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‘IllumiNations’ Marks 25 Years at Epcot

Jennifer Fickley-Baker

by , Editorial Content Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Today is a special milestone in Epcot history: the 25th anniversary of “IllumiNations.”
‘IllumiNations’ Marks 25 Years at Epcot

The 12-minute, three-part show takes place on World Showcase Lagoon and tells the history of our planet through music, fireworks, lighted torches, and more.
'Laserphonic Fantasy' at Epcot

The nighttime show originally debuted at the park January 30, 1988, as a replacement for “Laserphonic Fantasy.” (Check out this blast from the past in the photo above). Over the years, two special versions of the show have been created. “IllumiNations 25” debuted for the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort in 1996, while “IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth” launched in 1999 in honor of the upcoming millenium celebration. The most current version of the show, which can be seen at the park nightly, is “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.”

What are your favorite memories of the show? Tell us in the “Comments” section below.

Read these posts for more updates from Epcot:

Comments

  • My family LOVES Illuminations!

  • My wife and I were in EPCOT for New Year’s Eve, 2000. The park was at capacity, and it was also COLD. The entire place had a party atmosphere. Disney handed out “Happy New Year” hats and noisemakers, etc. It was so crowded that they would only let into the Mexican Pavilion the same number of people that came out. We went there to get Mexican blankets, as pretty much all the sweatshirts had been snatched up. As the night went on, I lost count of how many people asked us where we got the blankets. Anyway, we waited to watch the second Illuminations show, since that was timed for midnight. We watched from the short stone wall that skirts the Norway Pavilion. We spread one blanket on the stones, and snuggled under the second one. That show is special enough, but being there that night, under those circumstances, and, most importantly, being together, well, it’s a memory that will always be in my heart. “Thousand circles ’round the Sun”- it gets me every time.

  • In January of 2007, my boyfriend arranged for us to go up the stairs to the balcony at Italy’s Pavilion during Illuminations to propose. We watched the initial fireworks, and then I turned around, and he pulled out a ring during the time when the globe is traveling through the lagoon. I was shocked, and it was so incredibly special and romantic!

    I’ve always loved Illuminations, but every time I see it now, I think back to how amazing that moment was, and I will be forever grateful to the people at Disney World who let us have that once-in-a-lifetime experience! My husband and I will celebrate our 5 year anniversary this May!

    • How special! Thanks for sharing, Meghan.

  • I was lucky enough to be there on January 30th 1988 to view IllumiNations on my very first trip to Disney World! I will be there again this week, & will make sure to see it again.

  • Ive been to disney a dozen times since i was 6 and now Im taking my daughter my wife+1 for the first time. That was the year of the 15 years of magic celebration – i remember it well. It wasnt called illuminations then – that must have started mid nineties. My highlight every time is dinner at the Epcot pavilions (normally Japanese) and then illuminations – Reflections of earth for 25th celebration was cool too. Was there for the 20 years as well. Going to be very different going back now IM the daddy!

    • It’s so much fun to take your kids to the park for the first time as a parent. It totally makes the parks new to you again. Have fun.

  • Illuminations 2000, Reflections of Earth, it was amazing, we enjoy watching the show and make it a point to watch it every time we go there. It truly is an amazing show to see

    • I remember that version, too. It was a nice one.

  • I’ve been to WDW once (and this was many years ago), but the most memorable thing was “IllumiNations.” I remember asking my parents if we could go every night. I’ve always loved Disney, but I think I felt the magic most when I first watched that show. Happy Anniversary, Epcot!

  • I LOVE IlluminNations! This past summer was my first time to Disney, it was a dream come true for me. IllumiNations just blew me away. It was absolutely beautiful. I can’t wait to go back in a couple years.

  • I asked my wife to marry me while watching Reflections of Earth. We took a fireworks cruise on the Breathless. It was truly magical!

