News continues to come in fits and starts from Orlando concerning the renovation of Spaceship Earth. Originally rumored to open in December, then officially pushed back until February, sources now insist that the ride will at least have some soft openings during December. Exactly when and for how long? Disney isn’t telling. But the rumor mill insists that internal changes to the ride are nearly complete, which can be somewhat believed due to the fact that WDI has managed to get around to installing all the external signage for the attraction.
Pictures posted on message boards show a variety of cosmetic signs, including warning signs, installed in and around the building; these are usually the last thing to go up before opening. Some rumors hold that the hangup with the opening date is the “interactive finale”, but this has not been confirmed.
What else have we learned? Well, this story on Distant Creations insists that an animatronic avatar for Steve Jobs will be shown inventing the personal computer. This goes with long-standing rumors that the cheesy “two kids sharing their ironic cross-cultural hobbies” scene will be replaced with three vignettes showing the rise of the computer (similar, one should point out, to the scene in the original 1982 attraction).
While we still haven’t been officially been told who is the new narrator of the attraction, Bruce Broughton has confirmed that he has written around twenty minutes of new music for the ride. Disney published a bit more about the rehab on their site, but as their required login irritates me I’ll reprint the story below the fold. We’ll continue to monitor all frequencies in the hope of finding some info about when the ride is going live. And it had better be soon; Team Tangaroa is T-minus seven days until we hit property…
A Time Traveler Comes Full Circle
Spaceship Earth is re-imagined by one of its original Imagineers
Bob Zalk was a wide-eyed, newly hired audio engineer when he took on one of his first projects with Walt Disney Imagineering: working on the mighty Epcot® icon, Spaceship Earth, now presented by Siemens. 25 years later, as Senior Show Producer, he found himself leading the team to take this all-time great attraction, and make it even greater for the 21st century and beyond. And you’ll be able to experience the newly enhanced attraction this winter.
Bob and his team enhanced all of the scenes on this time-travel attraction with new lighting effects, costumes and set decoration, but even more than that, they also created an entirely new story “overlay” to blend the classic scenes with new ones and to add a special interactive aspect to its finale.
A new story for the enhancement
“We’re telling a different story this time,” he explained. “Our new story is essentially about how all the innovations of one generation influence and inspire another. There’s definitely a relationship between the caveman in the early scenes, who is writing on walls, to our era in which we write on computers. It’s a series of building blocks that add upon each other as we travel up through Spaceship Earth.”
Once you reach the top of the 165-foot diameter Spaceship Earth geodesic dome, the new, interactive touch screens on your “time machine” vehicle will invite you to create your own visions of the future and see yourself in that future.
On top of all that, a new narration will be accompanied by an exciting new musical score composed and conducted by nine-time Emmy® Award winner Bruce Broughton, who has created music for many other major Disney attractions and films. “It’s a challenge to create music for an attraction like this because you have to know how to blend the music seamlessly from scene to scene,” Bob explained. “You want to treat an attraction with the kind of majesty it deserves and Bruce rises to the occasion.”
“Project Tomorrow: Inventing the World of Tomorrow”
After you leave your time machine, you can explore a new interactive area with lots of fun and fascinating exhibits. “There’s Body Builder, in which you wear 3-D glasses to assemble a digital human body (who talks back to you!), and simulates Siemens’ remote surgery technology,” Bob explained. “Then we have Super Driver, a driving simulation video game that showcases Siemens’ auto accident avoidance systems.
“Innervision shows you the future of medical diagnostics in your home—something like your bathroom mirror giving you diagnostics on your body. And Power City is a game what shows how to manage power in a growing city, from routing power to neighborhoods where it’s needed to replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar power.”
All time favorites will live on through time
But the essence of Spaceship Earth will remain a constant. “Everything that everyone loved about the attraction—the smell of Rome burning, the monk snoring—will still be there, but it will be a new experience in a good many ways,” Bob explained. “I think we’re all mindful of the tradition that these kinds of attractions hold. So when we approach it as a team, we do it very carefully. You want to keep the ingredients that made it special.”
And it’s personally very special to Bob Zalk. “Coming in as a young Imagineer 25 years ago and getting to work on something like Spaceship Earth-I was just in awe, not only of the attraction, but also of the people I was privileged to work with and their years with the company. I learned a lot from them. Now at this point, we have young people on our team and we’re now mentoring these Imagineers. I’m getting an interesting flashback feeling. How often do you get a chance to work on something like this two times around?”