Will We Say Goodbye to the Phoenicians? Why Disney Glossed Over the Spaceship Earth Reimagining!

One of the biggest stories coming out of 2019’s D23 Expo was the radical reimagining of Epcot. The renovation, which Disney is calling the largest they’ve ever done to one of their theme parks, will touch nearly every corner of the nearly 37-year-old park. However, while the company gave in-depth details on many of the new attractions and experiences coming Epcot, they were curiously vague about one of the most emotionally-charged changes coming to the park: the renovation of Spaceship Earth.

Spaceship Earth

For those unaware, Spaceship Earth is the large geodesic sphere – or what many call “the golf ball” – has served as Epcot’s primary symbol since the park opened. The sphere contains an omnimover ride of the same name that uses animatronics and detailed show scenes to detail the history of humanity from cave paintings through the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and all the way to our modern age. The ride has spurred an appreciation for the Phoenicians, whom we mustn’t forget to thank for “creating” the alphabet. 

While the attraction has been updated several times, most notably in 1994, these had been mainly cosmetic and slight thematic changes to the ride’s narration and ending, leaving a vast majority of the ride’s core show scenes intact. This continuity, as well as Spaceship Earth’s role as Epcot’s centerpiece, have made it an icon for many hardcore Disney fans, who see it as one of Walt Disney Imagineering’s greatest achievements. Which is why many are so worried about what was — and wasn’t — said at D23.

During the convention’s Parks panel, it was announced that Spaceship Earth would be drastically updated. Disney Parks Blog discussed the renovation, explaining that “at World Celebration in Epcot, Spaceship Earth will remain the Park’s grand icon, but the journey will be transformed with new scenes reflecting the universal nature of the human experience. A new guide and all new narration will focus on the storytelling that brings people together.” 

This emphasis on storytelling will be achieved by focusing the ride on a new feature known as the “story light” which will “come to life” and guide guests through each show scene. While it was noted during the panel that SOME (emphasis ours) of the attraction’s classic show scenes would remain, it’s unclear exactly which these will be and just how much the addition of the “story light” will alter them.

Epcot World Celebration Concept Art ©Disney

Disney’s caginess about which elements of Spaceship Earth will remain have led many to believe that the company plans to change the ride dramatically. And to be fair, the company has considered doing so before. During the early 2000s there was a plan to redevelop Epcot called Project Gemini. As part of the project, Spaceship Earth would have been gutted and replaced by an indoor thrill ride known as Time Racers that would have rocked guests through and out of the sphere on a roller coaster-like adventure through time.

Yes, really.

Perhaps thankfully, Project Gemini was never green lit due to budget issues. However, the fact that Imagineers considered turning Spaceship Earth into a thrill ride has many Disney fans worried that they could be doing it for real this time.

What do you think about Spaceship Earth’s renovation? Let us know in the comments below.

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18 Replies to “Will We Say Goodbye to the Phoenicians? Why Disney Glossed Over the Spaceship Earth Reimagining!”

  1. The majority from what I read most true Disney fans want to keep Spaceship Earth the same. Update it is ok, but don’t gut the entire ride. Once again, Disney doesn’t care what park guests want. I just don’t think their engineers and planners grasp what makes Disney different from other parks. Please note, I said “planners” and not imagineers. That terminology is no longer valid or should be used. There is no longer any imagination left in Disney. Now, rides only have to be based on merchandise sales.

  2. I have been to Disney World many times since the 1970s, and have seen the unique and magical experience of a vacation there slowly ebb away with each change in administration. They,ve already pretty much ruined the former MGM Studios park , turning it into a Star Wars land. Now they’re about to do a hatchet job on Epcot. What’s behind it all? It’s looking more and more like corporste greed!

