The Beacons of Magic are a new addition to the world’s most magical celebration at Walt Disney World. These special effects light up and transform the park’s four icons: Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, and Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom.
Of these, only Spaceship Earth at Epcot is really interesting and worthy of its own post. The others are to varying degrees “neat but unremarkable”. You don’t miss much if you can’t see them; even if you witness the transformation, you may not realize it.
At Epcot, new lights were actually installed between the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to each other and resembling stars in a night sky. Unlike other Beacons of Magic, these are the only new permanent lights that will carry on beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the reimagined Epcot.
In fact, one of my favorite experiences of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary launch is seeing the Beacons of Magic for the first time. It’s one of those memories that’s already ingrained in my mind, a real Walt Disney World wow instant that I will never forget.
It actually came before the world’s most magical celebration began on September 29, when Harmonious made its smooth opening at Epcot. I was standing in the viewing area from the “front of the house” to the back of the World Showcase Plaza, with my back to Spaceship Earth. After Harmonious ended, there was an audible unexplainable reaction among the crowd, like a weirdly delayed excitement about the grand finale of the new fireworks show …
Of course, that made little sense. Despite being a bummer for many Walt Disney World fans, Harmonious nonetheless garnered the standard fireworks response to its grand finale. (come on, who isn’t going to clap for a bunch of explosions ?!). But he wasn’t getting applause or anything like that.
It was something completely different. It was almost as if the Epcot crowd was waveing, but with gasps and “whoas” instead of waving their arms. As people turned to head for the exit, they saw the spacecraft Earth for the first time, illuminated with bright spots of light. It was breathtaking. I swear it was way brighter than what’s reflected in these photos, but maybe I’m already building this moment in my mind.
In retrospect, I would have liked to take a quick photo to commemorate this moment, but I was singularly focused on one thing: get to the front of Epcot to see Spaceship Earth up close!
Of course, all the other guests had the exact same idea (the park was closed and everyone was heading for the exits, anyway). That, coupled with the sea of building walls around Future World or whatever they call those “neighborhoods” these days, has made an excruciating scoundrel. It was probably only 10 minutes, but I felt like it had taken 10 hours.
No words, photos, or even videos can do Epcot’s Beacons of Magic justice. As beautiful as it sounds online, it’s even better in person.
Anyone who has seen the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth from inside Epcot will tell you that it is a breathtaking sight.
There are two “modes” for the Beacons of Magic at Epcot. One is the standard brilliant shine of the lights, which punctuate the standard lighting package on Spaceship Earth and make it even sharper from a distance.
The other is a show mode, which spins Spaceship Earth through a variety of different color schemes and patterns for several minutes. There’s even a nod to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth during this show.
The Beacons of Light illuminate at dusk and run until Harmonious, reverting to normal (i.e. Spaceship Earth’s pre-Beacons of Magic appearance) approximately 30 minutes after Epcot closes.
Show mode occurs approximately every 15 minutes.
In terms of things to know or viewing tips for the Beacons of Magic at Epcot, that’s really it. Even though we use the word “spectacle” here, it sounds more like a diversion – and easy to see, too.
You really don’t need to plan or spend the time to see the display of the magical beacons light up the spaceship Earth. This will happen when you walk around Future World or, at the latest, exit the park. The Earth spaceship looms above you, so it can be easily seen from anywhere around the main entrance.
While I certainly can’t complain about my wow time attending the Beacons of Magic for the first time at Epcot, I think there is an even cooler and more impressive option: taking the monorail to Epcot shortly after the dusk.
Overall, this is just a big reveal of Epcot’s great and miraculous spacecraft Earth. This is doubly true when the Beacons of Magic go through their show mode. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend jumping through hoops to make a monorail ride to Epcot your first exhibit at the park. If it requires a minimum of extra effort, it is well worth it.
Above is our video of Beacons of Magic’s very first “show” on Spaceship Earth.
Apologies for the quality – I was also taking pictures and attending the show. It should only be used for illustration purposes to give you an idea of what it looks like. Honestly, you shouldn’t be watching the video at all. Wait until you see it in person!
Ultimately, the Beacons of Magic at Epcot are the highlight of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. It might seem like a slight praise or a backhanded compliment that underscores the disappointment of Harmonious or Disney Enchantment. And to some extent, I guess that’s the end result.
However, this is completely unintentional. The reality is that Spaceship Earth is normally one of the most majestic and awe-inspiring sites in Walt Disney World. Even after contemplating its splendor thousands of times, leaving Epcot and walking under the geodesic sphere never gets old. It amazes and impresses every time. Even if the two new nightly shows were exceptional, the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth might still have overshadowed them.
I was skeptical of this addition, wondering if the look of light fixtures during the day would be worth it at night. They absolutely do, without a doubt. They are barely noticeable during the day and add a ton at night. (If anything, I could reduce the static mode a bit or make it pop up shortly before the show, so it’s even more punchy, but it’s a little problem.)
The Lighthouses of Magic have, sort of, further elevated the greatness of Spaceship Earth. This crowns the transformation of the entrance to Epcot, a project that has improved the ambience, atmosphere and aesthetics of this neighborhood. This new Spaceship Earth lighting really punctuates that, making Epcot’s main entrance a place you’ll want to linger and soak up the vibe. We’ve been critical of many aspects of Epcot’s transformation, but this is an unequivocal home run. Kudos to Imagineering for doing an amazing job evoking the spirit of the EPCOT center while taking advantage of innovative technology and modernizing this space.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Discover the hotels on our Walt Disney World hotel reviews page. To find out where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or figure out which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets Publish. Our What to pack for Disney trips post takes a unique look at smart objects to take. To know what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Rides Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Travel Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Have you seen the Beacons of Magic at Epcot or any of the other parks? What do you think of the new lighting? Is this show on Spaceship Earth one of the–or the–Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Highlights for You? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions we can help you answer? Hearing your comments, even when you don’t agree with us, is both interesting to us and useful to other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!