Behind the Scenes at Epcot's Spaceship Earth (PART 1)

"Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed trough the universe of time, and for a brief moment, we have been among its many passengers..." That sounds familiar, doesn't it? That's what we hear every time we board a time machine on Spaceship Earth. After having been around for more than 30 years, it continues to entertain millions of Guests every year. Today, you have a chance to go behind the scenes of this outstanding creation.

NOTE: This photo-gallery was originally posted on July 28, 2014, but all of the photos were lost due to some issues with our former image host. We thought it would be a good idea to bring this exclusive photo-tour back for the enjoyment of all the additional Readers that joined our site in the past two years.

Before viewing the photos, let's first review some interesting facts about Spaceship Earth and its past:

- Current Sponsor: Siemens AG
- Show Time: 13:26 minutes
- Ride System: Omnimover conveyance system
- Current Narrator: Dame Judi Dench (English actress)
- Narrators Through the Years: Since it first opened in 1982, the Spaceship Earth narrative has been delivered by the following four personalities:
  • 1982-1986: Actor Vic Perrin
  • 1986--1994: Newscaster Walter Cronkite
  • 1994-2007: Actor Jeremy Irons
  • 2008-present: Actress Dame Judi Dench
- Construction Time: 2 years, 2 months - 40,800 labor hours 
- Weight: 16 million pounds
- Height: 180 feet ( 18 stories) above ground level
- Diameter: 165 feet 
- Circumference: 518.1 feet 
- Construction Material: Alucobond, a thermal polyethylene core bonded to aluminum 
- Number of Individual Triangles: 11,324 
- Support Structure: 3 pairs of steel legs 15 feet off ground 
- Total Pavilion Area: 109,375 Sq. Ft. 
- Volume: 2,200,000 cubic feet 
- Exterior Surface Area: 150,000 square feet 
- Number of 5-Point Star Configurations: 12 
- Inner Sphere: 1450 steel triangular panels 
- Planetarium: 150 feet in diameter 
- Highest Point of Ride: 163 feet above ground level 
- Average Angle of Descent: 20 degrees 
- Steepest Angle of Descent: 39 degrees

  • New Musical Score: Ten time Emmy®-award winning composer Bruce Broughton conducted a 63-piece orchestra and 24-voice choir for a new musical score for Spaceship Earth. For the musical score, each scene was infused with musical styles and instruments appropriate to the time period.
  • New Scenes- The following new show scenes were added:
    • Family in the late 1960s viewing the moon landing on television
    • Massive, two-story computer room of the late 1960s with reel-to-reel-computers
    • Garage of the late 1970s where the "personal computer" is born
    • "Tech Tunnel" in which guests become part of a digital data stream
  • Additional Enhancements: Many scenes that guests have experienced since 1982 were updated and improved for the 2008 reopening. To make the Audio-Animatronics figures more realistic, they received a thorough makeover, to include their hair, costumes, and the reprogramming of their movements using the latest technologies.
Spaceship Earth, a shiny, silver geodesic sphere weighing 16 million pounds and measuring 180 feet high, is the architectural symbol of the Epcot® theme park. Standing on massive legs 15 feet above ground level, it forms an entranceway to Future World and sets the theme for a new kind of showplace for man's achievements: past, present, and future.

Within the geodesic sphere is one of four ride-through adventures in Future World. Guests board vehicles which spiral up into the globe past three-dimensional scenes peopled with Audio-Animatronics® figures.
Spaceship Earth highlights milestones in communications vital to man's survival from Cro-Magnon cave paintings to electronic space communications. Scenes include Egyptian hieroglyphics, Phoenician traders, Greek dramatists, Roman and Islamic empire builders, medieval monasteries, Gutenberg's print shop, Renaissance Italy, and Michelangelo at work on the Sistine ceiling. Then comes the important eras in modern communications--newspapers, motion pictures, telephones, radio, television, computers, and electronic networks for information.

Three years of painstaking research have gone into every detail of the show. Hieroglyphics are authentic, ancient dialects are correct, and the quadrant held by a medieval Islamic astronomer is an exact replica of the real thing. Even costuming for the 57 lifelike Audio-Animatronics® figures has been thoroughly studied for historical accuracy.

Spaceship Earth took two years and two months to construct--more than 40,800 labor hours. Computer aided design was used in part, even though CAD was still in its infancy. Next, a small model (1/16 inch = one foot) was made and tested in a wind tunnel against winds of 110 miles per hour. Once the final design was approved, construction began. First, over one hundred 14-inch diameter concrete-filled steel piles were driven into the ground to depths between 120 and 150 feet. These pilings became the foundation for the three pairs of legs which would support Spaceship Earth.

