EPCOT ‘Luminous The Symphony of Us’ Review: Excellent Original Songs & Wonderful Fireworks Tell The Story of Shared Human Experiences

    Luminous The Symphony of Us is now showing nightly at EPCOT, and after a few viewings, we wanted to review the show and share some photos and video of EPCOT’s newest nighttime spectacular. According to Disney, Luminous is designed to bring us all together. Two original songs bookend the show, with familiar Disney music in between. Throughout the show, an original composition from Pinar Toprak takes the EPCOT anthem from the World Celebration Gardens to World Showcase Lagoon. In this review of the show, we’ll talk about the history of how we got Luminous, along with a scene-by-scene review of the fireworks show that will likely play at EPCOT for years to come.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review


    You can’t have Luminous without Harmonious. Luminous actually sounds like the combination of Illuminations and Harmonious, which is probably not by accident. As you may know, both Illuminations and Harmonious were the nightly fireworks shows at EPCOT before Luminous, but it’s the latter that we want to focus on right now.

    When it was conceived, Harmonious was the long-term replacement for Illuminations. Disney would pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the development, infrastructure, and hardware required for Harmonious. The company line is that Harmoniuos was a 50th Anniversary show, but the unofficial understanding is that Harmonious was the long-term planned successor to the very popular Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show.

    The idea was ambitious for Harmonious: create 5 massive multimedia setpieces, four on the perimeter and one giant centerpiece ring, that would bring World Showcase Lagoon to life every night. The barges, as originally conceived, would be moved into World Showcase Lagoon in the afternoons to prepare for the nightly fireworks show. I’m not sure when it became clear that moving the barges onto the Lagoon every night wouldn’t be feasible, but a bandaid was presented in the form of daytime fountains. Not a fountain show – fountains.

    The idea was that fountains would beautify the Lagoon and hide the massive hardware that would now need to be permanently moored in the Lagoon. By creating a daytime fountain, guests would be able to continue to enjoy World Showcase Lagoon during the day before the sun sets and the massive setpieces would come to life to wow guests during the nighttime fireworks show.

    Unfortunately, Disney never was able to implement the daytime fountain look on a daily basis. The fountains were activated only during special events, such as the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon as seen below. Note that the configuration below is not what Disney had intended for the daytime fountain display. We’re told that the daytime fountain idea fell apart due to complex hardware needing to be serviced at times throughout the day, and the hardware not being originally created for hours and hours of water wearing down on it.

    With a daytime view of a metal armada sans fountains, guest complaints piled up and it was becoming more and more obvious that this was not the look that Disney was going for. Ultimately, Disney made the hard choice of scrapping the expensive project, dismantling the barges for parts, and developing a new show. In many respects, Luminous was born from the lessons learned from Harmonious.

    For what it’s worth, I thought that Harmonious was a visually striking show that would’ve stuck around for years had Disney been able to make the barges movable. Perhaps not an “EPCOT show” at its heart, many of the shortcomings of the show were quickly forgotten once that hardware came to life to create an impressively dynamic show.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Development

    Development of Luminous began in Summer 2022 according to creatives working on the show, which indicates that Disney essentially killed off Harmonious less than a year after it debuted. In December 2022, roughly 6 months after the initial development of Luminous, Disney announced that Harmonious would end with the conclusion of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary celebrations in Spring 2023.

    With the biggest complaint about Harmonious being the permanently moored armada and ruined daytime views of World Showcase Lagoon, Disney made sure that the hardware utilized for Luminous wouldn’t be permanently installed on the Lagoon.

    On April 10th, some 850 days after the first Harmonious barge was installed in World Showcase Lagoon, the first barge was removed just a week after the final performance. It would take a little more than a month to remove all of the barges from the Lagoon, and another month after that to remove the unneeded infrastructure from the Lagoon to create a blank canvas for the fireworks team to install new infrastructure needed for Luminous.

    In late June 2023, large pilings were spotted in the Lagoon as teams began installing dozens of pilings that would be used to dock the barges and fireworks platforms needed for Luminous. By the end of July, aerial photos from bioreconstruct showed that the first Luminous barges had arrived in a backstage marina as crews began installing salvaged lights from Harmonios onto the new Luminous barges.

