What "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" Means to Me
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth has been the evening spectacular in Epcot for 20 years, or it will be when it shuts down at the end of this September. That is quite a long time for a show at Disney to play consistently and while it will be nice to experience something new, it really is the end of an era in Epcot and for me.
My first trip to Walt Disney World was in 2002 when I was almost 14 years old and my sister was 9. My parents rule for spending that kind of money on a vacation was that we were going to be old enough to remember it. We stayed off property and were only there for 5 days, a Monday to a Friday, as we needed the weekends to drive there and back from Delaware (16 hours in case you were curious). Our first day was split between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. My mother remembered Magic Kingdom from her trip when she was little and figured that would be the most interesting park for us, so we had 3 days there. Our last day was in Epcot.
Our trip was during the 100 Years of Magic celebration. IllumiNations was a few years old at this point and there was also the Tapestry of Dreams parade. We spent an afternoon making the masks and getting them stamped throughout all the countries. The music from that parade was the most beautiful I had ever heard…until IllumiNations started.
Gosh what an orchestration!!! I know lots of people (including Mike) that say the globe parts are the “boring parts”, but it is so lovely! This was only the second fireworks show that I had seen timed perfectly to the music (the first being at Magic Kingdom) and that was fascinating to me! The finale at the end was like nothing I had ever seen!
While the show was amazing, what stuck with me the most was the ending announcement. It thanks you for being there and specifically says if this is the end of your trip to Walt Disney World, that they hoped you enjoyed your trip and that you return home safely. They did not say that at the end of Wishes, only IllumiNations. As the child that I was, this made it seem like he was speaking to me, that he knew it was our last day and I just broke down crying as we walked out of the park. This final touch on an amazing first trip is what cemented my love for Disney. It was that extra touch of magic that Disney had no idea they were doing when they wrote that announcement and it has stuck with me to this day.
These extra details, these little touches that don’t seem to make any difference are what means the most to guests, even if they don’t realize it right away. The footprints that lead you to a random hidden gem, the themed music perfectly faded between lands, the hidden mickeys. Those little details are what drives my passion for Disney.
Since that first trip, this show has continued to make memories for me. It has been a meeting spot for new friends, the finale of a wedding day, the backdrop for the beginning sparks of love, and frankly the best beginning to a New Year that Walt Disney World has to offer! (Sorry, those Magic Kingdom NYE fireworks just don’t hold a candle to the Epcot countries celebration!)
It will be sad to see IllumiNations for the actual last time later this year, but you have to “keep moving forward”, making new memories and starting new adventures. I am looking forward to seeing what Epcot Forever brings to the evening spectacular line up.
What is your favorite memory of IllumiNations? What are you looking forward to most about Epcot Forever? Leave your comments below!