The Hope and Promise of Epcot’s Harmonious
It’s well known that Walt Disney once said that EPCOT would always be in “a state of becoming,” much as he once said that, “Disneyland will never be completed.” Change is at the heart of Walt’s enduring vision, and progress the bedrock on which EPCOT was founded. As time goes by, old favorites will give way to new works that aim to engage and inspire. Harmonious, the new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT, is a prime example.
The show replaces Epcot Forever, which in turn took the place of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. It debuted on October 1 of this year as a celebration of “how Disney music and stories have the power to bring people together.” But, just what is Harmonious? This week we’ll take a closer look.
The Bare Essentials
At its most basic, Harmonious is a new nighttime show that takes place on World Showcase Lagoon in EPCOT. Like previous shows, it is visible from 360 degrees, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place to watch. Typically, the show begins at 9:45 p.m. and runs for 20 minutes. However, there can be variations on the start time, so it’s always best to check the official Disney web page.
Sure, but what IS IT?
So, you probably want some more specifics about the show, right? Disney describes it as “a beautifully crafted medley of classic Disney music and visuals reinterpreted by a culturally diverse group of 240 artists from all around the world.” It is also one of the largest shows ever created for Disney Parks. Mixing floating giant screens, music, fountains, lights, lasers, and pyrotechnics, the show takes popular Disney music and re-imagines it through the lens of different cultures and languages. Music featured includes songs from The Princess and the Frog, Mulan, Coco, Moana, and a whole host of other popular favorites.
Even that description doesn’t quite do the show justice. Elements all around the World Showcase are utilized. The barges on the lagoon have huge, choreographed arms that operate during the performance, lighting is used on World Showcase buildings, and, of course, there are the torches that surround the lagoon. Portions of the show were inspired by things such as Indian shadow puppetry, European tapestries, and Mexican folk art. The fifteen songs featured incorporate 13 different languages, and creating the soundtrack required over 110 recording sessions spread out over nine countries.
The show is built around a three act structure, beginning with “Gather” as everyone comes together around the World Showcase Lagoon. The second act is called “Celebrate,” which takes Guests from country to country around the World Showcase. The final act, entitled “Unite,” places an emphasis on the unity found through our diversity, and how the world can come together.
Of special note during the show, many of the characters are portrayed as silhouettes. According to Steven Davison, Executive Creative Director of Disney Live Entertainment, this was a conscious choice on the part of Disney, because it would allow Guests to see themselves in place of these beloved characters. In the same way, the use of multiple languages will allow Guests to hear and recognize their own language as part of the global chorus, so that Disney is simultaneously celebrating our differences, while bringing the audience together around familiar stories and song.
Did We Mention That It’s Big?
When Disney says this is one of their largest shows ever, they aren’t kidding. The scope of the show is enormous, and so are the tools used to bring it to life. The moving arms mentioned earlier are a whopping 54 feet long, and they move in time to the music. There are five floating platforms used during the show and each one is roughly 30 feet wide and 75 feet long. This is in addition to four double sided LED panels which stretch 25 feet high and 88 feet long. A water curtain is used for projecting images, towering a staggering five stories tall.
Who Are the Musicians?
While it would be impractical to list all 240 musicians that make up the musical ensemble, we can provide a few highlights. During the show, Guests will hear performances by the Ndlovu Youth Choir from Johannesburg, gospel artists Karen Clark Sheared and Kierra Sheard, French singer Damien Sargue, Puerto Rican artist Luis Fonsi, Celtic violinist Máiréad Nesbitt, and American Idol finalist and three-time Grammy nominee Danny Gokey, to name just a few.
Speaking about the show in an interview, Fonsi stated, “To be in the middle of EPCOT and hear myself sing in Spanish and in English, it’s a big step forward and a personal milestone that gives me a positive vibe that the world is coming together and we should celebrate each other’s culture…”
A Message of Hope
It is this sense of inclusivity that is at the heart of Harmonious. In a meaningful way, this philosophy has been at the heart of Epcot since its beginning. While Future World presented Guests with a philosophy that creativity and daring could solve any problem facing our world, the World Showcase took a World’s Fair type approach that celebrated the different cultures of the world while bringing them together. In fact, Dick Nunis, former chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, even believed the World Showcase’s Fellowship Program could be a incubator for the future leaders of the world saying, “We imagined that in fifteen or twenty years, these former students would become leaders of their nations and be able to discuss potential ventures or challenges in a friendly way, based on having lived and learned together while working in EPCOT.”
Harmonious, like shows such as IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, is a way to tell this idealistic story to the world in the form of entertainment. As Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, VP of Creative at Disney Live Entertainment stated, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to not just celebrate the music, the stories, the characters but to actually honor and celebrate the cultures that inspired us most.”