    By September 2023, Disney had moved the first barge into the Lagoon as crews began integration testing and adjustments to the infrastructure ahead of full show testing. Instead of being the focal point, the barges would play a supporting role for a larger fireworks and fountains display.

    In the early hours of November 5th, we spotted what may have been the first full test of Lumionus, showing the dynamic lighting and impressive fireworks. Disney would ultimately end up making some changes to the final show as testing ramped up in late November ahead of the December 5th debut. While we had a pretty good fireworks display during the testing, one thing that we couldn’t hear was the music for the show. Let’s talk about the Luminous soundtrack next.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Music Soundtrack

    Luminous The Symphony of Us features two original songs as bookends to an emotional and playful use of the Disney songbook in the middle of the 17-minute show. In an interview with the media, creatives for the show talked about how important it was to create original songs that would help tell the story of the show beyond what the Disney IP songs could do.

    Disney tapped hundreds of musicians to create the Luminous soundtrack, including work from the London Voices professional choir and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The soundtrack was recorded in studios worldwide, including the Abbey Road Studios in London, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in Scotland, New York, Nashville, and Orlando.

    Heartbeat Symphony
    Written and composed by AJ Sealy, Scott Hoying, and Shelea Melody McDonald, Heartbeat Symphony opens the show following an international welcome to World Showcase Lagoon. The narration before the song talks about how people all around the world are more alike than they are different.

    Can you hear the sound of a world in motion?
    The wind through the trees, the tides of the ocean

    Can you feel the beat of a million hearts? All in time
    Like the sun, the moon, the light

    And in those tiny moments in between, I remember
    You are a part of me, and I am a part of you

    Just like the symphony, different melodies, live in harmony
    So go ahead and sing your song, I’ll be there to sing along

    When we come together, it’s a Heartbeat Symphony
    It’s a Heartbeat Symphony

    You are a part of me, and I am a part of you

    Just like the symphony, different melodies, live in harmony
    So go ahead and sing your song, I’ll be there to sing along

    And all of the world will become a symphony
    Will become a symphony
    Heartbeat Symphony lyrics

    Heartbeat Symphony sets the stage really well, with a catchy chorus and a perfect message of unity. The themes of life resembling music are also laid as a groundwork for how the Disney songbook will be utilized throughout the show.

    Beating of Our Hearts
    The second original song and the finale of Lumionus is Beating of Our Hearts. Beating of Our Hearts was written by The Heavyweights and performed as a duet between Katharine McPhee and Shlea Melody McDonald.

    A pulse, a beat, like gravity
    The rhythm of our hearts is all around

    A bond, a pledge, a common thread
    Connects us in the unifying sound

    Like the pounding of a drum, steady spinning ’round the sun
    The beating of our hearts, it goes straight up to the stars

    For all the world to hear, it never fades
    Steady, are you ready? can you feel it? here it comes!

    We all, come together as one
    Like a wave across the ocean, like a river of love when your heart’s wide open

    The sound, it’s in all that we are
    Feel it in the beating, feel it in the beat of our heart

    The beating of our heart
    One single moment in time, resounding all together every bead of light

    So look around, and hear the love
    It echoes in our hearts

    Come together as one, come together as one
    Like a wave across the ocean, like a river of love when your heart’s wide open

    Love, it’s in all that we are
    Feel it in the beat of our heart

    The beating of our heart
    The beating of our hearts, beating of our hearts
    Beating of Our Hearts lyrics

    Here is the full soundtrack for Luminous The Symphony of Us:

    • “Heartbeat Symphony” | Original Song
    • “You’ll Be in My Heart” | Tarzan
    • “Proud Corazón” | Coco
    • “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” | Toy Story
    • “Friend Like Me” | Aladdin
    • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” | The Lion King
    • “So Close” | Enchanted
    • “When She Loved Me” | Toy Story 2
    • “Remember Me” | Coco
    • “Into the Unknown” | Frozen 2
    • “I See the Light” | Tangled
    • “Beating of Our Hearts” | Original Song

    Luminous The Symphony of Us – Stunning Pyrotechnics

    Oddly enough, fireworks shows have become less and less about fireworks these days. With the progression of projection technology and dynamic show elements, there is a lot to choose from when crafting a nighttime spectacular, and fireworks have sometimes been pushed to the back burner. That’s not the case with Luminous.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    With Luminous, Disney goes back to the basics to craft a nighttime spectacular devoid of projections or screen media. This was a deliberate choice, according to the show creators. Disney Live Entertainment set out to create something rather nebulous, but dynamic. In terms of storyline, there is certainly a backbone to the show thanks to narration and careful song selection, but the creators said that they wanted guests to kind of make the show their own – something sometimes hindered by projected or screen media.

