Spaceship Earth – The Majesty of the Sistine ceiling

The style of painting, sculpture and decorative arts identified with the Renaissance reached its zenith in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, in the work of Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel, entitled “The Creation of Adam.” is painted before our eyes by Michelangelo Buonarroti as we are surrounded by the sounds of Hallelujahs.

sistene

Still photos of this scene do not do it justice as there are some subtle movements that make the act of painting look pretty realistic.

Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel)

In reality, the size of the entire Sistine ceiling is about the size of 2 basketball courts done in fresco.   The section being worked on, The Creation of Adam is about 9 ft 2 in x 18 ft 8 in (1).  There are a few interesting points of controversy that have been raised from this scene.

Left or Right Handed?

In previous ride versions, Michelangelo is presented as painting with this left hand.  There are numerous sources claiming that Michelangelo was left handed and there are others that dispute this by studying his art.

Spaceship_Earth_Classic_057_082005

Its possible that like my older left handed relatives he had to train to use his right hand as dominant.  Either way, the latest depiction of the scene shows Michelangelo painting with his right hand but also holding  a palette with the left.

twohands

Laying Down or Standing Up?

Michelangelo and his assistants used wooden scaffolds that allowed them to stand upright and reach above their heads. Michelangelo himself designed the unique system of platforms, which were attached to the walls with brackets. The impression that Michelangelo painted on his back might come from the 1965 film “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” in which Charlton Heston portrayed the genius behind the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling (2).

ⓒ Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans/YOONIQ Images

Charlton Heston as Michelangelo ⓒ Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans/YOONIQ Images

Of course the concept art for the ride by illustrator Claudio Mazzoli also shows Michelangelo laying down (3).

epcot rend 13

Below is a more likely depiction of how the painting took place.

jack-hayes-michelangelo-buonarrotti-painting-the-sistine-chapel_a-g-7681468-8880742

Michaelangelo Painting the Sistine Chapel. Original artwork for illustration in The Bible Story or Look and Learn by Jack Hayes © Look and Learn

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

Books make it easier to invent the future in every field, and the result is an incredible explosion of innovation that we call the Renaissance.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

Scientists, explorers, and scholars spread their discoveries in books and essays. Poets, musicians, and artists fueled by the passion of the age created timeless works of beauty and majesty.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creación_de_Adán_(Miguel_Ángel).jpg
  2. http://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-sistine-chapel
  3. http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2012/09/epcot-30th-anniversary-celebration.html
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Spaceship Earth – Renaissance: Music, Painting, and Sculpture

Start out this scene with some background Renaissance music:

Renaissance Music

According to Jim Korkis, experts in the field of Renaissance musicology like Genette Foster from Occidental College  were engaged to consult and perform the music in this scene (1). The entire Spaceship Earth score was composed and arranged by Edo Guidotti.

musicians

Post 2008 refurb with more color and music stands for sheet music

Making music for private family pleasure or small gatherings played a major role in the 16th century and required new print technology to print musical type which became an important sector for the European book trade (2).

We’ve seen these hedges before.  While it helps to indicate they are outside, they worry me that they are more about park construction. Regardless the male musician is shown playing the lute (plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back) and the female musician is playing the lira da braccio (like a violin, but with a wider fingerboard and flatter bridge) (3).

Spaceship_Earth_Classic_052_082005

Prior to 2008 refurb


IMPORTANT NOTE:   I would like to point out that the musician on the right is only the second female animatronic to appear since the Ancient Egyptian scene.   That’s about 2500 years in time without women representation.  Get it together Disney.


Painting

We see a fella mixing some paint.  I can’t tell if he’s just mixing colors or if he’s mixing pigments with a mortar and pestle.  During this time, oil paints were used and that’s what the painter in this studio appears to be using.

Spaceship Earth-(11-2010)-032

Our painter is working on a still life of fruit, cheese, and a bottle.  Still life work was considered artisanal rather than artistic talent but by the Renaissance, several artists (Caravaggio, Figino) had challenged this convention.   Work typically depicted fruits, flowers, eating vessels, bones, and skulls (4).  This explains the skull on the upper shelf.

