The Power of the Mufasa Moment

There are many different nighttime spectaculars that have been presented in the Disney Parks through the years. They bring magic to the nights, and often the nights’ sky, as guests watch Disney moments come to life in a way that really can’t be seen anywhere else. Disneyland Resort just unveiled two new nighttime spectaculars for the Disney100 celebration, Wondrous Journeys and World of Color – ONE. As I was watching them, I was reminded of a theory I came up with years ago when watching the original World of Color one night. This is the theory that the very best Disney nighttime spectaculars also have what I call a Mufasa moment.

In World of Color there is a portion of the show where things go from happy and heartwarming to the dark moment before the Disney magic brings back light and magic for a beautiful and powerful ending. In the case of World of Color, this quite literally is the moment where Mufasa’s death in The Lion King is shown. When it happens, the audience is generally silent as the weight of the moment lays heavily on the viewing area. It is followed by a collage of moments of love to the tune of So Close from Enchanted.

I remember standing on the press risers watching World of Color during the world premiere and thinking, “huh, that Mufasa moment really hit me hard.” As I continued to ponder that Mufasa moment, I realized that heartbreaking moment really is what gave the ending such a happy and powerful payoff.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how important the big picture emotional journey Disney led me through during that show was almost more important than the individual elements. They were definitely all pieces of a larger puzzle that took the viewer on a magical journey. However, the moments could be interchangeable as long as they helped move the show forward and the viewer on the emotional journey. When successful, this leads to a shared experience for the guests watching that is simply magical.

As I have continued to think about my Mufasa moment theory, I have been able to apply it to my favorite Disney live entertainment shows through the years. It definitely applies to Fantasmic!, Happily Ever After, and even Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular when it was at Disney California Adventure. All of these moments start with some sort of upbeat magical moments, the rising conflict leading to the darker Mufasa moment, and then the bright and exciting payoff.

The Mufasa moment theory of mine really comes down to a simplified look at what a good story includes. Generally the formula for a solid story includes exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and finally the resolution. This is my Disney-fied version of that, if I were to attempt to define it precisely:

  • Magical Introduction
  • Disney moments/highlights
  • Mufasa moment
  • Magic Overcomes
  • Finale

While watching Wondrous Journeys on the opening day, I was reminded of my Mufasa moment theory. I turned to a friend and said “the best Disney shows have a Mufasa moment and this one certainly did.” In this case, the Mufasa moment really is with Baymax. However, the effect of the Mufasa moment is there. It is an emotional journey that takes emotions up and down during the course of the show that is packed full of Disney magical moments. It is one of the reasons why I think that this became an instant favorite with the Daps Magic team.

The Mufasa moment theory can apply to much more than just Disney live entertainment. It can also be applied to movies, theater, books, or other stories. It is something I use when reviewing just about anything. I will ask myself “was there a Mufasa moment?” and “did I go on an emotional journey that moved me in one way or another?” It’s a great place for me to start in my process of reviewing the experience I just had.

The Mufasa moment isn’t the end-all be-all for a good Disney show, however, it tends to be an indicator for shows I like the best. There are some beautiful shows that I have enjoyed a lot that don’t have a Mufasa moment. I do find that these don’t have the same impact on me and don’t engender the same feelings. They tend to not end up being my all-time favorite experiences, even though very enjoyable.

At the end of the day, the Mufasa moment is the most effective when it takes the viewer’s emotions on an emotional roller coaster. Just like a good roller coaster though, it can’t be too much too fast. Disney has figured out that balance that takes the emotions up then down and then back up in a way that makes for an enjoyable ride that is repeatable. This is where the magic of Disney shows sets it apart from anywhere else.

So now I must ask the question, what do you think of my Mufasa moment theory? Using it, does it line up with your favorite Disney nighttime spectaculars and other shows in the parks? What would you say are your top three? I’d love to hear your thoughts and have a discussion about this in the comments!

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