Once Upon A Time is a new castle projection show in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The show debuted in November 2016 at Magic Kingdom Park and replaced the fairly popular Celebrate the Magic. Once Upon A Time usually shows once per night, either before or after Wishes depending on park hours for the day. This review will include my thoughts on the show as well as some strategy on how to fit it in to your touring plan.
Once Upon A Time debuted at Tokyo Disneyland a few years ago. Because of the emphasis the Tokyo Resort generally puts on theme and story it should come as no surprise that Once Upon A Time easily exceeds it’s predecessor in terms of plot. Celebrate the Magic was a fun show to watch but nothing more than that in terms of following a storyline. Once Upon A Time is more than just something to look at.
Now that’s not to say the plot is anything intricate. Mrs. Potts and Chip (of Beauty and the Beast fame) narrate this show that bounces in and out of classic Disney songs and moments. Chip is off to bed but needs a bedtime story to go to sleep too. Like most children, Chip turns out to be a pretty good staller as Mrs. Potts tells quite a few stories before wishing her son, and park guests, goodnight.
A few of the stories told are Cinderella, Peter Pan, Frozen, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, and Beauty and the Beast. Some of these stories are vignettes into the movie while others are quick plot summaries of the whole thing. All of these tales have a song from the film accompanying them. If you’ve been to Magic Kingdom before but never seen this show think of it as a mixture between Wishes and Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
Most of my thoughts on this show are positive. I found the projections on the castle to be very clear and stunning. Comparing this back to Celebrate the Magic, I found Once Upon A Time to be much more aesthetically pleasing and innovative.
The Winnie the Pooh section of the show was fantastic and just the right amount of weird. Beauty and the Beast was beautiful and more subtle to match the soundtrack. I also really loved the finale that summarized the whole show really well and picked what seemed like the best seconds of each vignette. I also enjoyed the original score that was paired to the classic Disney songs.
While most scenes that in Once Upon A Time were about a minute to a minute and a half, the Frozen section was probably double that and therein lies my only complain with the show. I guess it should come as no surprise anymore when Frozen segments take more time than others. This has happened before in nighttime shows with Disneyland Forever and World of Color – Celebrate. But, seeing as how we’re more than 3 years removed from the release of the film, I was surprised to see this still happening. While I’m complaining I should clarify that this doesn’t isn’t a huge issue within the show. I think the length of the Frozen section slightly affects the pacing of Once Upon A Time. The vignette fits the rest of the show, it’s just simply a little bit too long.
Overall though, the show is a nice upgrade over Celebrate the Magic. The projections are nothing short of astounding and the story is a great way to envelop classic Disney stories into one show.
As far as where to watch the show, I think that depends on the timing of Once Upon A Time. If the projections are before Wishes (and you want to watch both) then I’d recommend standing a little ways behind the Partners Statue headed towards the castle. Main street has a slight incline and if you pay attention you can feel it as you walk. Right as you enter the main hub you can feel the incline, stop right when you reach the top of it and watch both shows from there. This is our go-to spot for Wishes. If Once Upon A Time is before Wishes and you don’t have a big group then lining up about 15 minutes before the show should work. If you’re at the parks during an especially busy time then add another 15 minutes to that estimation.
If Once Upon A Time is after Wishes, go just past the Partners Statue and watch it from there. Since there is no need to see above or beyond the castle, getting closer is no issue. I don’t think the show is worth watching in one spot and then having to move back for Wishes. But if Wishes is first then there is no harm in moving up since there will be fewer people that stick around for Once Upon A Time. Even if you aren’t watching Wishes and want to see Once Upon A Time (and Once Upon A Time is after Wishes in this scenario) then just wait until the fireworks are done and book it towards the castle. You shouldn’t need to be more than 10 minutes early unless the park is packed. If you have any questions about other places to stand please let me know in the comments. As long as you are on Main Street you should have some view of the show.
Once Upon A Time is an excellent addition to Magic Kingdom and one that shouldn’t be missed. The show combines top-notch projection technology and solid storytelling, making it’s Magic Kingdom debut extremely successful.