UPDATE: Spaceship Earth Will Close for Over Two Years, Part of Massive Overhaul of Epcot’s Future World

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A few weeks ago, we told you there were rumors that Spaceship Earth at Epcot would once again be reimagined, this time as part of the ongoing overhaul of the park to make it “more timeless, more relevant, more family friendly, and more Disney.” Some new details have emerged on the project that reveal the massive scope of the park overhaul, and that we won’t be able to take a ride through the grand and miraculous attraction for quite some time once things get underway.

Concept art for “Project Gamma”, the re-imagining of the center area of Future World. Note that these plans have radically changed since this was released at the last D23 Expo.

While the concept art is now out-of-date and not accurate to what the project will actually entail, Disney is still moving forward with a complete overhaul of the park entrance and central area of Future World as part of “Project Gamma” (as Walt Disney Imagineering is calling it). Included in this project will be the overhaul of Spaceship Earth, as well as a lot of new and interesting changes for the main thoroughfare of the park that are still very much in development.

As far as Spaceship Earth is concerned, the overhaul will be so thorough that it will require the ride to close from early 2020 until the park’s 40th anniversary in the second half of 2022. That’s basically two and half years without Spaceship Earth in our lives. Why would a project like this take so long? Well, needless to say, there’s a lot to it. Spaceship Earth is aging and it is about time for the entire ride track to be overhauled. As well, Disney will use this opportunity to extend the length of the attraction with new load and unload areas that may not be in the same places that they are now. It also sounds like the current post-show building that houses Project Tomorrow will be removed and an entirely new structure built. It is quite the project in scale and scope, as you can see.

The structure behind Spaceship Earth could look very different in 2022 if the load and unload for the ride are moved and the ride path extended. The ride portion inside of the sphere would remain the same in layout.

As we previously reported, the ride inside of Spaceship Earth will see a refreshing of all scenes leading up to the Industrial Revolution portion (where newspapers are being printed as a young boy sells them steps away), with changes on a grand scale coming to every scene following that, all the way to the end of the ride. Sources also indicate that the scene in the dome at the top of the attraction where guests look back at Earth from space will be drastically reimagined utilizing the latest in projection mapping technologies. As far as the exterior of Spaceship Earth, they will indeed be working on setting-up projection mapping there as well, covering the entire geodesic sphere with projections during the ride’s lengthy downtime and the redevelopment of the area around it. It should make for quite the nighttime display.

So, what do you think? Can you survive 2.5 years without Spaceship Earth in your life?

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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  • NO!! This is one of my favorite rides, and like the Carousel of Progress, some things are better left as they were created.

    • You must admit, the last scene of the carousel of progress is a bit outdated. They need to change the last room. I agree that this is a classic, and parts of it are timeless, but it’s such an impressive structure, there is so much potential to do so much more with it with newer technology.

      • ……maybe the last scene in Carousel Of Progress can have everyone in the family looking lovingly at their smart-phones ….and ignoring the dad’s narration. That’s be pretty realistic and up to date

    • I think Carousel of Progress is one of the most underrated rides – I just love it! That song gets stuck in my head every time!! LOL!
      I’m a little concerned that the article says they are going to make SSE “more Disney.” That sounds like a code word for sneaking in something related to Frozen – or some other way to promote some other Disney related enterprise.
      But then again, I’m also disappointed that so many of the rides in EPCOT’s World Showcase now have either a connection to Frozen or throw in Disney characters just for the heck of it – like the ride in the Mexican Pavillion.

  • Wow, big news! Two plus years is a long time to go without one of our must do Epcot rides. Sounds like the are some very positive changes though. Hope they don’t skimp on the project and they make it as grand as you think.

  • I mean, I’ll definitely miss SE during those years, but I am super excited to see how they can enhance it! Top 3 ride at EPCOT for me for sure.

    • People were excited to see what they would do with Journey Into Imagination, too… For a long while, the number one ride at EPCOT…. Most people who saw it in its original state would still say it’s screwed up, badly.

  • I don’t know if I’ll make it 2 years without it. I may have to freeze myself for that time. Either that or get really into illegal drugs.

  • The last time I rode it (6 years ago?) I remember thinking it wasn’t a very good ride and had zero interest in going on it again. I know others love it, but I’d certainly welcome a change.

