Much attention in recent months has been focused on the development of the Toy Story and Star Wars Lands at Disney’s Hollywood Studios plus rumors of a Guardians of the Galaxy and Ratatouille ride in Epcot. However, while many Disney fans have been focused on the future of Walt Disney World, Disney has been making some interesting changes to the current nighttime offerings around the resort.
This kicked off earlier this year with the long awaited debut of Rivers of Light at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the surprise replacement of Wishes with Happily Ever After at the Magic Kingdom, and then most recently continued into the summer with the completely unexpected addition of the the new Disney Movie Magic nighttime projection show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. And now that changes have come to nighttime entertainment at three of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, it Disney may finally be turning their eye towards Epcot’s nighttime offerings, as it looks like the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth nighttime fireworks spectacular may be coming to an end very soon.
Siemens is ending all of its Epcot sponsorships, including IllumiNations
You might not initially think it, but sponsorships are incredibly important at Walt Disney World. A recent example of the power of sponsorships is the Innoventions hall, which has all but closed completely after several sponsors ended their contracts with Disney in 2015 and 2016. And now, another high-profile sponsor has decided not to renew their contract with Disney: Siemens
After a 12 year partnership, the company that sponsors both IllumiNations as well as Spaceship Earth, has announced the end of its partnership with The Walt Disney Company. According to an official press statement, the sponsorship will reach its mutually-agreed upon end date October 2017.
While it is not particularly unusual for Disney sponsorships to change over time (IllumiNations was sponsored by GE over a decade ago), the timing here is important, as Siemens has sponsored this show for most of its life, and this break may be the impetus for the closing of this long-running show. However, its not the only contributing factor…
Epcot is already being reinvented
As mentioned previously, all eyes will be on the D23 Expo coming in a few weeks, and insiders have suggested that during the Disney Parks presentation at this event there will be a heavy focus on Epcot, with two new rides potentially announced for this park: one in Future World potentially themed to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, and one in the World Showcase’s France pavilion themed to Pixar’s Ratatouille. The addition of two new character-based attractions seems like another big step towards making Epcot a more IP-focused park, which is a big departure from the “non-fictional” Epcot of the 20th century.
Though this may be a controversial change among Disney fans, if Disney is really trying to modify the focus of Epcot, introducing a new nighttime spectacular that represents the evolving identity of this park would be a great way to reinforce these changes. While the content of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is certainly timeless, the message of this show seems very tied to the Epcot of the late 1990s, and with Disney making so many changes to this park in the service of a new identity, IllumiNations might not really “fit” within the context of the park’s theme anymore, which seems like reason enough to switch this classic show out for something newer.
New drone technology is ready for use….somewhere
Back in 2014, rumors surfaced that Disney was pursuing drone-based technology for use as part of a brand new show, again reportedly inside Epcot. Though this rumor lost traction in the years since it first surfaced, Disney’s Starbright Holidays drone show (which performed a limited engagement last year at Disney Springs) provided a solid proof of concept for drone-based entertainment at Walt Disney World, and it seems very likely that Disney could be looking at using this technology for a brand new nighttime spectacular at this park.
So when might IllumiNations come to an end?
Right now we don’t know much for sure about an exact timeline for the end of IllumiNations and the start of whatever is replacing it, but with Disney expected to announce a massive overhaul of Epcot at this year’s D23 Event, we’d imagine that if these rumors prove to be true and IllumiNations is about to be retired, the announcement would be made at this event, with a potential late fall closure for IllumiNations (after the official end of the Siemens sponsorship in October) and then the debut of a new show just in time for the holiday season.
Of course, right now this is all speculation, and IllumiNations could be sticking around for the foreseeable future. However, when you consider this show’s age (it’s hard to believe, but IllumiNations is over 15 years old!), as well as the fact that Disney is strongly rumored to be announcing a reboot of sorts for Epcot in the next few weeks, it seems more than a little likely that IllumiNations is on its way out, so if you count yourself as one of this show’s many fans, we’d advise getting out to the park and seeing it again sometime this summer, as the future of this show is currently very much in doubt.
Do you think it is about time for Disney to replace IllumiNations? Or should they leave this classic Epcot show in place for as long as possible? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
-From Theme Park Tourist, July 1, 2017, by Amanda Kondolojy
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