Foto Face-off Friday – SpaceShip Earth v. Cinderella Castle

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Congratulations on making it to the conclusion of another work week! With your weekend about to start, hopefully this eases you into relaxation mode. In this edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” which is the better icon: SpaceShip Earth or Cinderella Castle. Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

Arguably, this is the “biggest” debate of the Disney World. Icons are the most poignant structures in the parks, and these are the two grandest of the grand. Here is what some of our followers on Twitter had to say:

@scarlettashley1 Cinderella Castle: Because it will never be called a “Giant Golf Ball.”

@Jen_Kvids Where exactly is the debate here? Castle of course!

@kymickeyfan717 Cinderella Castle all the way. It just screams Disney #DisneyDebate

@ScoutingMouse I love the castle but Spaceship Earth means I’m home as Epcot’s my fave park. Arrrgggghhh!!! I can’t decide!!! #DisneyDebate

@MouseWorldRadio that is a no-brainer! Cinderella’s Castle any day! And i LOVE Spaceship Earth

@curbcrusher I don’t know. When I think of WDW, I think of Maelstrom. #DisneyDebate #kidding

Personally, I expected more indecisiveness given that these are the two resounding most popular structures in Walt Disney World, but most of the Tweets and Flickr images did not bear out the love folks have for both.

Along with their photo entries, we asked for an explanation as to why each poster preferred their respective choice. Their reasons may pertain to photography, general enjoyment of the choice, or both. Their personal thoughts are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream. It was such a good week in the Flickr group with great photos and thoughtful explanations that I just felt I couldn’t limit it to the best ten.

SpaceShip Earth

Photogineer (Doug):
Reflections of Earth (SSE that is)
This was a tough one to decide. Both are huge icons that I love equally. It is like picking your favorite child. You love them both equally but for different reasons. Well this is not my child so I can pick a favorite. My choice was SSE. The reason is small but just enough to pull it ahead. Besides EPCOT being my favorite park, the small point that put SSE just a little ahead of the Castle is that SSE is also a complete ride. The ride is still one of my favorite rides in WDW and I never miss it when visiting. I love the edutainment aspect as well of this ride. (Another argument for the previous Face-off). The sounds and smells in SSE bring back tons of memories for me. Jeremy Irons is my favorite narrator and it was just enough to pull it ahead by a slight margin.

Spaceship Earth
I’m going to have to go with Spaceship Earth. For me it’s the icon that makes me stop dead in my tracks and brings a smile to my face. It’s a architectural wonder being a full geodesic sphere with an amazing ride within. It stands out against everything around it, can even be spotted from Expedition Everest and Summit Plummet and of course it’s the one and only, not an off chute or replica, but a true Disney Imagineering wonder.

I love Spaceship Earth, it’s shape just leads to so many interesting photographs, also the fact that it’s got a full fledged attraction inside of it.

Spaceship Earth from the Monorail
EPCOT Center was the first park I visited back in 1983. I looked up at SSE upon entering the park from the main entrance as a monorail just making an orbit around the huge geodesic sphere. Memory of the TV show where Walt Disney introduced the EPCOT community idea came fresh into my consciousness. I boarded the Time Machine to learn of Man’s past history with and a future lie with communication technology. The Internet was still in the future back then and here this ride was talking about the concept of a wired world to come. Didn’t hurt that another Walt (Cronkite) was the narrator either. Years later I was able to capture this photo of SSE as I “orbited” inside a monorail. The combination of Sun angle, monorail window tinting and slow speed all came together in a click of a shutter. Memories of my past and the future that is now, that’s what sets SSE over Cinderella Castle.

CJ Balogh:
While I thoroughly enjoy the Castle and think that it is the quintessential icon of Disney World, SSE to me, is the more subtle Disney icon. Not to say it is under rated (if it were, why would we have this debate) but when first-timers see the castle they know what it is. Even if they don’t know the story that goes along with the castle, they know a castle represents royalty and can have an idea what it stands for. If you see SSE for the first time there is a good chance you have no clue what it is. It begs to be looked at and explored inside and out. I think it also fits Epcot like a glove (no pun, really) in, that it looks like it feel out of space (wow, didn’t mean that one either) and with Epcot being about the future what could be better than an object that looks totally foreign to anything we see today.


