It’s a month until the launch of the latest nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World, as “Luminous The Symphony of Us” debuts on December 5, 2023 at EPCOT. Now, we have a behind the scenes sneak peek at the making of the soundtrack, first listen to the music, and rundown of movies & songs featured in the nighttime spectacular debuting as part of the Disney100 celebration.
Luminous The Symphony of Us will feature dazzling fireworks, fountains, lights and music to connect us all through commonalities of the heart. This all-new nighttime spectacular shines a light on how each of our unique melodies comes together to form a great symphony – the symphony of us.
According to Walt Disney World, Luminous is a dramatic show designed to bring us all together. New music, along with evocative selections from the Disney songbook, come together to remind us that we are more alike than we are different. Here’s the latest update from Disney Live Entertainment on what, exactly, that means and how it’ll be conveyed in the new nighttime spectacular…
Much like a beautiful piece of music, “Luminous The Symphony of Us” is made up of a series of movements, each representing life experiences that we have in common, showing us that we’re more alike than we are different. Punctuating these movements are two original songs written just for the spectacular, as well as new arrangements of carefully selected Disney songs we all know and love.
At the start of the show, World Showcase comes to life as we hear voices from each pavilion welcoming us to this great gathering. With the tap of a conductor’s baton, our first movement begins with the original song, “Heartbeat Symphony.” Nothing says EPCOT nighttime spectacular like a sweeping ballad, and this one comes for you right out of the gate.
Check out this behind-the-scenes look at some of the music recording sessions for “Luminous The Symphony of Us,” including a sneak preview of “Heartbeat Symphony” in the video below:
With the stage set, the symphony that is Luminous takes us to the tender love of parenthood, highlighting childhood moments where each of our journeys began and featuring a stirring, multilingual arrangement of “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan. The symphony then transitions to “Proud Corazón” from Coco as we find our voice in a movement dedicated to the bonds of family.
Friendship follows, with classic songs like “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story and “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin taking us back to the days of recess and friendship bracelets. Set to a sweeping arrangement of “So Close,” a hidden gem from the movie Enchanted, the romance section celebrates the moments when we find someone with whom our melody blends.
Inevitably in life, we experience the quiet loneliness of loss, but as “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2 and “Remember Me” from Coco bring us “Into the Unknown” from Frozen 2, the echoes of those around us remind us that we’re never truly alone. As we come out of the darkness, the music crescendos to “I See the Light” from Tangled, launching Luminous into its finale – and second original song, entitled “Beating of our Hearts” – where we all come together as one and find our place in the great symphony of life.
As you can probably tell, music plays a critical role in telling the tale of Luminous: The Symphony of Us. That’s why the team at Disney Live Entertainment is so excited to work with Pinar Toprak once again on the show’s incredible score. You may know Pinar from her work on film soundtracks or heard her EPCOT anthem at night by Spaceship Earth. Among the choir of voices lending their vocal talents to the score are singer/songwriter Sheléa and the multi-talented Katharine McPhee.
Turning to our commentary, and let’s start at the end of Walt Disney World’s announcement with the climactic song, “Beating of Our Hearts.” Well, that got my heart beating, as that’s a song in one of my all-time favorite Disney Live Entertainment spectacles, The Legend of Mythica.
For the 99.9% of you who never saw The Legend of Mythica or don’t even know what it was, it was a daytime harbor show at Tokyo DisneySea about the relation of the human and mythical worlds, and how we now live in harmony after years of conflict. It featured Disney characters and over 100 performers to represent the spirit of various emotions that bridge the gap between the mythical and human worlds. It was very abstract and high concept, and had dragons. I would equate The Legend of Mythica to IllumiNations, at least in terms of their style and ambitions.
You can listen to that portion of The Legend of Mythica here:
Now, I’m not suggesting that Disney Live Entertainment is reusing a song from a two-decade old show for Luminous…but it wouldn’t be the first, second, or even 10th time. This happens a lot, under the (correct!) assumption that American audiences have never heard the music.
Maybe the song title is just a coincidence. It’s probably just a coincidence. But if not, and this is a musical revival of The Legend of Mythica, that’s amazing. Oh, and the song in question would be a perfect fit for an EPCOT nighttime spectacular about the “commonalities of heart.” Even though Luminous won’t have any dragons (automatic 10/10 show if it does), the song would be a fitting finale!
It’s only a sneak peek or first listen, but the “Heartbeat Symphony” in Luminous Symphony of Us sounds fantastic. Listening to that–even divorced of any in-park context–literally gave me goosebumps. It made me feel. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but this song sounds like a worthy successor to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
And again, that’s without the added emotion of standing in World Showcase, experiencing it in person. That adds a whole different energy and sentimentality and seeds of nostalgia to any Disney music. So the fact that “Heartbeat Symphony” got me while sitting at home…that’s very promising!
Oh, and it’s nice to once again see that Steve Davison is involved. He’s a legend who has created some of Disney’s best nighttime spectaculars…and one who I honestly thought had retired because we hadn’t heard anything from him in a couple years.
My hope for Luminous The Symphony of Us was that it would marry the best parts of Harmonious and IllumiNations into a show with mainstream and diehard EPCOT fan appeal, while discarding the parts that didn’t work or dragged too much. (I mean, it’s right there in the name: IlLumiNations and Harmonious! Well, it’s right there if your spelling is a little wobbly, like Winnie the Pooh.)
For all of the hate that Harmonious got, it had its moments and there were nuggets of great ideas in it. I’ve already gone on record and said will develop a cult fan following over time. I’d say that about half of that show was really, really strong. It was dragged down by the rest, plus the water tacos and Stargate. I’d be really curious to see how it would rate with guests minus the infrastructure and with a slight remix…and thought maybe Luminous would be exactly that.
Luminous still sounds like it might be, but with different music and a different message. Nods to IllumiNations are also possible, as those would be an easy win and way to get hardcore fans on board. But honestly, when I read that description, the first nighttime spectacular that came to mind is Wondrous Journeys at Disneyland, which was created as a love letter to 100 years of Walt Disney Animation Studios.
I’m sure Luminous will be very different than Wondrous Journeys, but it sounds like it could have a similarly introspective and contemplative journey, of sorts. To be clear, that could be a good thing. Wondrous Journeys is fantastic, and drawing inspiration from that show, but with more of a focus on humanity’s interconnectedness and shared story has a lot of potential.
I still don’t love the idea of a bunch of Disney songs in World Showcase and turning EPCOT into Magic Kingdom 2.0 (Wondrous Journeys is also pretty similar to Happily Ever After), but this was always going to be that to some extent. Walt Disney World was not going to make a proper spiritual successor to IllumiNations for a number of reasons, but perhaps this will be the marriage of motifs from that plus original and modern music in the style of Harmonious…and hopefully with a dash of The Legend of Mythica. I might be an EPCOT purist, but that right there sounds like a winning formula for me!
Ultimately, so much has changed at EPCOT in the last several years and it feels counterproductive and downright unreasonable to drag my feet at every change that doesn’t “honor” the legacy of a park that has been gone for two-plus decades. EPCOT has already gone in a new direction–the ship has sailed on staying true to its original mission. At this point, the best we can hope for is that the new direction is a good one that at least maintains a semblance of its original spirit. It’s better than stagnation.
Luminous certainly won’t be IllumiNations for me…but hopefully, it’ll be an iterative improvement on Harmonious (and without the visual blight). Its music weaving cultures with characters with a big message could end up working, and making it a good fit in World Showcase. Above all else, I’m hopeful that Luminous will be a tremendous nighttime spectacular that helps revitalize a languishing theme park.
What do you think of the soundtrack for Luminous? Are you excited for the upcoming EPCOT nighttime spectacular? Think it’ll be a worthy successor to Harmonious and/or IllumiNations? Thoughts on the possibility of it remixing music from The Legend of Mythica?! 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? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!