Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spaceship Earth

There was a beautiful, ethereal majesty to Spaceship Earth as it existed from 1982 to 1999, before the millennium, before the hand and the wand.

Spaceship Earth achieved something virtually every architect aims to do but few ever accomplish: It made a bold and immediately compelling statement simply by existing. Anyone who saw it from afar, even without knowing anything about EPCOT Center, had an emotional response. The gleaming silver sphere promised something both impossibly grand and strangely familiar. It was an unmistakable landmark and also a symbol of everything for which EPCOT Center stood -- beckoning guests to comment on it and conveying a message of future hope and opportunity even if that message wasn't consciously understood.

By erecting the Mickey Mouse hand and wand, Spaceship Earth was defaced. It would have been understandable had the decorations been a temporary salute to the millennium, then been dismantled. But when the decision was made to make them both permanent -- and, worse, changing "2000" to a curlicue "Epcot" -- the meaning of Spaceship Earth was changed entirely.

Now, it stands as a giant billboard and not much more than that. It is a garish reminder that Disney cannot love itself enough, that the company must push Mickey Mouse into places that he is not comfortable. The giant, disembodied hand with the "Epcot" name spelled out is the most remarkably in-your-face insistence on blending corporate messages I've ever seen.

It's as if no one understood that Spaceship Earth itself was a symbol, one known to virtually anyone who had ever been to or even thought of visiting Walt Disney World. Much like the Empire State Building or Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, Spaceship Earth was instantly recognizable and inspirational for its simplicity.

It's time to take down that wand and hand, to show that Disney's newly inspired crop of Imagineers understand that the unadorned Spaceship Earth is a structure of power and of imagination in a way that even Cinderella Castle couldn't be, because it is wholly unique, created not by taking inspiration from the real world, but by imagining something out of whole cloth.

If and when that hand and wand come down, it will be a sure sign that Disney might, 24 years after it opened, finally be trying to understand Epcot.


Matt Arnold said...

I agree that the structure should have been taken down after the turn of the millenium celebration. But I'm glad it was there during it. Epcot is a millenarian place. Other parks escape into mythologies of the past, and Epcot escapes into a mythology of a future of infinite possiblity. It was as if Spaceship Earth were dressed up for the arrival of the special occasion for which it had been built: the arrival of the fabled future.

That's why as a future-oriented person Spaceship Earth is very important to me. My parents started a project to decorate their bathroom in tiles representing all the family members-- a rose, a bible, athletic equipment. I represented myself with Spaceship Earth: Link. I went ahead and included the hand and "2000" to emphasize the point.

Yes, Spaceship Earth should go back to being unadorned, but during the turn of the millenium the world needed to be pointed to Epcot Center as the mecca of the future.

Anonymous said...

The hand must go. I agree. Maybe Lasseter will have some kind of influence, but I'm still not sure what his role as a kind of overseer of Imagineeringis going to be.

When you actually see the hand and wand, it is an impressively huge structure. That it in fact dwarfs SE in its 2D cartoon fashion is interesting, but it's also pathetic. SE should be THE structure at Epcot. Not the damn wand.