  • At first I was really depressed reading the title fearing an IP invasion, but with your details I’m all for it if that’s what’s necessary. Yes I will miss it, but the more recent scenes seem really dated, especially when they’re supposed to be the most innovative and modern part of the ride.

  • Seems the work is overdue at “Spaceship Earth” but anyone aware what will happen to the “Leave Au’ Legacy “ display ??? #thanks

  • Since they’re keeping the original concept of the ride around, I can wait this lengthy downtime in order for it to get the attention to detail that it deserves. So happy to hear they aren’t making this a Marvel ride, etc.

  • This is outrageous and unacceptable! There seems to be no end to the overabundance of unnecessary construction projects that currently populate WDW, and their solution is to begin another. These projects do nothing more than line the pockets of the contractors and incredibly lazy construction workers while providing an unpleasant and unsafe environment for the innocent families and children that visit the parks daily. Also can anyone explain to me how a simple refurbishment will take up to 30 months? No doubt we will be subjected to two and a half years of witnessing construction workers lay about doing little to nothing when they should be diligently working to get Spaceship Earth up and running. And they had better not replace Dame Judi Dench’s narration!!

  • Well considering I’m not a huge fan it helps me avoid the ride as my son wants to ride it every time we go there, which is often. Totally looking forward to the new and improved experience and hope more details will come out at D23.

  • Spaceship Earth is my favorite attraction at Disney World.
    I’ll certainly miss riding it on a couple vacations.
    But this is GREAT, GREAT news!!

  • “more timeless”
    It’s already Epcot’s icon and signature attraction, and captivates riders today just as it did in the 80s

    “more relevant”
    This I could understand, by bringing the history of the ride up to modern day. However, we’re in a time of constant change, and there isn’t room to keep adding more and more scenes as the decades go by. Not sure why just going up to “the digital age” isn’t enough.

    “more family friendly”
    This ride is already rated G and is enjoyed by the youngest and oldest riders. The only people who appear to be upset by it are those who have to be told that their time travel vehicle is going to rotate and travel backwards, as if that wasn’t supposed to happen. Maybe they need to add a warning to Expedition Everest as well. Unless they mean there’s no crazy humor, chase sequences, or cartoon characters in it, which it has done just fine without. I love all those things, but Spaceship Earth’s serious tone works beautifully.

    “and more Disney”
    This one hurts the most. If Spaceship Earth isn’t as Disney as it gets, I don’t know what Disney is anymore. Walt Disney not only wanted to entertain people, he wanted to try to address some of the problems of our world. His “prototype community” was his vision of clean, peaceful living. Spaceship Earth shows the history of communication and innovation throughout human history. It helps us realize how we fit into that timeline, and that we will be the ones to move things forward.

    Hopefully by “more Disney,” they mean better animatronics and maybe some updated special effects. I would not mind that, especially if they need to fix the track and ride system. But the ride has always been one of the Disney Company’s crowning achievements, and I hope they leave the spirit of the ride intact.

  • I’ll be willing to have it off-line for 2 years if they fix things like the decent. (disliked when they removed “Tomorrows Child”) Hopefully they will not keep the interactive piece since I prefer my dark rides to be just that. Much like COP, this is a classic IMHO and should not be radically messed with. The improvements will be much welcomed, especially if they add more inventions/innovations into the timeline. Hopefully they also select a narrator who will carry on the legacy of the attraction. Vic Perrin and Jeremy Irons were my personal favorites.

  • So much of Epcot is SO overdue for an overhaul. Glad to see the flagship ride at the park getting some love. Can’t wait to see what they do with it.

  • The mechanical system that powers spaceship earth was designed to last a long time, but to do so the main engine that moves the ride vehicles is about 50 or so feet under SSE and was built to last 40-50 years. Since that would be near impossible to replace, they are likely reconfiguring the whole layout of the post-show area to house a new ride system to support it for another century. This was likely going to happen at this time, Future World getting re-imagined or not.

    • Where did you possibly ever get that information? There is no “main engine that moves the ride vehicles” under SSE! It’s a series of electric motors right up under the track.

  • I think one major detail left out is Siemens no longer sponsors the ball! I’m sure Disney will want to remove all of their logos and affiliations within the ride.

  • Tom,

    Two and a half years is so long for a single refurb. Disney has built entire lands in that amount of time. What’s the longest single ride reburb you can recall?

  • As long as they don’t turn it into another Disney IP ride, i.e. Maelstrom, Universe of Energy. Seems like the park is straying VERY far away from the park it was dedicated as.

