Podcast Episode 27: Tomorrow’s Child – Spaceship Earth

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Welcome to Episode 27 of the Retro Disney World Podcast: “Tomorrow’s Child” – We appreciate your support and hope you have been enjoying each and every episode. Be sure to check out some of our previous shows.

Listener Mail

RE: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Subs

Candler Hobbs wrote regarding the images of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea images of the subs in transport that were discussed during episode 26, Tiny Bubbles, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  They were made in the Tampa area and transported to Orlando.  How stated that the most famous photo of a sub on a flatbed truck  might have been taken in Barstow, Florida, but he asked listeners to correct him if that was wrong.  The photo was taken in Plant City Florida. Todd says not much has changed since the photo was taken and he found this by pulling up street views from Google Earth.  This is linked in the show page on the website.  There is another image of the sub in front of the Presbyterian Church.  Candler writes that he was doing a little research about this and found more photos.  How explains that they had to find a route for trucking that allowed enough clearance for the height of the subs. They didn’t travel on I-4 due to some underpasses not having enough clearance.  How states he read that by the time the subs arrived at WDW, the tires were smoking and falling apart because the truck was not rated to carry the weighted subs.  They didn’t use Goodyear rubber!

Modern day Plant City at the corner of West Reynolds Street and Collins Street.

RE: Five Legged Goat at the Contemporary Resort
@CoderBrad asked us about the origins of the five legged goat on the Contemporary mural, How informs us on every detail possible regarding this.Coder Brad heard that it had to do with humans not creating things of perfection. How did a lot of research on this topic.  How stated at first he thought it was intentional due to the fact that the 5th leg does cross from one tile to another, or that it was a mistake  but since the tiles were made off site and had to be inspected and approved, he thought this was unlikely and that the leg had to be placed intentionally.  How states there is a myth that only God can create perfection, so part of the creation process for artists should have imperfect work.  Myth is part of Amish folklore, Persian rugs are made with this in mind as well but How could not find anything objectively pointing toward this.  He also looked into Native American Rug making as a possible source for the imperfection, thinking Mary Blair in her initial research might have come across this lore. He found a 1924 book on Google about NA rug making, but found nothing that would be along this note.  He also found in researching that there is a tradition of the spirit line beginning in the 1950s, the artist doesn’t want to trap creativity, leaves a thread visible to have the creativity feed from the finished piece to the next rug you create.  Beginning in the 1970s/80s there were people making rugs with intentional flaws which were passed down from their Grandmothers.  But this still doesn’t align with any Native American rug making culture.  How asked Stephanie on Twitter, there was a photo from the last Mary Blair book to come out by Joel Canemaker (sp?), and he mentions that there is nothing to link a quote about the mistake to Mary Blair.   How researched Disney publications and couldn’t find anything older than 2002 that even mentions the mistake.  It’s still a mystery, Mary Blair never explained the mistake to anyone. How mentions as well that there were 4 or 5 other artists who worked on the mural as well and that somewhere you can see the signatures on the tiles of the other artists.  JT pictures How in a library or bookstore looking up the history of rug making.  Todd tells listeners to go up to the Contempo Cafe to view the tiles in person.  brian said that at Christmas time you can buy a 5 legged goat cookie at the pop up bakery in the Contemporary. He thinks they have rice crispy treats with the 5 legged goat.  

RE: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Scuba Diving Suit
Reese is curious about a 20k scuba diving outfit, which ended up at The Living Seas & The Seas With Nemo. Brian helps us figure out this one, but let us know if you recall this piece. Brian says the cue did have a lot of artifacts from 20,000 Leagues and other nautical types of items.  Brian also remembers this diving suit.  It has probably been removed to be placed in another area.  How says that in the Living Seas episode https://www.retrowdw.com/podcast/podcast-episode-19-the-deluge/ the cue was discussed along with all of the nautical memorabilia that was on view due to the length of time you had to wait to get into watch the movie.  You had to go from the cue to the movie to the hydrolators.  

RE: Pirate Treasure

Rob in Las Vegas who enjoys the podcast and visited DW for the first time in 1979, he remembers a coin machine in the area as you exited the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride.  He recalled that you pressed the month/day/year into the coin which resembled pirate treasure.  He remembers it as embossed.  He lost his when he was 8 and asks what happened to the machine.  How relates that this type of machine started in Disneyland in 1967, the same type of machine came to WDW in late 73 early 74 until sometime between 78 and 80.  How explains the location of the machine in today’s space.  When you come out of the attraction to the left there was a little arcade inside of an enclosed space.  There was a similar space in Disneyland.  Disney would purchase arcade games for the locations which housed the games and then customize them, How thinks Colin Campbell worked on this.  This embossing machine was located in the Pirates of the Caribbean exit arcade.  You would get a coin that looked like a piece of 8, with a hole in the center to put a leather strap. You could custom stamp the coin with whatever you wanted 13 or 14 characters in length.  You would move the embossing part to the letters you wanted and then pull down on the lever to emboss the letter. When the machine was removed in about 1980, any pieces of eight that were left were taken and sold in the Pirates gift shop.  How also says that if you would come off of the ride and turn right into what is now the salon, was where the gift shop was located.  The space where the arcade was located became a photo op space in the mid 80’s where you could have your photo taken on a ship with a ship’s wheel.  How states the most popular prop for photos was the sombrero.  Everytime you would get off of the ride, there was someone having their picture taken wearing a sombrero. JT adds they were probably getting and spreading lice in the stack of sombreros.  Todd says there must be literally 1000’s of pictures around with pictures of people in sombreros.  JT said there should be a place to post them, like piratesombreros.com.  brian adds that he has seen a lot of pictures in sombrero’s from the Mexican pavilion next to the tequila place. brian adds that he doesn’t think about sombreros being from Pirates.  Pirates make him think of guns because his nephew made him buy 2 flintlock guns about 10 years ago.  He left them in the rental car and had to pay the rental car company $40 to get them shipped to him.  JT asks if they were pink and blue, and brian says no, they had the orange tops on them.  How says he had the original ones before they put the orange caps on.  Todd asks How about the coin embossing machine stating that you had to pull down hard on the lever to get the letter pressed.  He says yes and you had to change the disk with every letter.  Todd finds a picture of the machine. JT asks if there are any still around, and brian states yes.  Todd explains what the machine looks like from the picture, it has a large dial, you moved a pointer to the letter that you wanted to make, then pull the lever and then make a space and move to the next letter. Now to make something similar you just type out the letters and the machine does the work, like a dog tag making machine.

