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Spaceship Earth -- Epcot's Icon -- Part 2

In Part One, I discussed the history of Spaceship Earth. Now let's take a ride on this attraction as it appears today.

Please note: Flash photography is prohibited on Spaceship Earth. The reason? It's very annoying to those around you. All of the pictures here were taken with a high-speed camera and enhanced with my computer.

Our 13 1/2 minute adventure begins as we travel through a time portal for a journey back in time. Just past the portal, your picture is taken for later use. Be sure to look at the monitor straight-on and smile.


Time Portal


The first glimpse into the past is somewhere around 30,000 BC where we see several Cro-Magnon men hunting a wooly mammoth. Rudimentary communication skills will help them work as a team and down this ferocious creature.


Caveman Fighting Mammoth


The next scene brings us to a time when man lived in caves. A prehistoric shaman recounts a recent hunt to his fellow tribesmen and wall paintings help record his tale for future generations.


Shamon Telling Stories


As we travel forward in time, we find ourselves in ancient Egypt. Here we see a man pounding papyrus reeds to create a crude paper. Nearby, the pharaoh dictates decrees which are copied onto scrolls by his scribe. The scribe (not pictured here) uses a simplified cursive form of hieroglyphics -- a sort of ancient shorthand if you will. The hieroglyphics on the surrounding walls are authentic recreations from actual Egyptian structures.


Making Papyrus

Pharaoh

Hieroglyphics


A new era in communications began with the Phoenicians. These merchants were once a dominate trading force in the Mediterranean and carried their twenty-two letter alphabet from port to port. With this new alphabet, most languages could be written using the same characters.


Phoenicians


The ancient Greeks refined the Phoenician alphabet by adding vowels. Now the written word could be enunciated. With this improvement came philosophy, logic, and mathematics. The Greeks were also the first to create public schools, which is depicted in this next scene.


Greeks


The Romans built a vast network of roads across the known world so their armies could maintain order and reach the most distant outposts of their empire. But these roads carried more than soldiers. Ideas and information also traveled along these ancient passageways. In this scene we see a Roman senator handing a message to a centurion with orders to rush the dispatch to Britain.


Romans


Much of recorded history was lost when Rome falls and the Library of Alexandria burns.


Burning of Library of Alexandria


Fortunately, copies of many of these books and manuscripts were also kept in Middle Eastern libraries. To the right side of our vehicle we see Islamic scholars from various cultures discussing science, astronomy, medicine, and art. Standing on the observation tower is an astronomer with a quadrant probing the secrets of the heavens. And to the left we see a Jewish wise man studying in a great library.


Islamic Scholars

Astronomer

Jewish Scholar


As we continue our journey, we enter a scriptorium. Literally translated, scriptorium means "a place for writing" and they were found in medieval European monasteries. Here we see monks toiling endlessly to keep up with the ever growing demand for books.


Monk in Scriptorium

Monk in Scriptorium


In the mid fifteenth-century, Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable type printing press. His new device now makes information available to the masses. In the background of this scene we see pressmen sorting paper and setting type while in the foreground, Gutenberg examines a page from the bible he is currently printing. This sheet is an exact replica from the Gutenberg Bible on display at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.


Johannes Gutenberg

Men working the Press


But religious manuscripts weren't the only documents created in mass. Literature, philosophy, music, and art also flourished in the years to come. The Renaissance rekindled man's pursuit of knowledge and a rebirth of education. Across the aisle from Gutenberg we see a mentor reading Virgil's "Aeneid" to a student and musicians performing a new piece of music.


Mentor Reading to Student

Musicians


Further signs of the Renaissance are seen as our journey progresses. First we see an artist's assistant mixing paint while he works on his latest masterpiece. And just beyond a sculptor chisels a statue from marble.


Mixing Paint

Artist Painting

Sculptor


Commissioned by Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512.


Sistine Chapel


During the first portion of our journey, advancements in communications came slowly. Progress was achieved over a period of hundreds and hundreds of years. But as we turn the next corner, inventions arrive on the scene almost in a blink of the eye.