    • Sounds like a wonderful memory. :)

  • I worked at Epcot from 1992-1993 and have really fond memories of the old version of Illuminations. Although not so technically imaginitive it always seemed to me more of a spectacular.
    All the UK Rose and Crown cast used to come out to the steps on the rear deck of the restaraunt and sing along to Rule Brittania. Used to really make us feel proud to be British

  • I loved illuminations 25, as well as Reflections of Earth and have seen them many times. My favorite time was sharing it for the first time with my grandaughters, Anna and Sarah for the first time. As a DVC member who comes 2 to 3 times a year, I was wondering if there are plans to bring a new Illuminations to life anytime soon. I also miss the wonderful parade that you once had at Epcot. I can’t remember the name but it was amazing and I heard that it had moved to Japan….I want it back!!!

  • the music

  • I was fortunate enough to see the 4th of July version, the Epcot 30th Celebration in October, and the Holiday Finale. All were fantastic. Any idea whether there will be anything extra special during tonight’s show?

  • Will be there tomorrrow night, will find a spot to watch it after dining in Japan. Cant wait!!!!!!!

  • My husband Bill and I had our fairytale wedding at the Wedding Pavillion December 28, 2006 and then the reception at the Atlantic Dance Hall. The next to last song at the reception was “We Go On” from IllumiNations. We also used “Remember the Magic” from Magic Kingdom’s 25th anniversary as our 1st dance. We live very close to MK and go to Epcot often. Every time we here “We Go On” we get misty-eyed and remember our wonderful day!!!

    • Such a happy memory!

  • I had the pleasure of being a cast member during the 25th anniversary so Illuminations 25 holds a special place in my heart. I love the opening where each country is highlighted. I also love Reflections of Earth, the music is so orchestral and absolutely wonderful!! It is a must see every trip, and my next one starts this saturday!

  • My favorite place on this planet Earth is standing next to my torch (TORCH 7) enjoying my favorite Disney snack (Goofy Candy Company “Character Gummies” in the neon yellow bag) and listening to the pre-show loop for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Then being “in the ether” as the show begins; I am mesmerized for the entire duration. Then after a hearty applause enjoying “Promise” and the music of the Millennium Celebration as I enjoy my last few moments at Epcot.

    Everyone has their place in life where everything else melts away. This is mine.

    I have money set aside for the sole purpose of flying down to Epcot for the last performance of Reflections of Earth and will shed many tears when that day comes.

    • Sounds like you’re a huge fan, Michael. Thanks for sharing. I’m happy you like the show so much.

  • Leaving the park in 1999 with my boyfriend on the Disney college program and seeing an elderly couple dancing to Promise as we were leaving and thinking “That will be US someday”. Then dancing to Promise at our wedding in the China Pavilion 7 years later when he became my husband. Love this show for so many great memories it has given us.

    • How nice!

  • IllumiNations is my favorite show at Disney World and an integral part to every trip there. I always try to get in a least 2 or 3 showings! I really love the soundtrack and sharing the experience with friends who are seeing it for the first time. :-)

  • My grandparents took me to Disney World every year since it opened until I was in my late teens. My grandmother passed away in 1998, but my family and I convinced my grandfather to go on one more family vacation to Disney World in 2000. Our first night there, after unpacking at the Grand Floridian, we went to Epcot, had dinner and set up to watch Illuminations. My Poppa had never had the chance to see Epcot at its glory, so we went and we waited. Poppa was mostly blind, in ailing health, and he wanted a beer. My oldest cousin, Jeff, and I went off in search of beer for us: Jeff had just turned of age to drink, so we got our Poppa a beer and one for each of us. Then sat down to watch the show. It was incredible! My Poppa had tears in his eyes afterwards and said he thought the lights were so beautiful! Jeff and I were stunned: Poppa actually saw the show and was able to experience it for the first time! It is a wonderful memory for us and one that will be cherished!

  • My favorite moment of Illuminations was watching it with my beautiful wife on our fifth anniversary. It was the Fourth of July, and we found a spot near the American Adventure. If you have never been during the Fourth, you need to go it is Amazing! The fact that my wife hates fireworks (she likes to see them, but hates to hear them) makes me love her even more. She was literally shaking, but we love Disney so much it was worth it for her! We now make a point to go back every year and stand in the same spot!

