A Look Back At Spaceship Earth’s “Presidential” Influences and Borrowed Technologies 

by: guide4wdw – Collin

Epcot Center has changed drastically over the years, but one particular element has always remained relatively the same, Spaceship Earth. As the beacon of the park, the geodesic sphere fills a unique role that no other Disney park icon (U.S.) truly encompasses. It is both a ride as well as a symbol of the theme park itself. It inspires and encourages new ideas and creativity. However, the animatronics involved with the ride have a surprising, dare I say “Presidential” backstory. 

As you can likely imagine, Disney tries to cut corners wherever it will not effect the overall guest experience. So, when Spaceship Earth was created, many iterations of previously developed audio-animatronics were used to build a new experience for guests. Of course, many of those figures were later replaced by newer technologies to fill the void they left in their previous roles. 

(Photo: Disney)

Throughout the many intricate scenes of the attraction, technological improvements are debuted in a progressive way to depict our world’s innovations, but the animatronic technology remains largely the same. It’s not until you take a closer look and start digging through Disney history that you find the presidential influence we’re taking a look at today. The carry over use of the animatronics is nearly unnoticeable, but the entire concept likely saved Disney thousands of dollars in build costs.  

During the overall Spaceship Earth attraction we know that at least 8 former Hall of Presidents animatronics were modified and used in the on-ride experience. For example, Theodore Roosevelt reappears as a Senator in the Rome section, Andrew Carnegie operates the printing press, and James Buchanan is Gutenberg himself! Of course, these characters are simply the moving parts of the ones found in the Hall of Presidents, but it’s quite interesting to recognize how Imagineering recycles these animatronic figures to develop new roles. 

No good idea gets left behind or forgotten as new innovations are developed each and every day. While today, (after the renovation of Spaceship Earth quite a few years ago) these “Presidents” may not appear as they once were, it’s interesting to see how Disney brought this attraction to life with immense originality while essentially borrowing the heart of the operation from former audio-animatronics.

Believe it or not, this used to be and likely still is a common practice in Imagineering. Attractions break and new technologies are developed, so older options are still utilized to bring life back to many in-park experiences. Disney is always innovating and creating new ideas, but it’s great to imagine what could be on the horizon. Walt said it best, We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” 
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