EPCOT is without a doubt my favorite park, and SSE is my favorite WDW park icon. Even though I can use all three park entrances (well, 3 if you’re a CM), I prefer to use the main entrance at EPCOT as a guest because of the wonder that walking into the park underneath Spaceship Earth instills. Two icons at WDW have always intrigued me, SSE and the Contemporary, perfect models of the forward-thinking vision of Walt and his Imagineers. I also enjoy photographing SSE because it forces me to be creative to come up with new angles and ways to frame certain sections.

Cinderella Castle

Forever Friends
Definitely Cinderella’s Castle. Hands down. There is no other feeling like stepping foot into Magic Kingdom and seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time (all over again). Also, the simple fact that this castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein, Germany’s original “Cinderella’s Castle”, the choice is clear for me. There is so much beauty; so much depth; a finite number of details to capture; and it’s not just the castle, but everything surrounding it makes it the winner for me. I could honestly take photographs of this castle all day long and still miss something. I agree with Bob Desmond. The comparison isn’t even close.

Scott Smith (SRisonS):
Cinderella Statue
I have to go with Cinderella’s Castle. It’s the most photographed building in the world, for good reason. It’s has story. It has presence. It has such a tremendous amount of detail. For a lot of people, this IS Disney. It’s part of a fairy tale that’s come to life.

Isabelle Boivin:
Little friends
The Cinderella Castle, simply because, when you talk of Disney, for everyone, it’s all about the Castle. I just can’t get tired of it, and it looks great almost in every shot !

Sarita Linda:
Is it that time already?
The castle, at any angle is is put magic and for a short time, you are too.

A snowy evening in Orlando
Spaceship Earth (please don’t call it a golf ball) is a certainly an icon. It screams Epcot. However, other than a few years with the wand, it is a pretty static structure. Photographically, it’s a challenge to find an interesting angle – it looks the same from almost every direction and the lighting never varies. The castle is also an icon, but it screams Disney Parks. From the original Disneyland TV show through current Disney movies, the first thing you always see is a castle. At night, the castle comes alive, with lights that change its appearance, fireworks, the Kiss Goodnight and, during the holiday season, the Castle Dream Lights. And who doesn’t get a little emotional with that first glimpse of the castle from Town Square? Sorry, SSE, but Cinderella’s abode is my choice.

Wesley Cullen’s Mom:

This truly is a great debate. I even made comment on one of my pictures of SSE that the castle and SSE are similar in the respect that they offer hundreds of angles and with the sky and light you can get different shots of each. In fact you could probably stand by both all day and capture thousands of different lightings and angles, however…….my vote goes to Cinderella’s Castle. It’s just magicial. It’s everything that is Disney. It takes your breath away when you step down Main St. USA. It reminds you to dream and use your imagination. The castle reminds grown women to still dream of being a princess and living in the castle waitingon/or with her prince charming. My vote for “The One” is Cinderella’s Castle.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
It's A Wonderful Life

To be honest, when I selected this topic, my answer was a foregone conclusion. I knew my choice would be SpaceShip Earth, but I chose a topic that wasn’t a challenge for myself because I wanted a good number of responses as I wouldn’t be doing a blog post last week due to my Disneyland trip. The second I stepped onto Main Street during that trip, the foregone conclusion vanished. Squinting down the street, I had to whip out my telephoto lens to finally catch a glimpse of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Maybe that’s a bit of hyperbole, but you get the idea. Sorry to all of the Disneyland fans out there (your parks are great nonetheless), but that Castle just leaves something to be desired. Point being, after seeing Sleeping Beauty Castle for a while, I realized that I had come to take Cinderella Castle for granted.

It’s not that I have flippantly passed by Cinderella Castle in the past; each time I have stepped onto Main Street for the first time of a trip, I have stood in awe for a few moments. The same is true when we sit watching the Kiss Goodnight. Still, I know there had been plenty of times when I had rushed through Cinderella Castle without really appreciating it, whereas it seems I have always stopped to look up while passing under SpaceShip Earth. Wondering why this would be the case, I rationalized that the only possibility is that I have become more familiar with the Castle over the years because of its centrality to the Magic Kingdom. We pass through the hub a myriad of times per day, whereas we are in the Epcot entrance area where SpaceShip Earth is located far less frequently.