For questions, comments and concerns, please write us – podcast@retrowdw.com

Audio Rewind

Last month, the audio rewind song was JP and the Silver Stars, you were correct! The winner is Frank Schell, winning a set of RetroWDW Pins.  Great job Frank!  The song was “Laura’s theme” from Dr. Chavago, Byran said the alternate title is “Somewhere my Love”. 

Todd intros this months audio rewind 

If you think you know the answer to this month’s audio rewind puzzler, email us! podcast@retrowdw.comThis month the winner will get a pack of RetroWDW Pins!

All entries due 4/3/2017 and a winner will be selected. Even if you don’t win, you will gain an entry into the NEW PRIZE POT!

JT runs down the prize pot: January through summer is the first prize pot; Summer through the end of the year is prize pot #2.

Prize Pot

This year, we are going to do a new and exciting prize giveaway. The RetroWDW Podcast will have two prize pots this year; one summer, one winter.  The first prize pot item is the Walt Disney at the World’s Fair Four CD Set. This month, we are having How add a mystery gift…The item will not be revealed, and this is the first time we are adding a mystery item to the pot.

Main Topic

This month, we rejoin at the gates of EPCOT Center, to take a ride on Spaceship Earth. An opening day attraction that has changed a few times but lots of aspects remain the same.

EPCOT was an amazing achievement and still is, so join us as we take you back to construction, opening day and the ride itself. Guided by the retro master himself, How goes into great detail taking you through the geodesic sphere. We also mention the Ray Bradbury script, which you can find here. 

Todd explains that they are covering Spaceship Earth, which is still an attraction because of the history of the ride and how it fits into the general overall beginning of Epcot Center.

How starts by mentioning that in an earlier episode the genesis of Epcot was discussed with the famous story of how designers pushed together the 2 models, the industrial model that became future world and the world showcase together to get this “thing”.There was an internal feeling that Epot had to be explained. In the beginning the project was a heady project giving people a new experience. Disney was influenced and inspired  by the World’s Fair in New York in 1964 and the 1967 Expo in Montreal.  Many ideas were copied, including the geodesic dome. At the World’s Fair there was an American pavilion that included a history story written by Ray Bradbury, the futurist and science fiction author.  He and Walt Disney became friends.  Ray got to ride the People Mover and the animatronic Lincoln before they were finished on a visit to the Disney Studio (WED?).  Ray Bradbury relates a story that he and Walt were to have a 30 minute meeting that turned into a 4 hour meeting and Walt’s secretary was furious because she had to reschedule Walt’s other meetings.  Fast forward to the 1970’s someone on the concept team got the idea to contact Ray Bradbury.  The team gave Ray a copy of a document from Fred Williams from the Amber (?) School of Communications at USC. Fred worked with the Walt Disney team to put together a  timeline of events in human history that were really important in the area of information and communications, and what inventions were created to propel the events forward.  Ray Bradbury took those events and tied them together with a story.  This was done at the very early stages of Epcot development.  How explains that in the early drawings and models, like the one from 1978 had the placement of Spaceship Earth, but it was not yet a geodesic dome.  It was to be a domed theater which would show a movie taking you on a trip through history showing inventions and driving forces of the development of information and communication, as How states much like the obelisk in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.  This movie was to set visitors up for the exploration of all of the other pavilions.  On July 22nd, 1977, Bradbury finished up “Man and his Spaceship Earth” which he calls a concept by Ray Bradbury.  How notes that there will be a link to this fascinating document, some of which did make it into the original Spaceship Earth iteration.  Bradbury writes: “Man and his Spaceship Earth is an introduction to Epcot Center/Future World.  It is an optimistic statement. In our chapters of the man in his Spaceship Earth story we will seek the guest’s understanding of the relationship between communication and survival. The Epcot Center/Future World will be depicted as “Today’s Forum”.  Here the tools of survival are in continual “hands on” use, for our tools have become the electronic world of information and communication.  These “tools” will help better understand and manage our “instruction book for Spaceship Earth” with accurate and relevant information about Energy, Health, The Sea, The Land, Outer Space, Communications and Transportation.

This document is really interesting because Bradbury talks about 3 time periods which actually ended up reflecting in the attraction as it stood. He explains that Bradbury’s concept shows also how the project was headed in the form of sponsorship, that they were not looking for a telecommunications sponsor, but computer companies like IBM.  The first time period represents the recording of information, the 2nd period is dissemination of information and the 3rd period is the era of processing information, which is where the computer sponsorship came in. 

There was a term you would see all around Epcot in the 1980’s where they talked about the age of information which is completely lost on us now. The concept of having computers would help us sort through all kinds of information, which is still an issue today with “fake news”.