Next we find ourselves in 1865 and the American Civil War has just ended. Steam power has brought the printing press into the modern age and periodicals are common. On a street corner, we see a young boy hawking newspapers.


Steam Powered Printing Press


Marconi's telegraph is seen next as a reporter dispatches the following message: "MAY - 10 - 1869 - OFFICIALS - OF- THE - TWO - RAILROADS - HAVE - GATHERED - AT - PROMONTORY - POINT…." For the first time the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are connected by railroad.


Telegraph


Less than a decade later, Alexander Graham Bell successfully transmitted the spoken word across a wire. By the early 1900's, telephones were becoming commonplace. For the first time, people could talk with their loved ones, even when physically far apart.


Telephone Switchboard


In the 1930's, citizens could keep abreast of the news at their local movie house. Movietone News presented audiences with a vast array of subject matter. Currently showing is a clip of Jesse Owens winning a race at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


Movie Theater


In 1928 an excited newscaster announces to his radio listeners that Amelia Earhart has just become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.


Radio Broadcast


Fast forward to 1969. People all over the world were glued to their television sets as Neal Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Walter Cronkite, who once narrated this attraction, can also be seen on this program.

The Imagineers poked a little fun at Mickey in this scene. Next time you ride, take a look behind the couch. The board game Mouse Trap is set up and waiting to be played.


Man Walks on the Moon

1960's Living Room


In the early years of computers, only governments and large corporations could afford them. And their binary language was known to only a handful of people. These large behemoths took up an enormous amount of space and required chilled rooms in which to operate.


Main Frame Computer

Main Frame Computer


It wasn't too long after the main-frame computer became common place in businesses that people started thinking about a home model. In this next scene we see a California garage in the 1960's and a studious young man working on a prototype "personal" computer.

Many people speculate whether this is Steve Jobs or Steve Wozniak. But it's neither. This gentleman represents all of the pioneers that helped bring this modern marvel into our homes.


Personal Computer


After traveling through the "Data-Flow Tunnel" we arrive near the top of Spaceship Earth. Here we see our blue and green planet floating in space. Our Time Machine then rotates 180 degrees for the descent back to earth.

Soon the touch-screen monitors on our vehicles come to life and we're asked to select what aspect of our future we'd like to see. The choices are Home, Work, Health, and Leisure. After several more selections, a humorous video transports "you" into the future.


Touch-screen Monitors

Touch-screen Monitors


After exiting the Omnimover, you find yourself in "Project Tomorrow." Here you come face-to-face with a giant globe of the earth.


Project Tomorrow Globe


Shortly after arriving, your picture will appear somewhere on the globe and remain in sight for roughly a minute. Then with a swoosh, your photo is whisked to the hometown you selected at the beginning of the ride. A small white dot will appear on the globe to represent this location. The globe starts out "clean" each morning.

Since Central Florida becomes a mass of white dots early on, I often pick some other city as my hometown. It's fun to see my picture transported to Perth, Australia or Cape Town, South Africa.

Also found in Project Tomorrow are several games.

"Body Builder" is a 3-D interactive game that enables users to assemble a digital human body, simulating the Siemens technology developed to perform remote surgeries.


Body Builder


"Super Driver" is a simulation video game that showcases motor vehicle accident avoidance systems developed by Siemens.


Super Driver


"Power City" demonstrates how to manage power in a growing city.


Power City


I have created a four and a half minute video of a journey through Spaceship Earth. Please note, the narration has been edited due to time constraints. In addition, lighting of the scenes is low, making a few of the sets difficult to see. However, I think you'll enjoy the trip. It's the next best thing to actually being there.



Well that's it for Spaceship Earth -- my favorite Epcot attraction. I realize it's not as exciting as Test Track or Mission: Space. And it's not as inspiring as Soarin'. But I like it and never tire of it.

The previous post in this blog was Spaceship Earth -- Epcot's Icon -- Part 1.

The next post in this blog is Magic Kingdom -- Imagineering the Magic DVD.

Comments (44)

dusty cheatham:

jack i may be one of the few people who do not like some of the changes to spaceship earth . one i do like is the touch screen monitors . these can be very funny. but once again you have hit a home run.

