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Let’s Talk About that 50th Nighttime Entertainment

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On my recent trip to Walt Disney World, I got to watch the Beacons of Light show on Spaceship Earth. Somewhat less importantly, I also walked up to Harmonious last minute, and watched the wonder on my kids’ faces as they watched Enchantment. This was the first time that I’d been able to watch either show live. And I’ll admit, I was a little let down.

Personally, I didn’t feel like the spectacle of Harmonious was worth the visual blight of the water tacos all day long in the World Showcase Lagoon. And, yes, Enchantment captured my kids’ attention. But so does Bluey. And squirrels running through our yard. Enchantment had me longing for Happily Ever After instead. Enchantment was a show – Happily Ever After was a story. But while watching both spectacles, there were many “oohs” and “aahs” around me. So am I the anomaly? Thankfully, I can check the data to find out!

The only nighttime entertainment I need, thanks

Explain the Math

After ever Walt Disney World (or Disneyland or Universal or Disney Cruise) vacation, you can fill out the post-visit survey to rate your satisfaction with various dining locations, your resort, attractions and entertainment. For attractions and entertainment, you can rate everything you experienced on a scale of 1 to 5. A 1 would mean that you were very dissatisfied, a 3 would be neutral, and 5 would be highly satisfied.

And bonus – you can rate each attraction differently for each party member type. So we get satisfaction scores for preschoolers, grade schoolers, teenagers, young adults, adults over 30, and seniors. And we can compare all of them to each other, to other attractions, and across time.

So I’ll be looking at things like averages and confidence intervals to determine difference in satisfaction and we’ll see if I’m the anomaly, or if other folks are disappointed in the new nighttime celebrations like I am.

Overall Satisfaction

Magic Kingdom Nighttime Entertainment

Overall average satisfaction for the last year of Happily Ever After and the entire run (so far) of Enchantment

This difference may not look like much, but it’s actually pretty shocking. These confidence intervals are really tight, because we have a lot of satisfaction scores from each version of the nighttime fireworks at Magic Kingdom.

Part of the problem is that Happily Ever After is nearly impossible to beat. There is not a single attraction or entertainment option at Magic Kingdom that scores higher. In fact, the only things that compete with it at Walt Disney World are Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Rise of the Resistance, Toy Story Mania, and Soarin’.

But the other half of the problem is that 4.3 is a pretty mediocre score. It’s on par with things like Meeting Tiana and Rapunzel, Frozen Ever After, or the Adventurer’s Outpost at Animal Kingdom.

EPCOT Nighttime Entertainment

Overall average satisfaction for the last year of Illuminations, the entire run of EPCOT Forever, and the entire run (so far) of Harmonious

At EPCOT we’ve got a very different story to tell. In fact, IllumiNations and Harmonious have statistically very similar satisfaction scores overall. Their confidence intervals overlap, which means that we can’t actually say either is worse or better than the other. The only thing that we can definitively say is that EPCOT Forever was worse than both.

But the lack of any real difference in satisfaction isn’t because Harmonious is spectacular – it’s because, unlike Happily Ever After, IllumiNations didn’t have a great score to begin with. Both IllumiNations and Harmonious score even lower than Enchantment does – so this may be a case of expectations not being met by either show. Things didn’t get worse, but they didn’t improve either.

Satisfaction by Age Group

Maybe the reason I was so disappointed by both is because I’m old. Both new nighttime shows definitely were infused with much more IP. And when I was reflecting on what I disliked about both, I realized that they came across as “TikTok meets Disney Clips meets Technology for Technology’s Sake”. Maybe that style just resonates better with other audiences. In order to test that hypothesis out, I need to compare satisfaction scores by age group.

For the entertainment options at each park, I’m going to present two visualizations. Both of these represent the same data, but I find that different people are better able to interpret different charts, so we’ll talk about each one.

Magic Kingdom Nighttime Entertainment

Average satisfaction by age group for the last year of Happily Ever After and the entire run (so far) of Enchantment

This chart shows the confidence interval for satisfaction with each show among each age group. So we know that the real average falls somewhere in yellow for Happily Ever After and somewhere in blue for Enchantment.

I’m cheating a little with this graph because the progression between age groups isn’t really linear. But I like that the lines tell us a story about how satisfaction is changing with age.

The easiest thing to see here is that every single age group liked Happily Ever After more than Enchantment. Ouch. We also see two pretty different trends. In general, satisfaction with Happily Ever After increased with age. Satisfaction with Enchantment mostly decreases with age. Other than for Seniors.

But we can break this down even further by not looking at averages and instead looking at a chart that visually represents every response!