  • It’ll be interesting to see what they project on the exterior during the downtime. I, for one, like what they do at the Castle. Spaceship Earth could be very exciting.

  • As long as they don’t butcher it by adding Marvel characters, I can endure it.

    While they’re at it, maybe record a new narration with the classic voice of Jeremy Irons to return the attraction to its true glory.

  • Yeah I bet after they realize how much all of that costs they don’t do 90% of what you’re suggesting. No fear everyone, Spaceship Earth isn’t going anywhere for that long.

  • I will not be able to thank a Phoenician for two and a half years? It better be worth it!!! Seriously, SE is a great ride and hope it continues to be!!!

  • Spaceship Earth is my wife and my favorite ride. And now it will apparently be gone for 2 and a half years. I don’t know how Disney can make up for that, much less for 2 and a half years.

  • Spaceship Earth is my family’s absolute favorite ride at Epcot. I’m a little sad to hear about the overhaul, but was totally expecting it. Change happens…but, instead of ruining, I just really hope it enhances the awesomeness of this ride.

  • When we went in 2016, it seemed obvious that Spaceship Earth was fairly dated. Really needs an update for now and into the future, and sounds like they’re finally getting a focus on that.

    We all felt Epcot held a lot of promise, but it’s still not quite realized. A lot of open space and rides that need updating.

    Can’t wait to see how this turns out in 2022!

  • That’s my wife and my favorite ride. How can they compensate for this major ride being gone for two and a half years? We’re not interested in the roller coaster they tore down Ellen’s Energy Adventure for.

  • Is it possible they meant it will reopen for the 50th anniversary? Oct 1st 2021? The end of 2022 will be the end of the 50th anniversary celebration year…can’t imagine it would be closed for that 🤷‍♀️

  • I feel very mixed about this. On one hand, an ambitious overhaul of Epcot is exactly what the nature of the park calls for. I’m skeptical that the Disney of today will uphold the park’s ideals and theming so that alone makes me worried. A new Spaceship Earth is exciting, but it’s honestly one of the main reasons my family plans a WDW trip every other year. 2.5 years without it is pretty long. I hope the updates are worth the lengthy downtime and with WDI not having the best reputation with long-time guests and fans right now, I HOPE it’s better than ever before.

  • This is great news. It is a long time, but the current version of the ride is simply sub-par. Everything after the newspaper scene is bad, and everything after the turn around is well…not there! Replacing the last half of the ride with a bad cartoon was a terrible idea. I am just hopeful that the ride will be de-Denched, and some of those awful one-liners will be removed as well. It would be awesome if Disney Made Spaceship Earth Great Again!!!

  • I am so bummed that SE will be closed for the entire year that celebrates WDW’s 50th anniversary! They should have started this earlier in order to have it ready for 2021. I can believe that it would take 2.5 years to update Future World since even SE needs to go a bit beyond the ‘first computers in the garage’ state of the art and bring us forward with some of the future we poor peasants don’t even know about yet. And there is no doubt that Innoventions has long ago outlived its interest since they basically use these for meet and greets and walk thru paths now. But that they wouldn’t have SE, the centerpiece of Epcot, open for 2021 is, in my opinion, sad.

  • I hope they don’t shorten the duration. It seems like rides used to last 10-20 minutes with replacements lasting only about 3-5. Waiting 45 minutes for a 20 minute ride, doable. Waiting 60+ for Mission Space? Not worth it.

  • sorry this should never take 2.5 years ! universal could build 3 new attractions in that time. but look at the mess at Hollywood studios . as prices rise and rise. been a passholder for 20 years will not renew until all construction is completed .

  • No! I don’t quite understand why Disney can’t leave the things the way they were. I prefer a more classic (outdated) feel as opposed to new and “more relevant” and “more Disney”

  • A major change to Spaceship Earth would be very welcome, along with a major change to EPCOT’s central plaza. Taking several years the price that muct be paid and I suspect that the wait will be more than worth it.

  • My great uncle was one of the original desighners he now has a museum of his art to remember him by can you make a memory story about the original artist

  • Spaceship earth needs more women doing significant things. The Renaissance in particular had a number of artists who could be included. Right now it is like women did nothing to advance human knowledge or technology. Our girls need to see more of themselves here and this is a good opportunity for that to happen.

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