Once Disney signed Bell as a sponsor you can see that the story told by Bradbury was tweaked to highlight the sponsor.

How explains that Disney didn’t coin the term Spaceship Earth, they used the term that was originally coined by Buckminster Fuller in his 1968 book “Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth”.  The book is about relating earth to being a spaceship, it has a finite amount of resources and can’t be resupplied. 

Gordon Hoopes was the project designer for Spaceship Earth, his intention was to create an atmosphere for the guests to raise their spirits and kindle their excitement for the human experience in the future.  That’s what brought about the idea for the sphere.

In the beginning designers wanted to elevate the sphere so that guests could walk under it, this brought on a lot of engineering challenges.  MIT was hired to wind tunnel test a model to see how the elevation of the sphere would react under different wind conditions to be sure elevating would work for guest safety.  Todd queried the team asking how many legs does Spaceship Earth have.  How guessed correctly that there are 6 legs. It’s three tripods with 2 legs on each tripod.

How continues, to explain that as you enter EPCOT, you see 2 main tripods and then in the rear there is another tripod.  If you would put this ball on these points it would rip the shell.  Designers had to figure out how to hold up this structure.  Pylons were driven about 160ft into the ground, then these 6 legs come up to a truss system that creates a platform or table, it’s hexagonal in shape.  The top of the table would carry the weight of the show building then the edge of the table would carry the weight of the domes. There are 2 domes that make up the complete sphere.  

During construction the show components were built on the platform, before the shell was completed.  quadrupods were developed for this project. They were pyramidal steel structures which were welded off site, they were then bolted into the hexagon.  The quadrupods were instrumental in creating Spaceship Earth.  

The quadrupods were up the side of the platform.  Then they started to build triangular steel structures also welded off site trying to use correct methods for welding outside of the heat and humidity of Florida.  As the structures were being built radiographs were taken for structural integrity.  There were over 4,000 radiographic exposures taken.

Now the dome is able to be built.  The top dome ¾  rests on the table edge next to the quadrupods, and the bottom of the dome and the bottom ¼ of the dome hangs off of the quadrupods. With the triangles built, they had the first  shell of Spaceship Earth. The first shell is made of steel and covered in neoprene fabric creating a water and fireproof covering. That sealed the building.  To make the outer 2nd shell they used a product called Alucobond which is polyethylene plastic sandwiched between 2 sheets of aluminum.  Long term stability and safety of Alucobond was tested extensively.  This Alucobond shell is what you see today.

Todd says there is an urban legend that the outside of Spaceship Earth was so highly polished that it would ignite the surrounding landscape on fire as the sun hit it, or if you stood in a certain place in the World of Motion you could get a sunburn at the right time of day all of which is false.

As the inside of the shell is made of the large triangles, John Hench decided that the large triangles were too big to use on the outer skin; he divided the large triangles into 4 separate triangles that form the pyramids on the outer skin.  

How continues to explain why there are two shells, one is for weatherproofing, and aesthetics, but most important was the weather prospective.  There had to be a place for rain.  If the weatherproof shell was the only shell it would drench guests as they walked.  The rainwater goes through the outer skin through the cracks then adheres to the inner shell and drips down to the middle into a gutter of sorts at the center.  There is about a foot of difference between the skins.

It took 26 months to complete.  The National Society of Engineers honored Spaceship Earth as one of the top engineering projects of the year in 1982.

How pointed out that the air conditioning system uses air cannons that only push cool air on to the ride track, so outside of the track it’s very hot because the cost to cool all interior space would be expensive.

How takes over and talks about the entrance to the ride.  He explains there was a poster stand that you would walk by which had a really cool poster of Spaceship Earth. The poster would clue people in as to what the ride was all about. Todd interjects with his first time at the ride in 1986 he was concerned there was some sort of high speed ride with a loop inside. All discussed that maybe there were high speed looping motorcycles inside.  How thinks they had looping motorcycles at the Epcot Circus.

How talks about the enormous mural on the wall as you entered with the caveman and spaceship and astronaut.  The mural was created by Claudio Mazzoli who was Italian.  He met Marc Davis and went to work at WED.  He worked there 8 years. He was also the conceptual artist for all of the scenes in Spaceship Earth.  After WED, Cladio went to Universal Studios, working on projects like the ET ride. How thinks he is back in Italy and is in charge of some theme park there.  

How continues, that after the mural you enter a large circular room.  Todd says it hasn’t changed at all since opening. How asked if there were still little electric sparks in the walls and Todd said he thinks so, they were meant to simulate action as you get in your time machine.  How continues stating most omni movers have a straight entrance platform, but SE has a unique carousel type loading area, similar to the People Mover in the Magic Kingdom.  Todd and How explain there are about 5-7 cars engaging on the moving ramp for guests to enter and how well this system works.  How states if you look at the plans for load and unload it looks like an “S”. It’s very efficient and space saving.  Todd explains there is something unique about the vehicles and that there is a triangle shape every 2-3 cars, How says it’s part of the motor power system. How talks about another episode, brian adds it was the one with Tom Nabby, where they discussed that in the early days of the ride it would frequently break down and Tom explained that the motors were underpowered for the system and the cars.  Eventually all the motors were replaced. Also How adds the turn around at the top of the ride didn’t work right early on and cast members had to turn the cars around manually.  The engineers and maintenance staff at WDW solved this problem.  

