ILLUMINATIONS: REFLECTIONS OF EARTH
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth was performed nightly at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida for 20 years. It premiered on October 1, 1999 as IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth as part of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration; it was so successful that after the celebration ended the 2000 was dropped from the name and the show was continued. It was previously presented by General Electric, and now Siemens, at a cost of approximately $17,000 per show.
Dorsey Productions and Don Dorsey are a part of the memories of anyone who has ever visited a Walt Disney World theme park and especially if you experienced the amazing Illuminations: Reflections of Earth which ran at EPCOT from October 1999 to September 30, 2019.
Don Dorsey is currently in his twenty-eighth year as audio production consultant, and seventeenth year as a designer and director of fireworks and night time spectacular shows (including Laserphonic Fantasy, IllumiNations and Sorcery in the Sky) for Disney theme parks. For seventeen years he served as the main audio recording and post-production engineer for the Entertainment Division of the Disneyland Park, manning console knobs and faders for recording sessions with Mickey and his cohorts, and for musical groups which ran the gamut from bagpipes, steel drums and accordion to marching band, 100-voice choir and symphony orchestra. His electronic arrangements and performances for Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade have been heard by an estimated 100 million Disney park guests around the world. Don continues to develop new entertainment projects and technology for Disney parks around the world, and in 1999 created and directed the new nighttime show for Epcot, Reflections of Earth, to celebrate the new Millennium.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – Show Timeline
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a fireworks show, performed nightly at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. It premiered on October 1, 1999 as IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth as part of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration; it was so successful that after the celebration ended the 2000 was dropped from the name and the show was continued. It was previously presented by General Electric, and now Siemens, at a cost of approximately US$17,000 per show.
Before the show begins, a 30-minute music loop is played around the lagoon. The loop contains 6 songs:
- Jalan Kopo by Sabah Habas Mustapha
- Falling through a Cloud by Uttara-Kuru
- Busindre Reel by Hevia
- Gaviotes by Hevia
- Tula by Cusco
- Our Life by Uttara-Kuru
The lights dim, and torches are lit around the lagoon. The beginning of the show is narrated by Jim Cummings, who says: “Good evening, on behalf of Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true, we welcome all of you to Epcot and World Showcase. We’ve gathered here tonight, around the fire, as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us; to share the light and to share a story. An amazing story, as old as time itself but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one. We hope you enjoy our story tonight; Reflections of Earth.” IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is split into three acts:
- Act I: Chaos. Chaos represents the creation of the planet Earth from a cosmic event. (This part uses the Inferno Barge.)
- Act II: Order. The Earth Globe appears. As the Earth cools, it changes from hot white to red to blue. Images appear on the Globe of countries, famous places, objects, and people. Chaos turns to Order.
- Act III: Meaning. The Earth Globe opens revealing a torch and 1,000 white fireworks are ignited. The final loud fireworks explode with a white flash and end with a loud crackle.
The post-show announcement is, Thank you for joining us for this celebration of life. All of us at Epcot have enjoyed hosting you at World Showcase Lagoon, and we hope you have enjoyed Reflections of Earth, presented by Sylvania, a Siemens Company. Thank you. The song “Promise” plays directly after this, followed by the theme song for Disney’s “What will you Celebrate?” promotion called Celebrate You which is then followed by the Tapestry of Nations medley as guests exit the park. As the music plays, the continents are laser-projected onto Spaceship Earth, making it appear as a spinning globe.
The first is Abbey Road recording studios. The studio is situated behind iron gates and boasts the largest recording studio in the world.
The second photo is a close up of the title page of the musical score for Reflections of Earth by Gavin Greenaway in the control room at Abbey Road.
The three photos are from China fireworks companies are from home videos recorded during a trip to three of China’s most famous fireworks manufacturers in February 1999: Hop Kee Pyrotechnics Ltd. on February 9, 1999; Mantsuna Fireworks on February 10, 1999, and SUNNY Fireworks on February 11, 1999.
