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IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Illuminations

Opened

October 1, 1999

Designer

Don Dorsey

Music

Gavin Greenaway

Show length

12 minutes

Preceded by

IllumiNations

Sponsor

Siemens (2005-2017)
Sylvania (2005-2017)
General Electric (1999-2003)

Closed

September 30, 2019

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was a night time show performed nightly at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The show utilizes fireworks, pyrotechnics, laser lights, fountains, and fire to create a visual production on the park's World Showcase Lagoon. It premiered on October 1, 1999 as IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth as part of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration; it was so successful that after the celebration ended the 2000 was dropped from the name and the show was continued until September 30, 2019 and it was replaced with Epcot Forever. The show is currently sponsored by Siemens and has received several awards throughout the years, including the 2009 Best Outdoor Night Production Show by Gold Ticket Awards.

Show Description[]

Pre-Show[]

Before the show begins, a 30-minute music loop is played around the lagoon. The first loop played from the show's premiere through 2004, while the second one has been running from 2004 to the present.

1999-2004 Music Loop

  • They Were Dancing Barefoot - Yehuda Poliker
  • Superwasp/Along the Coast of Norway/Neckbuster - Seelyhoo
  • Native Funk - Burning Sky
  • Flute Battle - Cusco
  • The Concertina Set - Bùrach
  • Imeland - Groupa
  • Montezuma - Cusco
  • 30-års Jiggen (Thirty-Year Jig) - Väsen
  • Inca Dance - Cusco
  • Appalachian Morning - John Williams & The Boston Pops

2004-present Music Loop

  • Jalan Kopo - Sabah Habas Mustapha
  • Our Life - Uttara-Karu
  • Busindre Reel - Hevia
  • Gaviotes - Hevia
  • Tula - Cusco
  • Falling through a Cloud - Uttara-Karu
  • Bear - Hedningarna
  • Red Skies - Omar Faruk Tetbilek
  • Texas - Wimme

The speakers around the lagoon have been recently upgraded and use a proprietary audio technology developed by Bose, originally for military purposes. The speakers can be controlled individually, and project audio, meaning that, like a video projector, the speaker only sends audio in one direction, isolating it from other audio from surrounding speakers. Audio from the speakers travels well, without losing much volume, and the sound waves do not reflect as much as standard speakers. Walt Disney Creative Entertainment uses this to enhance the pre-show experience, making the music begin in a few small areas and eventually build to cover the entire promenade. Each country uses the same base loop track mentioned above, with accents from that country's musical style added in. Each "speaker" is actually a cluster of several of these high-tech speakers, each controlled as a separate track. Disney has also applied this technology in their parades, isolating the different musical tracks played in the different park sections as the parade progresses. The same speakers are used to play music for the actual show, as well as area music throughout the day. During the show, however, the isolating function of the speakers is turned off.

Introduction[]

Torches are lit around the lagoon. The beginning of the show is narrated by Jim Cummings, who says: "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've 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." Immediately following the introductory message, there is the sound of a flame being gently blown out, and lighting is immediately dimmed throughout the lagoon as well as the lighting on Spaceship Earth.

Act I: Chaos[]

Chaos represents the creation of the planet Earth from a cosmic event. The show begins with explosive fireworks from the center lagoon and hot flames from the Inferno Barge.

Act II: Order[]

The spouting flames from the Inferno Barge are reduced to a low sputter, and the Earth Globe appears and moves towards the center of the lagoon accompanied with water effects emanating from the fountain barges. As the Earth cools, it changes from hot white to red to blue. Images appear on the Globe of countries, famous landmarks, objects, and people. The exterior buildings of the countries around the lagoon are illuminated followed by laser lights, spot lights, and more fireworks in the center lagoon. The scene includes high-launch fireworks.

Act III: Meaning & Show Finale[]

As the song "We Go On" is played, the torches around the lagoon are re-lit and the Earth Globe opens, revealing a final unity torch with emanating fireworks followed by a launch of 1,000 white fireworks brightly illuminating the lagoon. The scene concludes with a final launch of fireworks and a set of bright white flashes that end with a loud crackle. The final crackle emanating from the final launch set of fireworks can often be heard within several miles outside of the park.