The geodesic sphere's design required no scaffolding or temporary support during construction. Adjustable support beams, called quadrupods, were attached to an hexagonal platform resting on the six legs. This platform serves the attraction as a maintenance facility. Struts were attached to the quadrupods and to each other in circumferential rings. A pre-constructed 50-foot diameter top was eventually hoisted into position to complete the upper portion of the sphere. Then workers assembled the bottom portion underneath the support legs. The massive round column at the bottom of Spaceship Earth is an elevator connected to the structure.

Spaceship Earth is actually two separate spherical structures, one inside the other. The facade of the outer sphere is positioned two feet away from the inner core. Once the beams were in place for the inner sphere, 954 enclosure panels were placed over it. The panels were rubber-coated to waterproof the structure. The decorative outer sphere is set off from the inner sphere by 467 four-inch aluminum pipes called stand offs.
This outer sphere is made up of alucobond paneling (there are 11,324 individual aluminum facets making up the outer sphere). Alucobond is polyethylene plastic chemically bonded to two layers of anodized aluminum. There is one-inch spacing between the panels, allowing them to expand and contract in the Florida heat and permitting rainwater to flow through and subsequently into two gutter systems located at the geodesic sphere's equator and below. Both gutters were sloped to drain water through the support legs and into the canals surrounding the Epcot® theme park. From there the water flows through a retention pond where oils and pollutants are removed before returning the water to the environment.

Once construction of the geodesic sphere was completed, Walt Disney "Imagineers" then installed the many sets and Audio-Animatronics® figures for the attraction. Each figure and special effects, including light, sound, and the unique smellitzers, were programmed; Spaceship Earth was ready to go.
"Spaceship Earth is more than a show about communications," says show designer Pat Scanlon. "It's a testimony to human enterprise for surviving and flourishing on this planet."

Forty thousand years of human history are condensed into a 15-minute journey. The top portion of the sphere is a vast planetarium, 150 feet in diameter and the largest of its kind, where planet Earth is seen suspended in space, surrounded by thousands of sparkling stars.

Spaceship Earth blends special effects, music, dimensional sets, and lifelike Audio-Animatronics® figures into an entertaining and informative experience. It is based on a concept developed by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, that Earth is man's vehicle in space.