ABOVE: Workers in China assemble aerial firework shells for delivery to Disney in Orlando, Florida to be used in Epcot’s Illumination: Reflections of Earth.
Read more about the fireworks on OrlandoMemory.info
ABOVE: Racks of firework shells awaiting packaging and shipment to Disney in Orlando, Florida for EPCOT’s Illumination: Reflections of Earth.
BELOW: Firework shells headed to the U.S. One of thousands of boxes of fireworks headed for Disney in Orlando. The reverse of the box reads: “Keep flame away.”
The Earth Barge
*Earth Globe. The show’s video segment, which is displayed on the “Earth Globe” located in the center of the World Showcase Lagoon, features 56 famous faces and covers 5 continents (screens).
*The globe weighs 350,000 pounds (equivalent to the weight of 150 midsize cars).
*The main structure of each petal consists of 4 inches of thick steel plate.
*The hydraulic system is capable of producing 650,000 pounds of force.
These two photos are stills pulled from home video showing the transporting of the Earth Globe barge from Disney’s North Service Area to the Epcot Marina in June 1999. A special multi-axle truck was needed to move the barge due to its weight of nearly 350,000 pounds.
ABOVE: The Earth Globe barge (sans Earth) passes the Disney Car Care Center on its way to Epcot. The main barge was assembled at Disney’s North Service Area and the Earth structure added after being moved to the Epcot Marina.
The Millennium Celebration CD
ABOVE and BELOW: If anyone could corner the millennium, Disney could. In presenting the theme music to its Millennium Celebration at Epcot Center in Florida, the mega-corporation attempts a grand, musical year-2000 salute. Naturally, World Millennium Celebration weaves plenty of fiery brass, warm sting passages, stirring voices, and a mix of space, romance, and Earth adventure into the fabric of this fantasy work. Executive Music Producer Steve Skorija’s task seems to be providing a backdrop for live performance, a scrim to unfurl behind the spectacle. And in doing so, the themes “Reflections of Earth,” “We Go On,” “Tapestry of Nations,” “Promise,” and “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand” (complete as a gospel version as well) have an “Up with People” undercurrent that is ambiguous even as it is mildly diverting. On those merits, Millennium Celebration succeeds as a score. But for sheer entertainment value, the CD needs to give us more of the legendary mouse’s magic and less of its roar. –Martin Keller
Note Don autographed my copy of this album (below right corner). You can read above that Don Dorsey is the Show and Music Director and he wrote the words to a song that gives me chills every time I hear it “We Go On”.
READ about the song and read the lyrics.
READ Orlando Sentinel article about “We Go On”.
“We Go On” – listen to the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoAmpBxuntM&feature=youtu.be
“As humans, you know, we fight to survive, we move into tomorrow as best we can. It wasn’t going to be ‘Rah, rah, it’s the the millennium,’ I didn’t want to take it as that kind of a celebration. It was really more of a moment to recognize. And so the phrase, ‘we go on’ just sort of came to me as I was consoling a friend who had just lost a job. You know, when I was talking to him, I said, ‘Well, you know, we go on.’ And then I got back on the plane and realized that that was the lyric hook. So wrote the song, based on that.”
―Don Dorsey, in an interview on the making of Reflections of Earth.
Listen to the Millennium Celebration audio from EPCOT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnXDeCN9mvE
The VIP and Press Presentation of the Millennium Celebration
Disney hosted VIPs, the Press, and individuals who worked on the project “Reflections of Earth Team Members” to a gala preview on September 30, 1999. The park was closed early and guests were bussed to the backstage area entering adjacent to the China Pavilion. The chefs at each of the nations around the world showcase created masterful culinary treats for those in attendance. Fresh strudel in the courtyard at Germany, whole pigs cooked over pits in Morocco, delicate pastries in France, to mention a few. My husband, Oliver Peters, was the editor at Century III Teleproductions at Universal Studios responsible for the video on the Earth globe, so we were invited to the gala event.
We wore the below double sided badges on lanyards to show that we were invitees.
