Friday, October 7, 2011

Spaceship Earth: A Technical Marvel, Both Inside and Out: Part 2

Spaceship Earth is an original Epcot attraction, which although updated through the years, has remained essentially the same in concept and staging as it was on the park’s opening day in 1982. The attraction was co-designed by science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, author of the novel Fahrenheit 451. The term “Spaceship Earth” Was originally coined by futurist Buckminster Fuller, who devised the structural mathematics of the geodesic dome and was at one time, the president of Mensa.

The attraction inside the massive spherical structure of Spaceship Earth is a slow moving “dark ride” during which visitors travel in “Time Machine” vehicles on a track that spirals its way up to the top of the sphere and then eventually back down for rider disembarkation. The attraction traces the history of communication on Earth from its crudest form, when out of necessity, prehistoric man used simple communication to coordinate hunting parties, to an idealized glimpse into the future where technology has been harnessed to enhance and enrich the everyday lives of humanity. The “Time Machine” vehicles utilize the OmniMover ride
conveyance system which transports riders through the spherical structure past a series of scenes that use Disney’s patented Audio Animatronic figures, elaborate sets, and various audio, visual, and even olfactory special effects to tell the story of human communication through the ages. Riders are guided on their journey through time by the narration of English actress Judi Dench.                                      

Some of the more notable scenes depicting the early development of communication involve recreations of an ancient Greek theatre performance, Venetian merchants trading goods...

Arab scholars studying texts...

a Christian monk who has fallen asleep while transcribing a Bible text...


 and Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Later scenes depict the invention of the printing press and the introduction of television into the American household.

Another pivotal scene depicts the advent of the personal computer and includes a recreation set in a California garage, where a young man, believed to be Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, can be seen tinkering around with what would become one of the most impactful communication inventions of the last hundred years; the personal computer.

Always a favorite of mine is a transition scene meant to signal the fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of the Dark Ages. This scene consists of dark lighting, the rubble of Roman columns, an effervescence of steam and the infusion of a pungent odor,
meant to further underscore the destruction of Rome's grand empire. Rider opinions vary as to what this odor calls to mind, but to me it smells exactly like smoked mozzarella!

As the Time Machine vehicles reach the upper section of Spaceship Earth’s structure, riders can gaze upward to a star field projected onto to the upper dome, which is reminiscent of an old planetarium show. The vehicles then rotate backward as the riders begin a slow (but steep!) descent back down to the lower section of the dome for unloading. As they descend back to sea level, riders can look into the future as they take part in an interactive experience via the display screens mounted in each Time Machine vehicle.

Riders are asked a series of scenario and preference questions, which they respond to by using the display’s touch screen capability. Those responses are used to create a futuristic animated vignette, which features characters complete with the superimposed faces of each rider. The rider photos are captured at the start of the attraction during the ascent into the upper part of the sphere’s structure. These
interactive animated vignettes, a component of the last Spaceship Earth update, provide a truly unique and whimsical conclusion to the attraction. This infusion of “Disney-esque” whimsy engages younger riders perhaps more than any other aspect of the show and helps make Spaceship Earth an attraction appropriate for all ages.

If you have not already read it, check out Part I of this post by clicking on the link below....

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