My Disney Top 5 -Moments I'll Miss from Happily Ever Afterby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. Fall is certainly upon us here in New York. The leaves are still green on the trees, but the air is getting crisper and cooler in the evenings and the sun sets earlier and earlier each day. Fall means lots of things to lots of people. Apple picking, football, falling leaves and every coffee shop and donut place breaking out the yearly pumpkin flavors all help to put the summer behind and welcome in the season. In this house, late September means more than mums and apple cider, it means it's time to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This year happened to be a big one, our 25th. Diane and I celebrated by spending the weekend at a beautiful seaside resort on Connecticut's eastern shoreline. It was definitely surreal being away together again after the last year and a half of being home. We had an amazing time together relaxing, reconnecting and, quite simply, not thinking about…well…anything!
Allow me to tie this all in to my Top 5 topic of the week. On our second night sitting outside at the resort's waterside grill, we were treated to a tremendous fireworks show celebrating the 100th year of the local fire department. Sounds modest and quaint doesn't it? Truth be told, this was the longest fireworks show either of us - or any of us dining outside that night - had ever experienced. No exaggeration, this show went on for close to 30 minutes. Bigger than any Fourth of July show we've ever seen. Dare I say it, bigger than a Disney fireworks show? Longer lasting perhaps, but as any Walt Disney World fan knows, there's nothing else quite like a Disney fireworks show. And it just so happens that this week, the Magic Kingdom said goodbye to one of its most epic fireworks shows ever, Happily Ever After.
This article is scheduled to run on October 1, 2021 - the day that Walt Disney World begins its 18-month-long celebration of the resort's 50th anniversary. Fireworks and Disney go back a long way. The very first show to light up the skies over the Seven Seas Lagoon took place during the first month of the resort's operation. The Fantasy in the Sky Spectacular premiered on October 24, 1971, shortly after the most magical place on Earth opened its gates on the 1st day of that very month – 50 years ago! Since then fireworks and Walt Disney World have become almost synonymous with each other. There's almost nothing more iconic that the image of Cinderella Castle surrounded by colorful bursts of 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 much beloved Wishes. Now, I absolutely adored Wishes. It 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 just seconds before Wishes began. Talk about Disney magic. Wishes also prominently featured Jiminy Cricket. Our best friend, Robert was a huge Jiminy fan and when Robert passed away at an all too young age, Wishes took on a whole new meaning to us. All Diane and I had to do was hear that cricket's 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 carved out a new place in my heart. Now that it's purportedly gone for good, let's take a look at the Top 5 Happily Ever After moments that I'll miss most.
5 - The Song
I put this in the last spot on my list mostly because, to me, at least, it just pales in comparison to the Wishes theme song. My heart would literally melt as soon as I heard the opening strains of Wishes, "Star light, star bright…first star I see tonight."
If the underlying purpose of going to Disney is to return yourself to the magical innocence of childhood, that moment was as defining a Disney moment as any. 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, of course, is a good thing.
4 - The Narrator
That's apparently not Jeremy Irons narrating the very beginning and the very end of Happily Ever After. I have to be honest, it's not something I ever thought about or looked up until I wrote this very article. I assumed it was him. It made sense. After all, he was Scar in The Lion King and he narrated Spaceship Earth for goodness sake. I was going to talk about Mr. Irons soothing voice, but soon realized that it's not him you hear before and after the glorious fireworks show. It's a voice actor named Tom Kane. When you look up Tom's bio on either his page, or on IMDB, you'll be pretty blown away by the career this gentleman has had. He's voiced everyone from Yoda in the Clone Wars animated series to Gandalf the Grey in some Lord of the Rings video games. He even got to portray the legendary voice of Hal, the computer from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, for a 2000 Apple Super Bowl commercial, reportedly with a blessing from Kubrick himself. Check out Tom's website to hear his vast array of voices.
Regardless of who the voice is, the point is that there's something about this particular voiceover that just perfectly fits the mood. It's calming. It's almost regal, but not too stuffy. Tom's voice really makes you want to live Happily Ever After and pursue your dreams and I'll absolutely miss hearing it in the future over that tremendous sound system in the Magic Kingdom.
3 - Out There
I can vividly remember the first time I experienced Happily Ever After. I refrained from watching any videos or reading any reviews online. I wanted to be surprised when I saw it. I was chaperoning a high school trip to Disney. My daughter Samantha's good friend Meg was on the trip. I remember walking into the Magic Kingdom with Meg on our first morning. She was picking my brain about all things Disney and I remember saying to her that both Sam and I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame and were always a little annoyed that it no longer had any representation in the parks at all. I'll never forget the moment that night when Meg and I both heard the seamless transition from "Part of Your World" into "Out There" during Happily Ever After. We both locked eyes and shared smiles and I immediately texted my daughter to tell her that I just had 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 shared quite a moment when we heard that extraordinary soaring Tom Hulce "Out There" crescendo. It was a wonderful moment and was a true highlight of the show.
2 - I See The Light
It goes without saying that I'm a pile of goo whenever we're watching Tangled and the lantern scene comes on. it might be my favorite Disney movie moment of all time.
It's a beautiful thing to behold on the big screen and when I heard it for the first time during Happily Ever After and saw Cinderella Castle covered in gently floating lanterns with that beautiful song playing…pile of goo…big time.
1 - Go The Distance
One of my favorite things about Happily Ever After is the fact that they dug into Disney's treasure trove of films 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 being projected on the castle as the opening notes of "Go the Distance" lifts your spirits to heights you didn't think possible. I was just thrilled that they chose this song for big finish. It's one of Disney's best songs and it's a fitting finale to such an amazing show.
So, is Happily Ever After really gone forever? It does appear to be. Disney has publicly referred to this week as the final performance of the show. Sometimes Disney has a way of bringing shows back and we'll just have to wait and see just how amazing Disney Enchantment, its replacement for the 50th anniversary and beyond, really turns out to be. I'm excited and optimistic for Enchantment, but I'll definitely miss Happily Ever After, much the same way I have missed Wishes.
That's all for this time. As always, I'd 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.