Grand Millennium Celebration
This is the inside of the invitation sent to all those who worked on the Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT. This is the invitation sent to Oliver Peters, who was at the time an employee at Century III Teleproductions which was located on the backlot at Universal Studios Orlando. Oliver was the editor of all the video clips that appear on the large globe in the middle of the lake.
You are invited to a Grand Millennium Celebration to recognize the men and women who made Tapestry of Nations and Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth a reality!
DATE: Saturday, October 2, 1999
TIME: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – Reception/Dinner
6:25 p.m. “Tapestry of Nations” First Pass
8:10 p.m. “Tapestry of Nations” Second Pass
9:00 p.m. IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth
9:15 p.m. Drinks and Dessert
LOCATION: Bistro de Paris, Epcot France Pavilion (Second Floor Entrance)
Please park in the guest parking lot and enter Epcot through the main entrance. Non-Cast Members check-in at Epcot Guest Relations for park admission. Present this invitation for admission into Bistro de Paris.
One admission per Invitation.
R.S.V.P. by September 29: 407-390-XXXX
Oliver Peters – Century III Teleproductions, Inc.
Commemorative Coin by Don Dorsey Productions
A beautiful commemorative coin was created by Don Dorsey Productions and was given to the people who worked on the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth project. This coin stamped with the date of the public premiere date, October 1, 1999, is treasured by project video editor Oliver Peters.
ABOVE: Individuals who played roles in the creation of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Millennium reunited at EPCOT on September 30, 2009, for a 10 year reunion of the premiere of Reflections of Earth on September 30, 1999. This is the group photo of all those present. Project video editor Oliver Peters is seated, 2nd row, 2nd from left.
OLIVER PETERS: One of the coolest projects I’ve ever worked on is about to enter its tenth year. In 2009, the nighttime lagoon show at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT theme park enters what may well be its last year in this current version. Many theme park attractions are refreshed or changed periodically and I suspect that, the economy notwithstanding, it will be time to revamp this popular show, as well. IllumiNations 2000: Reflections of Earth was designed to usher in the new millennium and was to be activated a on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Due to logistical reasons Reflections of Earth was actually fired up in October, 1999. This marked the culmination of nearly a yearlong effort on the part of the video team and a total of several years for the show designers.
READ the entire article on the 10 year celebration of Reflections of Earth complete with technical details and images.
SEARCH OrlandoMemory.info using a term like: Century III, Oliver Peters, Reflections, Dorsey, etc. for more stories, memories, images and documents.
Oliver Peters worked for Century III (CIII - Century 3) Teleproductions from 1985 until he left in 2002 to form his own company. Over the course of seventeen years, Oliver held the positions of videotape editor, project manager and operations manager. CIII was first located in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios on Eggleston Avenue in Winter Park, Florida, but relocated in 1989 to Universal Studios after being selected from many production houses to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios. During this time period, Orlando garnered the name "Hollywood East" due to the filming/taping and post production of films and television series in the Central Florida area.
Oliver is currently involved in production and post production of commercial and corporate projects; he is a writer for Videography and other industry magazines in print and online; he is a presenter at conventions around the country; a guest instructor at Valencia State College and Full Sail, and he shares his knowledge of editing systems and techniques as a consultant to television stations and production houses around the country. His web site is www.OliverPeters.com
The following interview took place in May 2011. The interviewer is his wife and Orlando Public Library staff member, Kim Peters.
INTERVIEWER: If you search Orlando Memory for the name Oliver Peters or Century III you'll find info on theme parks, tourist attractions, museums, Jimmy Buffet and motion pictures you may not have seen, but should. Oliver's involvement in most of these projects was as producer or videotape editor while employed at Century III Teleproductions - a video post production facility located on the back lot at Universal Studios Orlando.
Century III closed its doors many years ago, but Oliver is still editing video, teaching video production, conducting seminars, and writing for Videography magazine. Oliver is here today to tell us about Century III during the years Orlando was known as "Hollywood East."
Welcome Oliver. I appreciate your taking the time to share your memories with Orlando Memory.
