Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spaceship Earth Backstage Tour

Backstage tours were one of the perks of the Disney College Program I was really looking forward to. A few of my amazing managers scheduled backstage tours of the classic attractions at Disney World for the Epcot Custodial college programmers who want to attend them! About a month ago, a group of us got to tour the inside of Spaceship Earth, aka the ride inside the giant golf ball at Epcot.

We gathered near the entrance of the ride, and our tour guide discussed the history and structure of Spaceship Earth. We even got to pass around a piece of the aluminum-based material used to create the outside "skin" of the sphere! There are 11,324 triangles that make up Spaceship Earth and it stands 180 ft. tall. Spaceship Earth is an original Epcot attraction; it was there on park opening October 1st, 1982.

Our tour guide took us through "backstage" Spaceship Earth, which included riding a giant service elevator and many many stairs. We learned how the ride operates and got to see where the mechanics work and some hidden passageways throughout the ride. 

I remember when he showed us one of the doors that opened up to the ride, he told us to be quiet while we peeked, because there were still passengers on the ride. So what do I do after it's my turn to look? Hit my arm on a nearby metal crate. Not my smoothest moment...but it was pretty funny :)

Our guide explained that on many of the attractions, there is a mural that gives a vague interpretation of what you are about to experience on the ride. Spaceship Earth is a slow moving continuous ride that takes you back in time through the history of communication.

He also pointed out on the mural that the "3" makes possible hidden mickey. Some people disagree, but  then he countered why is the 3 the only number in black?

We were able to ride the ride through once to refresh our memories. This was the funny picture Mary and I took for the build-your-future sequence at the end of the ride!

The first scenes show the development of cave paintings. If I remember the tour guide correctly, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) studied cavemen and cave paintings to make sure they were authentic, as opposed to guessing what the paintings looked like.

The next scene takes us to Egypt, where hieroglyphs were recorded onto papyrus.

The face used for the middle animatronic might look familiar. It is supposedly the former President William Taft. WDI will sometimes re-use a face from a previous animatronic, instead of creating a new face. President Taft can also be found in the Hall of Presidents at Magic Kingdom. 

Another example I happen to know of this is on the Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion. The face on the explorer on the bottom of the totem pole on Jungle Cruise and the face of the lost traveler (with the dog) in the graveyard of Haunted Mansion are the same!

This scene shows the phoenicians discussing the alphabet. The man in purple is royal because purple dye was rare, and it resembles royalty during that time.

WDI clearly used depth perception with this animatronic! That's our tour guide in the purple, and next to the animatronic that is actually extra small to make him look like he's in the distance.

Hidden mickey! The red cloth with the two bells on top.

Hidden mickey in the three scrolls!

Hidden Mickey in the paint!

3rd shift Custodial coming in to dust the ride.

The newspaper used in this scene is the same exact print that was used on this actual day!

There is actual garbage in the basket, even though you can't really see it from the vehicles.

Speakers inside the basket.

WDI Stands for Walt Disney Imagineering :)

The broadcast of Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The toys, books, and games on the shelf are real, and they're even from the same year, 1969. The only thing that isn't from 1969 is the Beatles album, which is from 1982.

The moon was originally shown as a full moon in this scene, but Imagineers learned that this was the phase of the moon you could see on this actual day, so they changed it.

This animatronic's official name is Foxy Brown.

Signing the binder!

If I could go back, I would have written down much more of the fun facts that the tour guide shared with us. I was going to remember this for the next tour, which is Haunted Mansion. Unfortunately, the tour is on May 19th which is two days after I leave! 

I was upset at first, but I have some other great opportunities coming my way that other people don't have, such as a conversation with Meg Crofton, the current President of Disney Parks and Resorts in the United States and France. I also have an interview this week to become a Campus Rep at my school!

There has been so much that has happened on this program I still want to write about! A lot of my posts are going to be "after the fact" when I have more time over summer.

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