The best theme parks create a specific mood that you can’t experience anywhere else. If the tone of each land doesn’t match the theme, it feels jarring instead of reassuring. My local Six Flags struggles mightily to build an effective atmosphere. One of the key aspects of creating the right effect is the use of music. Disney is a master at using just the right background music to support the environment. Attractions do more than provide thrills because the experience connects with our emotions. The music complements the ride and enhances the overall impact.
Classic songs from Walt Disney World stick with us long after we leave the parks. Fans buy the albums, locate obscure tracks online, and find radio stations to recapture the magic. These aren’t just obvious songs like “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” and “Grim Grinning Ghosts” either. Most of the best Disney attractions have songs or at least background music to support them. This was definitely true at EPCOT Center, and that trend continues in modern Epcot.
As part of the 35th anniversary celebration of Epcot this month, I’ve organized a playlist of my favorite songs from that park. Many come from the early days of EPCOT Center, but some newer tracks have made the cut. I’ve mostly avoided the lengthy BGM tracks and limited the length to one CD. I’ve also organized the songs to build the mood and not by timeframe or exact location. The end result is a varied look at the music that creates the park’s optimistic theme. While some attractions are gone, you can still hear their music in Epcot in the right spot.
Celebrate the Future – An Epcot Playlist
1. Epcot Entrance Theme (YouTube)
What better way to start than with the sounds you hear while entering the park? There are many different variations of this music, and the full loop is quite long. I’ve chosen a four-minute version that provides a quick overview of what it feels like to approach the park. You could make a long playlist of just BGM tracks, but this clip ia a lot shorter.
2. Standing in Motion by Yanni (The Essential Yanni)
Let’s get moving! I wouldn’t call myself a Yanni fan, but his songs fit well inside Epcot. The best example is “Standing in Motion”, which plays with the Fountain of Nations show. Beyond its use in that specific presentation, this song embodies the excitement of visiting Future World.
3. Energy Adventure Medley (Walt Disney World Official Album)
Continuing the upbeat vibe as we stroll into the parks, this clip that connects to Ellen’s Energy Adventure maintains that tone. This song embodies the Epcot of the late ‘90s, which pushed a lighter tone while continuing the optimism of the park’s early days.
4. Spaceship Earth by Bruce Broughton (Walt Disney World Official Album)
Whew! I’m ready to sit down and visit an attraction. Let’s board our ride vehicles and experience the history of communications and innovation with Judi Dench. While this isn’t my favorite version of Spaceship Earth, the score from Bruce Broughton is a stunning piece of music.
5. Tomorrow’s Child by Ron Ovadia and Peter Stougaard (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
We’ve jumped back in time to the amazing Walter Cronkite version of Spaceship Earth in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. That attraction didn’t let us down in the descent either. This memorable song was a key part of what made everything fit together. Lyrics like “reach for hope and desire/building a world to inspire” summarize the entire park, not just Spaceship Earth.
6. Aquaculture (YouTube)
Easily among my favorite Disney music, this instrumental track embodies The Living Seas in its early days. There’s a sense of mystery and wonder in this slow-paced song as we explore the world of Seabase Alpha. It’s also a soothing tune that’s great for mellowing out on a business workday or right before bed. I really wish that Disney would release this officially.
7. Energy (You Make the World Go ‘Round) by Robert Moline (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
I’ve recently studied the online videos of the original Universe of Energy, and it remains stunning 35 years later. The opening Kinetic Mosaic video with the Radok blocks does not seem dated even on TV screens. This charming song was written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, and it conveys an inspiring feeling about energy possibilities. It makes the world go round.
8. Universe of Energy by Buddy Baker (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
Visiting this pavilion as a kid, I loved the rousing finale with its catchy theme song and visual effects. The room’s mirrors allowed for cool effects that expanded the images beyond what we expected. The transition from the fairly dry film into this fun ending worked so well. I challenge anyone to hear this song and not get it stuck in your head.
9. New Horizons by George Wilkins (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
Let’s stay in Future World East and board special Omnimovers for a journey by land, sea, and space. As we stroll into the queue, the inviting sound if kids singing “if we can dream it/then we can do it/yes we can” set the mood. We’re all seeking the promise of brighter days, and Horizons presents an amazing future. I hope we get there someday.
10. There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: Horizons Variation by the Sherman Brothers (Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair)
Before leaving Horizons, let’s enjoy this jazzy variation on the famous Carousel of Progress theme from the Sherman Brothers. It’s a fun callback to the other attraction without calling too much attention to itself. The entertaining take on the classic Disney tune fits perfectly inside the “Looking Back at Tomorrow” sequence.