Spaceship Earth 33 painter

I think its pretty cool that the imagineers need to set up the display with painting to match. The updates made to this scene were to include more detail and color in the painting and also provided more art on the artists shelf.  There is an additional portrait pinned up on the shelf along with the portrait he did of the sculptor in the same studio.

Sculpture

The Italian Renaissance returned the female nude to the forefront of creativity, in both fine art painting and in sculpture (5). Before the 2008 refurb we had a sculpture of the female nude in the works.

Spaceship_Earth_Classic_054_042008

Pre 2008 refurbishment

The 2008 refurb covered up the exposed breast with an awkward mass of marble in its place.   This is unfortunate because its not a lewd act by the sculptor or original imagineer. The female breast has been used as an exterior symbol of the female heart: a symbol of the many types of love and nourishment which spring from that source – not a primary sexual content (6).

Even when sexuality was a prominent element of meaning in an image including exposed breasts, they still remained a multi-purpose symbol, retaining their associations with maternity and security and love. – Anne Ashton (6)

Scenes in Spaceship Earth attraction in Epcot's Future World.

Covered up – Renaissance Sculpture post 2008

Lame move dudes!

Twinsies!

Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The lute player is said to also be the Dwight D. Eisenhower from the Hall of Presidents (1).

eisenhower   lute

Triplets?!

If you find this fella to be especially heartwarming, there is good reason!  He is also your host from the Carousel of Progress!

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

And the female musician playing the lira da braccio is the daughter from the Carousel of Progress!

girl      daughter

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

Books make it easier to invent the future in every field, and the result is an incredible explosion of innovation that we call the Renaissance.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

Scientists, explorers, and scholars spread their discoveries in books and essays. Poets, musicians, and artists fueled by the passion of the age created timeless works of beauty and majesty.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1. https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
  2. Pettegree, A. (2010). The Book in the RenaissanceNew Haven and London, Yale University Press
  3. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/musicappreciation_with_theory/chapter/instruments-used-in-renaissance-music/
  4. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/sstl/hd_sstl.htm
  5. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/genres/female-nudes-art-history.htm#italianrenaissance
  6. Ashton, Anne M. (2006). Interpreting breast iconography in Italian art, 1250-1600. United Kingdom, University of St Andrews
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I love everything about this

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Spaceship Earth – Renaissance: Italy, Books, and Bowlcuts

Behold! The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art.  The printing press allowed the ideas of the era to spread far from their native cultures. The Renaissance led to a flowering of music, literature and art, and architecture (1).  Buckle up, because this one is a series of scenes that culminates in an animatronic extravaganza!

Statue of Sophocles

Sophocles

A statue of  Sophocles found in Terracina, Italy and is preserved in the Gregorian Museum of Profane Art, in the Vatican.

 

The first thing we see to the right after the printer press scene is a statue of Sophocles, the celebrated writer of tragedy plays in ancient Greece.  Prior to the 2008 refurbishment it was a play by Sophocles being portrayed in the Ancient Greece Theater scene.  He returns again at the start of the Renaissance scene to let us know that we have moved from Gutenberg’s print shop in Germany to Italy and to signify we are psyched about dramas again.

sophackles sse

Sophocles Statue from Spaceship Earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sophocles

The pail next to Sophocles isn’t for park maps, its holding eight scrolls, a reference to his seven extant tragedies and one satyr play (2).  The statue was found after the Renaissance south of Florence Italy.

Florence, Italy

Within just a few years, printing presses were being estabslished all over Italy.   By the end of the 15th Century about 80 towns in Italy had printing presses.  Italy was responsible for almost 1/3 of the books published in Europe during this time (3).  One city in Italy didn’t do nearly as well as others for print and that city is Florence.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence by Filippo Brunelleschi

Florence was the “intellectual capital” of the Italian Renaissance as well as a producer of hand written manuscript books.   The elite were reluctant to adopt the new, less beautiful means of production from the printing press (3).

city

Spaceship Earth Renaissance Background

Books and Ideas

Despite Florence’s resistence to to print at the start, the first characters we see after the statue are two men reading from a pile of books.   They may be poets, philosophers, or scientists but regardless they are dressed in fancy pants!

lit

First Renaissance Scene post 2008.

Our friend on the left (above) looks an awful lot like future President, Andrew Jackson and a previous press operator from Gutenberg’s press.   Perhaps having an inside printer is what warmed these guys up to the idea of mass produced non-elitist texts.

sse-8-1

First Renaissance Scene pre 2008.

Previous versions of this ride featured someone reading to two people with bowl cuts.  If I was a betting’ woman, I would day these two bowl cuts went back in time to Ancient Greece for some re-schooling and fortunately for them, better hair.

Spaceship_Earth_Classic_049_082005

Renaissance, Italy Circa 1500 AD

dudes copy

Ancient Greece circa 400 BC

The next post will share the music these poets or philosophers get to listen to.  On a loop.  For all the days. (We were stuck at this part in the ride once for an extended period of time.)

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

Books make it easier to invent the future in every field, and the result is an incredible explosion of innovation that we call the Renaissance.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

Scientists, explorers, and scholars spread their discoveries in books and essays. Poets, musicians, and artists fueled by the passion of the age created timeless works of beauty and majesty.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1. http://www.mrdowling.com/704renaissance.html
  2. http://www.vintageworks.net/search/detail.php/256/Robert+MacPherson/0/13402
  3. Pettegree, A. (2010). The Book in the Renaissance. New Haven and London, Yale University Press
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Spaceship Earth – Moveable Type Printing Press

Finally!  We get some help.  Some folks thought it was nuts to keep writing this stuff out and created a template by carving into a wood block.   This actually continued to serve well for illustrations but not for the text.  Remember all the rubbing when you had to do your first linoleum block in school?  Surely there must be another way!  Introducing the – the Moveable Type Printing Press!

IMG_4813

Here are some concept art pieces for this scene by Claudio Mazzoli.

epcot rend 10epcot rend 12

Instead of grueling copying and rubbing we have we now have the printing press.  It works like this:

Moveable Type

Letters are produced separately, then arranged into an infinite number of new combinations and can be reused (thus creating a font)*.  Eureka!  This process of casting the letters was not invented by Gutenberg, it was just applied to this process.

*Note that a study of the Gutenberg bible shows that the same letters were not reused through out.

letters

In the this large wooden tray (letter case), the different letters are kept organized (lowercase/uppercase) etc.   The straight edge on the table in front of this tray is a composing stick that is used to arrange the letters.  The composing stick was left there by a composer who didn’t return a later refurbishment.

4th letter

The composer reads from the text of a handwritten version of the text to be printed, then arranges the letters on the stick till one line is complete.  This is repeated until the full page of letters is ready and are loaded into a frame.  The frame is then loaded onto the bed of the press and ink is applied (1).

The Press

There are two parts to the press itself.  The first is the carriage that holds the bed. The press used is a screw press, the same used from winemaking.  The carriage has dampened paper placed above the frame of letters.  The carriage is slid into the press.  The handle of the press swings from left to right and back at 90 degrees so that a wood or metal plate could press the paper onto the ink.

Spaceship Earth-(11-2009)-014

Note the hand prints of ink on the sides of the press.  Remarkable detail for the print process including all the pages hung up to dry.

The Gutenberg Bible

This scene’s main character is Gutenberg seen examining a page of the Bible that has been printed.  This sheet is a replication from an actual original Gutenberg Bible in the Huntington Library collection.  There were approximately 180 copies made and about 50 can be accounted for (2).  One of them is at Harvard where I work!

Spaceship Earth-(11-2009)-015

An original paper Bible cost about 20 gulden – almost what a master craftsman would make in a year or about 1/4 the cost of a stone built house (2)!

Binding

The previous iteration of the ride showed the printed pages bundled together in stacks to be bound.   In the current version they are already bound – an art in and of itself.

bundles

Twinsies!

Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The printer who is pushing/pulling the tray is said to also be the Andrew Jackson from the Hall of Presidents (3).

printer

ANDREW JACKSON

Johannes Gutenberg is said to also be the James Buchanan from the Hall of Presidents (3).

han        BUCHANAN

The pressman is said to also be the Andrew Carnegie from American Adventure (3).

PPPRINT      carnegie

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

In 1450, Gutenberg invents the movable type printing press. Now knowledge can travel as fast as these new books, and travel they do.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

Finally, from the depths of the Dark Ages came the Age of Enlightenment: the Renaissance. And with this era, came a powerful new invention: the moveable type printing press.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The dawn of the Renaissance brings a wondrous new machine, the printing press. Now books and authors flourish as never before.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

At last, a new dawn emerges. The dawn of the Renaissance-and a wondrous machine performs as a thousand scribes. Now for all: the printed word.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

We lit the walls with printed words, filled them with ideas that taught – informed – inspired. Some old – some new – ideas to share and spread to far and distant shores.


  1.  http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/educator/modules/gutenberg/invention/printshop/
  2. Pettegree, A. (2010). The Book in the Renaissance. New Haven and London, Yale University Press
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
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Spaceship Earth – Medieval Scribes

Our Jewish, Muslim, and Christian friends worked to translate these ever important texts in varying languages.  Certainly the completion of the double, sometimes triple translation (Greek into Arabic, Arabic into Latin, and sometimes Spanish) is one of the most fruitful scholarly enterprises ever undertaken (1).  Once the books were translated, they had to transcribed for dissemination.   Listen to some chanting and get in the mood for some work!

scribe

Enter the monks who lived in isolation in a western abbey such as the Monte Cassino.  These monks, perhaps taking a vow of silence (hence the lonely isolation) would not only transcribe the words but also managed the formatting and illustration by hand (2).  No Microsoft Word Template for these guys.

There is fantastic detail in this short scene.   The manuscripts used in the scene are great representations to the real thing.  According to Jim Korkis, Mary Robertson, the curator of Rare Manuscripts of the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., was consulted regarding creation of manuscripts during the Middle Ages (3).  Orlando Theme Park News captured some fantastic detail below.

desksbook

Sleeping Monk

One of the favored scenes in this ride is the monk who has fallen asleep on the job.  The dude is unabashedly snoring.   This is cute and humorous but also true to the humor of some of these scribes.

sleep

Turns out that “cheeky complaints” were written by some monks in the margins.  My favorite being:

Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.

At least some humor could be found by the monks toiling away!

Twinsies!

Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The monk that is awake and transcribing is said to also be the John Adams from the Hall of Presidents (3).

writmonk   adams-lit

Rumor also has it that according to Jim Hill the sleeping monk in the monastary is the same figure as Woodrow Wilson in the Hall of Presidents but I haven’t been able to verify and I don’t see the resemblance.   Wilson, like Adams is sitting, as are the monks so it would make sense for presentation purposes.

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

In the meantime, here in Europe monks toil endlessly recording these books by hand, but that is about to change.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

In western abbeys, Monks toil endlessly in lonely isolation copying ancient books of wisdom and revelations for future generations.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

In western abbeys, Monks toil endlessly transcribing ancient writings into hand-penned books of revelation.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

In western abbeys, monks toil endlessly transcribing ancient wisdom into hand-penned books of revelation.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1.  Francis and Joseph Gies (1994). Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages. New York, HarperPerennial
  2. http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/educator/modules/gutenberg/books/before/
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
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Spaceship Earth – Islamic Empire

Wipe the tears from your eyes, the smoke has cleared and we have moved ahead to the mid-7th century to the mid-13th century.  The city of Baghdad is a center of learning and innovations that rivaled Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome (6), a new intellectual epicenter has emerged!

Sharing Ideas

We happen upon muslim scholars presumably having an intellectual conversation which could have been about a variety of subjects including agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology (1).   During this period, the people of the Islamic world including Jewish and Muslim scholars preserved earlier traditions from the ancient texts and added inventions and innovations of their own.

sse-7-1

Scene prior to 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels.

As the narrators of the ride imply, the “copies of these books” include many classic works of antiquity (Mesopotamia, Ancient Rome, China, India, Persia, Ancient Egypt, North Africa, Ancient Greece and Byzantine civilizations) (1) that would otherwise have been forgotten were translated into Arabic and later in turn translated into Turkish, Sindhi, Persian, Hebrew and Latin.  In two centuries, the Islamic Empire extended its reach from Spain to the edge of India and shared these texts and ideas.

1xsx

Scholars sharing knowledge from scrolls post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Orlando Theme Park News.

spaceship-earth-10-2009-015

New detailed lighting post 2008 refurbishment. Copyright Magic in Pixels.

Scholars would often get together for “literary gatherings” and hold study circles at independent libraries to either share ideas or recite texts (2).   With the latest 2008 ride changes we lost one scholar but gained more elaborate attire for the remaining three.  Books were also replaced with scrolls, perhaps indicating that we are earlier in the sharing of information than originally depicted.  

Astronomy

The construction of the first observatory for research appears in Baghdad and the collection and correction of previous astronomical data takes place leading to exciting discoveries.   Examples include (1):

  • Ja’far Muhammad ibn Mūsā ibn Shākir discovered that the heavenly bodies and celestial spheres were subject to the same physical laws as Earth
  • The first non-Ptolemaic models (Earth NOT in the center of the Universe) by Ibn al-Haytham andMo’ayyeduddin Urdi,
  • The first empirical observational evidence of the Earth’s rotation by Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī and Ali Qushji

Standing up high on the balcony on the right, an astronomer holds a quadrant reproduced from photos of a 10th century Islamic quadrant supplied by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (3).  

 

Spaceship_Earth_024_122007

The Horary Quadrant is designed to give approximate readings of time and altitude of the sun.  Detailed instructions can be found in this article in the Journal for the History of Astronomy.  

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Horary Quadrant from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Libraries and Paper

On the left is a library.  In the previous version, the scene featured two men (one standing, one seated) who are reading.   Our standing scholar took leave in our latest version and now presents a scholar deep in thought reading an ancient textbook (4).  

spaceship-earth-10-2009-016

The Muslim Civilisation has held libraries as centres of knowledge with high regard. So widespread were public book collections that it was impossible to find a Mosque or a learning institution of any sort, throughout the lands of Islam, without a collection of books placed at the disposal of students or readers (5).  The Muslim Civilisation had many techniques for each stage of book production: composition, copying, illustrating, binding, publishing, storing and selling. Reading books, as well as hearing them being dictated, became one of the major occupations and pastimes (5).

Paper

Muslims were responsible for the transfer of papermaking from China, where it had been invented in the centuries before Christ, to Europe, where it fueled the print revolution in the late fifteenth century.   Paper soon became standard for all books (6). Not only do we have a “back up” for the ancient texts but we have a method for faster dissemination of knowledge!

Twinsies!

Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The scholar in the front right from the pre-2008 refurbishment was said to also be the John Tyler from the Hall of Presidents (although this isn’t as easy to verify) (3).

turk     tyler

In addition, the sitting scholar is said to also be Franklin Pierce from the Hall of Presidents (3).

sitting   pierce

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

It turns out there were copies of some of these books in the libraries of the Middle East, being watched over by Arab and Jewish scholars. Call it, the first back-up system. The books are saved, and with them: our dreams of the future.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

But all was not lost. For far across the land, from Cairo to Cordoba, Jewish teachers and Islamic scholars continued the quest for knowledge. In libraries of wisdom, they debated ideas and shared new discoveries with all who would listen.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

