Upon walking into EPCOT, you’ll immediately notice a huge silver ball, which almost appears to be a giant golf ball. The park’s icon is always something that fascinates visitors but often leaves them with more questions than answers. Today we’re going to discover everything you need to know about the EPCOT ball and how this icon came to be.
When discussing the EPCOT ball, we are referring to the massive silver structure which houses the Spaceship Earth attraction. Spaceship Earth is raised 18 feet off the ground and is supported by pylons that go down 120 feet into the ground. It’s a whopping 180 feet high and 164 feet in diameter. Even more impressive is that if you weighed the whole of the ball, it would be 15,520,000 pounds. This is the equivalent of 158 million golf balls, which is what people often think this structure best resembles. Spaceship Earth was built from 1,700 tons of steel, and it took fifty thousand hours of labor over 26 months to build it in time for the park’s opening day on October 1st, 1982.
Does This EPCOT Ball Have A Name? What does the ball in EPCOT represent?
The EPCOT ball is typically called Spaceship Earth. The whole of the Spaceship Earth attraction is housed inside the ball, and you’ll take a journey through time in a slow-moving vehicle when you board the ride. The name Spaceship Earth was given to the structure and ride by world-famous architect Buckminster Fuller. The ball itself is the world’s largest free-standing geodesic sphere, with 11,324 tiles covering its exterior. While you may think that it looks like a perfect sphere from a distance, its shape is actually slightly oblong.
Why Was The EPCOT Ball Built?
Each of the Walt Disney World theme parks has a structure that acts as a centerpiece for the park. The EPCOT ball is no exception to this, but it also houses the popular attraction of Spaceship Earth. This attraction lasts 15 minutes, making it one of the longest rides you’ll find in the parks. It tells the story of humankind and is filled with realistic audio-animatronics that bring this story to life. The ball was built with the intention to create a feeling of excitement as they enter the park, as well as learn more about the past and future of human life. It was created to be a symbolic structure for the park and has been in place since it opened in 1982. For many guests, it’s somewhere they simply must have a photo with their family during every visit to the park.
Why Did Walt’s Original Plan for EPCOT Fail? Why Wasn’t Walt’s Vision for EPCOT Built?
When discussing Spaceship Earth and the park’s icon, we have to head back in time to discover where the inspiration for the park originally came from. You may not know that this park was heavily inspired by Walt Disney’s original concept for his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. When he was considering plans for Walt Disney World, this planned community would aspire to be an area for urban living and American enterprise. Of course, EPCOT today is nothing quite like this and has distanced itself from a living space to become an immersive theme park.
While EPCOT today doesn’t look anything like the city Walt Disney designed, we do see some of his original ideas in Walt Disney World. The Walt Disney World Monorail system and the Utilidors under the Magic Kingdom park are great examples of this. The company also used the idea of EPCOT when they built Celebration, Florida. This is a planned living community near Walt Disney World, offering individuals the chance to live in an area designed by the company. In EPCOT itself, we also see some of the design ideas that Walt Disney had come to life, paying tribute to the fantastic plans he had in place for Walt Disney World.
The Inherent Flaw in Walt’s Original Vision for the City of EPCOT
Walt Disney’s ideas for EPCOT were abandoned following his death in 1966. The original ideas included residential areas, schools, mass transportation systems, and an urban city center. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly ambitious project, especially for a company that primarily focused on theme parks and movies. The company did not feel they had the expertise to develop a city, so they opted to move towards the theme park we know and love today. In the 1970s, this second theme park was developed by WED Enterprises to complement the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom was already turning out to be a great success, and the company knew that they needed to continue building upon this to attract more visitors year after year to the resort.
EPCOT strives to showcase modern innovation through attractions and entertainment offerings. Visitors also travel around the world via World Showcase, where they can immerse themselves in the culture and heritage of other nations from around the world. When the park first opened in 1982, it was named EPCOT Center, but the center part of the name was dropped in 1994. The park was originally split into two sections: Future World and World Showcase. However, it’s currently undergoing a huge transformation, and there will now be four parts to the park: World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Showcase.
Why Does The EPCOT Ball Look Like A Golf Ball?
Many guests refer to the EPCOT ball as a golf ball, and it’s easy to see the close resemblance between these two items. The EPCOT ball can also be referred to as a geodesic sphere, and the design team worked with MIT engineers to find out how they could best execute their ideas for the structure. From a distance, it looks like a golf ball suspended in the air, but there are other more practical reasons for the design. In total, the building has 11,324 triangles, which are divided into larger sections. Cleaning a structure like this would be an almost impossible task, but the triangular panels have a self-cleaning skin. This aluminum and plastic-alloy compound helps to keep Spaceship Earth looking its best throughout the year, offering you the perfect backdrop for your next family portrait.