Post-Show[]

The performance concludes with the post-show announcement: "Thank you for joining us for this celebration of life. All of us at Epcot have enjoyed hosting you at World Showcase Lagoon, and we hope you have enjoyed Reflections of Earth, presented by Sylvania, a Siemens Company. Thank you." The song "Promise" plays directly after this, which is then followed by the Tapestry of Nations parade soundtrack. As the music plays, the continents are laser-projected onto Spaceship Earth, making it appear as a spinning globe. On days with "Extra Magic Hours," resulting in the park remaining open after the conclusion of the show, the laser projection on Spaceship Earth is not used in order to indicate to guests that the park remains open and instead the Spaceship Earth globe is re-lit with normal lighting immediately after the show. (This varies, however, and the laser projection noted above may sometimes be used on Extra Magic Hours evenings).

Technology[]

The Earth Globe[]

The centerpiece of the show is the Earth Globe, a 350,000 pound globe housed on a barge. The world's first spherical video display system, the globe is wrapped in 15,600 LED clusters, each consisting of 12 light-emitting diodes. The Earth Globe starts its journey from the edge of the World Showcase Lagoon, a 40-acre (160,000 m2) man-made lake in Epcot, before anchoring itself in the middle of the lagoon. The Globe is 28 feet (8.5 m) in diameter and sits on top of a 10-foot pedestal. It contains 258 FlashWorks mini strobe lights (43 per petal) and is controlled by 6 computer processors. This is the only barge in the show with a driver onboard. The Earth Globe is considered to be the most complicated piece of show action equipment ever made by Disney.

During the first two minutes of the show, the Earth globe's LED screens are off. It is brown in color, but invisible in the thick black of the night. The Earth Globe's LED screens turn on in part two of the show, showing imagery of the natural world and iconic man-made structures. Slightly fewer than 300 pictures appear on the Globe's spherical video screen during the show. Century III, an Orlando area film company, edited the video portion of the show. The pictures came from the stock libraries of Image Bank, National Geographic and Archive Films, some custom-shot live footage, and a single 3-D graphic animation shot. Jerold Kaplan of Walt Disney Imagineering designed and engineered the Earth Globe and supporting barge. At the end of the show, the Earth Globe blossoms like a flower, revealing a flame torch that rises high above the lagoon. When the show ends, the fires on 19 of the torches keep burning, but the Earth Globe's torch is put out.

The LED video display is run by a Pentium II server running Microsoft Windows 95/8 using a Serial ATA drive. There are two servers constantly running the same programs at the same time for fail-safe support. If one goes down, they can instantly switch to the other server which presumably will still be running. The video control software, written by Brian Seekford (now CEO of Seekford Solutions, Inc.) for Hitech Electronic Displays of Clearwater, Florida, communicates with on-board PLCs using two interfaces. The serial interface is used to receive the 4 character command codes separated by spaces to signify the end of each command. The NIDAQ (National Instrument Data Acquisition) card is used to provide status back to the PLCs. There are 8 optically isolated status channels. One channel is used to provide a heartbeat signal to tell the PLC that the software is on and functioning. The software was called QuickCon Multimedia Presenter. It was originally so named because it used the Quicktime engine, but was modified to use the Windows Media Player engine. The file formats are uncompressed AVIs passed through a masking filter to put the pixels in the spots for the countries.

In the summer of 2008, the show ran a shortened, modified version in order for the Earth Globe to be refurbished. The refurbishment was to install a new LED video system, improving the clarity of the video. The content of the video was not changed.

The Inferno Barge[]

The Inferno Barge is a liquid-propane system that sends balls of fire soaring 40 to 60 feet (18 m) into the air and on to the surface of the lagoon from 37 nozzles. 400 gallons of propane are used every night for the show.

The Inferno Barge also houses an air-launch fireworks system. On September 19, 2005, the Inferno Barge was pulled from the show due to the explosion of a firework still inside its mortar tube earlier in the day. The structure took heavy damage; fortunately, no one was injured. The Inferno Barge returned to service on February 1, 2006 without the air launch system on the barge, although the cause of the accident was the firework shell itself and not the air launch system. The shells previously fired from this barge were moved and fired from the center slip. In February 2009, the inferno barge was pulled from the show and underwent a scheduled rehab. It returned on March 10, 2009.

