After this summer Epcot will never be the same. Epcot will soon be full of attractions based on Disney and Marvel characters. The days of Epcot teeming with scientific and cultural experiences are fading.
One remnant of Epcot’s former glory is its current nighttime finale: IllumiNations – Reflections of Earth. After this summer this fireworks finale will extinguish, to be replaced by a new night time show that will feature Disney characters. And this is a big deal. It makes sense that the Disney company is pumping Epcot full of characters and familiar stories, it’ll be a more popular park. But, the heritage, the culture, and the wisdom the former version of Epcot imparts is important and it is encapsulated in the nighttime finale that is soon going to be extinguished.
The grandest story ever told
IllumiNations is the story of Earth itself. Imagine, a fireworks show in a world renowned theme park based on the story of the planet itself. A big bang, fire, volcanic ruptures, the life giving power of water, the birth of early humans, and the creation of civilization are all on display. Fireworks, fountains, fire, and a floating rotating globe, with LED screens in the shapes of the world’s continents, tell this story.
Not everyone picks up on this story right away. But once you realize that the entertainment in front of you is describing life on Earth itself, it’s powerful. The venue adds to the impact. A large lagoon is surrounded by 13 pavilions representing some of the world’s cultures, staffed by representatives who are from the represented countries, and guests who come from all corners of the globe. And it is here that the story of our planet and human civilization bursts into the sky each night.
Before the show begins, the mood of World Showcase lagoon changes. Thirty minutes before showtime the lights around World Showcase dim ever so slightly, making way for large torches around the lagoon to fill the night sky with warmth. That instinctual urge to gather around the fire nudges us to linger and enjoy the evening.
The music around World Showcase Lagoon changes during this time too. It is a global party. Although the music is distinctly early 2000’s it is classic and invigorating. A celebratory mood descends upon the crowd.
Celebrate the future hand in hand
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth burst into the night as part of the Millennium Celebration. We as a species celebrated the turn of a millennium as 1999 led to 2000. Being a young adult during this time seems like a special gift. I got to see the world pause to mark the occasion together. I also had the unique experience of being able to go to Epcot quite a few times during the Millennium Celebration, witnessing IlumiNations as well the Tapestry of Nations parade, and the Millennium Village. Each time I have visited Epcot and caught a viewing of IllumiNations I am reminded of this special moment in human history, and my own history.
I also reflect back on my time on the Epcot Dream Squad. Although a temporary job, it was a dream job that will forever be an honored moment in my career. If I worked a closing shift I would end my night with my fellow Dream Squad Cast Members standing proudly on the Fountain of Nations stage as we watched IllumiNations together and waved goodnight to departing Guests. I am so fortunate to have stood in that spot, witnessing the nighttime spectacular from this stage, and to be able to help end a guest’s day with a genuine smile and fond farewell.
Even though IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is set to perform for a few more months, I’ve already said my farewell. With a baby boy, a full work schedule, weekly volunteering, and writing, there isn’t much time to go out into the theme parks at night. So I chose to celebrate my birthday standing in the Japan Pavilion with my husband at my side as the night sky burst to life. The telling of the story of our planet, of our civilizations, and humanity is a breathtaking story. I am saddened that this will be replaced by a show featuring Disney characters, but as the show’s main song says, “We Go On.”
Everything in life is temporary. We have to let go and allow things to move on. And we too, go on. All of humanity, the entirety of the planet continues to move forward. I invite you to make a visit to Epcot soon and not only view IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth, but do so with intention. Really pay attention to the atmosphere during the pre-show. Focus on the details in the show’s beginning and see how it illustrates the violent beginnings of our planet. Notice the order in which the pavilions around World Showcase become illuminated during the middle of the show. Listen to the lyrics in the finale. And of course, giggle at the people who leave during the false finale who don’t know there’s still two minutes of show left and they’re going to miss the real finale when the sky is filled with white.
– Lyrics from “We Go On” performed by Kellie Coffie
We go on
moving forward, now as one
with a spirit born to run
with each rising sun
To a new day
We go on