Goodbye to Illuminations: Reflections of Light… Let’s Gather One Last Time Around the Fire

Last night, we finally had to officially say goodbye to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. The Epcot night time spectacular ended a 20 year run playing to fans who camped out hours to see the production one last time.

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We saw the show for the last time in late August. I thought I had made peace with the show ending after that, but I was wrong I guess. I was super emotional last night as I watched the live stream of the final show.

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There will never be another show like this created for a Disney park and that’s a bummer. We will now have the fan service driven “Epcot Forever” (which I am looking forward to) for less than a year; followed by the eventual long term, IP filled replacement “Harmonious”.

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While most folks probably referred to Illuminations as a fireworks show, the pyro was always secondary. The things I will miss most about this show are the music, the atmosphere of the torches being lit around the lagoon and the overall message of the production. The show began each night with an introduction from Disney voice acting legend Jim Cummings:

“Good evening. On behalf of Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true, we welcome all of you to Epcot and World Showcase. We’re gathered here tonight around the fire as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us… to share the light… and to share a story. An amazing story as old as time itself, but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one. We hope you enjoy our story tonight: Reflections of Earth”.

The whoosh of the flames being blown out immediately following this still gave me chills every time, right up to the bitter end.

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The fact that there is a 5 minute portion of the show without any pyro at all, yet still held our attention, shows that this show was more than just a fireworks show. This admittedly also led to those less informed fans who thought they were viewing a fireworks show to be a little confused at times.

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That being said, the pyro that was in the show was really great. The combination of low bursts and turrets / flames on the water made for a jaw dropping spectacle!

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The show was made up of 3 acts:

  • Act I – Chaos: This was a pyro heavy section filled with bursts and flames meant to represent the creation of the planet.
  • Act II – Order: This act begins with the aforementioned 5 minutes of spinning globe with little to no pyro. Towards the end we get some firework bursts and lasers as the countries around World Showcase light up in a sign of unity.
  •  Act III – Meaning: The final act begins slowly as the torches around the lagoon are re-lit and the globe in the center opens to reveal a final unity torch, as the song “We Go On” would play. We were then treated to one of the best pyro finales in any fireworks show anywhere!

The post show featured the playing of the song “Promise”, followed by the Tapastry of Nations parade soundtrack. A post show stroll around World Showcase was one of my very favorite things to do in all of Walt Disney World!

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While I do realize the show was due for replacement, I’m still very sad to see the end of an error. Let’s take a look at a few more photos from our final viewing.

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The highlight of the show was when all the countries around world showcase would light up in unity, the world as one. Streams of pyro would launch from all around the perimeter and converging in the center around the single globe…. It may be a pie in the sky idea but the message is still deeply moving.

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Ladies and gentlemen, the entire Epcot family thanks you for having been with us for ‘Illuminations: Reflections of Earth’, presented by Siemens. We hope that your visit to the Walt Disney World Resort has been a truly magical experience for you and yours. We wish you a pleasant evening and a safe journey home. Thank you and goodnight.

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A few more fun facts about Reflections of Earth:

  • The Globe was 28 feet in diameter and featured over 15,000 LED clusters.
  • The inferno barge weighed 75 tons and was capable of shooting flames up to 60 feet.
  • 750 individual mortar tubes were used to shoot off the fireworks for each show.
  • Orlando International Airport was warned 15 minutes prior to showtime each night by “Mexico Control”. This is an FAA requirement having to due with the lasers used throughout the show.
  • The water fountain barges had 40 nozzles and pumped 4,000 gallons of water per minute each.
  • There were 19 torches located around World Showcase Lagoon. The 20th, Unity Torch was located inside of The Globe!  The fire represents an element that unified cultures throughout history, as well as it’s significance to Earth.

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Things are always evolving at the Disney parks. Because of this, we all must lose things that we love from time to time. We are both sad to see Illuminations end, but excited to see what the future holds. We will never forget the impact this incredible show has had on our lives as “We Go On”!

 

10/4/2019 Update: 

I’ve had a few chances to watch the temporary replacement “Epcot Forever” now and figured I’d share a few first impressions:

  • I don’t love the classic Epcot attraction songs getting the Kids Bop treatment. I would have preferred just playing the original versions of the songs, or even just new all instrumental versions.
  • Most of the show is just a basic Fireworks show. The bursts don’t seem to have much to do with the music it’s synced up to.  That being said, there is a lot more pyro than Illuminations had so it will please those folks who got bored during the Globe spinning segments (I assume that is mostly children).
  • The kites are the best parts of Epcot Forever. The multi tier sparkling kites during the Tapestry of Nations segment in particular is strait up beautiful!
  • Speaking of the Tapestry of Nations segment, this was the high point of the show for me. It brought back so many positive feelings and the visuals all really worked here from the fireworks to the kites mentioned above. I wish the show had ended with this.
  • Which brings us to the finale! Its an odd choice to say the least to create a show specifically aiming to please classic Epcot Center fans, and then have the big finale be A Whole New World from Aladdin. It really seems like Disney is just trolling that group… here is a tribute to Epcot Center… are you happy yet? Fooled you! You’re gonna get IPs and you’re gonna like it!

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Overall, we were disappointed with Epcot Forever. Maybe we were naive in thinking that more effort would have been placed in a temporary show, but overall it just seemed flat. The music jumps all over the place, and its not particularly good versions of the songs. The majority of the show is just a basics fireworks display, which is pretty but lacks anything special. The kites are fantastic and the Tapestry of Nations segment is great, but then the carpet is pulled right out from under us with a finale that belongs in The Magic Kingdom.

There are no doubt many folks who will prefer Epcot Forever over Illuminations. If all you want is a basic fireworks show with frequent bursts then this will do just fine. For us, it’s just disappointing based on our probably higher than they should have been expectations. It feels like a missed opportunity to really give the classic Epcot fans something to feel good about before moving on to the IP filled Harmonious next year.

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