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
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
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.