  • By shear luck, I was there with my aunt and grandparents on that first night in 1988. We had no idea there would even be a lagoon show until shortly before it began but I will never forget it. It was absolutely beautiful and magical. I still love it but that first time was a wonder.

  • I have seen the show some 30 times since Y2K, and it never fails to move me emotionally; I always wind up crying over the beauty of the music, the video on the globe, and the fireworks. Gavin Greenaway’s music is forever embedded in my head… the most excellent brain worm. My FAVORITE part…. as “Meaning” really gets cooking, and “art” is displayed on the globe. For some reason, the tempo of the music, the sync of the fireworks, and the video just always put a lump in my throat. I hope that Illuminations evolves with technology, but doesn’t change it’s heart. It’s what keeps bring me back to Epcot, year after year, event after event. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ILLUMINATIONS!!!

  • I will never forget our first family trip to Disney in 1998….my Mom had passed away the year before. She always wanted to take our kids to Disney, so she started a “savings fund” when they were born. Sadly, she was unable to go with us but specified to use her special money to go to Disney. We spent our first day in Epcot and ended it with Illuminations. It brought tears to my eyes because I knew Mom was there with us in spirit watching the specatacular show!

  • My dad built the Earth Globe barge (aka “Terra Floata”). Highlight of his career, I think.
    This show is just plain amazing.

  • My dad was a great Disney fan. Though we had visited as children, he started the tradition of my extended family (my sisters, various significant others through the years, my mom and stepdad) visiting at Christmas when we were adults. His favorite park was Epcot, and he loved the Yacht Club as we could visit Epcot and view Illuminations multiple times during our trip. He loved that show, and we always found “our spot” in France and grabbed some champagne from a nearby kiosk to sip as we enjoyed it. His last trip was for the millennium, so we were there for Illuminations: 2000. Sadly, he passed away in 2001. But we have kept the tradition going and we have multiple photos and videos of my nephews over the years enjoying Illuminations in Grampa George’s spot. It’s a can’t miss for us…and we always toast Grampa with our champagne as we enjoy the show. It has a special place in our hearts.

  • It’s my “won’t miss it” thing on a Disney vacation. “Promise” is the song my husband and I danced to at our wedding, but after seeing it a dozen times, I honestly turn around with my back to the show when I watch it. Not because it got old, but because my favorite part of the show is the faces of the people watching it for the first time. Surly, tired parents who’ve got cranky little ones and were complaining about waiting for the show to start with tears in their eyes! I love watching the first time guests watch the show, and seeing in their faces what I felt the first time I watched it.

  • My favorite IllumiNations memory is seeing it on New Years Eve 2013 with the special countdown fireworks after. It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

  • Illuminations is one of the things I love most about Disney World! It always inspires me everytime I’ve seen it. On one of my last trips I searched high and low and finally found the cd containing all of the songs! I can’t wait to see it again when I return in October!

  • Thrilled to be headed up for a spur of the moment trip tomorrow! This show is on tap for us friday night for sure -after a japanese dinner! I love the show but I recall the excitement that builds just before it starts – and I really like how the torches are lit all the around the lagoon – it’s tells you something special is about to happen :)

    • Love the torches, too. That’s a really cool effect.

  • We love watching Illuminations in Mexico, right next to the ring carver stand. There is a firework launch in the bushes there, and when it goes off, it’s awesome! My favorite part of the show is at the end of “We Go On”, when the sky is FILLED with bright white fireworks and it feels like daytime!

    I hope they never get rid of this show. It’s our family favorite.

    But I would love to ask them to turn up the music! That soundtrack needs to be heard at FULL VOLUME!

