Harmonious is a new nighttime spectacular currently being installed in EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon at Walt Disney World. It’s essentially a fireworks show on steroids–the permanent replacement for IllumiNations. This covers everything you need to know: when it’s likely to debut, construction photos, concept art, plus news, rumors, and speculation.
As background, Harmonious will be the largest ever Walt Disney World nighttime spectacular, and will celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the world over. It will bring to World Showcase Lagoon an innovative toolkit of massive floating set pieces that house a variety of show effects, including custom-built LED panels, choreographed moving fountains, colorful lights, lasers, pyrotechnics and more.
Harmonious is a beautifully-crafted nighttime spectacular presenting a dreamscape of music and imagery from Disney animated films, reimagined by diverse cultural musicians and artists from around the world. Walt Disney Imagineering describes it as a “transformative experience, where we can discover how Disney music has the power to inspire and unite us all.”
While Harmonious has been a hot topic here and we’ve touched upon it in numerous posts, this is actually our first one dedicated solely to Harmonious. It’s actually based on a mothballed draft post from March of last year, which came on the heels of the Disney Parks Blog releasing new information and a preview of the show “set to debut later this year!”
Obviously, that did not happen and a lot changed only a few short weeks after that. In the ensuing months, it didn’t make much sense to discuss or speculate on Harmonious with every nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World on temporary hiatus. While that’s still true, real world circumstances are improving dramatically and Harmonious installation progress is accelerating, so it’s appropriate to share what you can expect from Harmonious.
In the last couple of months, installation has begun on two of the four perimeter barges for Harmonious in World Showcase Lagoon. Additionally, D23 and Walt Disney Imagineering have offered some sneak peeks at ongoing work on the project.
From that, we know that Harmonious will use five enormous platforms to house the main show elements. Four of the aforementioned perimeter barges, which will feature double-sided LED walls standing 25-feet tall and have eight 54-foot-long moving arms along with moving lights, fountains, lasers, and more. These will surround a 6-story tall central ring structure and water curtain.
The appearance of these Harmonious platforms in World Showcase Lagoon provided controversial among Walt Disney World fans. Social media has torn into these, understandably so.
The key criticisms are that these block World Showcase sightlines and look like some Waterworld-inspired post-apocalyptic ramshackle floating community. Rather than piling on here, I’m going to take a “wait and see” position.
However, it’s a bit disingenuous to pretend World Showcase had exquisite sightlines before this. That would require ignoring the Swan & Dolphin hotels, Soarin’ show building, Test Track show building, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind show building, and more.
This isn’t to say Walt Disney World fans should eagerly accept further visual blight or intrusions, but the point is that views across the water haven’t been pristine and unspoiled for (literally) decades.
Moreover, when work is finished the Harmonious barges are going to function as fountains during the day. So long as they’re constantly running and cycling large amounts of water, they could look good. From that perspective, the bigger the barges…the bigger the fountains.
The views across World Showcase Lagoon are nice, but it’s also a huge and empty expanse, and colossal fountains during the day could add a good bit of kinetic energy to the park. This isn’t to say they’ll look as good as the concept art–I’m skeptical given how colossal and clunky they look right now–but judging the work-in-progress project as if it’s the finished product is premature.
The current construction progress leads us to the question of when will Harmonious debut at Walt Disney World? At one point, D23 released an update that the show was slated to debut in spring of last year. In subsequent Disney Parks Blog posts, the season was dropped. Nevertheless, credible rumors of a pre-summer debut persisted.
Since reopening, Walt Disney World has not offered a new opening date, season, or even year for Harmonious. However, it has been included in several previews focused on additions with 2021 opening dates. From that, it’s safe to deduce that Walt Disney World intends upon debuting Harmonious this year. It’s understandable that Disney won’t specifically state as much given the current uncertainties.
Unlike Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, work is not finished on Harmonious. As discussed above, the five barges are still being installed in World Showcase Lagoon, with programming, testing, and adjusting still in progress.
We have zero inside information, but based solely on the pace of observed progress over the last few months, there’s still likely another few months of this process ahead before Harmonious even could debut.
As with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the real deciding factor on a Harmonious debut date is likely when it’s most advantageous for Disney to unveil a new nighttime spectacular. Until Walt Disney World has a better idea of when operational normalcy will be able to return, we’re not anticipating a specific opening date for Harmonious to be set or announced.
Our expectation is that Walt Disney World will schedule the debut date for Harmonious at a time when it’s likely physical distancing requirements and capacity reductions will be significantly relaxed. At this point, we’re probably looking at around Summer 2021 for that at the earliest.
While Walt Disney World has repeatedly stated that nighttime spectaculars are on hiatus due to physical distancing, that’s really only partly true. It’s also partly a convenient excuse. Fireworks cost a lot of money. Physical distancing means attendance limits, which in turn make costly entertainment and nighttime spectaculars difficult to justify.
With that said, EPCOT is the park where nighttime spectaculars could most plausibly first return from health safety and profitability perspectives. Unlike Magic Kingdom, where most guests congregate in the limited area of Main Street to watch Happily Ever After, World Showcase is massive, with ample space for a large number of guests. EPCOT also has a higher attendance cap than other parks, and is seeing the lowest utilization on average. Collectively, this makes the return of fireworks more advantageous at EPCOT than any other park.
The problem with debuting Harmonious in the next few months or even announcing an opening date right now is that this is the type of marketable addition that generates buzz and prompts guests to book and plan trips. While there are some tourists visiting Walt Disney World right now, it’s mostly locals.
Harmonious won’t immediately give EPCOT a shot in the arm…but that’s starting to change. As vaccines roll out and we start to turn the corner, there’s more optimism about the future and Americans are making vacation plans. If Walt Disney World is confident about being able relax physical distancing and bump up attendance a bit more, releasing a debut date for Harmonious might make sense in the near future.
Our predictions as to when that date might be are entirely guesses, ranging from Memorial Day to October 1, 2021. Summer is a real possibility, but we’d skew towards the fall end of that spectrum as it presents more certainty. We would rule out anything before May 2021 entirely. However, that’s not based on any credible rumor or insider info–it’s entirely speculative on our part.
As we continue to watch progress on the installation of Harmonious in World Showcase Lagoon and await official word from Walt Disney World, we’ll keep you posted and update this post accordingly with new information.
Ultimately, I’m cautiously optimistic about Harmonious. Ironically, before IllumiNations ended and Epcot Forever debuted, I wrote: “HarmonioUS looks a lot like World of Color, and the whole notion of a character-centric show on World Showcase Lagoon really makes me cringe. Part of me hopes that ‘due to guest demand’ Epcot Forever becomes permanent.” As it turned out, Epcot Forever was not very good and now I find myself really missing nighttime spectaculars.
EPCOT undeniably needs help in numerous ways, and it feels counterproductive for the fandom to drag our collective feet at every change. Harmonious could end up being a total dud, but it could also end up being a tremendous nighttime spectacular that, like World of Color before it, revitalizes a languishing theme park. At this point, IllumiNations and so much of old EPCOT Center is gone, and there’s no turning back. The future direction of the park is very different than its past, and even though I don’t love that in some ways, it’s certainly better than stagnation.
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Are you excited for Harmonious? Think it’ll be a nighttime spectacular worthy of Walt Disney World? If you’re an EPCOT Center purist, are you apprehensive that this will fit World Showcase? Expect it to be a culturally tasteful use of music and imagery from animated films, or do you think it’s inappropriate IP for World Showcase? When do you predict that Harmonious will debut? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!