Satisfaction responses by age group for the last year of Happily Ever After and the entire run (so far) of Enchantment

Now we get a bunch more interesting data side-to-side like this:

  • No age group had 10% or more people that were “neutral” or dissatisfied with Happily Ever After, but all age groups have 10-20% of people “neutral” or dissatisfied with Enchantment
  • All age groups were 70% “very satisfied” or more with Happily Ever After, but all age groups are only between 50 and 60% “very satisfied” with Enchantment.
  • “Dissatisfied” and “Very dissatisfied” are almost invisible on the Happily Ever After chart, but make up between 5 and 10% of responses on the Enchantment chart.

So, I can generalize a little and say that Enchantment has worse scores across all age groups, and it’s generally due to more people being neutral and dissatisfied than they were with Happily Ever After.

EPCOT Nighttime Entertainment

Now let’s look at what is different about the new nighttime entertainment at Harmonious.

Average satisfaction by age group for the last year of IllumiNations and the entire run (so far) of Harmonious

Immediately, we’ve visually got a very different picture than Happily Ever After/Enchantment. There’s no clear winner here, which was to be expected based on the overlapping averages.

But we’ve got some very interesting trends. It’s not that everyone is just as pleased with Harmonious as they were with IllumiNations. Instead, IllumiNations had a very clear upward trend – the older the age group, the more they were satisfied with IllumiNations. Harmonious trades that in for an almost flat satisfaction score across all age groups. That means that preschoolers and grade schoolers and teens tend to like Harmonious more than they liked IllumiNations. While young adults, older adults, and seniors tended to like IllumiNations more than they like Harmonious.

Satisfaction responses by age group for the last year of IllumiNations and the entire run (so far) of Harmonious
  • This view helps us see that steadily increasing satisfaction with the older age groups for IllumiNations (represented by more and more green). But with the Harmonious graph we see the more horizontal green bars.
  • Overall, the area of each shaded color hasn’t changed much. There’s about as much dark green in the second graph as there was in the first, and same for the dark red. The shapes have just redistributed themselves. This tells us that while overall satisfaction is the same, different demographics are definitely interpreting this new show differently.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. Don’t go in to either Harmonious or Enchantment with sky-high expectations. Enjoy the spectacle, and have a little fun.
  2. If you avoided IllumiNations because your kids were bored, you should probably give Harmonious a shot. Lots to look at, and something new to grab attention every minute or two.
  3. But if you’re old like me and miss IlluminNations, I highly recommend avoiding the Harmonious crowd and catching the Beacons of Light shows on Spaceship Earth instead 🙂

Do your opinions of the shows match with your age groups? Were you surprised by any of the results? Any “wishes” you’d make for the future of nighttime entertainment at Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments!

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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

11 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About that 50th Nighttime Entertainment

  • Eh, I liked both IllumiNations and Harmonius. Both with lots of fireworks. I don’t care about whatever story they’re trying to tell. Just give me lots of fireworks and I’m happy.

  • It seems like visitors who haven’t seen Happily Ever After are the most pleased with Enchantment. Like they don’t know what they missed!
    Sometimes when I work I listen to a podcast called “sounds of Disney”. They have an episode with nighttime entertainment and played the music of The Main Street electrical parade, Wishes, Happily Ever After, etc! I’m always nostalgic!

    • Bah, Main Street Electrical Parade music gets me every time!

  • I wasn’t overly impressed with Harmonious (I fall into the bucket between O30 and Senior). It was OK, but Illuminations was not only much better IMO, it could also be enjoyed from just about anywhere in the World Showcase. Unless you are in direct view of the monstrosities, you miss a lot of the visuals.
    I have no comments regarding Enchantment, as my daughter (between YA and O30) didn’t even want to see it when we were there because she felt there was no way it could be anywhere near as good as Wishes or Happily Ever After were!
    Sounds like we didn’t miss much.

  • I very much agree with everything you have there. I’m not sure that really young people got the complicated concept behind illuminations. But I described it to my kids once quietly and found adults leaning into hear. Where we came from how we moved and were able to meet each other and based on that where we could go. I go back before happily ever after to wishes also had a story and I found happily ever after disappointing because I thought it had less story. Particularly liked how the fireworks really carried the story as much as the music. So I guess I’m just gonna put on my cranky arms tell everybody to get off my lawn!

    • I’ll join you in your yard and we can crankily yell at folks together!

    • 100%!!!

      I found myself wishing that the MK comparison included Wishes along with the other two. While I have no issue with projections, I really don’t like that the nighttime shows have become projection shows with a few fireworks. If you don’t have prime viewing locations, it’s harder to enjoy the show.

  • Need a correction here, Illuminations has an ICONIC score.

    • 100% agree with you, and will figure out a way to edit that in 🙂

  • Rumour is Enchantment is getting an upgrade (testing happened last night)?

    And when oh when is Fantasmic returning?

    • Yes, it looks like Enchantment will get a few new scenes. But … bandaid?


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