  • My fondest memory of Illuminations was proposing to my wife at Victoria & Alberts, and then seeing the Tapestry of Nations parade, and finally Illuminations RoE all during the same trip. During a trip more recently, after the show, “Promise” is played, which is a great song too…but then they followed it up with Millenium Walk from Tapestry of Nations, which just brought a bunch of happy tears to my eyes remembering when we got engaged!

    • That sounds like an amazing night! Thanks for sharing, Brian.

  • I love this show, we were lucky enough to take our children on their first trip to WDW in 2000 and Illuminations together with the Tapestry of Nations Parade will always have a special place in my heart.

    No trip of ours to WDW is complete without seeing it, first the sense of anticipation as the clock ticks down to 9pm, then the shows itself. My favourite bit is probably when the globe makes its way out into the lagoon and then also when ‘We go on’ goes into its final verse and everything goes for it. I’m usually in tears by that stage, no matter how many times I’ve seen the show it still has the power to move me deeply.

    And I’m so happy that the ‘Great Millennium Walk’ from Tapestry of Nations often plays after Illuminations as you exit the park.

    Wish i was there watching it tonight. =)

    • Sounds like this is really special to you and your family. :)

  • I love the song “We Go On!” I get teary-eyed every time I hear it. My favorite part in IllumiNations:Reflections of Earth is during the instrumental part when the music begins to swell and then the big fanfare “dun Dun DUN!!!! (WE GO ON!)…” it gets me every time!!!

    • And then the torch flickers and BURSTS with sparks?? Love that.

  • I Love Illuminations Reflections of Earth is awesome! I love “We Go On!”

    • That song totally sticks in your head at the end of the night. Doesn’t it?

  • My favorite memory of Illuminations was working at EPCOT in glow and conducting the fireworks. Sold a ton of swords every night during and after the show because of it.

  • IllumiNations is my favorite fireworks show of all time. Just for correction, the 25th anniversary show was IllumiNations 25, not 24 :)

    Jose

  • Ten years ago this October my wife and I had our Fairytale wedding day/night come to a magical conclusion with a desert party and Illuminations for our guests down next to the UK pavilion. It is a memory that will last a lifetime! Luckily we live close by and have been able to experience the Christmas version which is my favorite followed by the 4th of July, and New Years Eve is truly amazing! We also were able to see the special add on for the 25 and 30 year anniversaries of Epcot and loved those as well. It is the perfect way to end a great night at Epcot so here’s a shout out to the fireworks crew that works day and night to bring us amazing shows each and every day! Thank you to everyone involved!!!

    • Wow, that must’ve been amazing. :)

  • I simply LOVE the Fireworks and Light show. The music and the ambiance but most of all i love the FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL in October. My wife and I go almost every year and we spend several days just walking around sampling everything and just enjoying the music and performances. Simply wonderful.

    • Sounds like a great time.

  • I love the Holiday IllumiNations shows, but my all-time favorite will always be the special show for Epcot’s 25th birthday in 2007. Tons of shells and classic Epcot attraction music!

  • Main Street Electrical is my favorite parade but when visiting WDW, I see it once. I am at IllumiNations EVERY other night of my trip. This show is a spectacular blend of music, pyrotechnics, light, and art. I can’t hear the opening drum beats without getting chills.

  • I love the aftershows they put together for holidays, such as July 4th and Christmas. The narration by Walter Cronkite for the latter just makes the moment feel more comforting and magical.

  • My favorite memory of Illuminations was watching it on the lake a few years ago. We reserved a boat as part of my friend’s bachelor party festivities, and got the absolute best view of the fireworks from the lake after dinner at the Boardwalk.

    • Sounds fun!

  • By far “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” is my favorite nighttime show of all at WDW. I remember seeing it for the first time back in 2005 and countless times in 2006 when I was a cast member. It’s a must see when I visit the Resort and I hope it sticks around for another 14 years as it continues to amaze me. :)

    • I love it. It’s neat how you can watch it from anywhere in World Showcase.

  • I really really love the music of IllumiNations: ROF, especially the section before “We Go On” that is written in 7/4 time!

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