Andree Godin:

Thankyou so much Jack for this wonderful 2 part article. Last year was my hubby's first time at WDW and this just happened to be his favorite ride in Epcot, we ended up going on it 3 times. Loved all the details you wrote, it's truly wonderful to read how it was built and the info of the ride that we wouldn't normally know. Love reading all your articles, keep 'em coming. From a Canadian gal who wished she lived closer to WDW, at least I have you!

Jack,

Once again, tremendous blog! I remember riding Spaceship Earth for the first time when I was in about 7th grade, just months after it opened. I'm sure it was the first thing I ever did in Epcot and it is still one of my favorites. Thanks for giving me a little "mini vacation"!

Deb:

We always seem to walk right by Spaceship Earth. In fact we have not been in for about 8 years. I think that our May trip will most certainly include Spaceship Earth. Thank-you for the update.

Jack's Comment:

Ever since Siemens took over sponsorship of Spaceship Earth, this attraction has had lines. Even later in the afternoon. They're not impossible lines like Soarin' or Test Track, but this ride is rarely a walk-on anymore.

Lynne:


I always look forward to your fantastic blogs, Jack. Thank you for taking the time to send them our way.

I have very mixed feelings on the Siemen's rehab. I simply cannot abide the new dumbed-down narration and Dame Judy's voice is like finger nails on a blackboard. The touch screens were fun...the first time. On the upside, I love the new scenes and lighting Siemen's added. They really did show a lot of respect to the old attraction while giving it a face lift.

Ileana:

Hello again from Buenos Aires, Jack!! I cant believe that if is everything is ok, we'll be there next thursday 21st!! we´re going to epcot in friday and straight to spaceship earth, in 2008 was closed when we went there. I never get tired to read your blogs Jack!! I am going to look around in WDW just n case you are there "researching". Read (or see) you soon!!

Kevin:

Jack, Spaceship Earth is my favorite thing anywhere. I had the privilege of hearing Jeremy Irons's narration only once, so I've sort of "grown up" with Judi Dench and the new scenes. They are amazingly impressive, and ever since Dench did a narration for the Boston Museum of Science, I've waited to hear her do more - I love her voice on this.

While I do miss the scenes on the descent, I really love the interactive technology with the touch-screens. The only thing I don't really love is the occasional computer/Internet references in the narration. I get it, but I don't think we need it.

What a wonderful 2-part essay. I sent this to my friends who are seeing WDW for the first time soon.

Bob:

Hi Jack,

About the garage: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded their computer company (HP) in a garage in Palo Alto, CA, in the area now known as Silicon Valley. The garage is on the National Registor of Historic Places.

Another tie-in: The very first product ever sold by HP was to the Walt Disney Studios.

So, the garage is an icon that represents all the companies that have started out in Silicon Valley over the years.

Deanna:

Jack, thanks for this transport to Epcot and Spaceship Earth. I'm sitting here grinning like a loon now :D The first time I rode Spaceship Earth was in December 2008 (right around the time I became addicted to Disney), and I liked the ride a lot, but was completely blown away by the view in the last scene before the descent -- the planet and stars. I was breathless. What a view. I ride SSE every time I'm at the park now, just to make sure it is still as beautiful. I like the rest quite a bit as well, but I do love that last scene.

It's very cool to see the progression of communication through the years. Complaints about narrative aside, the teaching aspect is really quite effective.

Eleven days until I get to see it for myself again! Thanks for the preview :)

Vicki:

We just recently returned from my children's 2nd trip to the World. The first was in 2007. So they've been able to experience 2 versions of this...and they both loved the new one. To them, especially, the touch screens at the end and the interactive stuff after the ride made it a favorite...we rode it 4 times while we were there! You did a great job highlighting the past and the present of this attraction!

