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35 To Epcot 35: Day 34 – Spaceship Earth: A Past look at the History and Future of Communication

Epcot Center 35th Anniversary on October 1, 2017

One October 1, 2017, not only are we celebrating EPCOT’s 35th Anniversary, but we concurrently celebrate the 35th Anniversary of “Spaceship Earth“. “Spaceship Earth”, also known as “The Golf Ball” to many, contains an opening day attraction. This Iconic structure, designed by the fiction writer Ray Bradbury, continues to be the symbol of EPCOT to this day.

Spaceship Earth: The Structure by the Numbers

Firstly, the structure of Spaceship Earth is a 180ft Geodesic Sphere. The Sphere is made up of 11,324 tiles and overall weighs a whopping 7,760 tons. By comparison, a Space Shuttle fully loaded with fuel weighs 2,200 tons making Spaceship Earth 3.5 times as heavy. Made up of two spheres, the Inner sphere , which contains the attraction, is 165ft in diameter. The outer sphere, visible from the exterior, is 180ft in diameter and also at its lowest point is 18ft above the ground. Furthermore, this massive sphere is supported by 6 legs, which extend 160ft into the ground. Finally, it took a total of 26 months to construct on it’s 109,375 Square Foot site.

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Spaceships Earth: The Ride by the Numbers

Ride blueprints from WDW Fan Zone 2011

Spaceship Earth’s ride system itself is a 1,552ft Omnimover where guests move through in ride vehicles called “time machines”. These vehicles allow two guests to sit in each of its two rows, totaling 4 guests per vehicle. Through a 15 minute ride, guests are able to experience 40,000 years of communication. Since the ride’s inception it has been hosted by 4 people since opening. Hosts include: Lawrence Dobkin (1982–1986), Walter Cronkite (1986–1994), Jeremy Irons (1994–2007), Dame Judi Dench (2008–present). Composed by 10-time Emmy® winner Bruce Boughton, the music features a 63-piece orchestra and 24-voice choir for this musical score.

Updates to Spaceship Earth

In May 1986, Spaceship Earth experienced its first remodel. The remodel featured a lighted tunnel with twinkling lights, depicting stars and the removal of the “fog” effect. News journalist Walter Cronkite, additionally, was added as the narrator. A new theme song titled “Tomorrow’s Child was also added to the ride. In 1994, the attraction was closed for a major remodel for the second time. This update saw the removal of three scenes and replaced with one scene. This newly added scene depicted a boy and a girl using the Internet to communicate between American and Asia. The narrator was also changed to actor Jeremy Irons and featured an updated scrip and a new composition composed by Edo Guidotti.

2000 Spaceship Earth, image from Wikipedia

In 2000, a large 25-story “magic wand” was constructed next to the sphere, which was held by Mickey Mouse’s hand. The hand was inspired by Sorcerer Mickey and also originally included a large cutout of the number 2000. The cutout was ultimately replaced by the word EPCOT in 2001. The attraction’s third sponsor Siemens did not like the added structure as it did not fit their brand. Although designed to last 10 years, the structure was consequently taken down on October 1, 2007. Previous sponsors of the attraction included Bell Systems (1982-1984) as well as AT&T (1985-2004).

The Fallout

Siemens (1985-2017) announced this year that they would no longer be sponsoring the attraction as it’s 12-year contract expires September 30, 2017. Earlier this year, Siemens offered to buy new monorails for Disney, as long as they could brand them. Disney refused their offer and as a result the relationship quickly soured between the two companies. Subsequently on July 31,2017, Siemens vacated the Siemens VIP Center, formerly known as Base 21. This unexpected, and not to mention abrupt early departure, occurred two months ahead of schedule. Consequently, Spaceship Earth no sponsor and the attraction is now solely in the hands of Disney. It seems like it is possible that we could see more updates in the near future.

Do those Audio-Animatronic Figures Look Familiar?

That is because many of the audio-animatronic figures are re-used from different attractions. Below is a list compiled by Jim Korkis in an article he wrote for Epcot’s 30th Anniversary in 2012.

  • Shaman – Chief Joe/American Adventure
  • Egyptian Priest – William Taft/Hall of Presidents
  • Phoenician Sea Captain – Store Owner/American Adventure
  • Centurion – Zachary Taylor/Hall of Presidents
  • Roman Senator – Teddy Roosevelt/Hall of Presidents
  • Turk (front/right) – John Tyler/Hall of Presidents
  • Sitting Scholar – Franklin Pierce/Hall of Presidents
  • Writing Monk – John Adams/Hall of Presidents
  • Printer Pulling Tray – Andrew Jackson/Hall of Presidents
  • Gutenberg – James Buchanan/Hall of Presidents
  • Printer Pressing – Andrew Carnegie/American Adventure
  • Mandolin Player – Dwight D. Eisenhower/Hall of Presidents
  • Steam Press Operator – Banjo Player/American Adventure
  • Telegraph Operator – Matthew Brady/American Adventure
  • Reporter/Telegraph – Store Owner/American Adventure
  • Sound Engineer – Matthew Brady/American Adventure.

Historical Attraction Footage

In conclusion, Martin, from MartinsVidsDotNet, has some amazing historical footage of each iteration of Spaceship Earth. Please check them out below.

1982 & 1986

1994

2007

[Source: Wikipedia, MousePlanet]

 

 


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