As the first attraction you see when you enter Epcot, no visit to the park is complete without a ride on Spaceship Earth. Depending on how long you’ve been visiting Walt Disney World for, you may have seen this ride go through various changes throughout the years. Today we’re going to take a look at some fun facts and hidden treasures you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for on your next trip through Spaceship Earth.
1. An Opening Day Attraction
Spaceship Earth has stood in the park since Epcot’s opening day back in 1982. The ride has been updated three times since opening day, in 1986, 1994, and in 2008. It was also announced in 2020 that the ride would undergo another refurbishment, however, due to the recent pandemic, this has been delayed indefinitely. The ride is housed in the geodesic sphere that acts as the symbol of the park and is the first sight you see as you walk through the entrance gates. Guests take a 15-minute journey through time as you explore how human communication has advanced over the years to create the world we live in today.
2. A Unique Structure
The design of Spaceship Earth was created with the assistance of Ray Bradbury, who also worked on the original storyline for the opening day attraction. It was the world’s first geodesic sphere, however, it’s not actually a perfect sphere! The building took 26 months in total to build, and it is based on a quadropod structure that supports the larger dome. The steel fabrication was one of the first instances of computer-aided drafting and was created nearby in Tampa. In all, the structure is 180 feet tall and weighs a whopping 16,000,000 pounds.
3. A Hidden VIP Lounge
Above the post-show area where you exit the ride, there’s a hidden VIP lounge. In the past, the attraction has had various sponsors, such as Siemens AG, who take over the lounge to host any guests visiting the park. The space can be used however the sponsor wishes for meetings or workshops. During the time from 2004 to 2005 and again since 2017 where there was no sponsor, Disney takes over the lounge to use for special events as needed.
4. Dealing with the Florida Rain
There’s no denying that Florida gets its fair share of rainstorms throughout the year. To ensure rain doesn’t gather on the surface of the structure, the triangles were put together in a way that creates a draining system. The water then runs off Spaceship Earth and into the World Showcase Lagoon. It was created in this manner so that when you are lining up for the ride, you won’t get drenched with water running off the side of the structure.
5. Welcoming Some Familiar Characters
The animatronics that are used throughout some of the most popular Walt Disney World attractions certainly aren’t cheap to build. For that reason, Spaceship Earth took some of the existing models from the Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom and reused these within Spaceship Earth. Instead of creating new bodies and faces, they could just dress them up in different costumes and create all-new characters. Keep your eyes peeled the next time you are riding through for some of the old Presidents in disguise.
6. The Largest Attraction in the Park?
Most guests would easily believe that Spaceship Earth is the biggest attraction in Epcot, but you might be surprised to learn that’s not the case. In fact, The Seas pavilion takes that title, and the pavilion could even fit Spaceship Earth inside of it. With all of the facilities for the various creatures that call this pavilion home, it offers visitors so many aquariums to explore during a day in the park.
7. A Rotating Cast of Narrators
As we mentioned already, Spaceship Earth has been through various changes throughout the year. When the ride undergoes a major refurbishment, it often welcomes with it a new narrator. They help to bring the story to life and guide guests through their journey. The first narrator was Lawrence Dobkin, who is best known for his work on The Ten Commandments and Star Trek. Following on from that was Walter Cronkite, and then came Jeremy Irons, the voice of Scar in The Lion King. The current version of the attraction is narrated by Dame Judi Dench, who takes us through the story of communication with her beautiful voice.
8. The Progression of Technology
As the ride showcases the technological advancements we’ve experienced as a society, the ride itself also experienced some major changes since its initial opening. When the ride first opened, there used to be a cast member standing up at the top of the attraction solely to turn your vehicle around and so you could travel backwards on your descent to earth. Thankfully, cast members are no longer required to do this manually, as the vehicles are fully automated and turn you down for your journey back to the start of the ride.
9. A Magic Wand
The landmarks of the theme parks are often used during various celebrations, and one of the most memorable ones was for the year 2000. During this time, a 25-story magic wand was added to Spaceship Earth, which showed Mickey Mouse’s hand holding a wand. It was inspired by the movie Fantasia and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene, and the wand was topped with the number 2000. This was then replaced the following year with “Epcot”. The wand remained in place for years after this celebration, but finally, in 2007, it was announced that it would be removed. It’s believed that the new sponsor of the attraction, Siemens AG, asked for it to be taken down to fit with their image better.
10. The Future of Spaceship Earth
If you’ve visited Epcot recently, you may have noticed the huge number of construction projects taking place throughout the park. It was announced in 2019 that Future World would be split into three new areas during this renovation: World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery. Spaceship Earth would be placed within the World Celebration section, and an update was planned at the time for the attraction. The aim was to create a narrative that showcases the human experience and storytelling. It was said that a story light would guide you through the attraction, and the exit would be called Dreamers Point, featuring a statue of Walt Disney.
The pandemic has caused many challenges in the parks, and when Epcot reopened in July 2020, keen Disney fans noticed that the Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story segment was removed from the Epcot Experience. The Mary Poppins attraction was also removed, and currently, Disney has said they are evaluating everything at this time and postponing the development of these two projects.
Regardless of what happens to Spaceship Earth over the upcoming years, it’s an attraction we always look forward to riding on every trip to the park. While the ride is often busy first thing in the morning, if you return later in the day, you’ll find the crowds drop off quite a bit. It’s the ideal attraction to go on during a hot summer’s day in the park and gives you a good amount of time to sit down and cool off. The next time you ride, make sure you look out for the hidden treasures we’ve shared above to offer you a new appreciation for the effort that went into designing this world-famous attraction.