11. Test Track by Paul Leonard-Morgan (Walt Disney World Official Album)
Much of this playlist has focused on EPCOT Center attractions, but that doesn’t mean newer examples fall short. Test Track is a thrill ride yet doesn’t feel out of place in Future World. I loved World of Motion and wish it could have survived, but that shouldn’t diminish Test Track. The background music from the newer version connects well to the rest of the park.
12. Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand (Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration)
I didn’t visit Epcot during the Millennium Celebration and am kicking myself for missing it. Although it helped encourage the endless festivals approach of modern Epcot, it still sounds cool. Its theme song was “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand”, which looks ahead to the 21st century as a time of great promise. It’s another strong mission statement for the park.
13. Soarin’ by Jerry Goldsmith (Walt Disney World Official Album)
Even more than Test Track, Soarin’ connects well to the themes of EPCOT Center. The feeling of floating over the gorgeous lands inspires us all. The new version is good and fits better thematically, but it falls short of the wonders of the original. A main reason is Jerry Goldsmith’s pitch-perfect score, which connects so well to the images on the screen. It’s pure magic.
14. Listen to the Land by Robert Moline (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
Another catchy tune from Moline is the theme of the original boat ride in The Land pavilion. While I still love the current version (possibly more due to the lack of unenthusiastic cast members), I do miss “Listen to the Land”. It’s also a hit at home with my daughters and is another one that will get trapped in your brain.
15. One Little Spark by the Sherman Brothers (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
Before we reach World Showcase, we must stop at the Imagination pavilion for one of the great Disney songs. Although it still plays in today’s attraction, that version falls short. We need Dreamfinder and the original Figment for this song to really click!
16. Impressions de France (Walt Disney World Official Album)
I love this film so much, and the main reason is the music. I’m relieved that Disney is keeping Impressions de France in place when the pavilion expands. Despite being an opening-day attraction, it feels timeless because of the elegant score and minimal narration. It’s pitch-perfect.
17. Golden Dream by Randy Bright and Robert Moline (The Music of Disneyland, Walt Disney World & EPCOT Center)
I’m still impressed by how epic The American Adventure feels and would love to see it from backstage. The closing song with its video clips of iconic moments is an excellent climax to this grand adventure. It’s quintessential of Disney’s parks and induces a few chills even after seeing it quite a few times. The main reason is this classic song, which also plays during Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland.
18. Innoventions Area Music (Soundcloud)
Before we reach our finale, let’s swing by the Innoventions area for Epcot’s top BGM. You don’t need to be an aficionado to recognize this memorable tune. Particularly at night when Future World comes alive, this song plays a key role in selling the magic. Like I said with Aquaculture, Disney should release this track in some fashion. While it’s easy to find online, a definitive version would be great. The full loop is 20 minutes, so a clip would work better on a playlist.
19. Reflections of Earth by Gavin Greenaway (Illuminations: Reflections of Earth/Tapestry of Dreams)
I purchased this CD a few years ago, and I’ve spent many hours listening to Illuminations. I’ve also grown to appreciate the middle part of the show a lot more after hearing the soundtrack. Reflections of Earth takes us on a journey and remains the best nighttime spectacular in Walt Disney World. A key part of its success is the music, which remains just as powerful today as it’s ever been.
20. We Go On by Kellie Coffey (Illuminations: Reflections of Earth/Tapestry of Dreams)
This closing song to Illuminations is good at home, but it reaches new heights when heard above the World Showcase Lagoon. Combined with fireworks and other effects, it provides a thrilling way to end the day at Epcot. I can’t think of a better way to close out this playlist.
Just Getting Started
This playlist barely scratches the surface of the memorable songs from 35 years of Epcot. Classic tunes like “It’s Fun to Be Free”, “Makin’ Memories”, “Canada (You’re a Lifetime Journey)”, and “Magic Journeys” are just a few of the possible choices that didn’t make the cut. I don’t consider this a definitive ranking of my favorites either. It’s more about creating a feeling of what it’s been like to visit Epcot over the years.
I have noticed that Disney has moved away from writing theme songs for attractions. They’re more likely to develop a score that fits the mood today. It makes sense given modern trends, but I do miss the cheesy tunes from the ‘80s. They made Disney World into a goofier place that had fun even when educating us about the world. Today’s version is a bit too corporate and could use more whimsy in its music. Epic songs are great, but a little silliness goes a long way.
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