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Mike Scopa

Happy Birthday Wishes

The Magic Kingdom still seeing fireworks

Friday, October 15, 2004
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer

“Star light, star bright
First star I see tonight
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight
We'll make a wish
And do as dreamers do
And all our Wishes, all our Wishes
All our Wishes will come true.”

Mark Goldhaber was right. The Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular Wishes is very much a keeper. A few weeks back I popped my brand new Wishes CD into my CD player and I was immediately transformed back to the Magic Kingdom. It has been one year since Wishes made its debut in Walt Disney World on October 9, 2003 and in this session we take a look at this outstanding fireworks display on its first birthday.

Son of Fantasy in the Sky

I remember going to Walt Disney World in 1976, the year that Fantasy in the Sky made its debut. Back in the 1970s Walt Disney World was basically the Magic Kingdom—no Epcot, no MGM Studios, no Animal Kingdom, no Downtown Disney, and certainly no Pleasure Island.

When Fantasy debuted some 28 years ago, it was also the inaugural flight of Tinkerbell from atop Cinderella Castle. Have you ever noticed that we never get a good look of Tink until she's about 10-20 feet from the castle? There's a reason for that: “Forced perspective” where the windows on multistoried buildings in Disney theme parks are built on a smaller scale to give the impression that the buildings are actually taller than their actual height.

The same goes for Cinderella Castle. We never will see Tink perched on a castle window ledge. Tink is a pixie, she is always supposed to be tiny. On a castle window ledge she would look far larger than a pixie—in fact she would probably dwarf the window.

Not only does Tink continue her duty of opening up the Magic Kingdom fireworks with a flight from the castle, but also with an enhanced multicolored costume and lighted wings.

Show info

Wishes is quite larger than Fantasy and about five minutes longer than its predecessor.

According to Disney, Wishes is the largest fireworks display to date that has ever been shown at the Magic Kingdom. When I watched video on the show, I counted more than 600 shells going off in approximately 12 minutes—that's at least 50 shells a minute—quite a sight.

So who created Wishes? As Mark told us a year ago, there were several key people responsible for this magical display:

• Steven Davison is the show creator and director. He is also creative director with Walt Disney Creative Entertainment

• Eric Tucker designed the fireworks. You may have seen his work before—at IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot.

• Steve Skorija is the music director for Wishes. He is also music director for Walt Disney Entertainment and has his hand in all musical productions for Walt Disney World.

• Gregory Smith serves as composer and arranger for the musical score to Wishes. Smith has also worked on other Walt Disney World productions such as Mickey Mania at the Magic Kingdom and Illuminations 25 at Epcot.

These four gents are responsible for giving guests quite a lasting memory.

The show's principle narrators are Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, but they are not alone. We hear about Wishes from many other well-known Disney characters. I think one of the amazing aspects of the show is that although not all of the voice talent is made up of the original character voices, they certainly sound like them.

The original theme of Wishes is based on the children's nursery rhyme “Star Light, Star Bright,” and child soloist Charity Farris starts off the program with her rendition of it.

From that point on, the musical score calls upon a dozen songs first heard in 10 Disney animated films—and you will likely recognize each one.

Lessons from Sorcery in the Sky

When I first saw Wishes, I immediately thought of Disney-MGM Studios' Sorcery in the Sky, which I first saw in 1990. It combines low-level fireworks with famous movie themes and songs. The choreography involved made Sorcery a very popular attraction. When Fantasmic arrived at MGM, Sorcery was packed away, to be only on shown special nights—mostly holiday evenings. If you ever plan on being at MGM when Sorcery is shown, you will experience some of the highest crowd levels of the year. That's how popular this show has become.

I cannot help but think that some of the lessons learned for that show were incorporated and improved for Wishes.

Lights, action, music

The fireworks used in Wishes are launched from several places around the Magic Kingdom, including the rooftops of the Fantasyland dark rides. This approach results in a more robust performance and makes for some outstanding effects.

