Harmonious is the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT. It officially has replaced IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. That show closed two years ago, EPCOT Forever was a temporary replacement. The first official night of Harmonious was October 1, although Disney decided to run it on both September 29 and 30 as well. I’ve now watched it twice, the first time as part of an invited media group on September 29 and the second as a regular Guest. Harmonious has faced a lot of criticism. I thought I’d address a couple of those issues here, as well as give you my review of the new show. (If you’d like to learn more about the new show at the Magic Kingdom, Disney Enchantment, you can find my review here.)
I’ll start with the criticisms. The main complaint that I have heard so far is that it’s “too Disney and not enough EPCOT”. I agree with this. Disney CEO Bob Chapek has said in the past that EPCOT in its transformation “will be more Disney”. That is evident with Harmonious. There are songs and clips from plenty of Disney animated films. They didn’t even dig deep into the vault for the selections. The oldest film featured is “Beauty and the Beast”, and that was released in 1991.
Another complaint is that there doesn’t seem to be a central story. Instead, it’s more of a theme, which is cultures around the world. The show handles the theme well by showing clips of relevant movies. If you don’t realize that is what Harmonious is trying to do, you might miss it. I had hoped that there would be a solid story that was similar to IllumiNations, but that isn’t what I experienced.
The final complaint is the music. I’ve heard many people say that they wish that the original scores were used. This one I don’t agree with, because I think that the soundtrack is glorious. I like hearing new takes on songs that we’ve known for years, and using some incredible talent and names to lift the songs to a new level. Artists contributed from around the world, including the Ndlovu Youth Choir from Johannesburg. It all ties in perfectly with the global theme.
Now onto the actual show. Visually, it is stunning. Water effects have never looked like this before! The circle in the middle (lovingly known to many as the Stargate) not only shows scenes inside, but there are also occasionally effects in the water above. The other structures add to the scenes or have colorful shapes. There are fountains everywhere! There are plenty of fireworks, but they aren’t really the center of the show. One effect that I truly enjoyed is the lasers in the smoke left by the fireworks. That became part of the production.
Don’t leave after the last firework burns out! There is a short after-show. There are no more fireworks, but there are more effects within the structures in World Showcase Lagoon. There is also more music. It never hurts to hang back after the fireworks anyway, so this gives you a reason to stay behind.
During the media event I had a chat with Steve Davison, who is the Executive Creative Director for Harmonious. He said that the show is adaptable, it will be possible to change scenes and adjust the show as needed. The Harmonious that we see today might not be the Harmonious that will take place a year from now.
I liked Harmonious the first time I saw it, but loved it the second time. If possible, you do need to see it more than once. The first time I saw it I had some preconceived ideas, and I was mostly proven wrong. The second time, I knew what to expect and enjoyed it for the marvel that it is. Both times I saw it from World Showplace Plaza, so I can’t comment on what things would look like in a different part of EPCOT. Harmonious lasts for about 20 minutes, making it the longest nighttime spectacular ever at a Disney Theme Park. Don’t go with preconceived ideas, and just enjoy it for what it is; a gorgeous way to end a day at EPCOT.