Fireworks[]

Walt Disney Entertainment created a new way of launching fireworks by using a compressed air system instead of black powder, which pollutes more and causes the trail of an igniting firework shell to be seen. The compressed air technology allows for explosions to be timed perfectly with the music and for the desired height of the shell to be reached. Not all the shells use the ALF (Air Launch Fireworks) technology. A timing chip is inserted into the shell and can be programmed to ignite and explode with precision. Eric Tucker, an award-winning pyrotechnics designer, was brought on board to design new fireworks effects. Eric and show director Don Dorsey traveled to China, the birthplace of fireworks, to meet with fireworks manufacturers to create these new dazzling effects. 1,105 firework shells are ignited during each show and are launched from 750 mortar tubes and 56 firing modules at 34 locations around the lagoon.

Lasers[]

Full color laser systems are used in the show, emanating from the American Adventure, Canada, and Mexico pavilions. The projectors can launch laser light into the air as beams, as well as scan patterns and images. There are also bounce mirrors scattered around the park on various islands and rooftops, to further encapsulate the park in laser light. The FAA requires the user of any outdoor laser system to obtain advance permission and to contact local airports prior to use. Consequently, Orlando International Airport is notified by "Mexico Control" every night fifteen minutes before the show begins so that air traffic can be advised accordingly. Some pilots passing over the resort have used this call to announce to their passengers that they may get a glimpse of IllumiNations out of their window; however, this is rare.

Moving lights[]

A ring of eight programmable moving searchlights called Syncrolites are used. The fixtures have dousers to control brightness, and are equipped with a color scroller with 14 different colors, including the four colors selected specifically for the show: Lavender, Mint, Pumpkin, and Lagoon. These lights can be programmed to highlight pavilions, illuminate the smoke from fireworks above the lagoon, or just make interesting patterns in the sky as they cross each other and move.

Fountain barges[]

There are four fountain barges (a.k.a. "Maxi Barges") that have 26 water nozzles per barge (17 vertical fountains, and 9 "Fleur" fountains) which are fanned out. There is also an effect that creates a "skirt" of water around the bottom. A lighting system on-board allows the water to be displayed in different colors. Each barge pumps approximately 4,000 gallons of water per minute. These barges carry pyrotechnics as well.

Torches[]

Nineteen torches are spaced surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon, representing the nineteen centuries that have passed in the Common Era. A twentieth torch is lit at the end of the show when the Earth Globe blossoms like a flower. Each torch reaches 27 feet (8.2 m) above the lagoon's surface.

Control booth[]

The control booth for the show is above the Mexico pavilion. It houses emergency stop controls, communication controls to each barge using wired ethernet, and headset communication to the Earth barge driver. The show is controlled from the boat pontoon nearest the shop. All barges are wired together with multi-core cables, and nothing is left to chance like using wireless as stated above.

Special Editions[]

Holiday Finale[]

During the holiday season, after the regular finale there is a special holiday finale tag originally from Holiday IllumiNations following the regular production. Immediately after the regular finale a female announcer announces, "And now, at this special time, as we embrace a promise of a new year, we would like to offer one final message." The song "Let There Be Peace On Earth" is played as the Earth Barge closes. Afterward, there were messages of "Peace on Earth, good will to men" in several languages. When a language is spoken, the pavilion lights up. When the American pavilion lights up, A Female Announcer then says, "During this glorious time of year there is one message that rings out around the world in every language. Peace on earth. Good will to men is a wish to hold in our hearts throughout each passing year. A gift of immeasurable value. A treasure being handed down with care, from generation to generation. And so our holiday wish is that everyone, everywhere share in the spirit of the season. Peace on earth, good will to men." The song continues with an uninterrupted firework display, ending with a loud explosion of fireworks. This tag launches just as many pyrotechnic devices as IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth does.

