IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

The History of IllumiNations at Epcot

Disney recently announced that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will be closing late summer of 2019 after a 20 year illuminating run!  Many people are very sad about this as it has become an iconic part of Epcot.  Why is it so loved?  What is the history behind this amazing World Showcase nightly event?  Let’s dive into a bit of the history of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, what makes it so special and why it will be missed when it is over!

Carnival de Lumiere

Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, opened on October 1, 1982.  A few weeks later on October 23, 1982 Epcot’s first nighttime spectacular Carnival de Lumiere premiered.  This show featured 3 barges floating in the World Showcase Lagoon with projection screens.  It also had floating barges that had fountains of water, and fireworks along with other special effects all set to classical music.  As groundbreaking as it was, this show had one downfall, it could only be seen between Canada and Mexico pavilions.  A year later it was replaced by a new nighttime extravaganza.

A New World Fantasy

A New World Fantasy made its debut in the summer of 1983.  This newly reimagined show used the same barges from Carnival de Lumiere but new lights were added to the rooftops of the buildings around the World Showcase and Pichel lights were added.  These new lights along with many other special effects and new music made A New World Fantasy a show not to be missed!

Laserphonic Fantasy

Laserphonic Fantasy
Image by Disney

On June 9, 1984 the show was reimagined yet again!  This new incarnation was titled Laserphonic Fantasy and it ran until 1988.  It used the same soundtrack as A New World Fantasy, but added new images, new lasers and some more fireworks making this show the most technologically advanced yet!


IllumiNations debuted in Epcot on January 30, 1988, sponsored by General Electric.  When it debuted it was the most elaborate and sophisticated night-time spectacular Disney ever produced!  While it shared many design elements with its predecessor Laserphonic Fantasy, this new show added new lighting design elements incorporating the World Showcase pavilions like never before.

New lights outlined the rooftops of many of the buildings in the pavilions, with Morocco being the exception for religious reasons.  New barges were also added, including the “globe barge.”  Lasers displayed images onto water screens as well as the new globe that danced around like never before!  As the years went on, the lights and lasers were upgraded to the latest and greatest technologies available at that time, leaving guests in awe with each new addition.

IllumiNations 25 & 98

On September 20, 1996 the original IllumiNations ran its final show, but something new and exciting was just around the corner!  IllumiNations 25 made its debut a day later on September 21, 1996 to celebrate Disney World’s 25th anniversary.

The show was yet again reimagined with new music and effects in conjunction with the grand celebration of Disney World’s 25th anniversary.  This version, called the “A” version of IllumiNations 25, had a more festive musical score than its predecessors, after all this was a celebration!  This version of IllumiNations did come to an end on May 18, 1997.

A day later on May 19, 1997, IllumiNationsB” began.  They returned to a more classical musical score, still celebrating the 25th anniversary.  The “B” version of IllumiNations ran until it was replaced with IllumiNations 98.  This was the exact same show as IllumiNations 25B“, it just didn’t reference the 25th anniversary in any of the voice over announcements.  Finally, on September 21, 1999 Illuminations 98 came to a close.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

Disney wanted to update the show for the new millennium and on October 1, 1999 Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth made its debut.  This was the biggest, most immersive and most expensive IllumiNations yet.  They created new effects, a new globe, and a cohesive story that would bring together the story of life here on earth.

This show was so groundbreaking and such a guest favorite that after the millennium celebration was over, the 2000 was dropped from its name and it continued as IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth to this day.

Illuminating The Future

That brings us to today.  Disney recently announced that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will be coming to an end in late 2019.  This show has become an integral part of many people’s vacations for almost two decades.  While many people are happy to be getting a new night-time spectacular, many are sad to see it go.  We know that the new show will be bigger and better than anything seen before around the World Showcase Lagoon but nothing can ever replace IllumiNations in the hearts of Epcot fans far and wide.

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