Spaceship Earth soft opens to mixed reviews

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Several park guests and some researchers

from the Unofficial Guide have had the

chance to experience Spaceship Earth as it

is now being presented in Epcot (in a

“soft opening” format). We’ll detail the

changes and the present state of the

attraction, so if you’re looking to avoid

spoilers feel free to scroll past.

The ride is currently operating during

regular park hours in sporadic intervals.

The queue, much the same as before in

layout, is hidden behind tall

refurbishment walls. Disney is using this

to their advantage to hide the guests

waiting to ride Spaceship Earth. The

trick is that they open a pair of massive

swinging doors in the refurbishment wall

that allow access to the entrance of the

queue and then quickly fill it with eager

guests who are flowing into the park. A

few minutes later, the doors close, guests

who approach it are told the ride is

closed, while about 15 minutes worth of

guests are zig-zagging through the queue

line. Out of sight, out of mind. We

witnessed several guests leave the area

assured the ride was closed, while we

waited and it was reopened as the queue

began to shrink.

On exploring the queue itself, we have

previously detailed the removal of the old

Leave a Legacy kiosk from the mirrored

column and the addition of palm trees

where the twinkle-light oaks used to

exist, but there is further enhancement.

Most of the planting the queue has been

completely redone. Larger hedge-like

bushes creates straight rows accented by

long bars of light. Mixed into this are

multi-color LEDs, the same ones we

mentioned previously as point to the new

palm trees flanking the queue. Speaking of

the palm trees, here’s a short video of

the new color changing lighting in action:


In a similar manner, the new lighting in

the queue itself point to the lowest

portions of spaceship earth and are

intended to allow it a color changing

effect as well. To date, they have been on

but in a basic color mode without

transitions.

Just before boarding the time machine

vehicles, the mural outside has remained

the same as well as has the loading area

though the flashing lightning effect was

turned off. The vehicles themselves have

been outfitted with 2 touch-screen

monitors per vehicle, or one per two

seats. These come on as the ride begins,

but does not replace the safety reminders.

Those reminders still play on separate

screens, which are thankfully repositioned

at the very bottom of the first hill.

During the first hill, guests travel

through a futuristic sort of portal then

are asked by the narration and directed by

their touch screen to smile and pose for a

camera. The flash confirm your image has

been recorded, the narration is handed off

to Dame Judi Dench, and the touch screens

go black.

The next portion of the ride is very much the same as before, though greatly enhanced with new costumes and animatronic movements. You can check out a video of the first portion of the ride to the top here:


Major changes are first noticeable at the scenes of the industrial age and cinema. The number of screens in the cinema have been paired down and the family living room has been expanded into a full scene rather then a small implied space. The family focuses on a single screen, watching the first moon walk. From there, the vehicles enter a large computer lab with reel-to-reel tape systems showing the massive size of the first computers. Gone are the boy and girl on the video phone across continents. Next is a man tinkering on a home PC in his garage (complete with a full size Chevy Vega) before entering a matrix of green letters and other characters floating overhead much like the movie The Matrix. The vehicles then circle the top portion of the sphere viewing the earth the same way as always before beginning their descent. A video of this and the remaining portions of the ride can be found here:


This is where the controversy exists. Several guests, after seeing the new conclusion to Spaceship Earth, have expressed concerns over the content – or lack thereof. The ride’s touch screens flicker to life and guests are asked to answer a series of simple preference questions that in turn craft a short animation based on those choices. It all occurs on the screen as the vehicle drifts down backwards surrounded otherwise by darkness. All of the old sets and lighting effects have been removed, save for the occasional twinkling starfield. Then the ride ends.

Some guests have said that it is far too simplistic and anti-climatic. Others have said that the cartoon is poor quality and a cheap Jetsons rip-off which doesn’t fit the look or story of Spaceship Earth.

We’d love to hear your take on the attraction if you get to experience it. It is scheduled to be in soft opening until February, when it will officially open. During that time, expect it close without notice frequently and possibly be closed for several days without reopening as the tweak the ride.

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