The latest nighttime lagoon show has finally landed at Walt Disney World with a big bang, and we have your Unofficial Guide to experiencing EPCOT’s all-new Luminous: The Symphony of Us.
On December 5, Walt Disney World officially unveiled Luminous: The Symphony of Us, a new nighttime spectacular in EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon. Coming close on the heels of the short-lived EPCOT Forever and Harmonious shows, Luminous looks instead to follow in the footsteps of the beloved Illuminations and establish itself as the park’s must-see nightcap for many years to come.
Luminous: The Symphony of Us Description and Review
Like the lagoon shows before it, Luminous is a massive production that mixes music and fireworks with lights and moving fountains. Rather than relying on the “hero’s journey“ narrative followed by so many Disney fireworks shows, this one shakes things up a bit by drawing parallels between a person’s life and an instrument in an orchestra. From the opening tap of a conductor’s baton, the human heartbeat becomes a recurring musical motif in composer Pinar Toprak’s score, which starts with the original anthem “Heartbeat Symphony.“
Throughout Luminous, the various stages of life—from childhood play and first love, through heartbreak and healing—are expressed as symphonic reinterpretations of familiar tunes, including “You’ll Be in My Heart“ from Tarzan, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me“ from Toy Story, and “So Close“ from Enchanted. The most tear-jerking moment comes during a mash-up of “When She Loved Me“ and “Remember Me,“ which is followed by an explosive “Into the Unknown“ and the original finale, “Beating of Our Hearts.“
Luminous has similar aesthetic and emotional impact to Reflections of Earth and the original World of Color, while arguably being better paced than either; there’s no long, slow section in the middle here, save for a welcome 70-second lull during the sad segment before the big blowout ending begins. In contrast to the last couple of productions, it successfully evokes nostalgia without feeling like fan service or IP exploitation. And most important of all, it isn’t parsimonious with the pyrotechnics, placing a plentitude of aerial explosions firmly in the starring role, with colorful lasers and Las Vegas-style fountains serving as support.
Luminous is Walt Disney World’s best new nighttime show this decade, and you should consider it not to be missed. Watch a full performance of the show, recorded during opening week from the United Kingdom Pavilion (with thanks to our friends at MEI-Travel.com).
Viewing Strategies for EPCOT’s Luminous
One of the many flaws of Harmonious was that it couldn’t be viewed properly from anywhere except for two spots around World Showcase Lagoon. Luminous did away with its predecessor’s giant rings of display equipment that blocked views across the lagoon all day long. That means you can enjoy the new show from almost anywhere around the lagoon, without worrying about standing at a certain angle to view a video screen. (You do need to watch out for afternoon traffic jams around the China Pavilion, when the bridge is opened to float out the evening’s equipment.)
The best viewing location for fireworks is in Showcase Plaza—the area where Future World meets World Showcase—between the Disney Traders and Port of Entry shops. Unfortunately, this area is often blocked off for private events and can fill up hours before showtime when available.
The best places for viewing fireworks on the opposite side of World Showcase Lagoon are between the Japan and Italy Pavilions, as you can see the synchronized lights on Spaceship Earth during the show. Here are some good vantage points on the south side of World Showcase, which are sometimes available up to 30 minutes prior to showtime:
- International Gateway Island: The pedestrian bridge across the canal near the International Gateway spans an island that offers great viewing. This island normally fills 30 minutes or more before showtime.
- Second-Floor (Restaurant-Level) Deck of the Mitsukoshi Building in Japan: An Asian arch slightly blocks your sight line, but this covered deck offers a great vantage point, especially if the weather is iffy. Only La Hacienda de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion is more protected. If you take up a position on the Mitsukoshi deck and find the wind blowing directly at you, you can be reasonably sure that the smoke from the fireworks won’t be far behind. This area may be reserved by Disney for private viewings.
- Gondola Landing in Italy: An elaborate waterfront promenade offers decent viewing of all but the central barge images. Claim a spot at least 30 minutes before showtime.
- Boat Dock Opposite Germany: Another good vantage point, the dock generally fills 30 minutes before the show. Note that this area may be exposed to more smoke from the fireworks because of EPCOT’s prevailing winds.
- Waterfront Promenade by Germany: Views are good from the 90-foot-long, lagoon-side walkway between the Germany and China Pavilions.
La Hacienda de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion, the Rose & Crown Pub in the United Kingdom Pavilion, and Spice Road Table in the Morocco Pavilion also offer lagoon views. The views at Spice Road Table are better than those at the other restaurants. If you want to combine dinner at these sit-down locations with your viewing of the show, make a reservation for about 1 hour and 15 minutes before showtime. You may need a special dinner package (starting around $80 per person) to sit waterside during the show.
Because most guests run for the exits after a presentation—and islands in the southern (US Pavilion) half of the lagoon block the view from some places—the most popular spectator positions are along the northern waterfront, from Norway and Mexico to Canada and the United Kingdom. Views between Norway and Mexico are generally more unobstructed, as large trees overhang the shoreline in front of Canada and UK, although neither side gets a good view of Spaceship Earth.
Most nights, you can still find an acceptable vantage point 15–30 minutes before the show. Try not to position yourself under a tree, an awning, or anything that blocks your overhead view. And if you are standing in the front row along the shoreline railing, watch your ears when the low-flying rockets are launched at the beginning and end of the show!
Tips for Exiting EPCOT after Luminous
EPCOT’s fireworks show ends the day—when it’s over, everyone leaves at once. It’s important, then, to not only decide how quickly you want to flee the park after the show but also to pick a vantage point that will help you do that most efficiently.
The Skyliner gondola system connects EPCOT with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as the Caribbean Beach, Riviera, Pop Century, and Art of Animation Resorts. EPCOT’s Skyliner station is just beyond the International Gateway exit. Waits can be half an hour or more on busy nights. Also note that the Skyliner doesn’t operate during thunderstorms or when lightning is in the area.
If you’re staying at (or you parked at) an EPCOT resort (Swan, Dolphin, Swan Reserve, Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, or BoardWalk Inn & Villas), watch the show from somewhere on the southern (US Pavilion) half of World Showcase Lagoon, then leave through the International Gateway between France and the United Kingdom. You can walk or take a boat back to your hotel from the International Gateway.
If you’re staying at any other Disney hotel and you don’t have a car, the fastest way home is to join the mass exodus through the main Future World gate after the show and catch a bus or the monorail.
Those who’ve left a car parked in the EPCOT lot have a stickier situation. To beat the crowds, find a viewing spot at the end of World Showcase Lagoon nearest World Celebration (and the exits). Leave as soon as the show wraps up, trying to exit ahead of the crowd (noting that thousands of people will be doing the same thing).
If you want a good vantage point between Mexico and Canada on the northern end of the lagoon, stake out your spot 60–100 minutes before the show (45–90 minutes during less-busy periods). Otherwise, you may squander more time holding your spot before the show than you would if you watched from the less-congested southern end of the lagoon and took your chances with the crowd upon departure.
More groups get separated and more kids get lost following the evening fireworks than at any other time. In summer, you’ll be walking in a throng of up to 30,000 people. If you’re heading for the parking lot, anticipate this congestion and pick a spot in the main EPCOT entrance area where you can meet if someone gets separated from the group. We recommend the illuminated pylon fountain in front of Spaceship Earth.
For those with a car, the hardest part is reaching the parking lot: Once you’ve made it there, you’re more or less home free. If you’ve paid close attention to where you parked, consider skipping the tram and walking. But if you do, watch your children closely and hang on to them for all they’re worth—the parking lot can get dicey at this time of night, with hundreds of moving cars.
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids.