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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


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









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).


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!


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.


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.


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


  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!


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.


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 upgraded his use of fonts in the future and leaves this era.

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)!


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.



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).



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!


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.


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.


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!


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


  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.


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.


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


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.  


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).  



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.  


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).  


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).


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!


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


  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


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!”



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.


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:




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


  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.


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.


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.  


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).


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.


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.


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


  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:


“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!


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).


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


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.


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
Posted in Astronomy, Spaceship Earth | 3 Comments

Spaceship Earth – Ancient Greece (“The Theater is Born”)

’82-’97 Version

We move slightly West and on to the 5th – 4th Century BC to find ourselves in Ancient Greece amidst a performance of “Oedipus Rex” written by Sophocles circa 428 B.C.    There are two gentlemen in the forefront with a 3rd in the back holding his mask awaiting his role (1) (he’s actually wicked close, check out the forced perspective, I refer to him as “little dude” in the next post).

Athenian society as a whole was inspired with a sense of event and the things were done in a theatrical fashion. Communication modes were limited limited during this time and it was drama that played an effective role as a mode of communication to the citizens of the ancient Greek world (2).  The Greeks had adapted the Phoenician alphabet around the 8th Century BC by using five of their consonants as vowel sounds (3).

Phoenician  Greek  ABCs

85px-Phoenician_aleph  α Alpha =    A

85px-Phoenician_he  ε Epsilon =    E

85px-Phoenician_yodh   ι Iota =    I

85px-Phoenician_ayin   ο Omicron =    O

85px-Phoenician_waw   υ Upsilon =    U or Y

During the 4th century, the transition from orality to literacy solidified (4).  Literacy was becoming increasingly important as more and more Greeks were able to better understand and adopt the alphabet compared to logographic scripts. Writing lead to changes in rhythm and diction.  Writing lead to more well rounded character development that was first seen in the play depicted in this scene.  As literal culture developed, more actors appeared on stage. In fact it was Sophocles himself who introduced the third actor to the stage (5).

Costume Masks Spaceship_Earth_Classic_034_072006

Now that we have three actors on stage there are more people to play the parts, but these dramatists would often still have to play multiple people in the course of the play.   This is one reason for the greek masks that were worn in this scene.  The greek theaters were large, seating 10’s of thousands at a time and so the masks were also exaggerated so that audience members in far away seats could understand what character they were seeing (6). The shape of the mask also amplified the actor’s voice, making his words easier for the audience to hear (7).

Greek Columns

When turning the corner to this scene on the right the first thing we see are the greek columns on the left.  The actors on the stage are also standing in front of greek columns.   These columns are designed with the Doric order of architecture.

Orlando Theme Park News

Backward View of Greece – Orlando Theme Park News

In the Doric Order, the column shaft is simple and tapered, meaning it is wider at the base than the top. Each column has 20 parallel, vertical grooves called flutes. Columns in the Doric Order did not have a base but rested directly on the pavement of the temple.  The top of a column has a wide, flat section (8).


This scene has a lot of shrubbery.  Based on the region and time period they appear to be either Juniper Shrubs (also found in Egypt and Phoenician areas) or Cypress evergreen.


I’m sure you Disney regulars will know where I’m going to go with this.  Are these the same shrubs Disney uses to cover up areas they don’t want you to see?  Is it possible that this scene is under construction?!





February 15, 2008 – current (narrated by Judy Dench) – see the next post about the major changes made in 2008 that focus on Greek communication outside of the theater.

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

In ancient Greece, the spoken word was elevated to a fine art. Philosophers debated with one another in plazas and storytellers found a new forum for personal expression. The theater was born.

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

In classic Greece, the alphabet grows and flowers with new expression and a new stage of storytelling emerges. A stage on which we examine our world and ourselves. The theater is born.

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

Deep in the shadows of Mount Olympus, our alphabet takes route, flowering with new expression. Hail the proud Greeks: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides. The theater is born.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

And now for all, the printed word! With ink and press we made new walls, bound volumes of Ecclesiastics and Plato! Of Galileo and Homer! Scholar! Scientist! Philosopher! WE caught your should in type and printed you forth in mobs. By the hundreds! By the thousands!

  1. http://www.intercot.com/edc/SpaceshipEarth/spscript.html
  2. Bamunusinghe,S (2012).Drama as a Mode of Communication in the Ancient Greek World. Sri Lanka. Journal of Human Resource Management Vol.3, No.1.
  3. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/greek.htm
  4. Nellhaus,T (2010). Theater, communication, critical realism. New York. Palgrave Macmillian
  5. http://www.cwu.edu/~robinsos/ppages/resources/Theatre_History/Theahis_2.html
  6. http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/greece/gr1060e.shtml
  7. http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/Theatre/
  8. http://study.com/academy/lesson/greek-doric-order-of-architecture-definition-example-buildings-columns.html
Posted in Disney, Spaceship Earth | 3 Comments

Spaceship Earth – The Phoenicians

From Egypt we move North to the Mediterranean Sea where over the next 1,000 years the Phoenicians were the prime sea merchants of the region.  These Semitic sea-traders were not strictly defined to a specific region and were ruled by various empires in the region including the Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks (1).

Spaceship Earth Concept Art by Claudio Mazzoli

Spaceship Earth Concept Art by Claudio Mazzoli


A rough map of their trade route below illustrates how vast their commerce spread.


The Phoenicians offered many imports and exports throughout the region:

  • Copper, silver, gold and tin trade
  • Decorated metal bowls
  • Pottery (bowls, plates, flasks, jugs, pitchers, storage jars, lamps)*
  • Lead, textiles, jewelry, perfumes, glass (2)

*Displayed prominently in the ride scene.

Some of these were created by the Phoenicians and others were part of the regional trade.   Some more noteworthy exports include the following:


The Phoenicians were skilled craftsmen with carving in wood and in ivory.  The carved ivory would be made for inlaid furniture.  You can see ivory tusks very clearly in this scene where the two ships meet for an exchange.



The Egyptians had no wood but needed cedar for coffins and other woods to build their temples.  Since the Phoenicians had the ships and were able to get the lumber from areas such as Byblos they became major lumber exporters.

Tyrian Purple

One of the most prized exports of the Phoenician people is the red/purple dye known as “Tyrian Purple” as most of it was produced in the city of Tyre.   This dye was the mark of royalty and worth much more than its weight in gold.  Its made by breaking the shells of the munex (mollusk species), and extracting their glands which are processed with the side effect of a horrific stench.  A single ounce requires thousands of mollusks (2).  It was commonly used with wool and these colored textiles were also part of their trade. 

You can see the captain of this ship in the scene is in purple, and therefore royalty or rich!


Copyright Jennifer Lurie


Perhaps the most important export of trade for the Phoenicians was the alphabet.  When the Phoenicians created their new alphabet, they worked from symbols that were already in use among the Semitic-speaking peoples of Canaan and Mesopotamia (1).  We know from the previous Egyptian Scene that the Egyptians had the writing system based on pictograms (hieroglyphics).  


The Phoenicians took the pictograms and added the acrophonic principle – naming of letters of an alphabetic writing system so that a letter’s name begins with the letter itself.  For example, the pictogram/symbol  for a house which was in north west Semitic language is pronounced as “beth” would now just represent “b”.  They did this for 22 consonants and no vowels.

The writing was used across the region in trade to document their transactions.  The agreements for purchase were typically fixed term agreements and pacts.  Ironically, the very folks responsible for sharing these 22 letters have barely any written evidence that remains.   The new portable methods for text were also perishable so the materials such as wood, papyrus and parchment from antiquity did not stand the test of time.  Just imagine your park map after the first day of Food and Wine without the glossy coating!

 Thank the Phoenicians…

“Thank the Phoenicians” from Judy Dench’s narration  has become one of the more quotable lines from EPCOT.  So much so that its started a bit of a cult following.  The Phoenicians even have a Twitter Feed!

Remember how easy it was to learn your ABC’s? Thank the Phoenicians, they invented them.






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 – Phoenician Sea Captain is said to also be the Store Owner in the Great Depression scene in American Adventure (3).





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

At this point each civilization has its own form of writing which none of the other’s can understand. But the Phoenicians, who trade with all of them have a solution. They create a simple common alphabet adaptable to most languages. Remember how easy it was to learn your ABC’s? Thank the Phoenicians, they invented them.

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

Phoenician merchants established the earliest commercial highways trading goods and information at distant ports of call. To aid in record keeping, they created the first common alphabet and shared this new tool across the Mediterranean..

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

The value of writing for accurate record keeping appeals to Phoenician merchants. They create an alphabet, simple enough for any to learn, and share this new tool at ports along the Mediterranean. 

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

On fine Phoenician ships, we take our scrolls to sea. Real scrolls simplified by an alphabet, eagerly shared at distant ports of call.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script

And then we put our walls on ships – sailed out across the seas to share what we had learned…how to plant – and grow – and build; To trade our goods and exchange our good ideas with far and distant lands.

  1. http://www.ushistory.org/civ/4f.asp
  2. Markoe, G.E. (2000). People of the Past: Phoenicians. California. University of California Press.
  3.  https://www.mouseplanet.com/10075/Some_Secrets_of_Spaceship_Earth
Posted in Disney, Spaceship Earth | 2 Comments