Seeing Spaceship Earth in a new light

Disney Imagineers show off a preview of the new nighttime look for the 180-foot icon of Epcot

A sneak peek of one of the new nighttime looks for Spaceship Earth (Disney)

ORLANDO, Fla. – As part of the grand announcement for the Most Magical Celebration on Earth, Walt Disney World leaders promised to transform the icons of each theme park into a Beacon of Magic.

They promised the new look for Epcot’s Spaceship Earth will be permanent. Now guests have their best look yet at how the 180-foot-tall geosphere will be transformed.

Spaceship Earth's current nighttime look (Disney)

Until now, Spaceship Earth has appeared basically the same after dark. However, with the park’s transformation, The Innoventions West Building was demolished, removing one of the primary perches for the lights that make the 11,324 silver Alucobond triangles gleam.

A look at the lights installed in the exterior crevices of Spaceship Earth (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Eagle-eyed park-goers have spotted dozens of circular fixtures appearing where the triangular panels meet. The new specialized LED lights illuminate Spaceship Earth in a new way. Imagineer Zach Riddley showed the first one being installed as a test back in March.

An imagineer installs new specialized light fixtures inside a crevice on Spaceship Earth's exterior (Disney)

Tuesday, on his Instagram page, Riddley announced Installation of the system is nearly complete, and the Imagineering team has been hard at work testing it out. Previously we learned each fixture can shine a beam out from the center, with other lights aimed at the reflective surface of the sphere. Now Disney showed programmers actually trying out this first-of-its-kind programmable lighting system invented by Imagineers.

Imagineers work on custom software to program Spaceship Earth's new light show (Disney)

Imagineers Jason Read, Galen Lande and their team first used a “pre-cueing” system to virtually try out their ideas. Guests are now seeing some of the possible new looks being explored ahead of October first on the actual exterior of Spaceship Earth.

A sneak peek of one of the new nighttime looks for Spaceship Earth (Disney)
A sneak peek at one of Spaceship Earth's new look at a Beacon of Magic at Epcot (Disney)
Sneak peek of Spaceship Earth's new nighttime look as a Beacon of Magic (Disney)

Riddley writes the goal is to respect “the lighting legacy of this grand icon while bringing rich new depth and motion to life - all inspired by colors and textures that evoke stardust and the mystery and wonder of our universe. And we’ll be able to tie this program into the surrounding Main Entrance Plaza and new fountain and pylon lighting to fully immerse Guests with an experience that is ... EPCOT.”

Expect more sneak peeks as that work is finalized. Friday, the Disney Parks blog posted updated concept art for all four “Beacons of Magic.” Cinderella Castle, Spaceship Earth, the Tower of Tower and The Tree of Life are expected to glow nightly throughout the 18-month 50th celebration.

New concept art showing Epcot's Spaceship Earth as a Beacon of Magic (Disney)
Concept art of Cinderella Castle as Beacon of Magic for Walt Disney World's 50th (Disney)
New concept art of the Tower of Terror's new look as a Beacon of Magic for Walt Disney World's 50th Celebration (Disney)
Concept art showing how the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom will look as a Beacon of Magic for Walt Disney World's 50th Celebration (Disney)

About the Author:

Ken Pilcher is a lifelong Floridian with more than 30 years in journalism experience. He joined News 6 in 2003 and has covered Central Florida attractions and theme parks since 1988. He currently produces News 6 at 7 p.m.