IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a fireworks show, performed nightly at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. 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. It was previously presented by General Electric, and now Sylvania, at a cost of approximately US$17,000 per show.
The lights dim, and 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." IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is split into three acts:
The post-show announcement is, "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 and may all your dreams come true." The song "Promise" plays directly after this, followed by the Tapestry of Nations medley as guests exit the park. As the music plays, the continents are laser-projected onto Spaceship Earth, making it appear as a spinning 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 pixels, each consisting of 12 light-emitting diodes. The Earth Globe starts its journey from the edge of the World Showcase Lagoon, a 40-acre man-made lake in Epcot, before anchoring itself in the middle of the lagoon. The Globe is 28 feet 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 2 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 2 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 20/21 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 is a liquid-propane system that sends balls of fire soaring 40 to 60 feet 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. After the show ends, around 10:30 PM, the "Inferno Barge Burn Off" takes place where any extra propane is blown out and burned off safely. On nights when Epcot is open late, this action is visible to guests. It is usually accompanied by an announcement that reminds viewers that the blow off is intentional and controlled, so as not to panic guests thinking that the explosion was a bomb or similar device. This used to be the case, but is now (2008) done during the show on the last inferno barge cue, to save time in de-rig.
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.
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. Only the two opening shots of the show are ALF. A Timeing 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 are used in the show, emanating from the American Adventure, Canada and Mexico pavilions. 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 every night when the show begins so that air traffic can be advised and directed accordingly.
Twenty torches are spaced surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon, representing the twenty centuries that have passed in the Common Era. The twenty first torch is lit at the end of the show when the Earth Globe blossoms like a flower. Each torch reaches 27 feet above the lagoon's surface.
"We Go On"
View pictures of the show taken by creator Don Dorsey at his website: Don Dorsey Productions
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 is the female voice that does the pre-show announcements stating that the show will be starting shortly.
The show is shown twice during New Year's Eve, at 7:45 and 11:45 PM. After the last show (11:45 PM), an introduction for the New Year's Eve countdown is heard. 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 that presentation, fireworks shoot from the back of each pavilion. Lastly, the North American nations (United States, Canada, Mexico). Then the people, along with the female (male at the last 3 seconds) announcer, count down along with a dong (which came from the American pavilion). Then Auld Lang Syne plays. The people cheer and greet "Happy New Year!" along with a dazzling display of fireworks. A male announcer says as at the closing to the celebration. It ends with a huge fireworks display. This tag uses double the amount of fireworks that are launched in IllumiNations: Reflections of earth. Every New Year's Eve, Epcot stays open until 1:00 AM.