Epcot’s Harmonious: Reflections of Happily Ever After
Disney has called Harmonious one of its most complex night-time spectaculars. In truth, Harmonious is ambitious. We look at how we got to this point in time, and examine the show in depth. We look at the song list for this show, and consider comparisons to the earlier Magic Kingdom fireworks show of Happily Ever After. We study all of the technical aspects that make up this show, and how it comes together. And then there is Beacons of Light: Epcot, which is a game changer and stands far apart from anything done at Epcot. This is a turning point in the re-development of this park and we’ll look at what is working and how this is really one of the best shows Disney has ever created globally.
Here is what got us to this place:
Carnival de Lumiere. Premiered October 23, 1982. Guests gathered between the Mexican and Canadian pavilions to see the fountain/fireworks barges. It incorporated rear projection screens.
A New World Fantasy. It opened the summer of 83 utilizing the same barges as the first show, but adding classical music played on a synthesizer.
Laserphonic Fantasy. This moved the show to around the lagoon, and returned to having a full orchestra record the music. Most importantly, it introduced laser effects. It opened on June 9th, of 1984.
IllumiNations. This opened on January 30th of 1988 and played until September 20th, 1996. This was the original Illuminations. Ode to Joy, Rhapsody in Blue and the William Tell Overture were just a few of the more familiar pieces. Special projections would create different images on building such as a candy land look on Germany.
IllumiNations 25. In keeping with Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary, a new version of IllumiNations was played out from September 21st, 1996 through May 18th, 1997. The “Remember the Magic” started off the show, with “Circle of Life” providing the finale. Guests complained about this show, and eventually Lion King music went out, and international melodies came back in.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. It opened on October 1st, 1999. For a tribute see this previous post and podcast. It had three acts: Chaos, Order and Meaning.
Epcot Forever was a transition show that allowed the infrastructure of the show to be changed out with new barges.
Here is how Disney has described this show:
The heart of the Epcot transformation comes to life with Harmonious, one of the largest nighttime spectaculars ever created for Disney Parks. The show is a beautifully crafted medley of classic Disney music and visuals reinterpreted by a culturally diverse group of 240 artists from all around the world. Come and be dazzled by all of it as you discover how Disney music and stories have the power to inspire and unite us all, overcoming any language or border.
This magnificent new show brings to World Showcase Lagoon an innovative combination of floating giant screens, choreographed moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics and lasers in a 360-degree view. Enter amazing worlds inspired by Moana, Aladdin, Coco, Brave, The Lion King, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and other classic stories. Colorful images and effects dance and change as Harmonious weaves familiar Disney music and stories together in brand-new ways. Through unique perspectives as diverse as the world itself, Disney songs hop from language to language as the show brings people from different parts of the world together to unlock the magic of possibility.
Like Illuminations: Reflections of Earth there are three acts to Harmonious. Only these three acts suggest something less sequential, and more harmonic.
- Gather. A cacophony of disparate sounds merge together to bring the messages of two songs, How Far I’ll Go, and Go the Distance into one with a variety of voices from across the globe.
- Celebrate. We travel across the planet as we acknowledge the cultures and diversity found abroad. We start in the Middle East, and move to Africa. This is followed by Southeast Asia and China. We then head to Europe (really France) then Latin America (but mostly Mexico) and finally here in the United States (but mostly New Orleans).
- Unite. Voices come together as one to consider a future day where love, peace and harmony reside…someday, someday soon.
Comparing Song Lists
Does it all sound the same, this graphic shows crossover between not only songs (connected by arrows) but animated films they come from (matching colors):
- Happily Ever After had a lot of music.
- Happily Ever After had a dominant amount of second Golden Age of music
- Disney/Pixar offers some 80 films
- There are some 61 songs between all three fireworks shows.
- Only 22 animated films are represented in all.
- Surprisingly little representation is found from Frozen, Tangled and Snow White.
- Moana and The Lion King has the most representation with 4 songs from each.
- No representation is found from classic films like Cinderella or Mary Poppins.
- The two new shows share none of the same songs, though they do feature similar films to include Moana, Frozen & Princess & The Frog.
- Sound/Music/Narration by an unknown voice
- Stargate Projection
- Dual LED Displays on Four Barges
- Moving Arms portraying Light, Fountains and Pyro
- Lake Lighting
- Pavilion Lighting
- Spaceship Earth as a Beacon of Light
The show’s executive creative director for Disney Live Entertainment is Steven Davison.
Beacon of Light: Spaceship Earth
What may have been intended as a postlude to the guest experience at Epcot each night may have become the headliner. It is impressive and kinetic, and interactive.
We may have reached a tipping point for the prescribed changes coming to Epcot. There is still much, much more to come, but this is a major milestone that feels like a new Epcot is well underway. Still, what is needed is the experience of guests making it their show. Coming year after year and emotionally connecting your family, friends and park experiences into new memories is what will make the show seem irreplaceable in the hearts of many in the years to come.
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