How begins the show tour of Spaceship Earth with an intro recording  inviting guests to explore communication sponsored by AT&T introducing the host Walter Cronkite.  How explained that you would get in the blue vehicle which did not have screens only speakers, as you begin to move up the attraction you can look up and see a starfield, Todd said that it was his understanding that there was originally fog as well, that they only added stars in the Cronkite version which is the second iteration of the ride. Todd mentions that this attraction was the only omni mover that had headrests because of the steep ascent and descent.  Todd remembers the first time he rode SE and it was unsettling how steep the descent was. How states because of the amazing engineering of the ride, it would always be well balanced.  How explains that in the last panel of the starfield is the first hidden Mickey.  How says these were grain of wheat bulbs not LED lights. 

How  continues that the very first version of the ride had a slightly different script than the Walter Cronkite version which was much closer to the version that Ray Bradbury wrote.  It was either narrated by Laurence Dobkins who narrated the Hall of Presidents or Vic Parin.  brian states how incredible it is after all of these years that there is still dispute over who narrated the first version.  Todd says that Vic Perin narrated a TV series called the Outer Limits, he also was the voice in the pre-show for the Universe of Energy, it probably didn’t make sense for him to do both narrations but there is only 1 poor recording of the original ride and it sounds more like Vic Perrin.  Marty Sklar said at the Epcot 30 anniversary that it was definity Laurence Dobkins.  

How continues with a sound bite from the Walter Cronkite recording. Walter Cronkite narrates “taking us back 50,000 years to the dawn of recorded  history, to track the path of communications from it’s early beginnings to the promise of the future”.  

How describes the first scene at the top of the hill we travel back to cro magnon days, which today has a 3-D version of a fight between a mastodon and cavemen, at that time there were just slides projected, Todd adds they were dim and hard to see.  How said it looked like models that were built for a scene they would build, but in the end just shot photos. Todd adds that it goes back to the discussion in the World of Motion episode that as you entered that ride it was dimly lit and there wasn’t much going on because your eyes were still  adjusting from bright Florida sunshine to a dark ride.  brian interjects to correct How on his extinct animals, it’s a wooly mammoth not a mastodon. 

The ride continues with Walter Cronkite narration about ancient hunters working together to meet the challenges in a hostel world. Back to the wooly mammoth thing, this was similar to the 1964 World’s Fair Skyway. How continues to the first scene which depicts cave painters, we hear Walter Cronkite say “to primal tribes the art of communicating survival tactics is passed down to the new generation through the art of storytelling. Ancestors created a lasting reminder with cave paintings. How explains that there is a shamen dressed with headgear telling the story and a caveman artist painting pictures of animals, there is a little kid blowing pigments in his hand and leaving a handprint, there is someone grinding pigment and there are animal bones scattered.  Todd adds that the bones are cast from real bones from the Page Museum in LA, it’s a saber tooth tiger, a lion, a cave bear and 2 dire wolves. brian adds that the 2007 version of the ride was the first time that the cave paintings were animated. Everyone agrees. This scene is very dark and the shamen was standing in front of the fire which was at the time smoke with red light projected on it. 

we go from the cave painting scene, the premise of the scene is how the cavemen survived, passing along this information of hunting to the next generation.  

We next move to ancient Egypt. Walter Cronkite narrates, “ages later stories and knowledge are transcribed with complex drawings and symbols.  hieroglyphics mark the rise of written language and soon with papyrus scrolls the word begins to travel ‘‘ How continues that as you approach the scene of the Pharaohs, on the right hand side, you see a temple.  Way up at the top of one of the columns was a guy who was writing hieroglyphics, moving his hand up and down as if tapping on a stone, this guy is not in the scene today, probably in the reno of 07.  Todd adds that the hieroglyphics are accurate to the gods anubis, sobek and thoth.  How continues that on the left hand side there is a guy with a “beatles wig” working on a papyrus.  Todd says he remembers the tapping sound that cut through everything, even though he is never actually hitting anything.  How says the skins had to be done well since there wasn’t much clothing on this animatronic. Todd says they look a little oily, How replies that it was really hot in Egypt. How continues, paper is the invention that drives us forward in this scene, we move on to the guy making paper, we have the pharaoh and his wife and a really intimidating looking guy that looks like President Taft.  He has the agent that he is dictating to writing on the papyrus. Todd adds that this is actual Egyptian hieroglyphics that can be translated, and he gets the translation if anyone is interested. 

How continues to the next scene the Phonetians. Walter Cronkite narrates “the value of writing for accurate records appeals to Phonetian merchants, they create an alphabet simple enough for any to learn and share this new tool at ports along the Meditteranian”  How continues that one of the effects that has been lost is that this scene is supposed to depict two people in ships pulled up next to each other so you should be able to see both boats rocking, there is a guy holding a rope to hold the 2 boats together.  brian adds that there used to be a 3rd in the scene off to the right approaching the 2 front boats and that boat was moved in one of the renovations, this boat helped to force perspective as you approached the scene.  

Walter Cronkite narrates “ in classic greece the alphabet grows and flowers with new expression and a new stage of storytelling emerges, a stage in which we examine our world and ourselves, the Theatre is born.”  How says this scene is changed a little since the Walter Cronkite version.  In the past when you got to the scene the same columns were there, but they were putting on the play Edipus Rex. There was an overly animated guy with his arms swinging around like crazy, wearing a mask on the right and then another guy kneeling down in front of him on the left and then another tiny little guy in back for forced perspective.  This scene conveys theater arts as communication. In today’s version they go with math.  Todd explains the attraction is less about communication as when it was with Bell and AT&T and now with Siemens it’s more about the technical aspect.

