Review: ‘Luminous The Symphony of Us’ Fireworks Show at EPCOT

EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular Luminous The Symphony of Us has finally made its grand debut. The new show takes over as the permanent fireworks show at EPCOT after Harmonious had a brief and rocky run that didn’t even last two years.

How does Luminous The Symphony of Us (we’re shortening the name to Luminous for the sake of this review) compare to Harmonious or the much-loved Illuminations: Reflections of Earth shows that came before it? We’ll break down what led to Luminous, analyze what Luminous does well, and outline some hopes for the future.

Shoutout to @bioreconstruct for the featured image and many of the images below.

How’d We Get Here?

EPCOT’s nighttime spectacular scene has been a turbulent one over the past few years. As Illuminations: Reflections of Earth wrapped, a temporary show took its place as preparations for the new long-term show, Harmonious, were underway. That temporary show was EPCOT Forever, and while it served its purpose through some fun EPCOT nostalgia and some impressive fireworks kites that were towed by jet skis, it was clearly a bridge between shows.

But, it was obvious almost immediately that Harmonious was problematic. The daytime view of the Harmonious oil rigs – sorry, barges – ruined the great views around World Showcase Lagoon. Disney claimed fountains would be used to improve the daytime views, but that never happened. Remember the old concept art below?

Old 'Harmonious' concept art for daytime fountains.
The old ‘Harmonious’ concept art that never came to be.

Harmonious’ content was equally problematic, amounting to what former Disney CEO Bob Chapek described as a Disney concert. Some guests loved that concept, but reported figures showed not enough guests were sticking around to watch. Late dining reservations suffered. And, in what was just a crazy decision, Harmonious forced guests to stand in certain spots to get the full experience. Many views around World Showcase Lagoon, including some used by Disney Events, were terrible.

To make a long story longer, Chapek was shown the door and Disney eventually pulled the plug on their Harmonious mistake despite a significant financial investment (think hundreds of millions). The barges were removed. Thus, EPCOT Forever returned as a new show was rapidly developed – Luminous The Symphony of Us.

That development time was rushed and, according to many reports, was barely completed in time before the official debut on December 5, 2023.

Reviewing ‘Luminous The Symphony of Us’

History lesson over. On to our review of Luminous The Symphony of Us.

EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular is a safer, less ambitious take on a Disney fireworks show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Luminous hits many familiar notes seen in other Disney shows (it even uses some of the same songs), and yet it feels like its a better fit in EPCOT than Harmonious.

Luminous follows the journey we all face through the many stages of life – Coming into this world, family, finding friends, finding love, experiencing loss, and persevering through new challenges. The show uses a couple original songs to bookend a show that tells its story through narration and some familiar songs from Disney films.

The show’s original songs are outstanding. The song used during the finale is the real highlight, but more on that later. The other song selections from the Disney catalog are decent, though it seems odd to use two songs from the Toy Story franchise in the same show. It’s also a bit redundant to reuse ‘You’ll Be In My Heart’, ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’, and ‘Friend Like Me’ in Luminous considering they’re all in Happily Ever After over at Magic Kingdom.

From a technical view, Luminous doesn’t break a ton of new ground. The primary barges and the accompanying smaller barges do a great job of filling World Showcase Lagoon with lights, fountains, fireworks, and lasers. Perimeter fireworks are once again used on the edges of the Lagoon, which are always a crowd favorite.

The show’s center barge, which is mostly hidden from view for much of the show, provides some of the most memorable moments in Luminous. There’s an element that lifts up from the center barge and sprays out fireworks in all directions in a way that’s difficult to describe. It’s multi-directional fireworks blast that mimics some of the explosions of the larger shells in the air above. It’s honestly very good.

The Luminous barges also have a special fireworks effect that feels like a bit of Disney magic. Each barge is capable of spraying out a heart-shaped fireworks blast. Not a shell that explodes into a heart shape, but a blast of several fireworks that combined look like a heart. It’s a fantastic effect.

And here’s how it’s done.

Heart fireworks tubes on barge used in 'Luminous'
Photo from WDW Magic showing the tubes used to make the Heart fireworks effect.

Unfortunately, the ‘wow’ moments are mostly reserved for the finale, and Luminous as a whole doesn’t break a lot of new ground. Harmonious at least swung for the fences with its new technology (issues aside), while Luminous doesn’t innovate too much. Fireworks, fountains, lights, and lasers are pretty much the norm for an EPCOT fireworks show, and Luminous doesn’t really expand, improve, or add in any of those areas.

Overall Thoughts on ‘Luminous’

Overall, Luminous feels like a better fit for EPCOT than Harmonious. It has a similar vibe to the old Illuminations, which should go a long way in appeasing EPCOT purists. It’s a fireworks show through and through, with lots of impressive pyro. We love that you can actually enjoy Luminous from any spot around World Showcase Lagoon.

We’d rate Luminous several points higher than Harmonious, but several points lower than Illuminations. We’re not super big fans of the constant narration in Luminous, and would prefer for the show to make guests feel different emotions without telling them what they should be feeling. But, props to Luminous for trying to bring emotion back to an EPCOT spectacular.

Luminous will likely stick around at EPCOT for the next several years, but we don’t envision it having a super long run. The rushed development for Luminous likely prevented any opportunity for significant innovation, which makes the show feel a touch dated compared to other shows.

For now, we’re content to enjoy Luminous until Disney is ready to try innovating again at EPCOT.

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David is a Disney travel expert who created Notes from Neverland in 2018 after visiting Disney theme parks countless times. Previously, David spent way too much time writing about sports, and was featured in Sports Illustrated, MSN, Yahoo!, and in many other publications. Learn more or contact us.

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