Sunday, February 17, 2013


   On January 30 of 2013 Illuminations celebrated its 25th anniversary. So I decided what better time than now to share some pictures that I have of this fantastic nighttime show.  The original Illuminations show debuted on January 30 of 1988 as an upgrade to the previous shows; A New World Fantasy and Laserphonic Fantasy.  There was also a show that took place before any of these shows debuted called Carnival de Lumiere. This show was only able to be viewed between the Mexican and Canadian pavilions due to the fact that it displayed film on rear projected screens along with fountains and music.
   Illuminations utilized some of the same technologies that were developed for the previous shows, including the use of non-linear laser images on water droplet screens as well as the water fountain barges and Pichel lights.  These Pichel lights are programmable search lights that are able to make swift precise movements, which could easily be timed to music.
   The audio that was arranged within the shows was produced and arranged by Don Dorsey, a designer and director of many fireworks shows for Disney. The difference between the previous shows and Illuminations was that the previous iterations utilized synthesized tracks while Illuminations used the original orchestral tracks.  Synthesized arrangements were used in many of the entertainment offerings up until this point; including Electrical Water Pageant and the Main Street Electrical Parade.
    Illuminations was originally sponsored by General Electric, which resulted in many lighting upgrades to the pavilions around world showcase Lagoon. New dual level edge lighting which provided a flashing effect, upgraded laser installations at the pavilions, as well as animated lighting imagery on top of the pavilions. These animated images were moved into place after darkness fell onto the park. Some of these animated scenes included a dragon on top of the China Pavilion, a windmill and the Moulin Rouge sign on top of the France pavilion, and a cuckoo clock on top of Germany.
    One of the more striking features of the lighting upgrades on the pavilions was the projection mapping techniques that were utilized to change the appearance of the pavilion buildings themselves. This technology just recently has been utilized in the pre-shows to Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. As well as a show that takes place on the It's a Small World's facade at Disneyland.
Germany projection mapping
    It is pretty amazing that this technology existed over 20 years ago, even though somewhat crude compared to today's standards.  It is now just being realized again for its entertainment value. Some examples of this in Illuminations include the changing of the American Adventure façade into the capital building as well as Germany's façade being enhanced by lighted additional trim and color combinations.
    Illuminations featured four main fountain barges that housed most of the effects used within the show as well as a fifth main laser barge in the center of the lagoon. The four barges that surrounded the laser barge included the mists screens, the air launch systems for the fireworks, and the fountains. They were also flanked by eight "dumb" barges, which provided additional colored pyro effects.
   The main laser barge featured a sphere in the middle which housed rear projection lasers inside that projected images onto the sphere's surface. There were also lasers mounted on the barge outside of the sphere that projected onto the mists screens which were located on the barges surrounding it.
   Illuminations took place over the course of three acts with the pyrotechnics coming towards the end of act two and concluding in a fantastic finale which featured the majority of the fireworks.The opening act featured laser projections on the mist screens, colored fountain sprays, and various highlights of the nations represented.
   The second act featured the individual pavilions highlighted in their own sequence with each pavilion lit up individually, beginning with France and proceeding in no particular order around the lagoon and culminating with USA at the end of act two.
   There are two pavilions not featured in Illuminations. The first being the Norway Pavilion as it was not completed until after the show debuted. And the next being the Morocco Pavilion because the king did not want the Pavilion lit up due to religious concerns.
    Act III featured the majority of the pyrotechnics included in the show, and heavy use of the linear lasers emanating from the pavilions themselves.
   At the end of the show all of the pavilions are lit up around World Showcase Lagoon in a wondrous display. And one of my favorite effects is the globe projected on Spaceship Earth with lasers emitting from the American Adventure.
     I have included my own video of the original show, while crude in its presentation, being as it was taken very non-professionally back in 1994, it does present the show as seen back then.  I am sure there are much better videos out there, but in my posts I try and use all of my own material wherever possible.
   Thanks for taking the time to look at my pictures and hopefully enjoying my brief history on the original Illuminations show. I am always appreciative that people take the time out of their busy schedule to read and enjoy my blog. I hope that you learn something that you didn't previously know, and leads to enjoying this show more as well as enjoying the current iteration even more. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

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