Walter Cronkite narrates “the Romans built a large system of roads that carried laws and tidings across and far and reaching empire”.  How continues that this is his favorite scene, it’s simple and well done. The scene shows a Roman Senator talking to a Centurion. There is a boy holding two horses, so he has come in his chariot to deliver this message there is a forced perspective painting that shows the city that they are in going down and there is a hill behind it. In prior versions there were projects to show flames on the painting to show the idea that there were different lighted torches all throughout the city.  Todd adds there was a hand animated chariot going down horizontally and then turning a corner and going off in the distance, it was removed brian adds in 2007, everyone agrees it was their favorite part of the ride.  It gave the scene movement.  Todd also says there were 3D cauldrons with flames at the front of the scene near the Senator and Centaurian, with some excellent fake flames. There was also a latin inscription that you see that comes from the 12 tables of Aman Ra codified around 451 BC, there is a statue which is the statue of Augustus. 

How comments that a lot of the scenes are very minimalist where the set pieces run up against black, they used lighting and minimal sets very effectively.  Todd says he thinks they had to do that since the change from scene to scene is so drastic jumping thousands of years in time. 

Walter Cronkite narrates “Rome falls to the flames of excess ages of knowledge are lost or forgotten in the ashes”.  How explains that we now see a window and neat effect of timbers burning from the inside and the infamous smell of Rome burning. How asks if it’s not true that you can smell the burning timbers outside of the attraction and Todd affirms this. Todd talks about the graffiti in the scene in Latin which translates as “may whoever loves perish”. 

Walter Cronkite narrates “ but all is not lost for Islamic and Jewish scholars continue to preserve ancient wisdom in libraries.  In their travels they record knowledge and share their findings with cultures east and west”. How continues to the next scene, what is called the world’s first backup system, as we see Rome burning. Originally it said that Islamic scholars had stored all of this information. Jewish scholars were added in the Walter Cronkite edition and now they say Arab or Middle Eastern. How found a document that lists all of the items of clothing that the animatronics are wearing and it’s mentioned by nationality the 4 guys, which now there are only 3, Figure 25 was Persian, fig. 24 was East Indian, fig 22 was a Turk and fig. 23 was African.  So the concept was that all of these scholars from different Islamic societies came together to exchange this information and they could carry this into other places. There is also an astronomer on the balcony with the exact duplicate of an ancient sextant. Todd explains that the Metropolitan Museum of Art supplied the photos for the replication. Todd explains that Disney went to great lengths to make sure that things were made to feel authentic. How continued saying that he read that Disney was concerned about getting letters from people that might point out any inauthentic props or parts of the story. As you move through the library, today on the other side there is one figure sitting and reading, but in the pre 2007 version there was also someone standing and reading, How thinks this figure is now in the computer scene. There were originally 63 animatronic figures but over the years some have moved and some have disappeared. 

Walter Cronkite narrates as we move to the next scene “in Western Abbey’s Monks toiled endlessly transcribing ancient writings into hand penned books of revelation”. Todd says this scene exhibits a little of Marc Davis as there isn’t a lot of humor in the attraction but this scene has some, How agrees, it’s the one scene in which the Disney humor shines through. As we move through the Abbey, there is a monk working on an enormous scroll.  About halfway through the desk you come into view of another monk who is sleeping, this has not changed over the years. Todd adds that his body is going up and down and you hear him snoring.  Again simple yet effective. 

Walter Cronkite narrates “the dawn of the Renaissance brings a wondrous new machine, the printing press, now books and authors flourish as newer before”.  How continues that now with the printing press you don’t have to make hand copies, Todd adds that he is inspecting with a big magnifying glass, you see his face through it but it is actually a page from the original Guttenburg bible that he is inspecting. How continues stating this is the scene where somebody disappeared and ended up someplace else on the ride. How found this information on a Martin’s bids and some other folks from WDWMagic did a lot of detective work on this, there was a figure that was sitting at a type tray that was pulled during the Walter Cronkite time and was moved up to the top of SE and he is the boy that’s working on the computer. 

Walter Cronkite narrates “ the Renaissance Era was a time of interest renewed in the world’s poetry and music, science, philosophy and art”.  There are students working on drawing and paintings, and a sculptor. How says what is weird is that when the ride opened and into the Walter Cronkite era there was an exposed breast on the statue, which was covered up in the 2007 renovation.  There are musicians that Todd adds are playing a Lyre.  How continues that today there is a guy who looks like Andrew Jackson talking to someone else, but when the ride first opened up to the Walter Cronkite era there was a schoolmaster reading Virgil to students. One of the reclining students ended up back in the Greek era in today’s version.  From there we move into a powerful scene of Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel.  Todd adds that this was one of the first changes that he noticed, as this scene used to be so much more powerful, Walter Cronkite would say “behold the magic and majesty of the Sistine ceiling” and the music came up as you passed under the scene and Walter Cronkite words and the way that it was done it was very powerful it told the story so much better.  Now it’s just a lot less power stating that they painted a lot in the Renaissance. The powerful touch was lost from Jeremy Irons on. He continues that with the wood and the whole Sistine Chapel it was a very purposeful fade to black before the next scene.

