IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

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IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
1 epcot illuminations 2010.jpg
AreaWorld Showcase
(World Showcase Lagoon)
CostUS$25,000 per show[1]
Soft opening dateSeptember 22, 1999
Opening dateOctober 1, 1999; 19 years ago (October 1, 1999)
Closing dateSeptember 30, 2019
ReplacedIllumiNations 98 (B)
Replaced byEpcot Forever
General statistics
Attraction typeFireworks, laser, water, fire, and light show
DesignerWalt Disney Creative Entertainment
ThemeStory of Earth[2]/New Millennium (2000) Celebration
MusicGavin Greenaway
Site area21,120 sq ft (1,962 m2)
PropulsionConventional fireworks with limited additional Air Launch Fireworks technology
SponsorNone (October 2017-current)
Siemens (2005-October 2017)[3][4][5]
General Electric (1999-2003)
Firework Shells2,800[6]
Previous nameIllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth
Fastpass+ available
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a nighttime show performed nightly at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. The show utilizes fireworks, pyrotechnics, water fountains, fire effects, lasers, and searchlights to create a visual production on the park's World Showcase Lagoon.

Created and directed by Don Dorsey, the show 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.[7] The show has received several awards throughout the years including 11 straight Best Outdoor Night Production Show Golden Ticket Awards (2005–2015).[8][9][10]

The show is scheduled to give its final performance on September 30th, with a new "Epcot Forever" show premiering the night after.[11][12]

Show summary[edit]


Torches are lit around the lagoon. The beginning of the show is narrated by Jim Cummings:[13]

"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".

Immediately after, there is the sound of a flame being gently blown out, the lighting is immediately dimmed throughout the park, and the show begins.

The Inferno Barge

Act I: Chaos[edit]

Chaos represents the creation of the planet Earth. The show begins with explosive fireworks from the center of the lagoon and hot flames from the Inferno Barge.[2][13]

Act II: Order[edit]

Firework launch during Act II

The spouting flames from the Flame 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.[13] Since the buildings of the Morocco Pavilion are replicas of buildings that have great religious significance, the lights on the pavilion do not light up during IllumiNations.[14] In order to keep symmetry, the Norway Pavilion does not light up either. The scene includes high-launch fireworks.

Act III: Meaning[edit]

Globe Opens revealing final unity torch during Act III

As the song "We Go On" is played, the torches around the lagoon are re-lit and the Earth Globe opens[2] 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 finale crackle emanating from the final launch set of fireworks can often be heard within several miles outside of the park.

Post Show[edit]

The show ends with a post-show announcement:[13]

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.

The song "Promise" plays directly after this, which is then followed by the Tapestry of Nations parade sound track. As the music plays, the continents are laser-projected onto Spaceship Earth, making it appear as a spinning globe.

Technical infrastructure[edit]

Earth Globe[edit]

The Earth Globe is moved into position as a fireworks barge is prepared for the show.

The centerpiece of the show is the Earth Globe, a 28-foot (8.5 m) diameter globe housed on a 350 short tons (320 t) barge.[6] The world's first spherical video display system,[6] 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.[6] This is the only barge in the show with a driver on board, who uses an infrared guidance system.[6] The Earth Globe was said to be one of the most complicated piece of show equipment made by Disney by History Channel's Modern Marvels.[15]

Jerold Kaplan of Walt Disney Imagineering designed and engineered the Earth Globe and supporting barge.[13] The detailed engineering for the barge and its propulsion and control systems were provided by Glowacki Engineering of Orange Park, FL. The Earth Globe Barge was built by Sun State Marine Services in Green Cove Springs, FL and was delivered in four major components which were assembled on site. 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 Derek Brown 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 file formats are uncompressed AVIs passed through a masking filter to put the pixels in the spots for the countries.

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. At the end of the show, the Earth Globe blossoms like a flower, revealing a flame torch that rises 40 feet[6] 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.

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.[16]

Inferno Barge[edit]

The Inferno Barage in action

The Inferno Barge is a 150,000 pounds (68,000 kg) barge[6] with an isopar system on board that sends balls of fire soaring 40 to 60 feet (12 to 18 m) into the air and on to the surface of the lagoon from 37 nozzles.[6] 400 US gallons (1,500 l; 330 imp gal) of isopar 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. If any isopar is left in the tanks after the show, it is burned off later that night.[17][18]


Fireworks barges

Walt Disney Entertainment invented a new way of launching fireworks for the show, using a pneumatic launch system, instead of black powder that pollutes more and causes the trail of an igniting firework shell to be seen. The technology was developed for Disneyland under requirement by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The compressed air technology allows for explosions to be timed with the music and for the height of the shell's explosion to be controlled. 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. Designers of the show meet with fireworks manufacturers in China to create these new effects for the show. 750 individual mortar tubes are used during each show, inside one of the 56 firing modules at 34 locations around the lagoon,[6] producing 2,120 visible effects. During the holiday season, two more barges are added and an additional 455 pieces are fired, producing 818 more visible effects.


Lasers are emitted from the buildings around the lake. This picture shows the high-power search lights.

Full color laser systems are used, 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. In late November 2014, the show's laser programming underwent a major overhaul which saw the introduction of new state-of-the-art lasers, featuring new patterns; colors; and the addition of laser projectors installed on the islands in World Showcase lagoon. 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 it is rare.

On December 8, 2014, it was announced that the lasers had been switched from ion lasers to solid-state lasers. This saves approximately 64 kilowatts of electric power per show. It also means that the laser will no longer need a water cooling system, which also reduced water consumption by thousands of gallons.[19]

Moving lights[edit]

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.[13] As of December 2011, a transition to new firework product began. The new product is more environmentally friendly, however they can not create the original four colors of the show. Instead, standard colors (Orange, Green, Magenta, and Yellow) replaced Lavender, Mint, Pumpkin, and Lagoon Blue. The color scrollers were fitted with new colors to match the product change. 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[edit]

There are four fountain barges that have 40 water nozzles per barge.[20] 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.[20] These barges carry pyrotechnics as well.