Adam August:

I had picked up my son, then 11, on a custodial visit and was driving through Orlando on my way north. It was Oct. 2, 1982. On the spur of the moment we decided to check out this new Epcot Center which had opened only a day earlier. The first ride we hit was Spaceship Earth. Well, our ride vehicle was about 1/3 the way up the slope when it shut down. We sat there for more than 20 minutes, worrying that our whole day in the park would be spent at a 45-degree angle in a darkened amusement ride, listening to a sound track endlessly repeating itself between announcements of "Please remain seated. Your vehicle will resume moving momentarily." Eventually it rolled again -- and we repeated the experience in some of the other rides that hadn't quite all the bugs worked out. (Last year my son brought my 3 grandsons down and we repeated the experience. This time the ride ran smoothly!)
I wonder whatever happened to the clear acrylic sculpture that topped the fountain in front of SE?

Sally:

Hi Jack, Loved this blog on one of my favorite rides. You never fail to bring a little happiness to my miserable grad school existence. When I finally finish, 5 long years from now, I hope to see your smiling face at my party. Certainly, I will have it somewhere at WDW or ....... should I have it at the new Hawaii resort?? When will you be reporting to us from there with lots of pictures?? Can't wait!

Hi Jack,

We have not rode Spaceship Earth for a few years because of the long line early in the day. At the end of the day, when the line is shorter we are always in a hurry to get somewhere.

After reading your blog, we will make a point to try it again next month when we are staying at Boardwalk.

When your staying at one of the Epcot Resorts and you have Season Passes, its great to be able to pop over to Epcot for a few rides then go back to your resort while others are at the pool or getting ready to go out for the night.

Its like The World (Walt Disney World) is your playground.

Thanks for the great blogs and pictures Jack!!!

Jenny Sperandeo:

Love this ride, Jack! I love the touch screen and how interactive it is. My husband and I fight over whether it will be space or sea. :)I like looking for our pictures on the screens after the ride.

Travis:

My favorite ride at EPCOT as well. To me, it's the last remnant of the EPCOT that I knew as a child: the Future World that contained now-legendary attractions like World of Motion, the original Journey Into Imagination, and the sorely-missed Horizons.

I know Spaceship Earth has changed a lot recently, but it still retains the feel of those old omnimover edu-tainment rides (to me at least) and that's why I'll always love it.

Michelle Gala:

My daughter loved the touch screen and all the interactive stuff to do after the ride. I find spaceship earth a nice relaxing ride, and can't wait to ride it again next year! Thanks so much for sharing this!

Marilea:

Hey Jack! Great blog and very good video. I have never experienced SSE due to long lines and the plethora of other things to do at Epcot. Next trip I'll be sure to visit. It looks like an attraction my whole family would enjoy. Thanks for opening my eyes to what we've been missing.

Joan Feder:

Hi Jack,

You did a great job! As a veteran of ALL the versions of SSE, I especially appreciated Part 1, but loved the "you are there" feel of part two. SSE is my daughter's favorite ride, and you really did it proud. Thanks for bringing a little bit of Disney Magic into a rainy NC day!

Heather Stoskopf:

Hi Jack,

Thanks for writing! I love Spaceship Earth and I do like the new changes. I think the video at the end is pretty funny (especially the first time seeing it!) I also like the new narration - I feel like it tells the story better. One thing I miss is the song "Tomorrow's Child". I noticed that Disney is starting to take some of those theme songs away - like in Living with the Land. I loved the song that was played during that ride as well. But, other than the song being left out of the new ride, I think it's great!

Jimmie:

Jack:

Thanks for taking me to my favorite WDW attraction! It never gets old!

sue and jerry ziolkowski:

Hi Jack,

What a great blog, such great pics and info, I felt like I was on the ride, but then looked around and saw the dirty dishes and got a reality check! This is a favorite in Epcot for all. The firs ride when we enter the park and the last ride before we depart for home.

Take care

The Ziolkowski Family

Aaron:

Great read! Thanks for your time on this. I always enjoy your Blogs.

Johnny:

Hi Jack,

Great job as usual! Really enjoyed it.
Yes...it IS true that the "Garage" scene is representative of all the companies that started out in Silicon Valley. But the studious young man working on the PC sure looks an aaaawful lot like Steve Jobs.
About 6-weeks ago we were stuck for about 10 min. in a spot where our ride vehicle was perfectly lined up for me to look back and see his face. I'm convinced that the imagineer who was in charge of dressing up that figure had Mr. Jobs in mind at the time.

