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Vintage Walt Disney World: IllumiNations Blasts Off at Epcot

Nate Rasmussen

by , Librarian, Walt Disney Archives

While nighttime at Epcot has become synonymous with watching IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth around World Showcase Lagoon, it wasn’t until Jan. 30, 1988, that the original IllumiNations made its debut.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot

When IllumiNations was first performed, it was described as a nighttime spectacle that captured the glitter of Times Square, the fantasy of Paris at night and the splendor of Piccadilly in an international music and light show.

The First Version of IllumiNations as seen in the Germany Pavilion

This first version of IllumiNations used 13 special-effects projectors (as seen above in the Germany Pavilion), 11 searchlights, 12 wire/mesh grids (as seen below in the France Pavilion), 180 nozzles which created the fountains, 783 fireworks pieces, and 550 theatrical lights – that’s enough to stretch across the Golden Gate Bridge more than six times.

The First Version of IllumiNations as seen in the France Pavilion

Over the last 24 years there have been three different versions of IllumiNations performed, and even today, an Epcot evening isn’t complete without the spectacular ending of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth to close out the night.

Comments

  • We usually end our WDW trip at Epcot and have to see Illuminations. I like the current version, but did really like the original when all of the nations were lit one by one. Great show and can’t wait to see it again.

  • The recent Disney Hollywood Studios “Obama Special” night time fireworks over top of the big hat were quite impressive with the live band.

  • My first trip to Disney was over Easter, in 1988. Completely fell in love with Illuminations then and to this day, my husband and four kids love it the most every time we go. (and yes, I cry every single time too)

  • This quite honestly is the best show out of the currently running evening parades/fireworks. It is truly spectacular. The perfect end is a couple of drinks from around World Showcase and then Illuminations. This show gives me hope for Humanity.

  • Jennifer, it looks like a CD is available on Amazon.
    Search for Disney and Illuminations.

  • the walt disney world 25th anniversary version has special memories because that was during my first CP esperience. Reflections of Earth is my favorite, the music is so awesome!

  • I agree with Aydin, I really liked the version with the countries lighting up with the appropriate music. I like the current one but I think it is really time for a new program. Also loved the Tapestry parade it was one of the best. I wish they would bring that back and maybe have it during the holidays.

  • I would love to have the sountrack from the original IllumiNations (circa late 80’s/early 90’s). Any ideas where it could be found? Such fond childhood memories!

  • The first nighttime spectacular I remember seeing at Epcot was Laserphonic Fantasy. I don’t know what years that show ran, but I remember the delight and amazement I felt. I still feel it when I watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. It keeps me coming back again and again!

  • Wow, ya learn something new all the time. Hadn’t realised there was so many. We always see this a couple of times on holiday (Back July12). Lucky enough to see the Christmas one with the extra bit on the end. Love it and Music is great

  • We love Illuminations. Really miss The Tapestry of Nations parade. This was the most fantastic parade ever at Disney. The combination of The Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations left you spellbound. Wish you could bring the parade back. So glad we have movies of it.

  • My favorite version is during the holidays when there is an additional grand finale narrated by Walter Cronkite. I personally feel it is the best fireworks Disney produces that is “easy” to view. New Years Eve and the 4th of July are incredible at the Magic Kingdom, but it is a miserable experience to be there on those days if you are a local. You do it once to say you did it, but after that you leave those holidays to our vacationing friends to enjoy!

  • Am I the only one who liked the original version of Illuminations better than Reflections of Earth?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the current version, but what really did it for me with the original one was the way the music was themed to the pavilions in world showcase. I loved how each country was lit up one-by-one while their music played. It made sense!

    And let’s face it… with the current version, Act II (the globe scene) goes on a little too long, especially if you don’t have a good view. Look around while it’s going on – you’ll notice a lot of confused first-timers wondering why nobody’s leaving, because they think it’s over!

  • Growing up in Tampa, Epcot was always an easy 1.5 hour road trip with my family but my parents always left early claiming they wanted to beat the traffic. I am now 31 and I am an annual passholder and at Food & Wine Festival 2010 I finally was able to experience IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth and it was incredable. Feeling the heat of the fire and the bang of the fireworks right in your face.

  • Can’t wait for April. We’re taking our 5 year old daughter to Epcot and she’s going to love the Illuminations show.

  • Illuminations 25 was our first, never seen anything like it. Had the honour in Nov 2011 to be invited on the pontoon where it is all controlled from, one of our best ever memories from Disney.

  • Illuminations is special to me too. The Tapesty of Dreams parades were the best parade I’ve ever seen at WDW. I think it last rolled in Feb. 2003. Would LOVE to see another evening parade at Epcot like ToD, especially w/ those rolling drums again!

  • Happy B-day, IllumiNations! I hate to admit it… but, when I was a college program intern, I saw IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at least 2x a week and I’d tear up everytime! And I still tear up when I listen to the soundtrack. SO EXTREMELY BEAUTIFUL!!!

    • I saw it every night too when I was on my college program!

  • The Summer of ’88 was my first trip as a kid. Illumination was one of the most amazing things I had even experienced. I still remember that night, sitting near the Showcase Plaza for an hour to get a good viewing spot with my family. Great memory and great show!

  • Best thing, any park, anywhere. Have seen it hundreds of times and it is a unique experience every time!

    🙂

    Jud

  • I leaved the year when they also had a parade! The music was magical and it looked wonderfull.

  • One of my most favorite things to see at Walt Disney World.

    Have a great great day,
    Steamboat Eddie

    • Mine too!

  • Make that 5 versions. There was IllumiNations, Holiday IllumiNations, IllumiNations 25a, IllumiNations 25b (that went back to classical music), and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Love Illuminations!

  • The current Illuminations show along with its soundtrack (which I bought) done by the London Symphony Orchestra, has to be probably my favorite thing in all of WDW.

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