy in the Sky Show premiered on October 24, 1971, shortly after Earth’s most magical place opened on Day 1 of that same month – 50 years ago! Since then, fireworks and Walt Disney World have become almost synonymous. There is hardly anything more iconic than the image of Cinderella’s Castle surrounded by colorful fireworks. It practically defines the place. You go to Disney. You see the fireworks. It’s ubiquitous.
Happily Ever After debuted in the skies above Magic Kingdom on May 12, 2017, replacing the beloved Wishes. Now I absolutely loved Wishes. He will always have a special place in my heart. My wife and I renewed our wedding vows in the Magic Kingdom rose garden right in front of the castle seconds before Wishes started. Talk about Disney magic. Wishes also highlighted Jiminy Cricket. Our best friend Robert was a huge Jiminy fan and when Robert passed away at too young a age Wishes took on a whole new meaning for us. All Diane and I had to do was hear that cricket voice during Wishes and our eyes filled with tears. Needless to say, I was skeptical of Happily Ever After when I heard it was going to replace Wishes. However, the first time I saw it… Happily Ever After has carved out a new place for itself in my heart. Now that it’s supposedly gone for good, let’s take a look at the Top 5 Happily Ever After moments that I’ll miss the most.
5 – The song
I put it at the last spot on my list mainly because, for me, at least, it’s just plain pale compared to the Wishes theme song. My heart literally melted as soon as I heard the first words of Wishes, “Star light, star bright… first star I see tonight.”
If the underlying purpose of going to Disney is to bring you back to the magical innocence of childhood, that moment was as defining as a Disney moment. That said, Happily Ever After, as a song, is definitely more upbeat and certainly has its own magical moments. It’s very Disney, and that’s of course a good thing.
4 – The Narrator
It is apparently not Jeremy Irons who tells the very beginning and the very end of Happily Ever After. I have to be honest, this is not something I have ever thought about or researched until I write this article. I assumed it was him. It made sense. After all, he was Scar in The Lion King and he recounted Spaceship Earth for God’s sake. I was about to speak in the soothing voice of Mr. Irons, but I soon realized that it was not him that was heard before and after the glorious fireworks display. He’s a voice actor named Tom Kane. When you search for Tom’s biography on his page or on IMDB, you will be quite blown away by the career of this gentleman. He’s voiced everyone from Yoda in the Clone Wars animated series to Gandalf the Gray in some Lord of the Rings video games. He even got to play the legendary voice of Hal, Stanley Kubrick’s computer. 2001: A Space Odyssey, for an Apple Super Bowl 2000 commercial, apparently blessed by Kubrick himself. Check out Tom’s website to hear his wide range of voices.
It doesn’t matter who the voice is, the point is, there is something about that voiceover that matches the vibe perfectly. It’s calming. It’s almost royal, but not too stuffy. Tom’s voice really makes you want to experience Happily Ever After and chase your dreams and I will absolutely miss hearing it in the future on this awesome Magic Kingdom sound system.
3 – Over there
I remember very well the first time I experienced Happily Ever After. I refrained from watching videos or reading reviews online. I wanted to be surprised when I saw him. I was accompanying a high school trip to Disney. My daughter Samantha’s good friend, Meg, was traveling. I remember walking into the Magic Kingdom with Meg the first morning. She was searching my brain about all things Disney and I remember telling her that Sam and I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame and were still a little annoyed that he had no representation in the parks at all. I’ll never forget the moment Meg and I both heard the smooth transition from “Part of Your World” to “Out There” during Happily Ever After. We both crossed eyes and shared smiles and I immediately texted my daughter to let her know that I had just experienced a truly magical Disney moment that involved both her and Meg. She didn’t quite understand.
That moment came full circle four months later, on my 50th birthday, watching Happily Ever After with my daughter by my side. We had a great time when we heard this amazing Tom Hulce crescendo “Out There”. It was a wonderful time and a real highlight of the show.
2 – I see the light
Needless to say, I’m a bunch of goo every time we watch Tangled and the lantern scene lights up. this might be my favorite Disney movie moment of all time.
It’s a beautiful thing to see on the big screen and when I first heard it during Happily Ever After and saw Cinderella’s castle covered in lanterns floating softly with this beautiful song playing… a bunch of goo … a big moment.
1 – Go the distance
One of my favorite things about Happily Ever After is the fact that they’ve dug into the treasure trove of Disney movies to showcase some of the lesser-known gems. One of my favorite Disney animated films is Hercules and one of my favorite Disney songs is Go the Distance. You just can’t beat the combination of Mufasa’s image projected onto the castle as the opening notes of “Go the Distance” lift your spirits to heights you never thought possible. I was just delighted that they chose this song for a big finish. It’s one of the best Disney songs, and it’s a fitting finale to such an incredible show.
So, is Happily Ever After really gone forever? He seems to be. Disney has publicly called this week the show’s final performance. Sometimes Disney has a way to bring back shows and we’ll just have to wait and see how well Disney Enchantment, its replacement for the 50th anniversary and beyond, really turns out to be. I’m excited and upbeat for Enchantment, but I will definitely miss Happily Ever After, in the same way I missed Wishes.
That is all for this time. As always, I would like to know what you have to say. Click on the link below. Let me know your favorite Happily Ever After moments. Stay safe and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.