  • Time Tunnel: Lighting effects whirl and pulsate as the vehicles move through the space-time continuum into the past.
  • Prehistoric Hunters: Guests emerge from the time vortex to arrive in prehistoric time. Hunters confront a woolly mammoth.
  • Prehistoric Cave People: A prehistoric shaman recounts the story of a hunt to several attentive tribe members gathered around a fire. Other members of the group record the hunt on walls of the cave with crude etchings and paintings.
  • Egyptian Temple: The vehicles move ahead thousands of years to the "new kingdom" of ancient Egypt. Here, the walls and columns of a temple are being decorated with hieroglyphs. Against the backdrop of the Nile, an Egyptian pounds papyrus reeds to make papyrus scrolls. Beyond, an Egyptian pharaoh dictates a letter to his scribe, who is recording the words on papyrus scrolls. Each civilization now has its own form of writing, which none of the others can understand.
  • The Phoenicians:This is the beginning of a new era in written communication. In this scene, two Phoenician trader-merchants are exchanging scrolls from boat to boat. These practical people have developed the alphabet, making written communication accessible to common people. The Phoenicians were a dominant trading force of the Mediterranean and they spread the idea of the alphabet throughout their known world.
  • Ancient Greece: The Greeks were great inventors of the future. First they create public schools, and then they introduce an intriguing new subject called mathematics. With mathematics comes mechanical technology, and the high-tech life we enjoy today.
  • Ancient Rome: Inspired by the Greeks, the Romans built a great empire. To move armies around their empire, they created a system of roads which connected people, as well as ideas and information. A Roman senator hand a message to a centurion who will carry it to one of Rome's far-a-way garrisons. In the distance we get a glimpse of the network of roads that spread throughout the known world.
  • Burning Of The Library Of Alexandria: Just beyond the Ancient Rome, Guests see the burning of the great Library of Alexandria.
  • Arab And Jewish Scholars: Unbeknownst to the West, there are copies of many of the books in Alexandria's library in libraries of the Middle East, being watched over by Arab and Jewish scholars. A group of Islamic scholars from diverse Middle Eastern cultures discuss marvelous manuscripts of science, astronomy, medicine and art. Jewish wise men also study in a great library. Overhead, an astronomer probes the secrets of the heavens from an observatory tower.
  • Medieval Monastery: Guests arrive in Western Europe during the the Middle Ages. Monks are reproducing classical and religious wisdom by hand. The monks work hard to keep up with demand, but there aren't enough books for everyone who wants one.
  • Gutenberg Press: Johannes Gutenberg invents the movable type printing press. By combining the elements of metal type with ink, paper and press, Gutenberg transformed the possibilities of the written word. We see pressmen sorting type and working the large press. Gutenberg himself is closely inspecting a page from the Bible.
  • Renaissance Readers: Books make it easier to invent the future in every field—medicine, music, art. This great explosion of art and innovation is called "The Renaissance." The Renaissance is fired by man's quest for knowledge, from classical sources as well as contemporary. A rebirth of classical learning takes place in Italy. A mentor reads Virgil's "Aeneid" to two students, while a musician plays a piece of music he has just written.
  • Renaissance Artists: In a Renaissance workshop, painters and sculptors explore their crafts. An artist is carving a statue. His assistant is nearby, mixing paints.
  • Sistine Chapel: As the vehicles pass through the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo is putting the finishing touches on one of his greatest masterpieces.
  • Steam Press: The vehicles arrive in the 1860s, in New York City, where we see the result of steam power harnessed to the printing press. In a printing shop, as a pressman works on the daily newspaper, there is a glimpse of the headline … something about the Civil War.
  • Newsboy: Near the printing shop, a young newsboy on the street corner sells daily papers shouting out the headline--"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Lee surrenders at Appomattox! Civil War over!"
  • Telegraph: In the Western United States, a reporter has come into the local telegraph office to send the news back East of the driving of the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah. For the first time the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean are connected.
  • Telephone: Passing telephone operators at their switchboards in the early 1900s, Guests can hear snippets of telephone conversations. For the first time, people could talk with their loved ones, even when physically far apart.
  • Cinema: Cinema in the 1930s--Guests can view a movie newsreel of Jesse Owens great victories in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
  • Radio: Across the way is a radio station, where an excited newscaster is sharing a great moment with radio listeners—Amelia Earhart has just become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic!
  • Television: The vehicles now enter the 1960s, when television audiences around the world are sharing in an historic moment—Neal Armstrong has just become the first man to walk on the moon. A family is gathered around the television, watching him step down onto the lunar surface.
  • Mainframe Computers: To send a man to the moon, we had to create a new language made up of ones and zeroes, spoken not by man, but by computers. At first very large and very expensive computers, owned by very few. Guests pass through a mainframe computer room where the rather large mechanism seems to spread out forever. Several technicians are attending to it.
  • A Garage In California: In the 1960s, people saw the possibilities of the computer and many wanted one in their house. But young people in California solved that little problem. The time machine passes right through a garage in California in 1977, where an exhausted young man sleeps over the prototype computer he is creating. It is a "personal computer."
  • Data-Flow Tunnel ("Tech Tunnel"): Young entrepreneurs with a passion for shaping the future put the power of the computer in everyone's hands. And once again, the world is poised on the brink of a new Renaissance. Guests travel through a tunnel of bright, flowing binary code.
  • Outer Space (Spaceship Earth Planetarium): Ascending ever upward since the dawn of time, the Time Machine (ride vehicle) has finally reached the uppermost part of Spaceship Earth. Before beginning the descent, Guests can view the blue and white oasis of Earth against the dark and mysterious star-sprinkled galaxies.
  • Inventing The Future: See yourself in the future. After 30,000 years of time travel, the world finally has no boundaries and is networked, online, a truly global community poised to shape the future of mankind. Using the touch-screens in the time machine vehicles, Guests answer a series of questions about what they would like to see in their future. What is important to us? Health? Leisure? Work? Home? After choosing between two answers in a series of questions about interests and preferences, Guests receive a personalized, humorous animation-style view of the future.
  • Show Conclusion: Guests return to the present and the journey comes to an end.
After Guests disembark the Spaceship Earth time travel experience, they are invited to visit "Project Tomorrow: Inventing the World of Tomorrow," an exhibit filled with interactive games and displays where Siemens brings to life the ideas and technologies they are developing to make the world a better place for the future. Guests are given a glimpse into the world of tomorrow in the areas of medicine, transportation, and responsible energy management across the globe. Project Tomorrow includes the following experiences:
  • Body Builder: 3-D interactive game that enables users to assemble a digital human body, simulating the Siemens technology developed to perform remote surgeries.
  • Innervision: A game that enables a view into the future of medical diagnostics in the home, including the testing of different lobes of the brain, such as memory, decision-making, eye-hand coordination and more.
  • Super Driver: Driving simulation video game that showcases motor vehicle accident avoidance systems developed by Siemens.
  • Power City: A game that demonstrates how to manage power and energy in a growing city.
The Spaceship Earth Icon (Mickey's arm and hand holding a gigantic magical wand that splashed "pixie dust" over the "Epcot" name spelled out in huge script letters) was originally added to the exterior of the Spaceship Earth geosphere in honor of the 15-month-long WALT DISNEY WORLD® Millennium Celebration that began on October 1, 1999. The icon removal process began on July 9, 2007 and was scheduled to be completed by mid-September 2007, restoring the geosphere to its original state.