Thanks for the great article. ~~~ Johnny.

Catherine Barbree:

I LOVE SPACESHIP EARTH AND ALL DISNEY RIDES I EVEN LOVE TO HEAR JUDY DENCH'S VOICE SHE HAPPENS TO BE A GRAND LADY SO WATCH IT YOU PEOPLE.

"I AM A BIG #1 DISNEY FAN!!!!!!!!!!"

Tom Mathews:

Great read, Jack!
I've always loved Spaceship Earth, regardless of updates and changes. One thing I've often wondered, however is why Disney has never corrected the scene with Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. He's left handed, you know - but in the scene in Spaceship Earth he's shown painting with his right hand. It's been this way from the beginning.
Thanks again for the memories, Jack!

Rhonda:

In my two trips to WDW I missed this attraction. The first time,well, let's just say its a long story. The seccond time, it was close for the refurbishment. I can't wait to finally see this atraction. Thanks for the info!

Hey Jack,

What a wonderful two-parter! As always, you made the history of this Disney attraction intriguing. The pictures of Spaceship Earth being built were awesome. It really is a unique structure. And, the second part of the blog was, like you wrote, being there. As someone else said, I know I'm on SE when I smell that certain SE smell. Disney truly does touch all of our senses. As for the changes...I like Dame Judi Dench's voice, but the script dumbs it down too much for my taste. And, the first time I experienced the touch screen, I was cracking up. You can have a lot of fun with that, for sure, but I can see it getting tiresome after awhile. It's another case of Disney adapting to a new generation of young people and young people love technology! As long as they keep the "Big Ball" I can sit through a silly animation.

-Kirstin

Kelly:

Jack,
Thanks again for a wonderful look at a wonderful ride. Although you didn't mention that you actually get to SMELL the Library of Alexandria burning! That amazed me as a child and I still find it highly entertaining. I personally love what they've done to Spaceship Earth.

Steve Booze:

Thanks Jack. Great journey through Spaceship Earth. The new version of Spaceship Earth is OK but I liked the old version with Walter Cronkite as the narrator and Tomorrow's Child as the theme song much better. Wish they would bring it back.

Josh:

hey jack
once again great work. Some of the changes for the ride disapointed me. I do however love the new touch screens and will continue riding spaceship earth. once again great job and i look forwad to reading your next blog.

Alex:

I never miss Spaceship Earth. That and Soarin' were the only two attractions in the whole of WDW that we made time to ride twice on the last visit (my 10th, my husband's first!).

I loved the changes which I felt kept a lot of the old memories whilst refreshing what could have become a little tired.

It helps that Epcot is my favourite park. :)

Sue Miller:

Great memories! We were down for Thanksgiving week for a small family reunion. Our last day was at Epcot and our last ride of the day was Spaceship Earth. I was riding with my sister-in-law in the front of the car with my brother-in-law and his 5 year old son behind us. Just as we were getting settled we heard my brother-in-law ask if there was any way to change the language chosen as the 5 year old had started pressing buttons and ended up selecting German as the narration language! The ride attendant told him there was no way to clear it, but that when the ride was over they could get right back on if they wished. Although we all got a good laugh from this, you may want to warn riders to make sure they choose their language before they let the kids start to press buttons!

Jerry Watson:

Jack...as usual...your review of SE makes me want to go make reservations RIGHT NOW!!! I still like the "old" SE with our other "Uncle Walt"...Walter Cronkite. Thanks for all your reviews and updates, etc. It is a tuff job but someone has to do it!! :)
Jerry...from San Antonio

Cindi:

Hello Jack!

Well another home run! My husband & I are headed to WDW in 32 days and this is just what the Doctor ordered!!!

I have to say, I love most of the 'improvements' to Spaceship Earth, with one exception....We miss the holographic Charioteer!!!

Keep up the great work!!

