Farewell Illuminations, Hello Epcot Forever

This past week was both the end of an era and a step toward the future at Epcot. Monday night, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth ended its 20 year run in the park. Tuesday night, Epcot Forever made its debut for the limited time it will be available.

Epcot’s new permanent fireworks spectacular, HarmoniUS, is set to begin in late 2020. Epcot Forever is bridging the gap between the two shows, and pays tribute to the history of Epcot.

The timing of this transition was well thought out, as the debut of Epcot Forever took place on October 1st. October 1st was the “birthday” of both Epcot and Magic Kingdom (37 and 48 years this year, respectively). Also, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth made its debut on October 1st, 1999, so the date marked 20 years since the previous transition.

The final night of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth was an emotional night for people who had watched the show countless times over the past 20 years. The park was extremely busy, and understandably so. I managed to get a spot between France and Morocco at 5:45 PM, and waited for over three hours for the show to start.

As is the case all too often in Florida, shortly before the show and then again as the show was starting, the rain began at a very inconvenient time. Luckily, after the first few minutes of Illuminations, the rain stopped for the night.

The show went off flawlessly and left park guests with a memory to last a lifetime. The crowd around me cheered and shed a few tears as the show ended. It truly was the end of an era at WDW.

Tuesday afternoon, Danny got into the park before 3:00 to reserve the perfect spot. After exploring a few different options, we settled on watching from between Germany and Italy at around 3:30 PM. This really did turn out to be the perfect spot for us. The view was incredible, and was worth the five and a half hour wait. Even better yet, we were next to a tree, which provided some much appreciated shade on such a hot day.

We have to send a shout out to our new friends, Jenna and Josh from ResortTV1. They sat next to us through the long wait and the show itself. They were incredibly nice and were generous enough to give us a shout out on their live feed. If you guys read this, thank you so much again from both of us!!

Now, onto Epcot Forever. This show is very different from Illuminations. It consists of more fireworks, new music and lighting, lasers, and kites flown by jet skis.

As is always the case with anything new at Disney, especially when it is replacing such a long-running and iconic show, the reactions from people around us were very mixed.

After all of the hype and build-up to this show, Halie found it to be a bit of a let down. Not a bad show, but nothing over the top and extra special. Danny was happy with the increase in the amount of fireworks used, but had mixed feelings about the show, as a whole. He needed to watch it another time or two to form a stronger opinion.

We both ended up agreeing that the show is fine for what it is. It is celebrating Epcot’s past, present, and future. It is a good transition to the next permanent show, but isn’t something that would be a solid option for a long-term run in the park.

A standout moment in the show for both of us was hearing Walt Disney’s voice. Although Epcot, as we know it today, is very different from Walt’s original plan for the park, the quotes used in the show focus on the ways Disney has stayed true to Walt’s vision. Walt never wanted the parks to be completed. He believed that things should always change and adapt to the times, not become a museum. With all of the construction and renovations taking place right now, Disney is in the process of making changes that will delight guests for years to come.

The addition of kites to the show was pretty cool, but didn’t blow us away. The story in the show didn’t seem to flow as well as it could have. The show just seemed to be missing some things that could have really elevated it. It is understandable that a temporary show wouldn’t be a mind-blowingly incredible experience though. Once again, it’s good for what it is.

There were nods to Illuminations during the show, as well, which was appreciated by the people we have spoken with who loved that show and didn’t want to see it end.

The music fit the show fairly well, but, as we said, the story just didn’t seem to flow very well. Some of the transitions could have been better.

The light and laser effects fit the show quite well, and were a good addition.

We will be curious to see which aspects, if any, from this show are included in HarmoniUS when it debuts next year.

Danny has now seen Epcot Forever three times, and it has grown on him a little more each time. Halie has only watched it once so far, but is interested in watching it again and seeing if her thoughts on the show change at all compared to opening night.

With any change that takes place at WDW, there will always be skeptics and people who just don’t like change, of any kind. Based on what we have seen so far, the show has us excited for the future of Epcot and the possibilities for the park moving forward.

We normally don’t share our opinions (or at least try not to) in our posts, but we felt this would be a good time to do our first short review. We hope you found this to be useful and interesting, and would love to hear what those of you who have watched this show already think of it. Do you like Epcot Forever? Are you sad to see Illuminations end? What would you like to see when HarmoniUS debuts next year? Let us know in the comments.

XOXO, Halie and Danny

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