Siemens Ending Sponsorship with Walt Disney World and Disneyland

Will Disney have to look elsewhere for sponsors for Spaceship Earth, IllumiNations and more?

If a Siemens employee is to be believed, the manufacturing and technology giant will be pulling its sponsorship dollars from Disney parks in the very near future, as its 12-year agreement is up.

In Epcot, Siemens has been the sponsor of Spaceship Earth and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth since 2005. As part of the 12-year partnership, Spaceship Earth received a refurbishment in 2007 voiced by Judy Dench that has been decried by many longtime fans of the attractions for removing the descent and replacing it with a cartoony touch screen app.

Siemens also sponsored The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. That’s since been removed to make way for Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land.

In Disneyland, Siemens currently sponsors the West Coast version of “it’s a small world” and sponsored Innoventions in years past.

Big Changes Coming to Epcot… Does Disney Even Need Sponsors Anymore?

If you’ve been following this blog (or any Disney blog) for the past few months, you’ll know that there are big changes rumored to be coming to Epcot in the next few years. It’s possible that Siemens really didn’t fit into Disney’s plan for the park and/or Imagineering didn’t want to be accountable to a third party when it came to what they were hoping to accomplish.

Remember, sponsors demanding a new attraction is mostly why the original Journey into Imagination attraction was made into… whatever it is now.

Disney relied heavily on sponsorship dollars to bankroll early Disneyland and Walt Disney World projects (most notably Epcot) but sponsorships have been waning in recent years. Since those days, Disney has become a multi-billion dollar powerhouse in entertainment, and one has to wonder if Disney even needs anybody else’s money anymore. Sure, they’ll still take it. Just look at the overseas parks.

So What Happens to Spaceship Earth?

The most notable Siemens sponsorship is Spaceship Earth, the icon of Epcot. It’s generally been the case that after Disney changes or loses a sponsor they refurbish the attraction. The Judy Dench incarnation of the attraction has been around for 10 years now, and has been very divisive among fans. Many feel Dench’s dialog is a bit “snarky” and that the attraction lost its emotional punch after the removal of the descent.

So I predict a refurbishment of the attraction as part of Future World’s overhaul. And it’s a much needed refurbishment, too. The internet has changed so much since 2007 and its only touched upon in the current incarnation of the attraction.

It’s likely Disney would change narrators as well. Frontrunners, in my mind, would be Patrick Stewart, Michael Fassbender or Morgan Freeman.

Hopefully Disney would resist the urge to add characters to Spaceship Earth. It doesn’t fit with the serious tone of the attraction at all.

The worst case scenario, of course, would be that Disney jettisoned the current attraction altogether in favor of something new. But that would be akin to tearing down Cinderella Castle, and it’s doubtful they’d go to that extreme.

Should Disney decide they still need sponsor dollars, they could always call Apple. I mean, Steve Wozniak is already in the ride!

There’s been no official announcement from either Disney or Siemens as of this post. Stay tuned to The Kingdom Insider as this story is developing.

[Photo: Lance Kibe]