Walter Cronkite narrates “on this wave of inspiration we sail into a bold new era and age of astounding inventions and an ever increasing progress in means of communications”. How explains the next scene is a giant printing press, Todd explains it was designed from the original patent drawings of 1863 and it’s actually a steam press with 2 parts, a big red wheel with a green part that is a regulator for controlling the steam.  It used to spin and it doesn’t anymore.  Todd and How talk about how it was really steamy and noisy.  Todd says the next figure that comes up is one of the most infamous, he has changed locations and changed his “spiel”, his volume has changed over time.  How continues that the figure is a little boy, possibly from the Carousel of Progress, he would stand and yell “extra, extra, New York Daily” (How does this in a high pitched voice to get across how annoying this figure was) that would repeat loudly over and over again, no matter where you were in the scene you would keep hearing this kid. In 2007 they picked him up and turned his back to the audience and moved him as far away in the forced perspective as they could.  How asks if he says anything anymore and brian says he yells that the Civil War is over, and then repeats extra extra. Todd questions why they moved him back and had him face the other direction instead of just turning his volume down while still facing the guests on the ride.  Brian explains there is a facebook group of ex-cast members and one of them claims the boy was so close to guests that people would reach out and touch his face, which Brian doesn’t think is true as he rode many times before the refurb and he doesn’t remember the boy being that close.  Brian says he just didn’t sell enough papers. Todd says he was really annoying because he was so loud and he wouldn’t shut up. How says the tone of his voice was really cutting and irritating. 

The next scene is the telegraph scene.  How continues that the telegraph that they are reading is about the Golden Spike being driven at Promontory Summit on May 10th. 1869. Todd talks about the timeline and how we jump from the Renaissance to 1869, Brian remarks that from the Sistine Chapel to the Civil War is about 200 years that we jump ahead in time, skipping continents being settled. How adds that there is another big jump after the telegraph comes the telephone which looks to be the 20s or 30s. Todd finds the info on the switchboard, it’s a magneto model switchboard circa 1898.

Todd continues that there are 3-4 women working the switchboard which were shown routing calls with the fabric covered plugs which connected the parties. How adds they didn’t mention the theater facade with the ticket taker inside.  Todd says she reminds him of the ticket taker at the Main Street cinema in a way. How continues that we go from the information being sent over a wire to the information now going directly from speaker to speaker. 

How says then the scene comes to the “wireless” where a radio is being played. There are a couple of neat details, one is that the call sign for the station shown on the microphone is WDP for Walt Disney Productions. Today inside the radio booth there is only one radio actor, but there were originally two.  The female actor was moved upstairs where she is now a computer scientist in fur boots. Once past this there is a radio tower with an animated effect of radio waves being transmitted, which leads us to the 20th Century.

Walter Cronkite narrates “then television brings the world into our home, profoundly changing our perceptions of life itself”. How says this to him is one of the cheapest scenes in SE.  There was a Dad with a 5 o’clock shadow sitting on the couch with his wife and a daughter sitting on a stool watching the Ed Sullivan show, Ozzie and Harriet and a clip of Walter Cronkite news clip.  The scene behind them was this abstract concept of a city scene which didn’t read very well. It was black with some windows and cut-out things and it looked really cheap. It has now been restaged to look like the inside of a house. They added a figure from the Jeremy Irons version of a kid laying down who would talk to a Japanese girl. Todd adds that of all the scenes that have changed over time this one is a positive and welcoming change. How asks Brian about a secret with the record player. Brian explains that there is a stack of records next to the television set.  The imagineers change this periodically throughout the year, at Christmas time there would be a Christmas album that is put out toward the front of the scene. The Beatles Greatest Hits was displayed which is funny because the scene is set in the 60’s and the Beatles Greatest Hits wasn’t released until 1982.  At some point a Jimmy Hendrix album was visible. The Mary Poppins soundtrack  was also displayed.  Brian says if you ride more than a few times a year you should look for different albums.  Todd asks if there weren’t 5 screens above the tv in the past, How and Brian say yes, Brian says there were 5 different channels on the screens.

Brian talks about the scenes and how you are going from newspapers to telegraph to telephone now you are in television which leads us to…How “the computer”.

Walter Cronkite narrates “instant communications create an ever increasing flow of facts and figures, to manage this growing storehouse of information we invent the computer, a revolutionary tool made practical by the tiny transistor”. How explains that oddly enough in the original, Vic Perrin version that ran until the Walter Cronkite version there was not much to look at in this scene. Two scenes were added.  Todd asks what it was during the Perrin version, was it just scrims?  How says it was so non-memorable he can’t remember and all of the video from the time was so dark there is no clear picture of what was there. They went back and added two rooms, one is the kid who used to pull type out of the type tray, is now seen in his bedroom the bed is on the left as you come into the scene, he’s at a desk with a PC working on something and he has a game called space hop and some board games.  

How tells about a personal story connected  to this scene.   Back when he was in his troublemaker days, and visiting the parks quite frequently, he noticed that between the bed and the track there was a pile of comic books, he thought that something else could be used here because if they were trying to make it realistic to what a teenage boy would have in his bedroom, there was one more piece of printed material that he needed. So, he and Hoot Gibson went across the street to the Crossroads plaza one day and picked up 2 copies of the latest (this is edited out Playboy). He knew he would have to throw it from the car over to the scene to try to get it into place, so he took some rubber cement and took the cover off of one of the magazines and cemented it to the back of the other, so that the cover would be visible no matter how it landed. He also rubber cemented the pages together so that it wouldn’t flay open as he tossed it into the scene. He found a quiet time when there weren’t that many people around them and as they reached the scene How removed the magazine from his backpack because this was at a time before security checks on bags, and he tossed the Playboy magazine gently and it landed perfectly next to the comic books. He told friends about it and for a good month and a half to two months it stayed there. It was at a place that was kind of dark but you would definitely see it if you were looking. Then about 2-3 months later the lighting in the room was radically redone making the scene much brighter. A thing that looked like a 35mm camera was mounted on a tripod at the spot in the scene where the magazine was tossed that was pointed out at the cars as they went by trying to look like he had a camera set up in his room but more of a security thing. Somebody eventually found it and they decided to take some precautions against it happening again. 

