In this review, I’m going to provide you with absolutely everything you need to know about the Spaceship Earth attraction at Disney World’s Epcot.
By the end of this article, you will not only have an understanding of the history of this ride, but what you can expect to see and experience on this attraction, how busy you can expect the ride to be, and whether or not this is a suitable attraction for you and your family to experience.
Spaceship Earth Facts
Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, was a huge influence for the creation of Spaceship Earth. He had not been a stranger to The Walt Disney Company before working on the attraction. Back in the 1960s, he met and befriended Walt Disney himself. They met while Christmas shopping, but both of them had also made contributions to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
In a couple of his books, Bradbury talked about the meeting he had with Walt in his office about the World’s Fair, and some of the plans he had about expanding his theme parks to Florida. This was exciting for Bradbury because he was a fan of Disneyland. On later visits to the studio lot, Bradbury met different artists and Imagineers, and he even got a change to spit ideas for future Disney projects.
Although they only knew each other for two years before Walt’s passing in 1966, Bradbury felt he lost a very close friend. He went on to continue working with The Walt Disney Company, contributing to Walt’s ever growing legacy until his death in 2012.
Spaceship Earth Script and History
So of course, when Disney began developing Spaceship Earth, it was only natural for him to write its script. Unlike some of his books, the attraction’s story treatment would not focus on science fiction, but on the history and progress of communications. In 1982, the year of Epcot’s opening, Bradbury said that he believed that the Disney company wants to make the world a happier, better place.
When he passed away, Marty Sklar regarded Bradbury as a storyteller, which is a term embedded in Disney’s company from the time they were a small animation studio in Los Angeles. Imagineers were able to create the attraction from what Sklar called Bradbury’s prose and metaphors, making an experience that would stand the course of time. Ray Bradbury also helped design the large Epcot ball, but more on it’s architecture later.
There were some changes to the Spaceship Earth script and design over the years after it had opened. In 2002, Bradbury came back to work on the redesign of the ride. Ride vehicles that glided on the Bob Gurr Omnimover invention were now called “Time Machines.”
There was still a focus on communication and how the inventions created by mankind in the past will lead us into the future. There was also the change of AT&T stopping their sponsorship of the attraction. However in 2005, Siemens took over as the sponsor, slapping blue paint and their logo near SE’s entrance. There was also a renovation in 2007. Although the attraction closed during that time, when it reopened later that year for a guest preview, it had some cool new features:
- New touch-screens in the Time Machines that displayed several language to choose from, a personal questionnaire about your lifestyle, and a video accompanied with an animation of you.
- A new musical score by 10-time Emmy winner, Bruce Boughton, that features styles and instruments that matched each era appropriately.
- The scenes were tweaked. For example, the Greek play scene was replaced by a Greek mathematics class.
- A new post ride area called Project Tomorrow.
- And a new narrator, British actress Judi Dench, was added.
There were a lot of changes to the narrator before Judi Dench. In 1982, the original narrator had been television director and character actor Lawrence Dobkin. He was then replaced by the American CBS journalist and anchorman, Walter Conkite in 1986.
After him came Jeremy Irons in 1994, who we all know as the voice of our favorite villainous lion, Scar from Disney’s The Lion King, a movie that came out the same year. Because of the renovation happening in Future World, 1994 was a big year for changes to SE as well. In addition to the narrator change, the score and script changed too. Like I mentioned before, Judi Dench is the narrator to guide us through the attraction today.
As the attraction is the staple monument in the park, as Cinderella’s Castle is to the Magic Kingdom, it needed to be as visionary and special to guests on their visit to Epcot. First off, no it is not a giant golf ball, although I do see how first time guest think it so. Apparently, if one were to hit the attraction like a golf ball, they would need to be one mile tall!
Anyway, the attraction’s outer layer is made out of Alucobond which is a carbon-aluminum compound, formed into over 11,000 individual triangles. An important thing to note about this is that it can easily be cleaned, and can also withstand the heavy Floridian weather at Disney World, from everyday rain to massive hurricanes. There is an amazing gutter system that allows guests to stand underneath the attraction and not get wet. There is a system in place that pushes the rain water into the World Showcase Lagoon.
Now, let’s talk about its large spheric shape. Spaceship Earth is the largest Geosphere in the world. Another term used in the same way, geodesic, was coined by R. Buckminster Fuller. He designed geodesic homes that were both durable and inexpensive to make. Another interested fact about the structure is that it actually contains two spheres, one inner sphere that is protected along with the ride by the outer one.