  3. I am tired of Disney always changing or removing the old rides that everyone loved. Whether it is the Magic Kingdom where Mr Toads ride, Mike Finks Keel Boats or Epcot where the Land Pavilion is always in flux. Kids would love Food Rocks or Kitchen Caberate, or even the Circle of Life and bring back the original song for the boat ride, the Universe of Energy with the dinosaurs and Ellen, The world of Motion, or Horizons. Now everything has to be a fast ride, a roller coaster inside or outside, or Tower of Terror. People loved Disney Studios with Catastrophy Canyon, the Great Movie Ride or Animation with either Eddie Murphy or Robin Williams narrating. Now we have Star Wars with similator rides. Add some new rides but leave some of the older rides for us old timers, who loved them, to enjoy. Some of us cannot do roller coasters or simulator rides because of medical conditions or we just do not like that type or ride. I’ve heard rumors that the Country Bears might be in danger of leaving. You do not have to constantly compete with Universal. I keep hearing that all the rides we loved are being phased out for more eloborate, faster thrill rides. Riding Horizon, Motion and Universe of Energy was calm, educational and entertaining for us. I want ot entertained not scared to death on a thrill ride.

      1. For those of us who remember the original Mickey Mouse Club, Disney considers us “classics” and should be removed to make room for the new “enlightened” park goers.

  4. I really hope they leave this attraction as it is, okay with updates. But not a thrill ride, some of us don’t do well with the thrill rides. Spaceship earth is quintessentially EPCOT.

  5. The best change they can possibly make is to bring back Jeremy Irons as the narrator. I am not opposed to some minor up dating of scenes but for the most part, I hope it remains mostly the same. I do wish that they would change the return journey either more like the original or similar. More of a grand visual experience with out the video interaction.

  6. I don’t think they are putting a thrill ride in Spaceship Earth. It sounds as if they are changing some scenes, adding a light and getting a new narration. I imagine that Disney is going for more “cultural inclusivity” a’la goodbye Lt. Dan hello random lady no one knows. This isn’t a bad thing, Dame Judy’s had her day.

  7. Somethings need to be left alone with maybe minor changes they have plenty of land for a 5th, 6th park or if need be. They are ruining Walt’s vision & in some cases what he said that he did not want like alcohol in the parks ruining the magic for the little ones (if someone has a problem with this they don’t care about the little ones & when they see someone drunk). If the people in leadership don’t care for Walt’s, Lillian’s (Lilly) & Roy’s plus others legacy they need to be replaced.

  8. My question is this. Does Disney ever bother to ASK what the public who is paying their bills what we want? The whole idea of buying all that land was to be able to add to, not replace. I fear yet another Imagination disaster. Please leave us SOME nostalgia! My favorite thing about Disney is that is WASN’T all thrill rides. The omnimovers are my favorite and the most unique thing about Disney and it’s all disappearing.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. My preferences at DW are not thrill rides, but experiences and attractions, including live performers. Thrill rides are fine, but it’s all the other things that really interest me.

  9. Bon chapel announced exactly what the changes to the attraction would be and where the changes would begin. They had video concept art of what they plan to do. Check out the video. No one should be discouraged by this change, the ride has always been about communication and the technology of communication. Now, the focus is going to shift to communication and storytelling while retaining all the classic show scenes and enhancing them 🙂 it’s gonna be great!!

  10. If they drastically change Spaceship Earth, or heaven forbid, put in a thrill ride, that will be the end of my trips to Disney. Why can’t they keep or just enhance the legacy structures that we love so much. Spaceship Earth is a classic and my favorite thing in Walt Disney World.

  11. My grandchildren who are DVC members are really upset over a possible Spaceship Earth renovation. It is a frequent must for them. By the way they love Molly!

  12. I would greatly miss that burning smell in the beginning, and seeing “Spaceship Earth” as the car turns around and we venture backwards to the end. I have memories with my family based on these. Does everything have to be a thrill ride?😄

  13. I wish they wouldn’t touch it. I love it just the way it is. But, what are you gonna do. I’ll be there this Christmas and would love to ride Spaceship Earth one last time for old times sake. But I fear it will be closed for these renovations. Has Disney said when they plan to shut it down to begin the update?

  14. Universe of Energy, Horizons, World of Motion and other rides that I went on with my 2 year old son many years ago have been transformed into thrill rides that I cannot go on with my 2 year old grandson now. So sad. Disney is no longer a family destination. My first vacation was in 1971 and we have gone almost every year since and now this? We are done.

  15. Of all the changes going on in Epcot, this one worries me the most. Like others have stated, I just wish they would have done an update. Spaceship doesn’t produce any revenue, so there will be some kind of merchandise shop at the exit. After all, that’s the Disney way nowadays.