OLIVER: Thanks. Glad to be a part of this.
INTERVIEWER: I understand that you were part of the original staff of Century III when the company relocated from Boston to Orlando in 1985. Give us a brief background on Century III and how it was chosen to be the post production facility on the back lot at Universal Studios.
OLIVER: Century III started out as a branch office of the Boston facility. It was a post production company doing commercials and corporate videos. When the Studios started opening up, both Universal Studios and Disney, we had the opportunity to become the resident facility at Universal Studios and that was a concession that they made available to a number of companies around the country. We happened to win the chance to be part of it, and were involved in a number of shows and projects from the time they started until we moved off the lot.
INTERVIEWER: Who were the main people involved with Century III in the Boston facility and when you moved to Orlando?
OLIVER: Century III was owned by Ross Cibella and the company down here was managed by Miles Ptacek and both he and I answered to Rich Parent who was the head of engineering and operations in Boston. Rich and Miles were largely responsible for the original design and construction of the facility which was in the old Bee Jay Recording Studios.
INTERVIEWER: If people would like to find out more about Bee Jays Recording Studio we have a number of items on Orlando Memory that were given to us by Eric Schabacker who had been the owner of Bee Jays at one time.
During your time at Century III you were on the back lot at Universal Studios, and the Florida Governor, Jeb Bush at the time, was actively promoting the state as Hollywood East. Century III benefited from that, and at the time, Century III was involved in the post production for a number of television series, films, and theme park videos. That must have been an exciting time, probably pretty busy, but exciting all the same.
OLIVER: We had a lot of fun doing that. We were involved in quite a lot of different television shows that were being shot on the lot at Universal Studios as well as various feature films being done in and around the area. Some of those included on the TV show side, The Adventures of Super Boy, Swamp Thing, Fortune Hunter, and Super Force. There was also the first one that got us started which was the last season of The New Leave It To Beaver Show. So, it was fun watching some of those people as they came through the lot and I occasionally got to see some of the taping. The various feature films that we worked on, some of those included the First of May and the Michael Winslow film and we were also involved in some more non-traditional projects done for museums and theme parks. We did some of the work that was at Universal Studios itself, including some of the sound design for the original King Kong ride when it went up there. We also did videos for Margaritaville which is the Jimmy Buffet attraction at City Walk and also the Bob Marley restaurant.
INTERVIEWER: I understand ya'll also did some work for Madam Tussauds in New York and for the Smithsonian.
OLIVER: That's correct. The Madam Tussauds Wax Museum did a tour of New York that was sort of an animated virtual tour projected on a dome, and we produced the actual program including all the animation that included live actors, as well, and we did the whole production on that.
For the Smithsonian, we actually did the video for a museum called the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum which is in Memphis in the old Gibson guitar factory. And this was the Smithsonian's first effort in doing something outside of their normal environment, actually being involved in content for other museums both private and public. They had gone through a process of recording interviews with all of the iconic musicians and studio owners involved in creating the Memphis sound and we had the opportunity to work with a lot of the files which made for a really interesting program about the history about both the origins of rock and roll and soul music.
INTERVIEWER: Now, I know Century III was not just involved with editing. I know on your work that you did for Madam Toussads ya'll actually shot the video against green screens that you had set up in a studio in your facility. What other types of things did you do in addition to editing on some of the projects that you had there?
OLIVER: Well, Century III was a full service company, so we did, in addition to video editing, we also did extensive graphics work including 3-D animation. As you mentioned Madam Tussauds involved both live action and animation of the entire city of New York - 3D replicas of the buildings and so on. We also had an extensive audio department that did sound recording and mixing, obviously on the TV shows that I'd mentioned before but we also did films. For instance, one of the two Christopher Columbus films that played internationally around the world, we did all of the sound on one of the films. And that included everything from sound effects all the way through to a finished mix.
INTERVIEWER: I understand that CIII also did work for several of the theme parks here in the Orlando area. I know one of which was Splendid China and that has closed, but you worked on...had something special to do with the ET Ride that was there [at Universal Studios] and also at EPCOT. What can you tell us about those.
