Welcome to Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and it’s great to be back today as we look at the end of an Epcot era with the last show of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth happening in just a few hours.
October 1st has always been the biggest day in Walt Disney World’s history as it saw the opening of the entire resort in 1971 and then EPCOT Center’s first day in 1982. Over the years, we have seen a ton of attractions follow suit and open on that magical day of October 1st, with IllumiNations being no exception.
Via Epcot Explorer
Early in Epcot’s time, Disney realized that the park would benefit from a nighttime spectacular, so guests could watch Carnival de Lumiere and New World Fantasy in the first few years. Over the years, various shows came and went through the park, with none of them really catching on because of their relatively primitive nature. Amongst these shows, we got the first few iterations of IllumiNations, but none of them would compare to the show that debuted on October 1st, 1999, IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth.
Reflections of Earth debuted as a part of the park’s Millenium Celebration to commemorate the beginning of the 2000s. The park added a lot of cool experiences that year like the Millenium VIllage and Tapestry of Nations, but for the most part, they were limited-time events that didn’t stick around for too long. On the other hand, Reflections of Earth was such a massive success that they dropped the 2000 moniker from the title and continued the show every night for the next 20 years.
Now, who was behind this show to help make it the success that it was? To start, we have to thank Disney Legend Hans Zimmer … who didn’t actually do anything on the show, but he was asked to score it. Upon finding that his schedule was too busy, he suggested his friend Gavin Greenaway take over. Greenaway’s score has become iconic in the Disneysphere, right up there with other scores for shows like Fantasmic and Wishes.
With this score in hand, the show just needed a great director to step up to the plate and put everything together. Luckily, Disney had a guy who had worked on most of the other nighttime spectaculars at Epcot as well as this other little thing, The Main Street Electrical Parade. Don Dorsey took his work from the previous shows and built upon it to create one of Disney’s most beloved nighttime spectaculars.
For those of you who never got the chance to see it, IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth combined fireworks, lasers and music to create a spectacle that many consider to be their favorite at Walt Disney World. These effects are great, but none of them can quite match the splendor of the Earth Globe.
Via Orlando Weekly
Once the Earth Globe makes its appearance known in the second part of the show, it really hits its groove as all of the effects are working together at once. But my favorite part of the entire show is when the Globe opens to reveal that not only is it a globe, but it is also a lotus flower, complete with a Unity Torch to help commemorate the 20th century. All around the World Showcase, you’ll see nineteen other torches all lit to celebrate the past and pay tribute to our roots.
Via WDW Info
The pomp and circumstance of the whole show is fun, but I also tend to enjoy a quick peek behind the scenes. The most interesting tidbit that I could find was that the control booth for the show is housed at the top of the Mexico Pavilion, which actually makes a lot of sense considering it is one of the highest vantage points in World Showcase. But I get a kick out of the fact that at the top of the steps that Disney makes sure you don’t climb is an actual area you shouldn’t enter, so the “no climbing rule” isn’t just for guest safety.
Via WDW Trip Advice
Of course, no Disney nighttime spectacular would be complete without special versions for the holidays and special occasions. While IllumiNations itself remained the same during these times, they did design special three-four minute tags to add on to the end of the show. These tags played each 4th of July and New Year’s Eve as well as throughout the entire holiday season. My favorite tags, though, were the ones that added for Epcot’s 25th, 30th, and 35th anniversaries. It was such a small and simple touch, but it was nice to see that they put in the effort to even do that.
Via DAPS Magic
Ok, I’ve been saying some nice things, but I’m going to put a target on my back here and admit that I don’t get why people love IllumiNations so much. I’ve seen it a few times in person and watched a video of the show to prepare for this article, but no matter how hard I try, the show doesn’t click with me. Personally, I am someone who looks for the story of a show because just having fireworks and lights doesn’t do it for me. I’ve read about what IllumiNations is supposed to be mean, but I just can’t find that magical when watching the show myself. The Earth Globe is too small and feels separated from the experience and I don’t know, I just don’t get it.
I will say, I did actually really enjoy the finale the last time I watched it with the opening of the globe and the song “We Go On,” but those two minutes were not enough for me to even move past neutral in my thoughts on the spectacular.
All that said, I am super ecstatic about the show that will be replacing IllumiNations, Epcot Forever, though it is only a temporary holdover until HarmoniUS takes over permanently next year. But Epcot Forever is going to be a celebration of everything from Epcot’s past and if I could visit one theme park during one time period, it would be Epcot during the 1980s. To get a chance to hear the songs from attractions like Horizons and World of Motion in the actual park where they once used to stand is a dream come true, and I cannot wait to get to experience the attraction in just a couple of weeks when I’m at Walt Disney World.
But for now, let’s give one final hurrah to IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth because even though it never connected with me, I still have so much respect for the show and the profound effect that it has had on millions of people over the years.
On that note, here’s a peek at what’s coming next week.
- This attraction recently closed in Epcot.
- A replacement to this attraction will debut in January.
- This attraction starred a member of the Three Amigos.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.