Today In Disney History ~ July 5th
Spaceship Earth is the iconic and symbolic structure of Epcot, the second of four theme parks built at the Walt Disney World Resort. One of the most recognizable structures of any theme park, it is also the name of the attraction that is housed within the 18-story geodesic sphere that takes guests on a time machine-themed experience using the Omnimover system. The 15-minute dark ride demonstrates to guests how advancements in human communication have helped to create the future one step at a time. Passengers journey back in time to witness the origins of prehistoric man, then travel forward in time to witness important breakthroughs in communication throughout history—from the invention of the alphabet to the creation of the printing press to today’s modern communication advancements, including telecommunication and mass communication. At the conclusion of the ride, passengers have the chance to design their own future using touch screens that are embedded into the ride cars.
In celebration of the year 2000, a large 25-story “magic wand” held by a representation of Mickey Mouse’s hand was built next to the sphere. Inspiration for it came from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence of Fantasia (although Mickey did not actually use a magic wand in that sequence). At the top of the structure was a large cut-out of the number 2000. While the structure wasn’t intended to be permanent, it was constructed to have a lifetime of about 10 years. After the Millennium Celebration ended, the structure was left standing. In 2001, the number 2000 was replaced with the word “Epcot” in a script font that differs from the park’s logotype.
On July 5, 2007, Epcot Vice President Jim MacPhee announced that Spaceship Earth would be restored to its original appearance, and that the “magic wand” structure would be removed in time for the park’s 25th anniversary on October 1, 2007. Siemens AG, the new sponsor of Spaceship Earth, was rumored to have requested the wand removed as it did not fit their corporate image. The attraction was closed on July 9, 2007, and by October 1 the wand structure, the stars and the star supports were gone, replaced by palm trees and other plants. Components of the structure were later auctioned on eBay.
The closure also saw the ride’s fourth update, which included new scenes and modifications to existing scenes, some new costumes, lighting, and props, a new musical score by Bruce Broughton, new narration by Judi Dench, and a new interactive ending. New scenes showed a Greek classroom, mainframe computers and the creation of the personal computer. The attraction opened for “soft launch” previews starting in December 2007. After some last-minute adjustments in January, the ride had its official re-opening on February 15, 2008.
The “time machine” vehicles now have an interactive screen where riders can choose their vision of the future. This resembles a similar idea to the now-defunct Horizons attraction. At the beginning of the ride, a camera takes riders’ pictures (using facial recognition technology) which are used at the end of the ride to conduct an interactive experience about the future of technology, featuring the riders’ faces on animated characters with narration by Cam Clarke. Visitors are now also asked where in our Spaceship Earth they live; this is used in the post-show area where a map of the world is displayed with the riders’ faces shown where they live.
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart; Wiki
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