This dominance that Cinderella Castle plays in the park extends beyond just its location in the Magic Kingdom to its role as a symbol of the entire Walt Disney World Resort, and bolsters the argument that it should be the ‘better’ icon (at least, when viewing the face-off objectively). Less objectively, there is that emotional tug from Cinderella Castle: it’s the first thing I see when I enter my favorite park, it’s the last thing I wave goodbye to when I leave that same park on our last day, it’s the centerpiece of those amazing fireworks, and it would be my dream suite for a night of sleep—although I don’t think I could do too much sleeping if I were up there.  Further, it looks nothing short of jaw-dropping with the Icicle Dreamlights at Christmastime, which is my favorite time in the park.  While it’s not as unique as SpaceShip Earth and does not house a headliner attraction, everything it does do, even if I’ve come to take some of those things for granted, it does so wonderfully.

What are your thoughts on the face-off? Let us know in the comments!


Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday is going to be another good one. This challenge is again going to be throwdown format (we might as well lose the face-off title as so many of our posts involve more than two entrants; but, how can we pass up that delightful alliteration?!) as we ask a very hotly contested question: what is the best restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort? This is the question has perplexed popular Disney internet personalities for “ages”, but we’re hoping you can provide adequate resolution! So check back next Friday afternoon–and make sure you’ve had a filling lunch as we won’t be responsible for any impulse food spending caused by the pictures–for the definitive results! Also, as this is an important one, please help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Food Fight!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog, so get to Tweetin’ and Postin’!

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Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page ( and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (

9 thoughts on “Foto Face-off Friday – SpaceShip Earth v. Cinderella Castle

  • August 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Can’t decide… love them both I want to see the castle on our first day, that’s when I KNOW we are in WDW but I have to see SSE on our last night, I always look back longingly at SSE and say, “Til next time!” Can’t make a decision.

    • August 27, 2010 at 11:13 am

      When I first began giving thought to Cinderella Castle as my potential pick, seeing the Castle at night when we leave was the thing that first came to mind. There is no better 2 minutes in all of Walt Disney World than the Kiss Goodnight, and that ultimately is what put it over the top. Well, that and the Icicle lights–those make a beautiful icon even more spectacular!

  • August 27, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Cinderella’s Castle – there is no other. They both harm their charm and beauty, however Cinderella’s Castle because it is such an icon!

    • August 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

      Actually I meant to say “they both HAVE their charm and beauty!” LOL

  • August 27, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I tear up when I see the castle. I don’t react that way to Spaceship Earth. So I have to say it is the castle for me.

  • August 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I know the castle is an icon and everything, but there’s no “there” there. Spaceship earth pulls me in because of the ride in it. Also the laser messages inscribed on it after Illuminations are kind of cool. (do they still do that?)

    When I see the castle I only think, “OK now should we turn right and get in Space Mountain and Buzz, or hang a left and try to squeeze in a ride on Splash Mountain before the crowd arrives?”

    Maybe it’s a guy thing, but princesses mean little to me. As another example, check out the lukewarm reaction of males to the “Princess Makeover” of Fantasyland.

    That would be a good topic for the podcast – which parks/lands/rides are popular mostly with guys, and which are strictly for girly-girls? Other than the re-tooling of the Fantasyland makeover, what other imbalances do you think exist in the parks? (if any) If there is a testosterone deficit in the parks, what’s the best way to correct it – Marvel or Cars Land?

  • August 30, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Boo hiss! Sleeping Beauty’s castle FTW!

    lol, I’m kidding of course, (someone had to step up to the role of the much-abused, defensive Disneylandian) but seriously, while Cinderella’s castle is gorgeous and magnificent, I just love that little pink castle. It wouldn’t fit in with the grandeur of Disney World, but it’s so perfect for Disneyland.

    That said, these pictures are fabulous and I would pick the castle (either one) over Spaceship Earth.

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