IllumiNations Debuts at EPCOT

At the time of its premiere, IllumiNations was the most dazzling, high-tech nighttime spectacle ever produced by Disney. Taking place around World Showcase at EPCOT, IllumiNations included lighting effects, lasers, fountains, fireworks, and projected images all set to a lush orchestral score. Don Dorsey and Adam Bezark were the creative and show directors for this and the previous A New World Fantasy and Laserphonic Fantasy lagoon shows. Don told us, “The evolution from Laserphonic was to add lighting effects to the pavilions for the first time, bringing them into the show and expanding the scope of the show. Disney brought the name IllumiNations and the idea of adding lights to the pavilions to us and asked us to flesh out the show and details.”

Light screens similar to those used in the Electrical Water Pageant were raised over each pavilion roof to create images such as a dragon over the China pavilion and kites over Japan. Architectural projection was used to transform the facades of Canada, American Adventure, and Germany—the latter appearing as a Bavarian castle and also a whimsical gingerbread house. The show was so technically complicated that programming was barely completed the night before opening and was not fully tested. This led to some areas of the promenade going without show audio or with extremely low levels (former Disney Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner reported hearing nothing at all where he stood in Norway). In spite of the glitches, the press and public response was all positive and the show continued to be polished and tweaked for the next few weeks and became a fan favorite.