March 24, 2017

Behold the Theme Park Sphere

Love Epcot? Me, too. There's just so much creativity and charm mixed in with all that positive, forward focused thinking. That said, the park's iconic centerpiece, Spaceship Earth, is far from an original thought.

The top photo of Expo 1967- Montreal (from Imagineering Disney) reveals those amazing Disney Imagineers were not the first to recognize and adapt the power and style of the sphere as an icon. Nor would it be the last.

Europa Park, Germany (photographer unknown)

Epcot's landmark sphere was copied almost directly at Europa Park in Germany. Opening in 1989, only a few years after Disney's park, this slightly shorter building houses the Eurosat coaster. Hmm. A coaster fully enclosed in the dark.

Time Racers to replace Spaceship Earth.

Where have we heard that? Oh yes, it was part of the Imagineer's planned redesign for Spaceship Earth, a coaster called Time Racers, back when Future World was to become Discoveryland. As you can see, designers gain inspiration from each other. It really works both ways.

Futurescope, Paris, France (photographer unknown)

Just a few hundred miles west in Paris, another theme park sphere shows up. Futurescope, celebrating the power and influence of film, also uses the mighty sphere to make a powerful statement. No metallic triangles, but just as striking with its smooth exterior. The use of the sphere is not limited to Europe, however.

World Energy Expo 2017, Astana, Kazakhstan

Here's a new sphere in the theme park / exposition landscape. On the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest sphere will debut this year as the centerpiece building of the World Energy Expo in Astana. The concept art above appears to present a transparent structure- certainly a first.

1964 World's Fair, New York, USA

Let's close out our brief look at the theme park sphere with three lovely if not fully realized parks. Directly above, the 1964 New York World's Fair's 12 story Unisphere. Any Disney park fan with a small bit of knowledge of the company's history knows this World's Fair hosted a multitude of Disney attractions. Everything from It's A Small World to the Carousel of Progress. With President Lincoln and dinosaurs in between. The success of the Disney attractions paved the way for the decision to build Walt Disney World.

EPCOT Center 1981, Orlando, USA

The next theme park sphere holds a very special place in my heart. Epcot's Spaceship Earth. Not only is it an absolutely stunning piece of architecture, it reminds me of the very first brand new Disney park my wife and I ever toured together. We'd been married just a year when we first visited. And my very first glance of it was from the monorail just shortly before park closing. A beautiful, balmy Florida evening in late March 1983. Our future looked as bright as the park did. (Over time, we have fared much better than the park!)

One last theme park sphere to explore.

Proposed Westcot, Anaheim, USA (unbuilt)

The unbuilt Westcot. This was what Disney promised and never delivered as Anaheim's second park. A grander refreshed version of Epcot for the West Coast. Would have loved it! Instead, we got California Adventure 1.0 to satisfy the massive Disney fan base. (There was even a version of Epcot proposed for France, but that's for another story.) Speaking of Westcot, I'm reminded I still need to finish that story...

(Disney artwork copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Debbie V. said...

First off - loved the story of you and your wife circling Spaceship Earth. I, too, feel the magic at Epcot.
2nd - Those other spheres - I had no idea. Maybe sometime I had seen something but I had forgotten. In exploring the Futuroscope park in France - all those interesting buildings! Like that one that looks like a quartz crystal and others.
And if they build the transparent sphere in Kazakhstan it will be beautiful. Now checking out exactly where that is.
Thanks for posting!

Mark Taft said...

i'm sure I've missed a few other examples. But it is interesting to note Epcot's icon is not all that original!