In 2000, a slight change was made to the outer layer of Spaceship Earth. To celebrate the new millennium, a structure was attach to the attraction. It was Mickey Mouse’s hand holding a wand up to the number 2000. Overtime, there were also more events that happened on the attraction such as a projection of Mike Wazowski from Monster Inc. and Monster’s University in 2013, and that of the Star Wars’s Death Star in 2016.
I do wish there were more events like this, or maybe even a nighttime show before or after Illuminations. Spaceship Earth is so beautiful during the day, but it would be a spectacle to see a projection show in the evening as people are leaving the park. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Imagineers haven’t thought of the idea, or are already in the process of creating a nightly show right now. We can only hope!
Spaceship Earth Ride Overview
Now, we will journey into the current version of the Spaceship Earth attraction. You, the guests, start off by being greeted by cast members who are walking on a moving belt, constantly loading people into the blue Time Machines. Once you are loaded, you are asked to choose the language you prefer to hear and where you are from on touch screens in front of you.
Once that is done, you are asked to smile for the camera above you for a picture that will be used at the end of the ride. Personally, I prefer to make a goofy face at the camera. It makes for a good laugh when it’s time to journey back to present Earth. Once you start to incline into the attraction, you are greeted by your narrator. If you picked English, the fabulous Judi Dench will guide you on your journey.
You first see cavemen hunting a mammoth and gathering together with primitive drawings on the walls behind them. They used the drawings to communicate back in their day. Then, we learn how the Egyptians recorded hieroglyphic on papyrus paper. The next scenes that follow are those of the Phoenician merchants who created our alphabet, a
Greek teacher and his class learning mathematics, and a Roman chariot passing on news. There’s also a scene showing how Jewish and Islamic scholars protected literature in the Middle Ages after books and scrolls where destroyed following the fall of Rome.
More ways of communication are introduced by way of Gutenberg’s printing press, the art of the Renaissance, the news of post-Civil War, the technology of the 20th century, and the broadcast of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Near the end of the attraction, guests will see how a large mainframe computer was downsized to become a small personal one.
As a finale, we see Earth as it is in Space, concluding that communication is key in order to progress into the world of the future. Speaking of the world of the future, remember the picture you took in the beginning? Well, after a short questionnaire, the touch-screens make some calculations on how your future can be created using innovation and progress. Depending on your answers in the questionnaire, there are different videos displayed of your “future” with a picture of your head on an animated body. Like I said, if you need a laugh, stay tuned to that end video. It’s great!
Although I love this version of the ride, it might be time for another update. Since 2007, there have been many innovations that add to those in the past. Even with the invention of the iPhone, we have come a long way. It could be worth it to have the iPhone, tablets, or even major social media platforms like Twitter displayed in the ride.
In all honesty, it’s hard for Disney fans like myself to commit to the change that happens in the parks, but with companies like Disney who thrive off of change and innovation, guests could be seeing another renovation happening the with attraction soon.
When you step off of the ride, you are lead to a space called Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. The first thing you may see is a picture of yourself lit up on a giant projected map of the globe. It’s the same picture you took on the ride! If you like, you can create a picture of your animated self doing an activity that you may find yourself doing in the future. Heck, you can send yourself an email of that very picture, but that’s just the beginning of Project Tomorrow.
While you’re there, feel free to walk around to different activities that are reflections of Siemens developments. For example there is the “Body Builder” game where you can assemble a digital 3-D human body. In“Super Driver,” you are participating as the driver in this simulation game that shows the achievements being made in accident prevention. In “Innervision”, you can learn about medical diagnostics in the home. And finally, there is “Power City”, where you learn how to manage a city’s power and energy.
Once you enter Epcot, or even before you come into the park, Spaceship Earth is the first thing you see. If you decide to come in at the start of the day, you may find it difficult to get on the ride quickly.
Yes, it is a great way to start the day at Epcot, but people will flock to this attraction first. It might be useful to either get a Fastpass+ for the ride, and go on another popular like Test Track before that line gets too long. Or, you could come back after 3 PM when the crowds have subsided. Once you are on the attraction, definitely remain seated. Your ride vehicles may slow down on the course of your journey into the past, mainly because the cast members are loading a wheelchair into one of the Time Machines.
Overall, Spaceship Earth is a great attraction for people of all ages. It runs about 14 minutes, so it’s a nice break from the heat and busyness of the park. It’s also a great place to hide from the rain. It’s one of my favorite attractions to go on, and I hope it becomes an absolute must in your Disney vacation too.
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