It’s not a secret that EPCOT Center (ok… Epcot) is one of my favorite places! In my last blog, I talked about my experiences at the Epcot 30th Anniversary Celebration on October 1, 2012. Not sure if you noticed, but I didn’t ride anything. The attractions are secondary, although I can’t wait for the new Test Track and always love Soarin’, but Epcot is just more than attractions to me. Like the dedication plaque says “Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promise new and exciting benefits for all”. And like everything at Epcot, and Walt Disney World in general, the attention to detail and story allow me to find something new every trip. Case in point, the award winning nightly fireworks, pyrotechnics, fountain, laser light show “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth”.
Illuminations is a wonderful nightly ritual at Epcot, but it’s much more than just fireworks. Premiering on October 1, 1999, Epcot’s 17th anniversary (long before D23 and any “fan events”) Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth was part of the Epcot Millennium Celebration. Less the 2000 in the title, the show continues to this day. With the occasional special tag, or ending, you can expect the same performance with every visit.I took the opportunity to review not only the highlight of Epcot’s 30th Anniversary during my recent trip, but spent some time reviewing the details of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Check out SamsDisneyDiary Episode #20 for details.
(Sams Disney Diary Video Episode #20 below – Click the Photo to Play, the Blog continues after the video, so keep reading)
Right down to the pre-show music and the lighting of the torches around World Showcase, everything is designed to pull you into the story, the story of Planet Earth. While you were enjoying the wonderful pavilions around World Showcase, the stage was being set. Barges were moved into position, the lighting dimmed, and lasers and effects emerged from where there were none. All to prepare you for the classic introduction:
“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.”
Following that introduction, the torches are blown out and there is a moment of darkness… A steady drum beats faster… and.. BANG!! A single shot across the sky, symbolizing the Big Bang – the start of the story! (Side Note: Disney introduced a compress air system for launching the fireworks along with a timing chip in the shell itself, allowing for precision timing with the soundtrack. This technique also allows the shells to be launched without the “trail” typically associated with fireworks)
After the first rocket, the First Act in a three part play begins. Act I: Chaos, the earliest phases of our planet. The early Earth is consumed with explosives and fireballs as the planet forms, the round planet hasn’t formed as the fire shoots in all directions. (The “Inferno Barge” used for the fireballs uses liquid-propane and sends fire up to 60 feet in the air, using over 400 gallons a night) As the young planet begins to cool, the fireworks subside and we move to the Second Act.
Act II: Life & Adventure , the chaos is over. The planet is cooling…. The Earth Globe emerges into the center of the lagoon. (The Earth Globe barge is significant in itself, at over 350,000 pounds it is the first and largest spherical video display of any kind. At 28 feet round on top of a 10 foot pedestal it is a sight to be seen. To get an up-close view, you can see the Earth Globe parked next to the American Adventure stage in the early afternoon, or you may be able to catch a glimpse as it passes under the “drawbridge” between the African Outpost and China. It is an impressive sight up close.) As the globe moves to the center of the lagoon, it changes from white to red to blue… cooling to the blue planet we inhabit today. Once the blue planet is in position, Life and Adventure begins. Animals start to appear on the globe followed by people and the formation of countries. As the countries are revealed, the World Showcase gets in on the act, with each country being illuminated (After all, Illuminations is short for Illuminate the Nations) not only with lights, but with fireworks and lasers.As the song “We Go On” starts, we move to the final ACT III: Celebration and Finale beginsnow the torches are lit again. (There are 19 torches around World Showcase Lagoon, symbolizing 19 Centuries; Remember, Illuminations was originally part of the Millennium Celebration) The globe blooms like the
petals of a flower to reveal the 20th torch, the unity torch. And the Firework Finale begins! (I can hear the music in my head as I type…). Typically that finale represents the end of the day for Epcot. I’ve spent many days sitting around World Showcase just listening and waiting for the “Burn-Off” which was done to exhaust the fuel from the inferno barge before parking it for the night. That tradition is gone now, as Disney has reduced the amount of fuel loaded. It was a cool sight. Check the schedule… if it’s an evening Extra Magic night, select shops and counter service locations will reopen after the performance. You need a room key to ride any of the attractions, but you don’t need one to hang out and shop or grab the late dessert in France or Norway… or maybe a cannoli in Italy (I’m hungry).
If it’s a special event, Illuminations may include a special tag. In the video edition of this blog, I recorded the one time only Epcot 30th Anniversary Tag. That finale literally took my breath away. Special thanks to my friends over at www.communicoreonline.com and muppetcast.com/ for the hospitality, and I look forward to my next research trip.
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