    Luminous is a visual feast that never strays too far from a classic fireworks show. Hardware allows Disney to not only take advantage of shoreline perimeter launches that longtime EPCOT fans adore but also to form a wide canvas in the Lagoon that doubles the envelope of the show when compared to barges alone.

    A variety of fireworks complement various story elements, never overpowering or failing to live up to the moment. Luminous takes advantage of the 360-degree nature of the Lagoon, offering something for everyone as the eye is often drawn skyward with the fountains playing a peripheral role throughout much of the show.

    As we said earlier, Luminous has big shoes to fill, and perhaps no moment showcases that the creators understood that than the surprise finale. As you can see in our photos below, a pyro tower rises up from a hidden position within the barges to create an effect that has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Rapid bursts of pyrotechnics emit from the tower with a force that can be heard over the show music, highlighting just how amazing this effect is. It’s a stunning moment that easily meets and exceeds the capabilities found in the center of the Illuminations globe.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    Overall, the fireworks display for Luminous is the reason we’ll continue to enjoy this show for years to come. We’re very happy to see that the fireworks design is fully realized and meticulously executed.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Fountain Effects

    Before we jump into our full video of the show and a scene-by-scene review, we wanted to round out our preview with a look at the fountain effects for the show. As you know by now, there are barges in the middle of World Showcase Lagoon that not only provide lighting and fireworks but also fountain effects for the show. In total, there are 6 show barges with a single centerpiece barge that is only utilized during the finale.

    Earlier, we noted that the fountain effects are mostly peripheral, but that doesn’t mean that they are an afterthought. The fountains breathe life into Luminous which makes us wish that Disney had 100 more platforms around the Lagoon to bring a World of Color-style visual to the show. As it stands, the fountains that we do see are wonderful, and oftentimes used as the singular visual storytelling element during Luminous when fireworks or lasers would overpower the moment. Disney has done a phenomenal job of lighting the fountains to create a synchronized canvas on which to paint colors that match the mood of the moment. Here’s a closer look at some of our favorite displays.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Full Show Video

    Before we jump into our review of Luminous The Symphony of Us, here’s our full video from opening night. We filmed from the Canada Pavilion to ensure that the wind direction wouldn’t negatively impact our view, but the show is quite viewable from all 360° around World Showcase Lagoon. We’ll also include some photos from a viewing between the Norway and Mexico Pavilions.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Review

    Luminous has big shoes to fill, and it does so wonderfully. From the fan-favorite Illuminations, which, if we’re being honest, dragged along at times, to Harmonious, which was plagued with infrastructure challenges, Luminous splits the difference and is a worthy successor for a long-term EPCOT nighttime spectacular. The narration hits home and the song choice is adequate to good throughout. There are parts of the show that might not resonate with everyone, but the message of global unity through shared experiences is present throughout.

    We could do with less of a presence of the concept of loss during a show that is meant to serve as a nightcap for what is supposed to be a core memory day at the Disney World theme parks, but other than that, the show is a visual masterpiece that is hopefully a platform for which Disney can build on for years to come. After a miss with Harmonious (and we loved the show), we were hopeful for a big swing such as the use of drones or a more robust hardware setup on World Showcase Lagoon, but Disney played it perfectly with a setup that is dynamic enough to be more than just fireworks while also creating a stunning fireworks display that would stand alone as a nighttime spectacular in any theme park worldwide.

    Luminous is very much worth your time on your next Walt Disney World vacation and will serve as the perfect reason to keep guests in EPCOT long enough to experience the stunning World Celebration Gardens infrastructure that Disney also recently revealed. On a scale of 1-10, Luminous sits at a 7.5 for us with a likelihood of a 1-point bump in the coming months as we continue to watch it and enjoy the original songs and absolutely stunning fireworks display. With a high-level overview under our belts, let’s take a look at a scene-by-scene breakdown of the show, with commentary on what works and what leaves us wanting more.

    Luminous the Symphony of Us show credits:

    • Steve Davison – Executive Creative Director
    • Tom Williams – Executive Producer
    • Eric Tucker – Pyrotechnics
    • Steph Fink – Music Producer
    • Stacey Simons – Show Producer

    Welcome & Global Gathering
    The show starts out strong – a 10/10 from the start, with a subtle transition out of pre-show music and into the main event. Lights on the barges in the middle draw your attention to the Lagoon and not a moment too soon as an explosion and singular firework flare reach for the skies as the show begins. Our narrator welcomes us to “The Great Gathering”, which hits a perfect tone as the serene World Showcase Lagoon turns into a theater-in-the-round for our nighttime show.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    Perimeter launches from each country are synchronized with a welcome in each nation’s native language. For those listening with a close ear, the final “welcome” comes from Walt Disney himself, courtesy of archival footage from the opening of Disneyland. While each country was highlighted by a singular perimeter launch to start, a communal perimeter launch not only impresses guests who might be new to the Lagoon (and welcomes back repeat visitors), it also serves as a reminder of the message of community and shared experiences that the show will shortly lay out in front of us.

    During the welcome, and before we launch into the first original song, Heartbeat Symphony, we hear the familiar motifs of Pinar Toprak’s excellent EPCOT anthem that we heard during our walk into the park and through the central World Celebration Gardens. I absolutely love Toprak’s anthem and have from the moment I heard it performed at the 2019 D23 Expo. It’s perfect, and I love it in every form that it’s used at EPCOT right now.

    Before we jump into Heartbeat Symphony, our narrator returns to set the stage, and welcomes us to “the great symphony of us”.

    Heartbeat Symphony
    Heartbeat Symphony might be perfect. The intro is perfectly timed with Lagoon-level fireworks launches and colorful fountains. It builds wonderfully and keeps the lyrics simple and easy to hear. The chorus is something that stuck with us like Happily Ever After did upon the first listen.

    Our only complaint might be that it is at the start of the show. Right now, we like it more than Beating of Our Hearts (which is also a great song), but it almost feels more like a finale song than something that opens the show.

    Either way, we’re huge fans of this song and even if the middle of the show leaves us wanting something different (spoiler alert), the original songs will keep us coming back regardless.

    Birth/Parenthood (“You’ll Be in My Heart”)
    With Mother Earth telling the story of the human experience, we start at the beginning – birth. Here’s the quick narration that sits between the end of Heartbeat Symphony and the beginning of the Disney songbook.

    “When we are born, we come into this world a raw noise, cradled in tenderness. We tune ourselves to the world around us”.

    The crying of a baby introduces us to this period of life as “You’ll Be in My Heart” plays in the background. This is the first song from the Disney songbook, and while starts in English, it becomes a beautifully woven multi-lingual composition that is perfect for EPCOT. We love the idea of using different languages in a nighttime spectacular at EPCOT and it’s one of the things that Harmonious did wonderfully. We’re very happy to see it continue in Luminous!

    A slow, soft start to the song utilizes barely visible fountain effects at the start of the song, but as the song builds, so does the fireworks and fountain display. We’ll take a moment here to note that Disney wisely built the infrastructure of Luminous to be wider than just the envelope of the barges. Two dozen fireworks platforms expand the canvas of the show and are utilized wonderfully to create not only a wider ground-launch visual, but also a wide sky canvas as well.

    Growing Up/Family Bonds (“Proud Corazón”)
    While still children, our journey includes not just raw noise anymore, but the concept of family and our first words. Mother Earth returns to narrate the transition from newborn to toddler.

    We begin to understand what our instrument can do. We find our voice, and add it to the ensemble of our ancestors, our family, nuestra familia”.

    A quick segment, the Lagoon hardware starts to show off a bit with dazzling fireworks filled with color set against a colorful background formed by the dozens of lights and fountain effects. We get a brief rendition of Proud Corazón that effortlessly merges with the EPCOT anthem before Mother Earth returns to narrate our next transition in life’s journey.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    Play/Friendship (“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, “Friend Like Me”)
    After going through the toddler phase, it’s time to join our music with others as we start to interact outside of the home.

    “We begin to recognize the music in others, trading notes and improvising. Music becomes play!”