One thing you'll notice about Wishes is the concentration of the shells at times which make for some brilliant displays.

Another important component of this show, which showcases Cinderella Castle, is the use of colors and images on this Magic Kingdom icon. During the performance, the castle takes on the mood of the music—bright and cheerful colors for those happy moments and ominous colors for scary ones. You also see images projected onto the castle. I won't spoil it for you, but when you get a chance to see Wishes for the first time, be sure to have a good view of the castle (especially the bottom half).

It's the combination of choreography of the fireworks, colors and images that can result in an emotional reaction to this show.

How to watch Wishes

If you've ever seen Fantasy in the Sky at the Magic Kingdom you probably have your own special spot to watch them. However, for Wishes it's important to note that the focal point for the show is Cinderella Castle. I have three favorite spots from which I like to watch Wishes:

• Approximately 50 yards from the Partners statue, which places you at the tip of Main Street, U.S.A. From this spot you can see all fireworks, be in full view of the castle and in close proximity to some well hidden speakers.

• The upper Rose Garden to the right of Cinderella Castle on the bridge to Tomorrowland. This spot gives you a very good view of the castle and is close to some speakers. I also like it because it takes you out of the egress lanes—more of that later.

• The lower Rose Garden on the lower lever near the Plaza restaurant to the right of the castle. Not that many people watch from this point. Note that the angle of the fireworks is different here. You will notice that the fireworks will be more to the right of the castle instead of behind it. If you want to be away from the crowd this is the spot for you.

When watching this spectacular, it's important to also listen to the blending of music to the spoken words. Many guests are there to see the fireworks, but this is much more than just a fireworks show.

Zoning with Wishes

The first time I saw Wishes my reaction was neutral at best. I wasn't sure if I liked it. There was a good reason for that. First for almost three decades I was a fan of Fantasy in the Sky and now it was being replaced. One of the first attractions to have ever introduced me to the concept of being in a Disney Zone was gone and I was in denial.

I also didn't understand something very important—how to watch this show. When you watch Wishes you need to be a sponge and absorb everything around you. Empty your mind and open up your ears, your eyes and your heart.

Don't make the mistake of leaving too soon. There are nine individual pieces to this show and each one should be given your attention.

As the show nears its end, we hear Jiminy Cricket announcing the return of the Blue Fairy, which is soon followed by the children's chorus of “Star Light, Star Bright.” This portion of the show is titled “A Wish Triumphant,” and it's at this point that I really being to start to enter the Disney Zone. Many of the songs, words and music work toward tugging at our emotions and the finale will really touch those of you who are true Disney fans.

The Wishes finale is truly something, but what many guests fail to do is enjoy the song following it. Those who remain and gaze upon Cinderella Castle are rewarded with an amazingly haunting and melancholy rendition of Wishes performed by Michele Lindhahl and David Wise.

At the show's finale (and sometimes beforehand) many guests start their mad dash toward the front of Main Street, U.S.A. I feel sorry for these guests because their sprint to the front of the park causes them to miss the full Wishes package. Sure you can try to beat the crowd to the monorail, but you will deny yourself the amazing atmosphere.

As the song finishes, the castle is covered with a blue background filled with stars and a crescent moon until the stars and, finally, the moon slowly disappear into the night.

Hand me a tissue.

The message from Wishes is clear:

“We must never stop believing in our Wishes, for they are the true magic in the world. Wishes can come true when we just believe with all our heart.”

So follow your heart… make a wish… and let your special magic begin!”

I'm with Mark. It is a keeper.

Happy birthday Wishes!

Next time

It's time to look at a few Disney-related sites. We'll look at a young Disney Community site, visit a place in the Internet that may help you make someone's visit to Walt Disney World a bit special, and then take a lighthearted look at a site that you might find quite entertaining. Hopefully some of these will end up in your Favorites.

Class dismissed.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.


Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.


Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”


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