Fourth of July[]

The show is shown around 10:00 PM and after the show, the song Yankee Doodle plays and fireworks shoot up from the roof and back of the American Adventure Pavilion. More fireworks in the lagoon are synchronized as if fireworks were marching along with the drumbeat. Then "Stars and Stripes Forever" plays. The Earth Barge displays images of American independence during a flute solo. Just before the end of the tag, hundreds of fireworks shoot up in the lagoon as the show ends. Just as the crowds exit, "God Bless the USA" is played, the American pavilion is outlined, and the Earth Barge displays the US flag. The laser projection in the US pavilion (projecting to Spaceship Earth) displays "Happy Birthday America: Celebrating (number) Years of Freedom." More than 2000 shells are launched from 32 barges for the latest version of this tag.

New Year's Eve Countdown[]

Every December 31, a special New Year's Eve countdown show occurs, normally beginning at 11:40 PM. The show begins with the original show production and is then immediately followed by a special countdown show. Highlights of New Years celebrated in individual countries begins the show; the Asian pavilions (Japan and China) go first, followed by those in Europe (Italy, Norway, France, Germany), and after that, the countries of those in the GMT time zone (Morocco and the United Kingdom). During the presentation, fireworks shoot from the back of each pavilion accompanied with custom celebration music from each country. The official countdown begins at 10 seconds before midnight with the North American nations (United States, Canada, Mexico). The count down is initiated with a dong (which originates from the American pavilion) and leads to the massive celebratory firework display at 12:00 midnight, including a 360 degree launch of fireworks around the World Showcase Lagoon. The song "Auld Lang Syne" plays as spectators cheer and watch the massive firework display. This tag uses double the amount of fireworks that are launched in IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. A male announcer concludes the show wishing guests a happy New Year and reminds guests of extended park hours for the New Year's Eve celebration.

Epcot's 25th Anniversary Special Edition[]

On October 1, 2007, a four-minute long, one-day only tag commemorating Epcot's 25th Silver Anniversary followed IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. The tag used the "World War III Barges" and was said have to tripled the amount of fireworks launched. At the end of the regular show a male voice-over was heard saying, "And now in honor of Epcot's 25th Anniversary we celebrate our history and look to the future. We've just begun to dream." Once the music began, select segments of classic Epcot music were played, including "We've Just Begun to Dream," "Tapestry of Nations," and "Tapestry of Dreams." After the show, the retro music loop played throughout the park that day began to play, beginning with "New Horizons." Due to the extra amount of fireworks used for the special tag, it took much longer than normal to move the firework barges off of the lagoon, which resulted in a Burn-Off after midnight.

Soundtrack[]

Gavin Greenaway is the composer for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Greenaway's colleague Hans Zimmer, composer of The Lion King, asked Greenaway to take on the project because he was busy with other projects. Zimmer collaborated with Greenaway in the beginning of the process. The score from Reflections of Earth was used for ABC 2000 Today, ABC Television's 25 hour-long program that followed the beginning of 2000 around the globe on December 31, 1999/January 1, 2000. ABC also used a modified version for their program ABC 2002 on December 31, 2001/January 1, 2002. Finally, ABC News used a version of the theme for their televised election coverage throughout 2000 and 2004. Most of the score (excluding the Chaos section and the start of We Go On) was used in a laser light show at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill. The Chaos section was used in the October 4, 2008 fireworks celebration of the 250th anniversary of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ABC also used the music during coverage of the Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. A sample from the score is also used in the welcome video displayed in the immigration in most US airports such as Orlando International Airport

Narration[]

Jim Cummings (the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck as well as other characters) provides the narration at the beginning of Reflections of Earth.

The original narration substituted the first two sentences with "Good evening and welcome," but it was changed for the Year of a Million Dreams.

Mary Thompson Hunt was the female voice who did the pre-show announcements stating that the show will be starting shortly.

Facts & Trivia[]

  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was originally named IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth for the Millennium Celebration that took place from October 1, 1999 to January 1, 2001. The show was so popular that its run was extended, and the "2000" was dropped from the title.
  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth replaced IllumiNations 25 (B).
  • The show lasts about 12 minutes.
  • The music was recorded with a 71-piece philharmonic orchestra and a 30-voice chorus.
  • The show was produced by longtime Disney entertainment executive Ron Logan. Ron commissioned Don Dorsey to create the show.
  • Footage of the now-defunct Tapestry of Nations parade can be seen on the globe towards the end of the show prior to "We Go On."
  • The music is used in a patriotic video shown at U.S. Customs and Border Protection passport control areas.

Sources & External Links[]

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