The total combined height of Spaceship Earth and the Spaceship Earth "Epcot" icon was approximately 240 feet. The height was measured from the base to the sparkles above the tip of Sorcerer Mickey's wand. Here you are a few facts about the now-gone Spaceship Earth icon:
  • 250 tons: Weight of steel frame supporting the icon
  • 100, 000 pounds: Weight of Mickey's gloved hand, the wand, and the "Epcot" lettering
  • Mickey's hand, wrist, and sleeve height - 93 feet, 2 inches high (about 5 stories)
  • Mickey's hand held a wand measuring 93 feet, 8 inches long
  • 250, 000: Number of shimmering metallic eye-catchers used to spell "Epcot"
  • 36 feet: Height of the tallest letters in "Epcot"
  • The starburst consisted of 12, 000 pounds of aluminum and fiberglass.
It is now time to check out Spaceship Earth. Are you ready? Then, let's go back in time together...


The loading area, where our adventure begins:


The retro warning video:


Say "cheese!":


The ascent:


Entering a primeval, hostile world:


Notice the rock formation:


Passing by a mammoth (the screen was off):


Here we are, in ancient Egypt:


Part of this facade looks very realistic:


The back of these facades reveals that they were actually made by a certain Egyptian known as Wed Calif:


This unknown Egyptian is inventing Papyrus, a sort of paper:



The Pharaoh in his court:


"Taxes, taxes, and more taxes":


"Progress. Umpf!":


Time to visit the Phoenicians:


A closeup of the items being sold:



On the opposite side, you can see this very simplistic reproduction of a village:


This arch leads us to ancient Greece:


A teacher is doing what he does best - teaching:


Not everyone is listening, though. One of the pupils constantly falls asleep, only to be awaken by another student (the guy sitting next to him, the one with the beard):



  1. Thanks! This is great!

    Not to be a stickler, but it is actually a common mistake to credit Vic Perrin to the first narration. According to Marty Sklar in a 2008 interview, the narrator was Lawrence Dobkin!

  2. Great photos, thanks for posting.

    A while back I started digging through some older construction liens from when Epcot was being built, and ran across this very interesting group. These are all from a contractor called AllState Erectors Inc. for work on Spaceship Earth including what appears to be some expensive re-work and delays. Particularly interesting is $480,256 to install the exterior panels, and another $400,000 to "Refasten" the panels.

    Installation of 954 Triangular Panels Covered with Alucobond $485,526
    Unload Alucobond Panels $9807
    Clean Alcobond Panels $15,330
    Load and Haul Alcobond Panels $70,797
    Unload, Install Suspension Beam, Gutter, Catwalk & Misc Items $31,701
    Refasten Alcobond Panels - FIX $400,012
    Obtain Information for W.E.D. Report - FIX $20,387
    Remove Gutter/Catwalk for Alterations, Modify and Reinstall $39,131
    Unload, Sort and Install Truncated Panel Supports $4593
    Verbal Orders of the Demarst Company, Inc $2333
    Cut and Refab Panel Frames, Cut and Install Panel Facets, Cut and Install Connecting Trim $272,749
    Install Downspouts (Rainleaders) $4230
    Fix Panel Supports $22910
    Rework Safety Barrier Frames $8590
    Checking, Measuring, and Recording the Misaligmnet of the Standoffs with Gusset Plates and Additional Support Framing, $14,471
    Install Structural Reinforcing at Cut Edges of Truncated Alucobond Panel Facets and Attach Edge Trim $15,176
    Cut and Modify Misalinged Structural Support System for Truncated Panels $6370
    Interest Due on Outstanding Balance from August, September and October 1982 $4784
    Delayed Starting Date After Contract Start Date $10,294
    Lost Time Due to Improper Access Road $2207
    McDougal Panel Removal and Replacement $686
    Additional Labor and Equipment Charges incurred because of job site and project conditions $391,625

  3. How did you get these pictures?!?

  4. As an annual pass holder I've been through Spaceship Earth at least 100 times. My one minor complaint is that the Pharoh's headpiece is so obviously plastic.

  5. Was the early TV scenes full show loops in the 1994 version or just brief loops? One show was I think Fiber McGee as I heard the voice of the wife for 1 second and another more obvious was the Silly Song during the Dwarf Party in SW.

  6. It's "Neil" Armstrong. Not "Neal".


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