    This is where I started to roll my eyes a bit. The song choice feels out of place in EPCOT and a little simplistic for the show. I’m not saying the creators simply found songs that had the word “friend” in them and squeezed them into the show, but that’s what it looks like from the outside. Yes, the fireworks, fountains, and lights create a wonderfully playful visual, but there has to be something in the Disney songbook that talks about friendship and play that feels less forced than Toy Story and Aladdin, however recognizable they may be.

    Love/Romance (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, “So Close”)
    As we continue to grow, we may form a close bond with one another. Mother Earth returns as a quick transition after a brief appearance of Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King.

    “Sometimes, we find another, and our melodies blend. And suddenly, with the hum of our heartstrings, our world becomes a duet”

    The main Disney songbook utilized for the love and relationships section is “So Close” from Enchanted. This is not the first time that Disney has used this song in a nighttime show at its theme parks. During a segment highlighting relationships during the World of Color show at Disney California Adventure, Disney utilizes the same song to a similar effect.

    Unlike World of Color, which uses “So Close” ahead of an uplifting segment, we transition into a sad moment as we broach the subject of loss and death.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    Death/Loss (“When She Loved Me”, “Remember Me”)
    “Inevitably in life, the accompaniment drops out, and we experience great loss. We find that the melodies we cherish are gone, and for a moment, we are playing alone”

    On the surface, it’s possible that the segment is only talking about loss. Maybe the loss of a friendship or relationship. Death itself isn’t mentioned explicitly in the narration or music choice, but it is present throughout and not necessarily shied away from. To us, this segment represents death and I’ll review it through that lens.

    If we’re going to tell the shared story of life, it has to include death or loss. It’s a heavy topic for a Disney nighttime spectacular, and maybe best glossed over given the difficult nature of the topic, but Luminous barrels straight on into the void.

    The segment on death may only be around 90 seconds long, but that 90 seconds can feel like an eternity if you’re dealing with a recent loss. A somber moment includes a soft rendition of “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, layered with “Remember Me” from Coco.

    This segment of Luminous is a poignant reminder that the only requirement for death is life. Put bluntly, it’s not what I want at the end of my day at a Disney theme park. The segment is well done, and a chapter on death is part of the story of life, but its presence makes me take a step back and reconsider the whole purpose of the show and the storyline that the creatives went with. Maybe the story of life, which always ends the same, wasn’t the right topic for an EPCOT nighttime spectacular. Maybe a nighttime spectacular could be a recap of your day at the park – some reminders of what made your day special, perhaps a celebration of the culture that makes EPCOT unique, and not, quite frankly, a reminder that we’re all going to die.

    Out of the Darkness (“Into the Unknown”, “I See The Light”)
    As we emerge from loss and perhaps when we’re feeling our lowest, an echo fills World Showcase as Mother Earth narration is set on top of the chants from Into the Unknown.

    “But we are never truly alone. Sing out so others can hear you. The music we make echoes back at us in chorus. In concert. In symphony!

    Together, our voices can illuminate the world, if we only listen closely for the sounds of each other.

    How miraculous that we exist on this planet at the same time. And yet, it’s the human connection that unifies us”

    After spinning our tires a bit in terms of pace, the show picks up again with a wonderful one-two punch of Into the Unknown and I See the Light.

    Beating of Our Hearts Finale
    Narration carries us right into the second original song – Beating of Our Hearts. The finale is one of the most visually stunning finales we can remember at EPCOT. A pyrotechnics tower emerges from the center of the barges, creating an unbelievable effect that is equal parts powerful and beautiful. The rapid-fire effect can be heard above the music, which only emphasizes just how cool it really is. I hope that crews are able to ensure that even if other effects come and go during the lifetime of this show, that the pyro tower stands the test of time.

    Luminous The Symphony of Us review

    Luminous The Symphony of Us Final Thoughts

    As we share our final thoughts about Luminous, I have a feeling that it’s only the final thoughts for this article. As I said earlier, I expect there to be some upside to the show after multiple viewings, and perhaps even as life around me changes. Perhaps the loss segment will grow on me as I continue to experience more loss in life, maybe the play segment will be more meaningful as I watch the kids of close friends grow into who they’re going to be, and maybe I’ll find new messages in the show that I didn’t during early viewings. Everyone will see something a little different in Luminous, but it’s certainly the type of show that is worth viewing, and even going out of your way to experience in person at EPCOT.

    As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!

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