19 Torches surround World Showcase Lagoon, each representing a century completed of the last two millenniums.[21] The 20th torch, representing the 20th century and called the Unity Torch, is revealed when the Globe blossoms into a Lotus Flower, and the Unity Torch rises from its center. The Unity Torch represents the world coming together to celebrate the gift of life and the land that we have been granted as a whole. The torches also symbolize the significance of fire to humanity as an element that unites cultures over time, as well as its significance to the Earth, as is alluded to in the show's prologue.

The control booth is at the top of the stairs on the façade, where the opening is.

Control booth[edit]

The control booth is located above the Mexico Pavilion. It houses emergency stop controls, and communications to each barge using wireless ethernet, and headset communication to the Globe barge driver. All barges are wired with multi-core cables, and most functions within these cables have a redundant wireless backup. Show audio and announcements also originate from the booth.

The show uses more than 65 computers in 40 separate locations, hundreds of lighting fixtures, four fountain barges which can pump over 4,000 US gallons (15,000 l; 3,300 imp gal) per minute, a 68 metric tons (67 long tons) inferno barge with 37 propane nozzles, and lasers.[6]

Special editions[edit]

Holiday finale[edit]

The Holiday Tag, seen in 2016

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."[22] The song "Let There Be Peace On Earth" is played as the Earth Barge returns to its original closed look. Once closed, the barge's display shows the message “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" in multiple languages. When a language corresponding to a specific pavilion is spoken, that pavilion lights up. Once the final pavilion, The American Adventure, lights up, a female announcer 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.[22]

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[edit]

Fourth of July tag, seen in 2017

The show is shown around 10:00 PM[23] and after the show, the song Yankee Doodle plays and fireworks shoot up from the roof and back of the American Adventure Pavilion, beginning The Heartbeat of Freedom[24] tag. 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. Then a barrage of fireworks during the finale, which creates a smokescreen and as the music ends, the smoke has been cleared out. The style was altered in 2006 as selected songs were played for the 230th year of US independence. At the end, the song The Battle Hymn of the Republic was heard, the American pavilion lights up as fireworks shoot up from the behind the American pavilion. 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".[25] More than 2000 shells are launched from 32 barges for the latest version of this tag.[citation needed]

New Year's Eve Countdown Edition[edit]

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), 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 countdown begins at 10 seconds prior to midnight with the North American nations: United States, Canada, Mexico. The count down starts 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.[13] 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[edit]

On October 1, 2007, a four-minute long, one-day only tag commemorating Epcot's 25th Silver Anniversary followed IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.[26] 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.[27] 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.

Epcot's 30th Anniversary Special Edition[edit]

On October 1, 2012, a four-minute long, one-day only tag commemorating Epcot's 30th Anniversary followed immediately after the standard IllumiNations show.[28][29] The show was followed by playback of music from Epcot's early days accompanied by laser generated wording on Spaceship Earth noting the celebratory occasion. Ten extra barges were used during this show.[30]

Epcot's 35th Anniversary Special Edition[edit]

Similar to the 25th and 30th anniversaries, Illuminations had a one-day only tag commemorating Epcot's 35th anniversary after the normal Illuminations show on October 1, 2017.[31] The show included music from closed attractions, as well as fireworks from the extra barges.[32]


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 recorded with a 71-piece philharmonic orchestra and a 30-voice chorus and 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. The broadcast also included video of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.[33][34] In 2000, the score was also used during Hong Kong's Chinese New Year celebrations. 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[35] 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. Parts of the score are also used in the video "Welcome: Portraits of America", displayed in the Customs and Border Protection checkpoints in most US airports.[36][37] Domino Day 2009 used the ending part of We Go On when the final builders challenge, Fire, was successful.[38]

The Drum & Bugle Corps The Cadets used this material for the 2000 show entitled: We Are The Future.[36]


"Reflections of Earth" (Working title: "Earth 2000")

  • Executive music producer: Steve Skorija
  • Music score composed, produced, and conducted by Gavin Greenaway
  • Show and music director: Don Dorsey
  • Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson
  • Music supervisor: Dan Savant
  • Music preparation: Express Music Services
  • Music editor: Michael Atwell
  • Music contractor: Isobel Griffiths Ltd
  • Music contractor / composer: Nick Paul
  • Music recorded: at Abbey Road Studios by members of the London Session Orchestra, possibly including some players from the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Music mixed at Media Ventures
  • Music coordination by Savant Productions
  • Video project manager for Century III and editor for the Earth Globe visuals: Oliver Peters

"We Go On"

  • Lyrics: Don Dorsey
  • Vocal solo: Kellie Coffey
  • All other credits refer to Reflections of Earth above.


  • Executive music producer: Steve Skorija
  • Music score composed, produced, and conducted by Gavin Greenaway
  • Lyrics: Don Dorsey
  • Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson
  • Music supervisor: Dan Savant
  • Vocal solo: Kellie Coffey


The complete show soundtrack can be found on these releases:

  • Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration (1999)
    • There was also a shortened version of the show soundtrack on a promotional CD included with Energizer batteries purchased in 2000.
  • Re-released in 2001 as Illuminations: Reflections of Earth / Tapestry of Dreams (2001), containing one less track than the 1999 release.


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:[13]

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.

The original narration substituted the first two sentences with "Good evening and welcome" but 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. In recent years, the voice has been changed to that of Bill Rogers, the voice behind most of the announcements at Walt Disney World Resort.


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External links[edit]