Water Music: The Music of Epcot’s Fountain of Nations

by Al Krombach
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the May 10, 2016 Issue #868 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Fountain of Nations“Plussing” is a term that’s uniquely Disney. It means taking a good idea and making it even better.

“I wanted something live, something that could grow, something I could keep plussing with ideas, you see?” Walt said, explaining his enthusiasm for the original Disneyland project. “The park is that.”

At Epcot, that huge fountain in the center of Innoventions Plaza is a great example of plussing.

Unveiled with the rest of the park in 1982 and called the Fountain of Nations, or sometimes Innoventions Fountain, it overflows with superlatives: It’s the largest fountain in all of the Walt Disney World resort at 108,000 gallons; 30,000 gallons a minute cascade down its 180-foot-long sides; it was dedicated when representatives of 22 nations each added a gallon of water from their home countries. And in 1993 it was “plussed” with the addition of more than 250 water jets, programmed to perform a balletic display of liquid columns, streams, sneezes and puffs synchronized to stirring musical sound tracks. (Learn more about the fountain HERE.)

Every 15 minutes, Innoventions Plaza’s signature background music subsides, and the show begins. Disney Imagineers have selected eight soundtracks to coordinate with the water displays; the initial effort reportedly took three months. The shows run from three to five minutes each, are rotated in no particular order, and contain music from three Disney movies, two non-Disney sources and three Epcot-specific shows. Each has an interesting story behind it:

The Rescuers Down Under. The soundtrack from this 1990 Disney animated movie is one of the most identifiable among the fountain’s water shows. The introduction features pounding drums and sticks, primitive flutes, horns and bird calls to create an impression of the Australian Outback. American composer Bruce Broughton said then-Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg told him to make the movie’s score sound “ethnic.”

“This was a little hard to do since the Australian aborigines don’t have a lot of instruments to pick from,” Broughton said in a 2012 interview with AnimatedViews.com. “So the ethnic part of the score was taken from anything I could find: African instruments, South American, North American and Asian instruments. The score was about as ethnically authentic as the Australian accents of the characters in the film!”

“The Rescuers Down Under” was the first Disney animated sequel and only the second to have no songs included. It was also the first animation to employ CAPS, a computerized ink and paint program that had been developed by a small outfit called Pixar. But the movie sank at the box office. It was released following Disney’s record-setting “The Little Mermaid” and on the same weekend as “Home Alone.” Disappointed, Katzenberg immediately canceled the film’s advertising. His actions included yanking the soundtrack album from record stores after only a few weeks, making the instantly rare CD a collector’s item that traded hands among Disney music enthusiasts for upward of $150 a copy. (The soundtrack CD was re-released in 2002 in an edition that includes three songs from the original “The Rescuers.”)


The fountain show’s music includes the heroic theme accompanying the soaring flight of the golden eagle Marahute, helping illustrate why Broughton’s symphonic score is one of the more memorable among Disney animated features. A prolific composer of scores for films, television shows and theme parks, Broughton has contributed music to existing and former attractions elsewhere around Walt Disney World including Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Timekeeper, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, One Man’s Dream, O Canada and The Making of Me.

The Rocketeer. Fans of 1930s to 1950s movie-house matinee serials — one-reelers that usually ended with the hero about to be barbecued, blown up, run over by a train, tossed to the sharks or otherwise imperiled only to be miraculously resurrected in the following week’s chapter — will recall a series titled variously “Rocket-Man” or “Commando Cody.” In them, the lead character sported a bullet-shaped helmet on his head and a jet pack on his back that enabled him to fly like Superman. Disney’s homage to the genre, or more specifically their adaptation of a comic book series based on the genre, resulted in the 1991 live-action film “The Rocketeer.” Composer James Horner’s score is often mentioned as one of the high points of a film that won generally good reviews but was less successful commercially. The Fountain of Nations show uses up-tempo sections from the film score. Climbing and descending musical phrases depict the excitement of flight.

Fountain of Nations at NightHorner, who died in June 2015, was one of Hollywood’s premier composers for big-budget films — too many to name in this space. The list includes “Titanic” and “Avatar,” two of the most successful movies in recent history. It’s a good bet that Horner’s music will be heard again at Disney World when Pandora — The World of Avatar opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Meanwhile, rare memorabilia from “The Rocketeer” may be found in Disney’s Hollywood Studios if you know where to look. (Ask a cast member.)

Iron Will. From the sun-baked desert of Australia and the tropical jungle of Pandora we journey to the cold, gray North for this segment. The 1994 live-action Disney movie “Iron Will” is the story of a young man competing in a Canadian sled dog race. In the Fountain of Nations piece, the music begins with short French horn and flute solos before building to the movie score’s grand theme.