We all know how heavy the rain can get during hurricane season in Orlando, but you could actually stand under Spaceship Earth and not feel a drop of rain on your head. The golf ball design was created so that water travels through one-inch gutters down the building and deposits the water into the World Showcase Lagoon. In the event that a repair is needed on the building, there is a small car on the top of it, which allows a technician to lie down and move around to carry out the necessary work.
What is the EPCOT Ball Supposed to Be? Is the EPCOT Ball a Ride?
The primary intention of the EPCOT ball is to house the Spaceship Earth attraction. However, when the Imagineers were designing the park, they also knew they would need a centerpiece for this new addition to Walt Disney World. Just like Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, guests want to see a landmark when they enter the park to welcome them. Spaceship Earth represents the ideas and vision behind EPCOT. Over the years, it has also been used for projections, and at the current time, there is a popular light show each night on the ball. Thanks to the vision of the Imagineers, Spaceship Earth has stood the test of time, and the EPCOT ball is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon.
What’s Next for EPCOT’s Ball? Is Space Ship Earth Getting Updated?
EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth still attracts large crowds to this day, primarily due to its central location and the themes of unity and inspiration that are shared in the ride. However, if you’ve been coming to the park for a while, you might be wondering if the attraction will be undergoing a refurbishment anytime soon. Over the years, Spaceship Earth has been updated many times, both on the inside and outside. In fact, during the year 2000, you might remember that ball had a Mickey Mouse arm with a wand, which was added for this global celebration. This remained in place until 2007 when it was removed in order to return to the classic look for the park’s 25th anniversary.
Within the ball, you’ll find the narrator has changed over time. From 1986 to 1994, we heard Walter Cronkite as the narrator of the ride. In 2008, Judi Dench became the voice of the ride, and she narrates your journey through time. Prior to the recent pandemic, it had been announced that the ride would be undergoing a refurbishment. However, with all of the challenges that the company faced at this time, the company has opted to put this refurbishment on indefinite hold for the time being. Spaceship Earth will be part of the new World Celebration area of the park, and the plans were to create a narrative about our human experience. Under the title of Spaceship Earth: Our Shared Story, the ride would guide guests through the attraction with an ethereal story light.
The exit of the attraction would be called Dreamers Point, which would feature a statue of Walt Disney, a wishing tree, and an interactive fountain. We really do hope these plans fall into place at some point in the future, as they would certainly be a welcome addition to the park. EPCOT is undergoing a huge transformation at this current time, and we can’t wait to see how the park looks in a few years following all of the hard work from the Imagineers.
What’s next for EPCOT? Is EPCOT outdated?
A common question we hear from visitors to the parks is what is next for EPCOT. While this theme park is a firm favorite with many Walt Disney World visitors and locals, there are some elements of the park and its attractions that are starting to look outdated. For many people, Spaceship Earth is an example of this, which is why many of us were saddened to learn that they weren’t going ahead with the scheduled refurbishment at this time. As we mentioned earlier, EPCOT is currently undergoing a huge transformation. If you’ve visited the park recently, you won’t be able to miss the construction that’s taking place, especially in the area that was previously known as Future World.
Instead of the two sections the park has always had, it’s now been split into four areas. World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Showcase all immerse guests in different stories, allowing you to learn more about the world around you through attractions, shows, and other interactive experiences. Coming this May, we’ll see the opening of the much-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. This roller coaster is located on the previous site of Ellen’s Energy Adventure and will open on May 27, 2022. It will no doubt draw huge crowds to the park, and we can’t wait to experience it for ourselves soon.
There are also some other smaller additions to the park coming up in the next few years, which will no doubt change the visitor experience once again. Journey of Water is a Moana-inspired attraction that will be located in World Nature. It will depict the Earth’s water cycle and will offer another way for visitors to understand more about the balance of the natural world. Connections Café and Eatery is a new dining option coming to the park soon as part of this ongoing transformation.
The future for EPCOT is looking just as promising as the past decades have been for the park. One of the things we love about EPCOT is that it’s always undergoing some form of update. The Imagineers strived to keep making progress with the park, just as Walt Disney would have wanted. While his plans never came to be in the way he intended, EPCOT is heavily inspired by his work and continues to connect the human population through the shared experiences on offer here.
Does Spaceship Earth have a height requirement?
Spaceship Earth is a slow continuous dark ride inside of EPCOT. There is no height requirement to ride this attraction, but those that avoid claustrophobic or get motion sickness might wish to avoid Spaceship Earth.