Dewayne Bevil | Sentinel Staff Writer
6:38 PM EST, December 6, 2007
Epcot enthusiasts will have a ball again soon. Construction walls near Spaceship Earth, iconic sphere of the theme park, will fall sometime next week, after five months of refurbishment, Walt Disney World officials said. Inside are changes in content, new interactive components and enhancements of items that have marked the attraction since day one.
Its theme has shifted from communication through the ages to one of inspiration and innovation. The most recent script, read by Jeremy Irons, has been scrapped -- the new narrator is Oscar winner Judi Dench, whose words guide riders through the generations.
"The story is those building blocks that got us to today," said Bob Zalk, show producer. The plot winds through several scenes familiar to Spaceship Earth fans: the Egyptians, the burning of Rome (that smoky aroma remains), the Renaissance, the switchboard and more. All scenes up through the 1960s living room remain, but elements have been repositioned and upgraded. Each have new lights and costumes. Some Audio-Animatronics are increasingly lifelike.
"We've technologically updated the figures so they can move around more than before," said Eric Jacobson, senior vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering. "That's something we couldn't do in the '80s." Especially striking are a Greek teacher and a Roman soldier.
Fresh content is most apparent as riders near the top of the sphere. New sets representing the invention of the computer mainframe and the garage where the personal computer was developed lead to the darkened, downward second half of the experience. As the cars coast down the rail, passengers answer seven questions about their future on a touch screen. (Do you prefer the journey or the destination? While away, do you worry more about your home or your pet?) Answers are melded into a customized piece of retro-yet-futuristic cartoon for each row.
Other changes blend old and new. The revised living room steers attention to the 1969 moon landing on TV -- featuring reports from Walter Cronkite, a former narrator of Spaceship Earth.
"We think the traditionalists will be happy," Jacobson said.
Finishing touches continue, but a few Epcot visitors may get a peek before the official opening. Elements to come later include language options selected by passenger (a Disney first) and more post-show goodies, including a game called Power City and a big globe pinpointing where each day's visitors live.