Composer Joel McNeely has a long association with Disney productions, beginning with made-for-TV movies in the 1980s. “Iron Will” was his first feature-length film score for the studio; he’s said he was “pretty much scared to death” at the prospect of writing it. In addition to scoring the Disney movie “Holes”, he has completed several projects for Disney, composing scores for direct-to-video sequels including “Return to Neverland,” “Jungle Book 2” (the second and third Disney sequels, both opened first in theaters), “Mulan 2,” “Lilo and Stitch 2,” “The Fox and the Hound 2” and “Cinderella III.” McNeely also provided the music for the six animated Tinker Bell features. In the theme parks, McNeely composed the score for the Disney Dreams! nighttime show at Disneyland Paris, and his Tinker Bell music pops up here and there.

Standing In Motion. Yanni, the New-Age maestro of public television pledge weeks supplies this tune, one of two Fountain of Nations musical numbers with no Disney connections. The self-taught Greek pianist composed “Standing in Motion” in 1993 and it’s become one of his most-requested standards; he still performs it at most of his live concerts. One reviewer called it “an adventurous orchestral and synth explosion more ambitious than anything Yanni has attempted on his studio recordings.” “The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine” credited the song with producing the “Mozart Effect,” a supposed temporary improvement in certain mental abilities stimulated by listening to the music of Mozart. If you “stand in motion” close enough to the fountain while catching this performance, you may walk away smarter, and maybe wetter.

Day One. A well-known television and radio host and sports announcer, John Tesh decided to concentrate on his musical career later in life. Tesh spent a year learning his craft as a keyboardist with Yanni’s orchestra, and his musical style has been compared to the Greek’s. “Day One,” while not a Disney-related tune, displays the same up-tempo, positive feeling as most of the Fountain of Nations’ music. It’s identifiable by its piano solo lines at the beginning and end.

Air Battle from Surprise in the Skies. “Disney never throws anything away” is a popular axiom in these parts, and this selection is evidence of that. During Epcot’s early years, Disney producers made efforts to create daytime shows on the World Showcase Lagoon. Skyleidoscope ran from 1985 to 1987; Surprise in the Skies began in 1991 and lasted about a year. Both featured boats, paragliders, massive balloons, daytime pyrotechnics and other, colorful effects. (More about the shows can be found HERE.) The soundtrack from the latter show was provided by John Debney, another composer with an extensive Disney background. His father, in fact, was a Disney producer. John Debney has written numerous television and film scores, including Disney’s “Hocus Pocus,” “Inspector Gadget,” “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “The Princess Diaries,” “Snow Dogs,” “Chicken Little” and “Hannah Montana — The Movie.” His latest effort is the film score for the recently released live-action “The Jungle Book.” The “Air Battle” segment is identifiable by — what else? — the sound of explosions during the music.

Mickey’s Finale from Around the World with Mickey Mouse. A little mystery surrounds this selection. As exciting as the music is, it apparently belongs to an Epcot show that was never produced. (This is not from the 1998 America Gardens Theater show with the same title.) According to one account, the show was intended for the Fountain of Nations area, possibly on the stage at the south end, but the threat of wind-driven spray from the fountain would have made it hazardous for dancers. This seems unlikely, since other performances are held there regularly. For now, this music by an unnamed composer is the only evidence of a show that, in words used to describe another theme park, “never was and always will be.”

The music itself is similar in spirit to the Fountain of Nations’ other displays. It’s recognizable by its ending: the first seven notes of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Celebrate the Future Hand In Hand. This song is the newest addition to the Fountain of Nations and the only one with singers. Composer Ira Antelis and lyricist Cheryl Berman combined on the tune. Antelis is associated with the “new-age” genre; Berman is a well-known advertising executive who dabbles in song lyrics. I’m guessing a little, but I believe the rendition heard with the fountain display is the same version on the 1999 Walt Disney World “Official Album” CD. If so, the solo singers are Michelle Lindahl and Jeff Smith.

“Celebrate the Future” was the theme song of Epcot’s Millennium Celebration stretching from October 1, 1999, to January 1, 2001. That event, with its Tapestry of Nations parade, nighttime fireworks spectacular and Millennium Village, marked a high point in Epcot’s history in the eyes of many longtime fans. The Illuminations: Reflections of Earth nightly fireworks show continues to this day, and “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand” promises to stick around as long as Epcot exists. “The future is coming / We’ve got to catch it if we can / The magic’s unfolding / You can hold it in your hand / We can touch tomorrow today / To make some memories / That will never fade away…”

The Music of Epcot's Fountain

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Where in the World is the Rocketeer?

Al Krombach has previously written for AllEars.Net:

The Music of Splash Mountain
The Music of Impressions de France
The Music of the Haunted Mansion
Finding Oscar: Academy Award-Winning Songs at WDW

In the AllEars® Amazon Store:

Soundtrack of Rescuers Down Under
Soundtrack from the Rocketeer


Al KrombachABOUT THE AUTHOR: A professional journalist for more than 30 years, Al Krombach has worked for several Florida newspapers and retired in 2015. He is an alumnus of the Florida State University College of Music and has worked with a variety of musical groups (as an instrumentalist) and choirs (as a director). He and wife Vicky have three children and five grandchildren, every one a Disney fan. They are longtime Disney aficionados and have accumulated more than 250 park visits since the World began.


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Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.