How continues that next, there is a Mom working in a paperless office. She came from the next scene where she was one of the console operators and they moved her over to have another figure for the scene. In 1986 home computers were relatively novel. He asks Brian how much the cost of a home computer would have been in 1986.  Brian says that adjusted for inflation they would have been $3,000 to $5,000 sometimes even more, as you got into the early 90’s there were Macintosh models at $12,000. Today this area is where you see the car parked outside the garage. Brian explains that at one point AT&T had their own branded desktop computers and because they were the sponsor there were AT&T computers in the scene. 

How continues that after the bedroom/office scene you would enter an area with a big floor panel with a map of the United States and a map of Florida and a map of the world with a huge sign that says Network Operations Center at the top. Todd explains that it was AT&T Worldwide Network Operations Center and that it changed names over a time period.  He tweeted before the show the original board that was with the Bell symbol with 2 animatronics at the board. 

How says the lady on the right in the image tweeted became the Mom in the paperless office.  On the right hand side of the scene there is a guy with three screens above him that look like they are running computer code, Todd says he is “network operating”. 

Now we have traveled through time and we are headed to the big conclusion, we are inside a big dome Walter Cronkite narrates “today we’re merging the technologies of communications and computers to store, process and share information, and we’re creating a vast electronic network stretching from our homes to the reaches of space”.

In the Walter Cronkite version there were neon chasing lights in tubes that gave the illusion of speed, in a transition zone the lights also gave the feeling of leaving earth and going into space. Walter Cronkite narrates “We have entered a wondrous new age, the age of information, a time of new promise and new hope for ourselves and Spaceship Earth”.  Todd says if you ride SE today there is a sort of strobe effect going on but the original effects are still there, he wishes they would have left the original as this was a better transition effect, How agrees, and Todd continues stating the 2nd and most failed transition in the Jeremy Irons remodel, is when you rose to the top and turned the theme “space” was playing (audio of space is played) the way you came out of the turn, the stars were rotating in the ceiling to appear that Earth was rising, it was so much more powerful than today’s version.  Now the stars don’t rotate anymore, so you don’t get the sense of the Earth rising anymore, the music is gone, so the impressive transition is completely lost. Todd says the video’s out there don’t do the Walter Cronkite version justice, but it was so much more powerful of a scene than it is today.  How continues, that now we come out of the tunnel and you are at the top of the ride at the top of the building which has the huge dome-planetarium because once you reach the top you are in space. Originally the designers were going to get a regular planetarium for use in the dome, but none in existence were big enough, so they had to make their own. 

How continues, after Earth if you look up you would see the astronaut working on the free floating cylindrical shaped satellite. Then you would travel a little farther and almost in front of you was another satellite with solar panels and an astronaut working on it.  Attached to the satellite was an arm, as you tilt back in the ride you see the arm is attached to an enormous spaceship or maybe a space station and then there is a woman inside of a window in the station and she’s manipulating the arm and she’s talking to the astronaut about the repairs that are going on. It was a powerful scene to come upon. As you were descending it was almost as if you were sucked into the station, you passed through a door with red lights around it.  Brian adds that originally it was supposed to be an airlock that you were going through. How continues and talks about how when rides are redone if something doesn’t need to be removed it is just left in the attraction, this is the case in Spaceship Earth in particular do to the nature of the attraction itself, that it’s difficult to move things around in the space, or it’s too cost prohibitive. In the case of the space station they did remove the astronaut and satellite they refurbed it and were going to put it back but never did. Todd adds that it’s too bad they didn’t put this back because it gave you the sense of being up in space, he says it makes him cringe now. 

Brian adds that the original plan for that area was that it was supposed to be the lunar surface, as you pass by and turn in the vehicle, changing your perspective, if you look at the border right outside of your time machine vehicle it looks like Dreamflight clouds but it’s a pattern to simulate where they would have put the moon rock behind it for the lunar surface to give the illusion of the moon. That’s what the whole top scene was supposed to be as shown in concept art, you would be above the moon looking out at the astronauts and space station behind you. The space station is still there but the whole thing is just blacked out now. If you have really strong eyes you can turn around and see it behind you as you start to rotate for the trip back to Earth. Todd adds that supposedly the characters have been stripped of everything except the robotic part, which eventually you would think would be stripped for parts. Brian explains that the top scene, prior to opening was used as staging area because as they were working on the exterior and interior of the ride, the exterior was about to be complete, but there was still a lot of work to get done inside. The problem was that they were getting ready to close up the bottom of the ride which is how equipment was taken into the attraction to whichever floor it needed to go to.  Tom Nabby told RetroWDW that just before the exterior was finished all of the set pieces that had not been installed were sent up to the lunar surface, and then one by one to await installation in the various scenes. So at one point you probably had a Roman Senator talking to a Caveman talking to Leonardo DaVinci, just like a giant warehouse. 

How says that the other thing the ship does is gives you a sense of depth with the foreground, the midground and the background.  He says that the image of the Earth is still really gorgeous.  The 1982 Earth image was probably the best they had at the time and it’s been updated several times, so it now looks much more impressive from that standpoint, but the full illusion of depth is now gone. 