But all is not lost, for Islamic and Jewish scholars continue to preserve ancient wisdom in noble libraries. In their travels, they record knowledge, and share their findings with cultures East and West.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Far from the dying embers, Islamic wise men preserve ancient wisdom and weave a rich network of new knowledge linking east and west.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1. http://islamichistory.org/islamic-golden-age/
  2.  Ali, S. M..Arabic Literary Salons in the Islamic Middle Ages: Poetry, Public Performance, and the Presentation of the Past. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010. Project MUSE
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
  4. http://www.themagicinpixels.com/2007/12/changes-made-to-spaceship-earth/
  5. http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/knowledge-learning-institutions-and-libraries-islam-book-publishing-and-paper-making
  6. http://www.pbs.org/empires/islam/innopaper.html
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Spaceship Earth – Burning Rome

Graffiti

As you leave the meet up between the Romans (and shake your head in despair that the the chariot is missing) look to the right and you’ll see Ancient Roman graffiti! According to Jim Korkis (3):

The graffiti which appears on the walls in the “Fall of Rome” also appeared on the walls of ancient Pompeii and was taken from a collection of graffiti titled Loves and Lovers of Ancient Pompeii by professor Matteo Della Corte. One example is “Quisquis amat pereat” that translates to “May whoever loves perish!”

graffiti

Fire!

The Roman Empire has had multiple fires during its time, at least seven were conflagrations.  These fires were either in congested industrial/commercial areas or those surrounding the Forum (previous scene).  These fires offered an opportunity for rebuilding on a better scale with improved materials (1).

But with the fall of Rome (a period that lasted hundreds of years), invaders looted, burned, and pillaged their way through the city, leaving a wake of destruction wherever they went.

burning-rome

In the most recent version of the ride – Judy indicates that we are witnessing the burning of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt, although scholars are still not able to agree on how it was destroyed (2).   The Library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries in the ancient world with the greatest scientists, mathematicians, and poets from all civilizations.

The “Dark Ages”

The loss of the Library of Alexandria is in part symbolic of a general decline in access to learning that, with the collapse of Rome itself, led to the extinction of anything resembling organized history in western Europe for an extended period (4).

The Early Middle Ages (formerly referred to as the “Dark Ages”) is the early medieval period of western European history during ~(476 – 1000 AD) when barbarian peoples moved into what used to be the Western Roman Empire (5).  During this time, there was an overall cultural and economic deterioration.  Much of the great knowledge was assumed lost or burned.

The smell of “burning Rome”

A testement to the power of one of our 5 senses – THE SMELL OF ROME.   Whether you love it or loathe it – its plays a big part in the discussion of the ride.  There is even a market for scented candles!  Take a look:

burning_rome

burninghirt

candle

Regardless of how you find your way to have the smell in your home through tea, a candle, or purchasing liquid smoke  – Disney does not have a hippy hiding behind the glowing embers blowing incense at us.  They are more likely to use a custom engineered industrial scent diffuser and fragrance delivery system.

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

But then we hit a road block: Rome falls, and the great Library of Alexandria in Egypt is burned. Much of our learning is destroyed… lost forever… or so we think.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

But these same roads were turned against Rome by invaders whose destruction left ages of knowledge and wisdom in the ashes that would become the Dark Ages.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

Glorious Rome falls victim to the flames of excess. Ages of knowledge are lost or forgotten in the ashes.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Glorious Rome, until consumed by the flames of excess. Imperial Rome, lost in the ashes of darkness.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1.  Canter, H. V. (1932). Conflagrations in Ancient Rome.  Northfield, MN, The Classical Journal
  2. http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa-history-important-events/destruction-great-library-alexandria-001644
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
  4. Anderson, John G. T., (2012). Deep Things out of Darkness: A History of Natural History. California, California Scholarship Online
  5.  https://www.britannica.com/event/Dark-Ages
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Spaceship Earth – Ancient Rome

From Ancient Greece we move forward about 500 years to Ancient Rome. There are many details before even reaching the main scene with characters.

Statue

The first thing we see after leaving Greece is a marble statue of Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), the first Roman Emperor.  Augustus had ended 100 years of civil war and achieved over 40 years of internal peace and prosperity but his story makes the current politics look like child’s play.

statue

The inscription at the bottom of the statue comes from the first of The Twelve Tables of Roman Law that were codified about 451 B.C.E. and were regarded by later Romans as the foundation of all their laws (3).  The first table is about Proceedings Preliminary to Trial (1). 

The columns on the statue and in the building for the scene have evolved from the previous doric order greek columns to the Composite order – a combination of Ionic (volute – spiral, scroll) order and Corinthian (acanthus leaves) order styles.  

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All Roads Lead to Rome

As every version of the narrations describe, Rome created a mighty and vast system of roads.  The network of roads are depicted in the background of the scene and appear as a web.  At first roads in Italy and Rome to supply the food and materials for the city, but these were not planned and likely not paved.  Later, roads we planned and paved for political and military reasons (4).

web

The network of roads was vital to enabling fast army movements and stimulating trade. The roads were also built for professional couriers and some governors assigned soldiers to send official messages (4).

Sending a Message

Based on the language in the inscription below the statue, I wonder if this scene takes place in front of a Roman Courthouse.  We clearly see a centurion based on the classic wardrobe who is meeting with a Roman Senator.   We know he’s a senator from the toga he is wearing – Toga praetexta –  this toga featured a wide purple border that denoted the wearer was a Senator or some type of Magistrate (2).  There is a third man in behind who is tending to two horses that carried the centurion’s cart.

rome

Bring back the chariot!

On the network of roads there used to be an animated chariot projected on the road.  This image below shows that part of the scene before it was removed around 2007.   For years I would turn around in my time machine after passing just in case it reappeared, but its never come back.  It was a simple effect that added something special – a detail I wish remained.

Twinsies!

Because animatronics are complex, time intensive to create, and expensive – its common to duplicate the models that are made and dress them differently.   In this scene – The Roman Senator is said to also be the Teddy Roosevelt from the Hall of Presidents (although this isn’t as easy to verify) (3).

senator       roosevelt

In addition, the Centurion is said to also be Zachary Taylor from the Hall of Presidents (3).

spaceship-earth-03-2010-003       taylor2

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

With lessons learned from the Greeks, the Romans create a powerful empire. To move their armies around, they build a system of roads all over the known world. Rome built the first world wide web, and it’s leading us into the future.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007 (narrated by Jeremy Irons)

The mighty Roman empire bridged three continents with a vast system of roads; the fastest information highways the world had ever known. East, west, north, and south – all roads led to Rome.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The Romans build a mighty system of roads – a long distance network to carry laws and tidings over a far-reaching empire.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

North, south, east, and west, all roads lead from Rome, a mighty network reaching across the land, welding far-flung garrisons into a growing empire.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

N/A


  1. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/twelve_tables.asp
  2. http://www.ancient.eu/article/48/
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
  4. Tilburg, C. R. van (Cornelis) (2007). Traffic and congestion in the Roman Empire. New York, Routledge
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Spaceship Earth – Ancient Greece (“Inventors of the Future”)

In the 2008 refurbishment, the theater scene was abandoned and replaced with a scene depicting a philosopher lecturing a number of students.  Far away/little dude is still in the back!  Two young dudes/students were added to the scene.  The handwriting we learned about with the Greek alphabet changed from an aid to oral performance in antiquity to the vital component in education (1).  A few statements from the narration are important to note:

spaceship_earth_016_122007

“First they established public schools…”

Education in ancient Greece was for practical training and to become a nobel Grecian citizen which includes reverence, loyalty, and temperance in word and deed.  Public school was referred to as public because it was subject to state supervision whether it was school was held in homes or private schools.  Typical subjects included gymnastics for beauty and grace, music and reading and writing (3).

Plato was born in 428 or 427 B.c. Originally interested in poetry and music he fell under the influence of Socrates  but also the Pythagoreans and devoted to the study of philosophy, mathematics, and kindred subjects.   In 386 B.C. Plato began his continuous formal teaching. In a private home and garden adjoining the sacred garden and gymnasium of Academus, Plato established his school, the first of the permanent philosophical schools (3).

