Epcot Fireworks Illuminated

Joan Feder

Feature Article
This article appeared in the October 8, 2010 (#1046) edition of ALL EARS®

Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

Harmonious Concept Art ©Disney

Epcot Fireworks Illuminated

This month started with a bang when Epcot Forever debuted on October 1st. It is the latest in a long line of shows that have been featured at Epcot over the years. Take a look back and see if you remember some of these nighttime spectaculars.

Carnival de Lumiere—October 23, 1982

Epcot’s first fireworks show debuted a couple of weeks after opening day. It celebrated festivals from around the globe using fireworks, fountains and music. Rear projected images were displayed from three barges on the World Showcase Lagoon. Unfortunately, viewing was limited to the area between the Canada and Mexico Pavilions.

A New World Fantasy—Summer, 1983

Carnival de Lumiere was replaced less than a year after it opened. A New World Fantasy was very similar to its predecessor, but there were a couple of innovations. Synthesized classical music and rooftop searchlights enhanced the drama of the show. The soundtrack included the Flight of the Bumblebee, the William Tell Overture and the Anvil Chorus. Again, the show could only be seen between Mexico and Canada.

Laserphonic Fantasy—June 9, 1984

This was the missing link between the past and future shows at Epcot. Finally, the entertainment was moved to the center of the Lagoon, allowing guests to see it from all around the World Showcase. The musical selections were the same as those in A New World Fantasy. As usual, there were plenty of fireworks, but this was the first time some were fired from the perimeter of the Lagoon. Even more exciting was the addition of laser effects which were projected from the American Adventure, Canada and Mexico pavilions. The images included dinosaurs from the Universe of Energy and Dreamfinder, Figment’s pal from Journey Into Imagination. The grand finale was a synthesized version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

IllumiNations—January 30, 1988

This time the fireworks stayed in the center the Lagoon, and the music was all orchestral. New lighting effects were added to illuminate each of the World Showcase pavilions (except Morocco and Norway). Laser effects used the then novel technique of projecting images onto a water screen. This production memorably featured a “pavilion chase”. Each of the original pavilions lit up in sequence using the new lighting effects. The show was created using 783 firework shells, 13 projectors, 11 searchlights, 180 water spouts and over 500 theatrical lights.

Holiday IllumiNations — 1994-1998

A special version of IllumiNations was presented during the winter months. It focused on holidays from around the world. Narrated by legendary newsman, Walter Cronkite, the show began with a collection of Christmas carols, including Joy to the World and Deck the Halls. This was followed by a medley from the Nutcracker Suite, and several Chanukah songs. The finale was Let There Be Peace on Earth.

IllumiNations 25— September 21, 1996

This totally new production celebrated Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary. The spectacular reflected the dual nature of Epcot. The first act focused on the World Showcase. Each country’s pavilion lit up as it was introduced at the beginning of the show. Fireworks blasted off from the center of the Lagoon in time to music from around the globe. Fountains and lasers filled the air.

The second act featured music related to the themes of Future World, like Communication and Imagination. The grand finale was a jazzy version of the Circle of Life, the first time Disney music had been featured in Epcot’s evening entertainment. The show was modified in May, 1997. When the anniversary celebration ended in February 1998, the “25” was dropped from the title, but the show remained the same.

IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth—October 1, 1999

Epcot was the center of Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration. This led to many changes for the park. A new pavilion was constructed called the Millennium Village. It featured exhibits from countries that were not already a part of the World Showcase. A huge wand was built next to Spaceship Earth with “2000” written on it. There was also a parade called Tapestry of Nations. And of course, there was a new version of IllumiNations to end every night of the festivities.

IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth had it all: fireworks, fountains, flames, lasers and lights. This time, the show had a definite storyline. Nineteen torches, one for each of the past centuries, lit up around World Showcase Lagoon. This was followed by the first act, “Chaos”, which used explosive fireworks and flames to represent the creation of Earth.

Act two was “Order”. A model of earth floated to the center of the Lagoon. This globe was 28 feet in diameter and perched 10 feet above the water. It was actually a spherical LCD screen covered in over 15,000 LED lights.

Fountains danced as the Earth changed from white hot to red to blue as it cooled. Then came the laser displays of famous people and landmarks. Each of the countries around World Showcase (again with the exception of Morocco and Norway) were illuminated.

The torches were relit for the third act called “Meaning”. The globe blossomed open, revealing the Unity Torch, representing the 20th century.

One thousand white fireworks burst in the air, welcoming the new millennium.

In 2001, when the Millennium Celebration ended, the “2000” was dropped from the title and the show became known as “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth”. The production remained the same and continued to run for a total of two decades. The final performance was held on September 30, 2019.

Special Editions

These add-ons or “tags” were played after the regular finale for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.

Holiday IlllumiNations— This version began running in the winter of 2004. Several songs and lots more fireworks were added after the end of the regular performance. The globe closed and the song Let There Be Peace on Earth played. The words “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” were displayed and announced in several languages. The corresponding pavilion would light up when its home language was spoken. This was followed by a spectacular fireworks display involving as many fireworks as those used in the main show itself.

Fourth of July—Patriotic tunes played, starting with Yankee Doodle, and a barrage of fireworks exploded. Most of the pyrotechnics were red, white and blue, and some were even star shaped. This tag involved more than 2000 shells fired from 32 barges.

New Year’s Eve—The show began with New Year celebrations around the World Showcase countries, in order of their time zones. Japan and China started the festivities, followed by Norway, Italy, Germany and France. Then Morocco and the United Kingdom chimed in. Each country played special music, and fireworks were ignited from behind each pavilion. Finally, the focus shifted to Canada, Mexico and the United States. Ten seconds before midnight, the count down began. At the stroke of twelve, an enormous display of fireworks shot into the sky from all around the Lagoon. This tag used double the number of fireworks as the regular show.

Anniversary Editions— Special tags were created for Epcot’s 25th, 30th and 35th anniversaries. These spectaculars played music from around the park, while fireworks lit the night sky. Each of these shows was a one-day-only special event held on October 1st of the respective years (2007, 2012 and 2017).

Epcot Forever—October 1, 2019

This twelve minute extravaganza is a temporary replacement for IllumiNations. It is a celebration of all the original attractions and songs of Epcot.

The show starts with One Little Spark from Journey Into Imagination, and clips of Walt Disney talking about his hopes for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The soundtrack includes classics like Makin’ Memories (Imagination pre-show), Fun to be Free (World of Motion) and Veggie, Veggie, Fruit, Fruit (The Land). There are plenty of fireworks and a new special effect: kites. But not just any kites. These illuminated beauties soar across the lagoon in time to the music, and even fire off pyrotechnics of their own. The finale, a reference to the current re-imagining of Epcot, is Aladdin’s A Whole New World.

Epcot Forever is scheduled to run into 2020. At that time, the permanent replacement, “HarmonioUS” will debut. It will be a celebration of how Disney music inspires people around the world. And, it is going to be the biggest production that has ever been created for a Disney theme park. It will include lasers, floating set pieces, dancing fountains and of course, plenty of fireworks.

Some people love Epcot Forever, others not so much. There are also mixed feelings about HarmonioUS. Many are excited, some are worried about so much Disney being the focus of an Epcot show. How do you feel about these changes to Epcot’s nighttime spectaculars? Do you think they will become fan favorites or make us long for the good old days?