OLIVER: Well when the park opened up at Universal we did sound design for various attractions and that included ET. When the ET character says all the different names of the people going through the attraction [at the end of the ride], the recording of all the variations of those names was something we were involved in and also installing where the various sound effects occurred throughout the ride.
Kim: The biggest project you worked on was Illuminations which is Reflections of Earth at EPCOT. Can you tell us a little about what role CIII played in that and you in particular, and how long it took to get to the final video we see on the large earth globe at EPCOT?
OLIVER: Right, that was designed and started in time for the Millennium Celebration, so it's been running over ten years at this point [debut was at EPCOT October 1, 1999]. And we produced the video content that you see projected on the earth globe which is a 30 foot tall structure and the images are actually shown on what amounts to LED signs. So, we produced that as video and worked on that for about a year. And that included a little bit of R and D (research and development) trying to figure out what kind of images would actually be recognizable as well as actually doing the content.
I was involved not only in organizing and editing but sort of working as the co-project manager on that. Any of these projects take a lot of different people and in that case we had a team on and off throughout the year of probably a dozen different people involved in the project including Craig Stickler who was an art director on the project and Fawn Trivette who was one of the lead artists and compositors. We also had live action. At the very end of the presentation there's a sequence of people handing off a torch and lamps and candles from one person to another, so the recording of those various actors was done by Jack Tinsley who is a director here in town.
INTERVIEWER: And this was all coordinated through Don Dorsey Productions?
OLIVER: Yes, Don was the show director which is a position that theme parks have for the person involved in designing the creative design of a show and seeing it through to its end. So Don was responsible for all creative aspects of the show. Not just our part, but also the music, the lasers, the fireworks and interfacing with the Disney management and getting the job done.
INTERVIEWER: And Orlando Memory is really happy that Don Dorsey provided us with some images of the trips to China to select the proper fireworks and also the recording of some of the music that was done at Abby Roads in London.
In all your years at Century III, there any experiences that stand out or any individuals that you met that you would like to tell us about?
OLIVER: Well, sure. During the time we were on the lot at Universal Studios a lot of interesting people passed through there. We had a chance to meet with Steven Spielberg. Of course we worked with a number of the actors on the various shows. We did a movie that included Ernest Borgnine (Hoover) and he's an interesting character. Of course, we also were involved in lots of different projects that really related to the start of a lot of production activity in the Central Florida area. For instance, that was the time period when Valencia College started up their film technology program and we were very actively involved in a number of the projects that they brought through in classes there. There was a very active high school video competition that Universal Studios was involved in and we met some folks like Jim Hensen and Robert Duval who came through at one point doing audio work in our studio.
INTERVIEWER: That sounds interesting! CIII closed around 2003 and you left in 2002 to start your own company. What type of activities are you involved in with your own company?
OLIVER: Well, I continue working in the post production field primarily as an editor and a colorist, but I'm also involved in overall post production supervision. I've worked on various projects for area clients; a lot for the Walt Disney World Company. In the last few years I've done projects such as a series of videos for the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina and other projects that include local documentaries and films as well as television commercials and training videos. I am also involved as a speaker and as a writer and I've been to various seminars and things like that giving instruction in post production processes and various aspects of the industry.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it seems that you really enjoy editing and all the aspects of post production. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
Century III at Universal Studios had a listing and advertisement in the 1992 Florida Production Sourcebook. A copy can be found in the Florida History collection at the Orlando Public Library (call number FLORIDA COLLECTION 338.47791 FLO).
Century III's listing is as follows:
CENTURY III at Universal Studios - Film and Video - Pamela Lapp, 2000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32818 - 407-354-1000 FAX 407-352-8662
Complete on-line/off-line computer editing for video and film post production. Digital recording, audio editing and mixing available, Synclavier sound design and composition, SFX libraries, 2-D/3-D computer animation, 16/35mm film transfer, C/K-U Band Satellite Uplink/downlink, Duplication, all formats.