Walt Disney World Debuts Its Latest Nighttime Spectacular

September 29, 2021, 8:44 PM · Harmonious continues Walt Disney World's tradition of nighttime spectaculars on the Epcot World Showcase lagoon.

Replacing Epcot Forever and the long-running IllumiNations, Harmonious celebrates the world's musical cultures... as expressed through Disney's animated movie scores. The 20-minute show features 240 musical artists from around the world, who recorded 15 Disney songs in 13 languages during 110 recording sessions in nine countries.

Harmonious accompanies that soundtrack with visuals from a new lineup of show platforms, fountains, and lights on and around the World Showcase lagoon. The show runs on five floating platforms, with four 25-by-88-foot LED panels and a 50-foot central water curtain, supplemented with hundreds of moving fountains and lights, plus lasers and pyro.

Ultimately, this show didn't stop my eternal pining for the original IllumiNations, with its classical soundtrack and lights and lasers that enveloped all of World Showcase lagoon and most of its national pavilions. Harmonious does not celebrate global music so much as it celebrates that Disney is a global brand now, with music and movies that reference cultures around the world.

I mean, that's a good thing. It's great when people of all colors and backgrounds can see themselves in the work of a brand as popular and powerful as Disney's. But while Harmonious talks about the way that music can bring people together (literally, in a verbal introduction), it never finds the heart which drives that need to connect.

Visually, the show relies on bulky platforms that demand you pick an appropriate spot around the lagoon in order to see their displays. Much of imagery is abstract, rather than scenes from Disney's movies - a la World of Color. Initially, I felt a bit like I was sitting with Palpatine and Anakin in the Galaxies Opera House.

I probably shouldn't have brought up World of Color, because now I am longing for the more elegant simplicity of that production's water screens. The problem with that approach, of course, is that it can be viewed only from head-on, an issue that Disney wanted to avoid on the World Showcase lagoon, where people gather around the promenade to watch the big show at the end of each day.

But Harmonious' barges (which remain an eyesore for many during the day) don't provide the 360 degrees of prime viewing that a show that just gave fans a bunch of fountains, lasers, flashing lights and pyro to watch would have. The media displayed on the screens just did not seem engaging enough, to me, to be worth all that money and hassle that the designing, creating and installing the barges must have demanded. (Update: the Mulan sequence was by far the best. Princess and the Frog delivered Broadway flash, but the visuals in the Brave sequence did not work for me.)

Is Harmonious worth watching? Sure. It's a fine "kiss goodnight" at the end of your day at Epcot. But Disney has done better with its nighttime spectaculars.

If you are curious, the musical line-up includes:

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Replies (18)

October 7, 2021 at 11:08 PM

The Mulan sequence was beautiful. The Coco sequence was a missed opportunity. Instead of leading with Remember Me, a better choice of songs would have been The World es mi Familia followed by Un Poco Loco. Those songs are fantastic and fit better with the show spotlighting music, culture and harmony. Maybe they could move Remember Me toward the end of the show. The Lion King is overused at WDW and doesn’t belong in EPCOT. The Jungle Book was unnecessary as well, it’s a better fit for DAK. The Princess and the Frog sequence was nice but it doesn’t really fit into EPCOT either, it would be better at MK. As for everything else...eh. The show’s stated emphasis on music, culture and diversity was played very loosely in all the sequences, except for the Mulan sequence. Whomever was responsible for the Mulan sequence should have contributed more to the show.

September 29, 2021 at 9:15 PM

Just saw the show this evening, although it was visually appealing and had a decent selection of musical numbers, the show fell flat. Particularly with the fact that they didn't bother to fade/transition the music score from one to another. Definitely worth seeing at least once, but I wouldn't wait around for it if I was already in the park.

September 29, 2021 at 9:24 PM

Agreed that Mulan was the strongest segment in the show.

September 29, 2021 at 10:28 PM

How Far I'll Go, Go the Distance, Out There, Touch the Sky.

Are we sure this isn't just Happily Ever After 2.0?

September 29, 2021 at 10:50 PM

I think it lacks most that IllumiNations had is its own originality.  They basically used new versions of songs we already know in a diffrent jukebox arrangement.  IllumiNations had all new original songs and a story line/arc.  The visual spectacular was a bit to artsy and not very supportive to the music.  Those arms could have formed more interesting shapes and outlines. Hell Ursalas song would be perfect for those things.  Mulan was good and Hunchback had a good start but Hercules was a mess as well as brave. The worst part was not ending the show on a strong disney song or original song, but they chose "Someday" (which Celtic Woman performs a better version.)    But I shouldn't pass harsh judgment till I see it in person. I didn't like World of Color but after seeing it in person I was a little more accepting of it. (But still not a fan of water fountain shows.) The thing that peaked my interest most was the end when spaceship earth was lit up with the new lighting.

September 29, 2021 at 11:07 PM

This show is an odd duck for sure. It is attempting to be "artsy" with its imagery, fountains and interpretive movement of the arms but it also wants to hit that spot-the-character button current audiences apparently require. Rivers of Light: We Are One also tried to have it both ways but that approach ultimately left the audience cold. Harmonious probably has enough spectacle and pyrotechnics to keep most guests content but I have a feeling they won't be thinking much about it on the way home. They'll probably be remembering how nifty Spaceship Earth looked with its new lights.

