Follow TV Tropes


Ride / Spaceship Earth

Go To
Our shared story.

"Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time; and for a brief moment, we have been among its many passengers."

Spaceship Earth is an attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot. A dark ride, it takes guests on a journey through time, studying the development of communication. It opened with the park on October 1, 1982.

The attraction's structure, a large geodesic sphere (that most will agree looks like a giant golf ball), is the icon of the park, located right at the park's front entrance area in World Celebration (the "center spire" and southern portions of the former Future World). The ride's story was originally written by Ray Bradbury, though his specific script has long since been discarded. The attraction has gone through four major revisions during its lifetime with updated information, tech, and narrators. From 1982-1986 the ride was narrated by Vic Perrin. In 1986 he was replaced by Walter Cronkite. In 1994, the attraction again went through an extensive overhaul and received a new narration by Jeremy Irons. Perhaps the most elaborate revisioning of the ride occurred in 2008 when the ride was given several brand new scenes and yet another new narration, this time by Judi Dench. Additionally, the update brought in a new ending, which allows guests to choose their own future via touchscreen and view the results once everything is said and done.

The attraction also features a post-show area that includes various activities for guests to partake in. Like the ride itself, the post-show has also undergone several changes over the years.

At D23 Expo 2019, Disney announced that the attraction will be getting a completely new storyline that's focused on the history of human storytelling instead of the advancements of communications technology, with the new version subtitled "Our Shared Story". This was one of many announcements made regarding Epcot's multi-year transformative renovation. The attraction was also re-zoned to World Celebration, one of three new "neighborhoods" replacing Future World. Spaceship Earth closed for refurbishment on March 15, 2020; it was originally planned for May 26, 2020, but the COVID-19 Pandemic that enforced the temporary closure of Walt Disney World caused it to close early. However, because of the pandemic, Disney has indefinitely delayed the refurbishment, so the "old" Spaceship Earth ride will remain operational for now. Nevertheless, Walt Disney Imagineering did install LED lights in the pits between the tiles in 2021, giving the classic attraction a fresh look. (And fun light shows!)

Tropes found in Spaceship Earth include:

  • Ancient Egypt: One of the earlier scenes in the ride is that of Egypt, where guests are shown how the Egyptians used papyrus to get information around.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Tomorrow's Child", the theme of the Cronkite version, had the makings of this trope. Uplifting vocals, a full orchestra playing throughout, and even (in an oddity for this trope) a children's choir!
  • The End of the Beginning: After the future, you've chosen is shown to you at the end of the ride, the narrator says, "The End, or should I say the beginning of your future!"
  • Magic Wand: Not in the ride itself, but in 2000, a giant structure of the arm of Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey Mouse holding one of these was built next to the geodesic sphere. The wand structure lasted until 2007.
  • Narrator: A new narrator has been implemented with each update.
    • 1982-1986: Vic Perrin
    • 1986-1994: Walter Cronkite
    • 1994-2007: Jeremy Irons
    • 2008-present:note  Judi Dench
  • The Power of Language: The ride's theme, showing that communication leads to improvements in every society. Essentially, the opposite of Poor Communication Kills.
  • Product Placement: Bell Systems was the original sponsor from 1982-1984. With the break up of Bell Systems, AT&T became the sponsor until 2004. After a period without sponsorship, Siemens picked up the reigns and sponsored the latest version until 2015.
  • Shout-Out: Before the 2007 revamp, a large screen in the cinema scene had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Top Hat, and A New Hope playing on it.
  • Sistine Steal: We see a scene of Michelangelo painting part of the famous piece.
  • Space Station: The original incarnation of the ride from 1982-1994 featured one during the descent which despite budget cuts and a failed forced perspective moon surface still included the space station itself along with two astronauts working on satellites and women at the controls of the space station. Sadly, however, the astronauts and satellites were removed and the entire space station was blacked out with the animatronic woman abandoned inside during the 1994 refurbishment.
  • Title Drop: Towards the end of the ride.
    Narrator: After 30,000 years of time travel, here we are — a truly global community, poised to shape the future of this, our Spaceship Earth.
  • Updated Re-release: There have been three major updates to the attraction in the ride's history (1986, 1994, and 2008) with the narrators signifying the eras of the various incarnations, and a much bigger update that will completely change the ride's story is soon to follow... once they decide to go forward with the updating.


Video Example(s):


Constructing Spaceship Earth

"The building of Spaceship Earth, the world's largest geosphere, was a monumental design, engineering, and construction challenge, as this time lapse film shows."

--Hettie Lynne Hurtes, The Walt Disney World Explorer (1996)

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TimeLapse

Media sources: