Every once in a while, it's important to stop being such a cynical ass and take note of the things that still draws me to Disney World year after year. Here's one of the things I love.
It all starts with a drum roll. Not a lame, "snare-drum" roll like what you would hear as the 20th Century Fox logo appears, but an actually powerful, intimidating, pounding of drums. It's almost tribal in it's presentation, yet there's more to it than that. If anything, it's the opening to mankind itself; the savage, exploding drums that signify the chaotic beginning to Earth itself. By the time any comfort sets in towards the echoing beat, a screaming fleet of sparks flow through the sky, and touch down as our story begins.
Not too many night-time shows have stories, but many at Disney parks surprisingly (or, to some, not surprisingly) do. These stories can range from a classic tale of good versus evil, to a more pleasant yarn about fantasies and dreams. Since I first saw it in 2000, "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" has been the single most powerful nightime show seen in Disney World - not just for it's ability to draw enormous crowds night after night who are as instantly sucked in as you are, but for it's amazing simplicity, special effects, and the grand story it tells by merely using fireworks, music, and a globe.
Image from sptimes.com
The show can have many interpretations, but the one I love is the idea that the entire show represents the journey of human life on Earth. Once those pounding drums commence, signifying the cataclysmic "bang" of our planet's - and humankind's - beginnings, it's a thrilling ten-minute journey through the joys of birth, the love of life, the sorrow of loss, and the will to move on. The tempo and mood of the music reflects this journey in an epic and satisfying way.
I love the music here. Love, love love it. The first time I saw the soundtrack in a gift shop in World Showcase, I picked up a copy and listened to it for ages. To me, it meant so much - and has stuck with me to this day (even as I type this, the music is in my head). If I were to rank my favorite scores from any WDW show out there, this one would be in my all-time top 3. That's how amazing it is in my eyes.
I've never been a big fireworks person, but the way in which the pyrotechnics match so well with the music gives me chills every time I see it. Honest-to-God goosebumps. It's done so perfectly - most especially toward the end, during "We Go On", with the sounds of every instrument playing together in the climactic finale, all in perfect synchronization with what seems like hundreds of lights shooting into the sky and falling to the ground. It's absolutely jaw-dropping.
Effects - wise, the reveal of the giant LCD globe on the water is also incredibly impressive, more so when it opens to reveal the flame (that could represent so much, from the un-extinguishable unity we share to the idea that we must do our part to keep the flame burning forever) in the center.
Never has such a torrent of varying emotions been experienced during one, single nigh-time show. "Illuminations: Reflections of Earth" represents everything EPCOT stands for, and everything we should take from it. To simply call it a "fireworks show" is a tremendous injustice; this is so much more. It's a journey of our shared existence on this Earth and the joys we all can celebrate as one.