Walt Disney World tries again, with Luminous the Symphony of Us

December 6, 2023, 1:47 PM · Walt Disney World last night premiered its newest nighttime spectacular, Luminous the Symphony of Us, at EPCOT.

The replacement for Harmonious dispenses with any attempt at video projections, instead relying on fountains, lights and a lot of pyro for its visuals.

Luminous the Symphony of Us
Photo courtesy Disney

Disney's theme for this production is "the shared experiences that connect people across the globe." And, as you might expect from the company these days, that "shared experience" involves listening to a lot of Disney songs. The production does include two original songs: the opening number, "Heartbeat Symphony," and the finale, "Beating of our Hearts."

In between, guests will hear re-orchestrated arrangements of several Disney songs, including "You’ll Be in My Heart," "Proud Corazón," "You’ve Got a Friend in Me," "Friend Like Me," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "So Close," ""When She Loved Me," "Into the Unknown," and "I See the Light."

Here is the full show video of Luminous the Symphony of Us, from our friends over at Attractions Magazine.

EPCOT's World Showcase Lagoon provides such as unique setting for a nighttime spectacular that it seems a shame to me not to take full advantage of its opportunities. Of course, those opportunities also create enormous challenges for creative professionals trying to work with this space. The lagoon is enormous, so video projections and even fountains just get lost in the space. That means that lights and pyro must carry the production, visually. In Luminous, they do.

But I think that Disney misses an opportunity by not doing more to include the various World Showcase pavilions in the production. The original IllumiNations did this brilliantly, turning that production into a musical adventure around the world and through history. Instead, Luminous falls into the same trap that has ensnared too many recent Disney spectaculars - talking when it should be singing.

If you have to use a narrator to tell me what your nighttime spectacular is about, you've failed with your storytelling. Nighttime spectaculars should not be plays. They're operas. The music should tell the story. And if it doesn't, you need better selection of music - not a narrator to fill the gaps.

Luminous does try to address Harmonious' shortcoming by crafting an emotional arc through the show. But "Heartbeat Symphony" is so slow-paced, followed by several ballads, that by the time we get to ""When She Loved Me," Luminous feels less like a "kiss goodnight" than a last nightcap before you finally just pass out on the couch.

"Into the Unknown" and "I See the Light" wake us up just enough so that we can shuffle our way out to the parking lot after "Beating of our Hearts" sends us on our way with some nifty heart-shaped pyro.

I don't know that Luminous will help long-time Disney fans get over their longing for a return of Illuminations, but I think that Disney did hit the ball out of the park for new nighttime atmosphere entertainment at EPCOT with the World Celebration Gardens. It's a pleasant space during the day, with all its fresh greenery, but at night it comes alive through a lighting display that reminds me a bit of the Lumina Night Walk installations.

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Replies (5)

December 6, 2023 at 6:05 PM

What a mess imagineering has made of this … and I agree totally missed bringing in the countries in a new updated way - back to the drawing board !

December 6, 2023 at 8:26 PM

That plaza area light show was pretty cool, however overall I still feel the Epcot "re-do" was ruined by way too much forced Disney IP and that includes the new firework show.

December 8, 2023 at 1:40 PM

Saw the show last night. The pyro is great, it's a fun fireworks show. The narration is absolute middle school wrote-it-the-night-before drivel and the Disney music is ham-fisted and forced. "When She Loved Me," really? Stick with Happily Ever After and Fantasmic.

December 10, 2023 at 8:58 AM

I suspect 'Luminous' and 'World Celebration will keep crowds in the park -- food and retail cash registers will spin.

December 11, 2023 at 11:16 PM

I appreciate keeping the focus on the center of the lagoon. The problem with Harmonious for me was that it required you to station yourself near the Port of Entry or America pavilion. This new show allows ideal viewing from any country at the World Showcase.

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