It’s time to “feel the flow” of the Universe of Energy with today’s installment of 35 to Epcot 35. We’ve been doing a countdown of stories focusing on individual Epcot attractions and festivals leading up to Epcot’s 35th anniversary on October 1, 2017. You can catch up on previous stories in this series here.
Feel the Flow…
The Universe of Energy was one of EPCOT Center’s opening day attractions, having opened on October 1, 1982. Sponsored by ExxonMobil, the original version of the attraction took Park Guests through a 45-minute tour of where energy comes from.
It began with a pre-show scene described as a “kinetic mosaic” by Czech filmmaker Emil Radok. The massive screen was made up of over 100 rotating cubes and featured the song “Energy (You Make the World Go Round).” It was during this pre-show that Guests were treated to scenes of various forms of energy being created.
From here, guests would board the innovative Traveling Theater ride system and be taken into Theater I, where they would watch an animated film about how fossil fuels were made. Projected on a 155 foot screen, it was the largest animated film to ever be projected at that time.
The Traveling Theater itself was an innovation in energy production. The Universe of Energy show building was covered in solar panels and that helped charge the ride vehicles.
After the animated film concludes, a curtain would raise and the Traveling Theater would take Guests into the Universe of Energy’s most famous scene — the Primeval World. Somewhat similar to the Disneyland Railroad diorama version, it features audio-animatronics of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. The slow-moving vehicles drove through a foggy room and WED “Smellitizers” pumped in a “swampy” scent.
Below is a video of the Primeval World from the Ellen’s Energy Adventure version of the attraction.
When finished with the trip to the past, the Traveling Theater would bring guests into Theater II, also known as the Epcot Energy Information Center. It was here that guests saw many video clips of energy at world around the world, and heard that catchy theme song, appropriately titled “Universe of Energy.”
After “feeling the flow” guests were encouraged to check out the Energy Exchange in CommuniCore East.
In January of 1996, the Universe of Energy was closed for a lengthy refurbishment. To handle the summer crowds, the attraction was re-opened with the original film in June, but hid many of the in-progress effects such as Ellen’s animatronic. This “1.5” version of Universe of Energy ran until September 2, 1996, and was shut down once again to change the films.
When it re-opened on September 15 of 1996, it was subtitled “Ellen’s Energy Crisis,” and was to be renamed “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” shortly thereafter.
Thoroughly a product of the 1990s, the new version of the show featured sitcom-era Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy as Ellen had to prepare for a Jeopardy showdown against “Judy” (played by Jamie Lee Curtis.)
Due to constant technical malfunctions, the new show scenes replaced the kinetic mosaic with static movie screens, and an animatronic of Ellen DeGeneres was added to the Primeval World. Other than the humorous script and new video segments, the ride remained mostly unchanged from its previous incarnation.
ExxonMobil dropped its sponsorship of the attraction in 2004, and the Ellen DeGeneres animatronic was removed completely in November of 2014.
The Universe of Energy closed on August 13, 2017 to make way for the recently announced Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. It’s unclear what kind of ride system the new ride will utilize, but the show building will remain intact according to concept art.
Fans who were lucky enough to be on the Universe of Energy’s last ride were in for a treat: a breakdown. Cast members had to evacuate the attraction and let guests walk around and film the animatronics before leaving the building.
The closing of the Universe of Energy represents another opening day attraction being shuttered for good. Epcot is on the verge many changes that will be viewed as renaissance by some, yet many others will still yearn for the “glory days” of early 1980s Epcot. We can only hope that the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction will remember its Groots… er… roots and contain a few references to this classic attraction.
[Hat tip: Lost Epcot, Theme Park University]