Todd says that is the point that when the ride first opened, the cars had to be manually rotated.  The ride is a spiral up like a double helix in a way where all of the ride is on the outside of the sphere and you descend through the center of the sphere.  In the Walter Cronkite guests were kept entertained on the descent with some interesting light fields which are still there today, kaleidoscope like, Walter Cronkite narrates “in the information age our knowledge and tools of communication will continue to grow and improve, we will discover new ways to grow and to share our ideas and dreams to create a better world for today, tomorrow and tomorrow’s child”, and then we are treated to the song “Tomorrow’s Child” which is one of the most memorable songs from the Epcot era.  The song was removed and the cars were fitted with LCD screens for the now era where we have to be looking or touching something all the time.  The majority of the trip down has been blacked out. In the Walter Cronkite era as tomorrow’s child plays and you descend through the mirrors there were silhouettes of children.  Todd wishes they could have done something different with the screens, talking about the future instead of making you interact with it.  How says it was a very constrained space, it was just walls with mirrors with video monitors on the floor, it was very cheap, very simple, like a really bad green screen. The Jeremy Irons version improved on this as they put futuristic cities to the side with some neat static displays that were added to the top that appeared on the sides of the cars in a sort of pepper’s ghost effect. The best that could be done in the beginning was rotating lights and scrim and some tv sets.  Walter Cronkite narrates “ours is a time of unprecedented choice and opportunity, so let us explore and question and  understand what was learned from the past and meet the challenges of the future, let us go forth and fulfill our destiny on Spaceship Earth.” 

Todd continues, after you descend the omni mover exits in the same fashion of the rotating turntable.  He says they are going to end this episode here, but that they should definitely do another episode with the earth station and the global neighborhood and how that has all changed, maybe incorporating that into the communicore episodes.

Brian talks about the lounge, because he has been there several times.  The original sponsor was AT&T Bell and then Siemens.  Siemens completely redid the lounge when they took over sponsorship. One of his friends is a customer of Siemens, so on a trip to DW his friend got access and went to the lounge.  It’s like if Ikea designed a technological space, there’s a reception desk, a fountain soda machine and coffee area, nice bathrooms, in the back in the hallway there are meeting spaces for Siemens corporate meetings it is apparently used quite frequently. The coolest thing about the space is that they have their own entrance to the ride. There is a VIP entrance down a set of steps through a door that connects to a hallway, you enter the ride just before the ascent begins and you have your picture taken. There is a bank of windows on one side that is looking out at the cue from the VIP area.

Todd wraps up saying hopefully “tomorrow’s child” will improve the ride even more. In 1985 from the lyrics of the song, “tomorrow’s child is here today, How adds that they are listening to the show right now.

Spaceship Earth Concepts & Construction

Claudio Mazzoli’s Spaceship Earth Concept Art

Spaceship Earth Attraction Gallery

RetroWDW Merchandise

Todd mentions RetroWDW’s merch, t-shirts, mugs and all sorts of good stuff, with How’s designs, all proceeds go toward keeping RetroWDW podcasts going, as well as film restoration.  There are some fantastic films in the conversion process right now.  There is some really old Fort Wilderness footage, a certain type of amphibian is going to make an appearance in another.  There are 2 very very rare 16mm that RetroWDW can’t wait to share.  Todd asks How if there will be a design for this episode, How says he will do a SE design, How says he will think of something awesome.  Brian says he wants a ghostly chariot, Todd says how about ‘EXTRA EXTRA NEW YORK DAILY” in bold face.  Todd gives the web address to check out the merch and pins.  Todd asks what the topic will be for episode 28, Brian says they should have a hootin’, hollarin’ time and visit River Country.  Everyone agrees that since it’s been hot, it would be nice to cool off in the swimmin’ hole. So episode 28 will go back to River Country, but we can check out the River Country footage on the website, there is some great point of view footage. Todd thanks listeners and encourages review, shoutouts on I-Tunes or Google Play, keep the emails and tweets and facebook comments coming they are appreciated.

Be sure to get your shirt, iPhone case, tote bag, pillow or coffee mug today: www.retrowdw.com/supportus

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We hope you have enjoyed this episode! If you have any questions, suggestions or find errors please email us podcast@retrowdw.com.

Next Month

-Join us next month for a trip to the Old Swimmin’ Hole. We take you back to River Country, the first themed water park!-

Enhanced Show Notes by Veronica; August 2021

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July 23, 2017 1:35 pm

The issue of disputing the narrator of the first version of the attraction stems entirely from the mistaken recollection of Marty Sklar who said it was Lawrence Dobkin. I can say categorically 1000% without a smidgen of doubt that it was Vic Perrin. Perrin was a familiar voice in radio drama as well as doing his narration work on “Outer Limits” and his voice for radio buffs like me is quite instantly recognizable . So unfortunately the only reason why there’s a dispute is because people are taking for granted Marty Sklar’s recollection on the point. Dobkin’s voice is also… Read more »

July 23, 2017 1:38 pm

Just to add one other thing, it would actually be quite common for Perrin to do more than one attraction with him also doing both the Radok pre-show film in “Universe Of Energy” and the pre-Dinosaur ride film as well (but not the post-Dino film). That’s just a testament to how much in demand he was as a narrator in those days (much like we also had Paul Frees doing multiple narrations in an earlier era like “Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln” and “Adventure Thru Innerspace” at the same time).

September 2, 2017 9:18 am

[…]      February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench) […]

October 15, 2017 11:45 am

[…]     February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench) […]

April 27, 2018 9:58 pm

It was so nice hearing and seeing some of thee scenes again! Its been a long time, I’d almost forgotten. I just found your podcast and have been binge listening to it, I love it. Thanks so much for all the insider tidbits and stories I’ve never heard.

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