Five days after its initial debut, I have finally seen Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular, Harmonious. I refused to watch the live stream preferring to experience it cold, and in person. I wanted no preconceived ideas of what it contained, apart from the inescapable descriptions Disney has served up over the past two years.
Over the last several months as the large barges crammed their way into the once beautiful World Showcase Lagoon, a place I have loved since I was a child, I began to worry. Tonight, seeing Harmonious in person, I realized my worries were warranted.
Harmonious doesn’t just miss the mark, it falls flat on its face. Disney had a golden opportunity to use their vast and diverse library of music to take us on an international musical journey around World Showcase, and the world itself. Instead we got a worse version of World of Color.
Rather than feature varied and diverse musical instruments from around the world to weave a tapestry of music that transports you to distant ports of call, Harmonious features a sloppily orchestrated conglomeration of Disney music that only occasionally nods to the diversity of nations sitting along the banks of World Showcase.
Allegedly this show contains three acts: Gather, Celebrate, Unite. The problem is, it’s very difficult to differentiate between these three acts. The show just starts and is a 20 minute clumsy mashup of somewhat remixed and unrelated Disney songs from various Disney movies.
There is no story, no underlying theme that Disney uses these songs to highlight. It’s conceivable that you could toss these songs up into the air, let them fall, and play them in whatever order they land and you’d have the same basic show.
Technologically there's not much new here. It's all just bigger. Big screens, big fountains, and barges too big to move out of sight during the daylight hours. Ok, these weird arms move but they don't do much to enhance any story. During the show, the swinging arms conjure images of a flailing, wounded, giant squid. These large, taco-like barges are just over-engineered piles of metal that block views during the day, and distract during the show.
And what about the setting? HarmonioUS performs completely unaware of its own surroundings. While over at Magic Kingdom "Enchantment" clumsily attempts to integrate the buildings of Main Street into the show, HarmonioUS seems to deliberately shun its own surroundings of World Showcase. EPCOT, unlike any other venue, offers the unique ability for a show to take place in 360 degrees surrounded by the beautifully crafted World Showcase Countries. These 11 pavilions have historically had a prominent role in the shows. Before Harmonious BARGED its way into EPCOT, it was almost as if the countries themselves were performing a show for us. United together by the festive elements of water, fire, and light, they embraced us and told us a story. Now, they’ve been shoved to the background. Barely twinkling, they take a backseat to the same boisterous Disney tunes playing in every other park and most other park’s spectaculars.
It’s almost possible to feel bad for the nations of World Showcase. All day standing quietly on the shores of the lagoon, they’re trying to peer up over the grotesque barges that have quite literally barged their way in front of them. Now those nations, with their proud cultural exchange representatives inside, are nightly being forced to sit in the darkness until Harmonious mercifully ends.
Musically, Harmonious also lacks any original theme song. Even World of Color binds together the many songs contained in the show by opening and closing with a familiar refrain. Not Harmonious! Harmonious just starts, and when it runs out of Disney songs, it stops. How many times have you caught yourself singing the tune to Happily Ever After, Reflections of Earth, Wishes, or World of color? No one leaves EPCOT humming Harmonious.
Harmonious is the one night stand of nighttime spectaculars. You don’t love it. You don’t remember it. You probably won’t see it again unless you’re drunk. Yeah, it had an explosive ending, but it didn’t mean anything.
Rather than being a reflection of Earth like IllumiNations, Harmonious is more a reflection of guests. Like so many drunk Epcot guests arriving in ever-increasing numbers, Harmonious is loud, bloated, vapid, meandering, covered in mouse ears, and uninterested in, unaware of, and unconnected to the countries in front of which it is embarrassing itself.