September 30, 2021 at 12:02 AM

Yes, Tim! I wasn’t there tonight, but I watched on the Disney Parks blog (in VR to pretend I was there) and the only OMG moment I had was at the very end when Spaceship Earth lit up in the background.

The show is an imagineering marvel, that’s for sure. But I miss Illuminations.

September 30, 2021 at 2:54 AM

I think it’s enjoyable and totally agree with Robert’s thoughts. It lacks originality and heart. It feels like I have seen it before (lots of times). However I get why they used the homogenous usual mix as it’s what guests want. Original doesn’t do well with guest no matter how good see Rivers of light, Light magic.

September 30, 2021 at 3:25 AM

Watched it on a big screen tv (and watched some youtubers who weren't zoomed in all the time on the center of the lake) and it felt like there was a fun party going on in the middle of the lake and I wasn't invited.
Music and (the lack of) story where random and didn't feel "Epcot" (but Epcot doesn't feel like Epcot anymore for a long time) but more like I was flipping the Disney channels language options.
This lake needs firework, the globe was always the boring part for me and now it's almost all boring part.

October 4, 2021 at 9:34 AM

Another missed opportunity is the exclusion of the song Show Yourself from Frozen II. The first Frozen is well represented at WDW and EPCOT, but Frozen II is not, and this song very much celebrates diversity with strong and courageous women at its core. With the emphasis on Mulan, Coco and Frozen II, this show could have had a much stronger story arch and a better emotional punch while celebrating music, culture and diversity as stated before.

September 30, 2021 at 2:00 PM

Obviously one's impression of this show may change when viewing in person, but based on the videos I've seen of HarmoniUS, this new show still falls short of what I feel an EPCOT nighttime show should be. I think the biggest issue here is that Imagineers are trying to focus the attention of the audience on the center of the World Showcase Lagoon on the gigantic set pieces. Even though the new show platforms are HUGE, they're still small when placed in the center of a lagoon, hundreds of feet from the closest viewing spots on a backdrop that's nearly a half-mile wide. That means the primary visuals of the show make up maybe 10-20% of the audience's viewing angle (unless they're using binoculars or camera zoom lenses. Even if Disney employed a stadium-sized jumbotron in the middle of the Lagoon, the viewing angle of those images would still fall flat of the scientifically proven optimal viewing angle of between 35-55 degree. The best nighttime shows make guests feel like they're IN the action where they need to constantly move their eyes and head to see all of things going on around them. Even the original IllumiNations utilized other visuals (lasers, lights and fireworks) around the World Showcase to make guests feel like there was more to the show than what was going on in the center of the Lagoon. HarmoniUS puts far to much focus on those central set pieces that are too distant to create the immersion that the most successful Disney nighttime shows have generated.

September 30, 2021 at 7:59 PM

Currently down the road, Universal is proving the draw of a World of Color type show, especially with the fantastic HHN version. Marathon of Mayhem is my current bar to beat for park nighttime shows. This one just looks like an extremely expensive show that was not fully thought out. Unfortunately it further signals Disney's push to force every Epcot pavilion to be focused on their own IP and not the actual people and culture.

October 1, 2021 at 1:08 AM

Watching this show it appears to me it was put together by MBA's and not the people at Disney that actually write shows.

October 1, 2021 at 8:00 AM

Hey TH, the lousy show doesn’t warrant the BIG eyesore in the middle of the lake. Yet again, TH Creative, you were WRONG.

Next...

October 1, 2021 at 3:15 PM

Musically this is a chaotic mess. Its like going to your favorite artist’s concert and its all unfamiliar non hit songs and thus begins to drag. The repetitive lights, fireworks and fountains get old fast without the right music.

October 1, 2021 at 3:43 PM

Disappointed. This looked like a way to move away from pyrotechnics and fireworks to save the Disney Dollar. The show should not be about how to return more profits to shareholders.

Things that bothered me:

1.) I didn't realize the show had ended and from the crowd videos, neither did they.
2.) Show should have been balanced with fireworks and did not take advantage to transitions or segway. There were incredible sequences but some parts of the show displayed serious gaps.
3.) Did not understand why Mowgli was portrayed like Pinocchio or a puppet, felt very awkward and out of place.
4.) The seen with Brave had some of the most moving musical entries but the static nature of the scenes did not carry the momentum.
5.) The Silhouettes or shadows of familiar characters IMO drew away from the "More Timeless, More Disney".
6.) There was no emotional "anchor" visually or from the music OR the show elements, this needs to be present for the show to continue to hold relevance with audiences.

The show in it's present form just doesn't work, I see changes coming. Reflections and Epcot forever delivered more. This isn't a show that can hold up for 20 years.

October 2, 2021 at 2:32 AM

Russell nailed it. Disney has a huge stage to fill but they've only utilized a small portion of it. There needs to be action, pyro, dazzling stuff going on all over the lagoon and above. It should be an immersive feast for your eyes and ears. Sadly, it fails to impress. (No worries. Most Disney guests will probably love it.)

October 4, 2021 at 7:51 AM

i saw it last night and thought it did what it was designed to do; dazzle. it definitely doesn't disappoint in that department. interestingly, though, i actually thought it went on a bit too long and after a long day at animal kingdom and then walking around world showcase for food and wine, my feet were crying for bed so i was ready for the finale. when it finally came, it did not disappoint.

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