If you’re new to Disney World, or just a casual Disney World fan, then you might be wondering what is inside the Epcot ball? It’s certainly a unique structure to look at, and in this article, we’re going to dive into exactly what you can expect to see when you walk inside.
What Is Inside the Epcot Ball?
Well, you might be amazed to learn that a ride actually exists inside this ball. This towering geodesic sphere holds a ride entitled “Spaceship Earth.” The ride is an original opening day attraction, dating all the way back to October 1, 1982. In fact, it’s one of the few opening day attractions still in the park.
Spaceship Earth is a slow-moving, dark ride-style attraction. Dark rides are similar to Peter Pan’s flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, or Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. The ride is about 15-minutes long with speeds of up to 1.24 miles per hour. The ride is full of audio-animatronics and features narration. There is no height requirement for this ride, so everyone is welcome!
Unlike some other dark rides throughout the park where their cars are stationary, Spaceship Earth’s ride vehicles rotate during the ride. It also has a continuously-loading queue, like the PeopleMover, where you enter the vehicle from a rotating platform. If you need assistance getting in the vehicle, the ride can be slowed down or stopped to help.
Spaceship Earth is very much a spacecraft in its own way – meaning, it’s taking you on a journey through time and space in a personal time machine. Once you’re loaded, you are taken slowly up a ramp where your ride picture will be taken. The ride starts at some of the beginnings of time by showing you cavemen fighting a mammoth and drawing pictures on a rock wall. From there, you see Egyptians crafting papyrus and giving the world a way to document their history and Phoenicians developing the alphabet.
The history jumps a little further into the Greek civilization, where a lecturer is teaching students. You then pass by the nearby Romans, who appear to be planning. Your vehicle turns slightly, and you see the fall of Alexandria with embers burning columns and documents. Fun fact: many people claim that the “Rome burning” smell is the best in the park, and some people have even made candles of it!
With the fall of Alexandria come the medieval era. You pass by the beginnings of astronomy, monks hand-copying texts, and then the marvel of Gutenberg’s printing press. The ride then passes through time by showing the explosion of art, including music, painting, and sculpture.
Then, the ride accelerates through time even further by showing the near-modern marvels, including the automated printing press, the telegraph, phone lines, movie theaters, the moon landing, and the introduction of computers. Your ride’s turning point shows you within a sea of stars looking at the Earth. If you have paid attention, at this point you have been traveling upwards inside the sphere the whole time.
Your ride vehicle rotates, and you are sent backward down the sphere. You are surrounded by curtains of little lights, and the screen that greeted you at the beginning lights up. This is your opportunity to imagine your own tomorrow! Answer the questions based on what you prioritize in life (work, vacationing, etc.) and some technology you would like to see in the future. After a few moments, a cartoon pops up showing what your life may look like in the future. The cartoon shows your faces from the earlier ride picture on top, which is a fun and amusing touch to the end of the ride.
When you reach the exiting area, your ride vehicle rotates again and the doors automatically open. The exit is also on a rotating platform, so you may need to ask the Cast Member for help unloading if you cannot easily exit. The platform is very slow, and they give you a decent amount of time to leave.
Post Ride Experience
After exiting the ride, you enter Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. Here you can find interactive games and simulations that people of all ages can play with. Take a stab at the surgeon simulator, or see how well your driving really is with the accident-avoidance simulator. You can even find your ride photo and video and email it to a friend!
How Scary is Spaceship Earth?
Franky speaking, no, Spaceship Earth is not scary for children. In fact, they will probably have more fun making their end-ride video than the entirety of the ride. Part of this harkens back to the original history of EPCOT and what it stood for. Many of the rides in the early years of the park were designed to be educational and showcase the exciting wonders of technology. Who knew you could learn something while on vacation at a Disney theme park?
One thing that you may notice is that the ride and the post-ride games are a little dated. With the fast influx of new technology coming in every year, it is hard for Disney to keep up with all of the updates. Little children will likely love the games and interactive videos, but some older children might find it less-than-thrilling.
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Spaceship Earth Narration
Did you know that the Spaceship Earth narration script was written by the well-known author Ray Bradbury? The current narration of the ride is spoken by Dame Judi Dench. But, she is not the first to guide you through time. The ride has also seen narration from Vic Perrin, Walter Cronkite and Jeremy Irons (who was the voice of Scar in The Lion King).
The History of the Epcot Ball
As mentioned, the geodesic sphere known that holds Spaceship Earth has been around since Epcot’s opening day. Similar to Cinderella Castle, the Imagineers who envisioned the park wanted to have a “weenie”. When Walt Disney created Disneyland, he used the term to describe a beacon that would be compelling enough to draw guests further into the park. Combine this idea with the original vision of EPCOT, and the inspiration of the dome from the Montreal 1967 Expo, and you have Spaceship Earth.
Like many Epcot attractions, Spaceship Earth had a sponsor for most of its existence. The idea of sponsors has been around for a long time in Disney theme park history. The sphere has seen sponsors from Bell System, AT&T, and Siemens. Currently, the ride has no sponsor.
Will Spaceship Earth Change Soon?
Change is something that the Disney parks always embrace, and Spaceship Earth is not immune to progress. While we often do not like seeing our favorite rides under refurbishment for months at a time, it symbolizes that Disney is willing to do what it takes to keep themselves relevant and to give the best guest experience possible.
Spaceship Earth has seen changes over the years, with show scenes being added and removed. The exterior of the sphere has also seen changes, with new murals and paint. The most recent renovation was the addition of over 1,800 lights on the sphere for the Beacons of Magic during Magic Kingdom’s 50th Anniversary Celebration.
In early 2020, Disney announced that Spaceship Earth was going to be refurbished. There was to be new narration, updated show scenes, new music, and a new post-ride experience. The pandemic halted that operation, and many people are still wondering if the ride is going to change any time soon.
While we are not fortune tellers, it is more likely than not that Disney World is going to wait on altering this ride for a while. Epcot is undergoing serious renovations throughout Future World, and they are likely putting the Spaceship Earth refurbishment on the back burner until the rest of the park is complete. Plus, with the 40th anniversary underway, the park will likely not temporarily close one of its main attractions.
Beacons of Magic
Beacons of Magic was newly-added for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Magic Kingdom. The sphere lit up and coordinated with music that changed throughout the year depending on the events around the park. For example, Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival played the classic show tune Be Our Guest with thousands of lights twinkling along with the music. The lights harmonized with the Epcot fireworks show.
Fun Facts About The Epcot Sphere
How Tall is the Epcot Ball: It’s an 18-story tall structure. That amounts to 180 feet tall and about 165 feet in diameter.
How Much Does the Epcot Ball Weigh: Almost 16 million pounds
What Does the Epcot Ball Represent: In my eyes, the Epcot ball represents continued innovation. What I love most about the Epcot ball is that despite being built in the early 1980s, it never feels old. It never feels retro. It never appears like it’s aging or that its in dire need of an upgrade. No matter whether you visited Epcot in 1982 when the park opened or sometime this year, the ball always appears timeless. And, at the same time, it also appears futuristic. That’s exactly what I believe Disney wanted the ball to represent.
Well, we have thankfully solved the mystery behind what is inside the Epcot ball—Spaceship Earth, one of the most educational and original rides in the park. But just because it’s educational doesn’t mean it cannot be an enjoyable experience. The story and style of the ride bring together the idea of humanity and progress, which embodies the original theming of Epcot.
While there have been rumors of changes coming soon, it is evident that the gigantic sphere is here to stay for years to come. If you haven’t been on this ride or are visiting Epcot for the first time, consider making this classic Disney World attraction a must-do on your trip.
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