At the start women had less available education, especially if they already had a family/home.  Women were trained in domestic duties about securing food, shelter, and clothing. Those women that did seek literacy education lost their status as head of household. You’ll notice in this scene, its only dudes!

dudes

Who are those dudes?!   Some say the two new students are from the World of Motion! I say you back to the future and they were a part of the first Renaissance scene before the 2008 refurb.

“…and then begin teaching an intriguing new subject called mathematics.”

They aren’t saying the Greeks INVENTED math, they are saying the the subject and overall discipline as a course of study was lead by Greeks. For example, surely The Egyptians built the pyramids at a very early period and must have known something of mathematics—at least of practical mathematics.

It was left for the Greek philosopher to give these truths, which others saw, but did not formulate into words, an explicit, abstract expression, and to put into scientific language and subject to proof that which others merely felt to be true (4).

Most of these proofs were based in geometry. A list of the well known contributors to the field of Mathematics are:

  • Pythagoras(c.570 – c.495 BC) raised mathematics to the rank of a science.
  • Archytas (c.428 – c.347 BC) reputed founder of mathematical mechanics
  • Plato  (c.424– c.347 BC) founder of Academy of Alexandria
  • Eudoxus (c.390 – c.337 BC) the father of scientific astronomical observation and proportions
  • Aristotle (c.384 – c.322 BC) reasoning and logic
  • Euclid  (c.330 – c.275 BC)  “Father of Astronomy”
  • Archimedes (c.287 – c.212 BC) proved that the value of π lies between 3 + 1/7 and 3 + 10/71pi
  • Apollonius (c.262 BC – c. 190 BC) Conic Sections
  • Hipparchus (c.190 – c.120 BC) Astronomer who originated the science of trigonometry
  • Ptolemy (c.100 – c.170 AD) Earth centered model of the Universe.

The Greeks had so much influence in the early concepts of science that most symbols often used in physics and higher math equations are derived from the Greek alphabet.

This philosopher in this scene appears to be holding an Armillary Sphere or early form of an astrolabe.  Hipparchus is credited with its invention although it was also known to the ancient Chinese (6).

philosopher

An Armillary Sphere has welded circular bands representing the celestial sphere.  Usually a ball representing the Earth is placed in its center. It is used to demonstrate the motion of the stars around the Earth.  Its remarkable that around circa 100 BC that people were able to use trigonometry.   With little light pollution they were able to see the vast night sky so its no surprise they were able to make these advancements.

Armillary Sphere

artline-starship-earth_764001

Modern Celestial Sphere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or its entirely possible that the philosopher was just telling jokes…

“And with math comes mechanical technology and the birth of a high tech life we enjoy today.”

You can have mechanical technology without math but math applied to this technology helps us apply the field to multiple applications.  The Ancient Greeks had lots of technology developed such as weightlifting technloogy, pneumatics, ballistics (for throwing projectiles), spheres, calculators, measuring instruments, surgical machinery, hydraulic implements, time-measuring devices, musical instruments, and devices for their theatrical shows (5).

The balance and the lever (pulley, wheel, wedge, rudder, forceps, mast, oar) from Archimedes are most known during this time.

I’m not sure what “little dude” is holding in this scene.   Perhaps its a model to discuss architecture.   I’m hoping its a model of Heron’s mobile automatic theatre.

spaceship-earth-11-2010-014

February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench)

The ancient Greeks were great inventors of the future. First they established public schools, and then begin teaching an intriguing new subject called mathematics. And with math comes mechanical technology and the birth of a high tech life we enjoy today.


  1. Nellhaus,T (2010). Theater, communication, critical realism. New York. Palgrave Macmillian
  2. http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/greece/gr1060e.shtml
  3. Monroe,P.(1915). Source Book of the History of Education for the Greek and Roman Period. New York, Macmillan Company
  4. Cajori,F. (1919). A History of Mathematics. Macmillan
  5. Berryman,S. (2009). The Mechanical Hypothesis in Ancient Greek Natural Philosophy. UK, Cambridge University Press
  6. https://www.britannica.com/technology/instrumentation-technology#ref179279
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