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Behind the Ride: Spaceship Earth

Everyone has a favorite Disney attraction. Mine is Spaceship Earth. Yes, I recognize that it’s an unconventional choice, but I’ve loved it since the first time I rode it back in 1983, the first year of Epcot. Only in recent years have I appreciated its greatness, though. Today, I’d like to take you behind the ride to explain why Spaceship Earth is the most important component of Epcot as a theme park and a concept.

The Experience: The most iconic visual at Epcot

The Trick: Following the teachings of a relatively obscure author

You may not know who R. Buckminster Fuller is, but you appreciate his creations just the same. Fuller’s impact on Epcot is as dramatic as anyone not named Walt Disney. He’s the man who popularized and patented the concept of the geodesic dome. You know it as the giant golf ball that sits at the front of Epcot. This creation is an architectural marvel…but not for the reason you think.

Sure, the Epcot ball known as Spaceship Earth is amazing to behold. It’s one of the two most important weenies at Walt Disney World, alongside Cinderella Castle. What it represents is even more important. Fuller’s teaching is that planet Earth is a spaceship flying through space, and all its residents are astronauts. So, you can brag to your friends that you’re an astronaut!

In his writings, Fuller enumerated the ways that our spaceship has limited resources. He also believed that mankind needed to find new, stronger constructs to build more efficient civilizations. One of those ideas is the geodesic dome, a concept he didn’t invent but did bring to the attention of American designers.

The genius of the geodesic dome is that its core is strong. It can sustain heavy loads due to its “lattice-shell” design. These constructs are also eye-grabbing. Yes, Spaceship Earth kills two birds with one stone for Disney. It’s the weenie that everyone knows by sight, even people who have never visited Walt Disney World. As a happy bonus, it’s symbolic of conservation and our societal need to work together, two of the underlying themes of Epcot. And Fuller was even kind enough to give the structure its name!

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There is 1 comment.

Nice article, but a few factual misses. The first narrator wasn't Vic Perrin, as confirmed by Marty Sklar in a 2008 interview, but was Lawrence Dobkin. Also, it says Jeremy Irons took over in 1984 but that's incorrect and likely a typo as it was 1994.

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