Eric :

Hey Jack,

Once again you have written another WONDERFUL article. I really enjoyed reading this 2 part series. My wife works for Seimens so we have been able to enjoy BASE 21-- the corporate area of SPACESHIP EARTH many times. No trip to EPCOT is complete without multiple trips to this iconic and awesome attraction.
Thanks again!!!!!!

A. J. Duda:

You did not mention the biggest freebee at SSE. You have to go to the email touch screens after the ride, below the globe, and email the photo of you back to yourself. You get the cartoon photo sent to your email address along with a link so that you can download the cartoon movie. I think 99% of all riders skip this activity and most of them never download the movie.

Julia K.:

Hi Jack,
Thanks again for taking me to Disney World without actually being there.

When my daughter was 1 1/2 we first took her to Disney World. She is now 9 and has been there 6 times. From the first time to the last time (Feb 2009) one of her favorite attractions has always been Spaceship Earth. Epcot is always the first park we visit on the day we get there and Spaceship Earth is ALWAYS the first attraction. In Dec 2007 when we were there it was closed for refurbishment but to her surprise and amazement (our's as well) our last day there it opened for just a short time and we were able to get on and see the new changes.

Can't wait to get back to Disney World!!

Donald McCloskey:

Hey Jack - thanks for the details. I have been on this ride a few hundred times, I'm sure.

I remember when It first opened that there was a futuristic city when you get to the top! Not sure when it was or if I'm dreaming. Does anyone remember the city. Is it being restored or is it gone forever?

Jack's Answer:

To my knowledge, the top of Spaceship Earth has always been pretty much as it looks today. You see the earth and the stars. Before this latest refurbishment of Spaceship Earth, there was an old and futuristic city (linked by a bridge) located on the descent. But I suspect you might be thinking of the much larger futurist city at the end of the old World of Motion attraction.

Johnny:

Speaking of the the "Old City" and "New City" that were linked by the bridge...I REALLY miss seeing it on the descent. It was really a beautiful sight to behold and it was at THIS spot that I would always hope the ride vehicle would get stuck for a min. or two just so I could enjoy the view. I remember being lucky to have it happen once.

It's nice to know that this is ONE attraction that we will never lose (unless they decide to do away with Epcot's icon.) ~ ;)

Dan Cummings:

Jack, I couldnt agree more! Its my favorite too. While I love the thrill of the other rides, there is something about Darkrides that have always fascinated me since I was a kid, and of course Spaceship Earth has topped them all and continues to do so. I could ride it over and over if my kids would let me!

Michael Whitehead:

Thank you for an informative and very enjoyable article. I still love this ride, although there will be nothing to me that tops the Jeremy Irons version of the ride. His narration added mystery and awe to the experience. The new narration is an extreme change to the atmosphere of the ride and it really dumbs down and lowers the quality of the attraction. I also really miss the U.S. to Japan Internet scene and the scenes they showed on the way down. They were really emotional to me. I am not always resistant to change, but the new Spaceship Earth was a step backwards.

Lewis Laska:

Hello Jack: Thanks for your info about Spaceship Earth! You say it is 165' diameter, 518' circumference, composed of 11,324 triangles, and encloses 2,200,000 cubic feet.
Do you have any other "technical" information? I am trying to gather as much information as I can about it. I understand that a "real" golfer would have to be a mile high, but how does it compare to a regular golf ball? Best regards, Lewis Laska, Nashville 20+ visitor at WDW.

Gramma Kaye:

Hi Jack,
I too love SSE, old version and new version. One thing a lot of people don't realize - the hilarious video you see at the end of the ride can be emailed to your computer. I have a huge collection of them from over the years, and we're still adding to them. We laugh hysterically every time we watch them. They are great momentos of our Epcot visits. :)

Rachelle Beaney:

Hi Jack,

I smiled when reading this article because my hometown is actually Perth, Australia! I'm a huge Disneyland and Disney World fan, but due to the isolation of where i live have only managed a couple of trips to each location. That's why i love reading your blogs - it gives me a little taste of Disney when i'm so far away, thanks for all your hard work :)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 17, 2010 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Spaceship Earth -- Epcot's Icon -- Part 1.

The next post in this blog is Magic Kingdom -- Imagineering the Magic DVD.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.