Universe of Energy

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Opening ceremonies for the Energy Pavilion EPCOT Center
Universe of Energy marquee

The Universe of Energy was a pavilion located on the eastern side of Future World at Epcot, a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida. One of Epcot's opening day attractions in 1982, the attraction explored the world of energy through a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride through a jungle diorama filled with audio-animatronic dinosaurs. In 1996, the show was updated as Ellen's Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye.[1]

The Universe of Energy pavilion was previously sponsored by ExxonMobil (formerly Exxon) from 1982 through 2004. After years of dwindling popularity, the attraction closed permanently on August 13, 2017,[2] being replaced with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind that will reuse the Universe of Energy's show building.[3][4][5]

Universe of Energy (1982–1996)[edit]

Universe of Energy
Epcot Universe of Energy logo.svg
EPCOT Center
AreaFuture World
Coordinates28°22′29″N 81°32′52″W / 28.374599°N 81.547877°W / 28.374599; -81.547877
StatusRemoved
Opening dateOctober 1, 1982
Closing dateJanuary 21, 1996
Replaced byEllen's Energy Adventure
General statistics
Attraction typePavilion
DesignerWED Enterprises
ThemeEnergy
MusicRobert Moline - Energy (You Make the World Go 'Round), Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn - Universe of Energy, Buddy Baker - Film background scores
Vehicle typeAutomated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Vehicles6
Riders per vehicle80
Duration45:00
Audio-animatronics34
SponsorExxon (1982-1996)
HostVic Perrin
Disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available

The original Universe of Energy pavilion itself was an innovation in energy technology, as the entire roof was covered in 80,000 photovoltaic solar cells that partially powered the ride vehicles. Visitors were transported through the pavilion in large battery-powered "traveling theatre cars" that followed guide-wires embedded in the floor as opposed to riding along conventional ride tracks. The original attraction featured numerous films that presented information on the subject of energy in a serious fashion as well as a ride through a primeval diorama complete with audio-animatronic dinosaurs.

Pre-show[edit]

The original pre-show featured an eight-minute live-action film presentation about the various forms of energy found in nature and traced the history of how mankind harnessed these different forms of energy for his use. This unique film presentation was known as the Kinetic Mosaic and was invented by Czech film director Emil Radok. The mosaic screen consisted of 100 rotating prism-shaped flip screens (reminiscent of those on the classic game show Concentration), arranged in a twenty five wide by four high array. These flip screens rotated under computer control and were synchronized to the motion picture that was projected onto their surface via five synchronized motion picture projectors. Each flip screen contained three sides, with white projection surfaces on two sides and a matte black surface on the third. The combination of the film and the screens' rotation created undulating, sometimes three-dimensional-appearing images. During the conclusion of the pre-show, the song Energy (You Make The World Go ‘Round) was played.

Theatre I film[edit]

Upon entering the theatre, guests were seated in one of six sections. The seating area rotated 180 degrees to face three large movie screens for the first film: a four-minute hand-animated film that depicted the beginnings of life on earth and the formation of fossil fuels.

Primeval diorama[edit]

At the conclusion of the film, the seating area rotated 90 degrees to face a curtain, which then raised to reveal a primeval diorama. The entire seating area moved into the diorama where it then broke apart into six multi-passenger vehicles that took guests on a seven-minute journey through the diorama, which was populated by numerous animatronic dinosaurs including an Edaphosaurus and two Arthropleura fighting and a family of Brontosaurus in a swamp (complete with realistic "swampy" smell), a Stegosaurus fighting an Allosaurus on an overhead cliff, several Trachodon bathing beneath a waterfall, a number of Ornithomimus watching helplessly as one of their own sank into a boiling tar pit, an Elasmosaurus that lashed out of a tidal pool at guests, and numerous Pteranodon that were perched around an erupting volcano (complete with flowing lava and realistic "volcano" smell). There were other animals that could be found in the jungle, including dragonflies and snails.

Theatre II film[edit]

Leaving the diorama, the vehicles entered the EPCOT Energy Information Center where they reassembled back into their original theatre seating formation. Here, guests viewed a twelve-minute live-action film on three giant wrap around screens that took them on an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources around the world.

Theatre I finale film[edit]

At the conclusion of the film, the screens raised and the entire seating area traveled beneath them into Theatre I and rotated back into its starting position facing the audience towards a large cylindrical-shaped screen. There, guests viewed a final two-minute computer-animated film that was reflected off of mirrored walls within the theatre. The film depicted an ever-evolving landscape of colorful, laser-like imagery of the various ways mankind has benefited from harnessing energy for his use and was accompanied by an upbeat song entitled Universe of Energy.

Summer 1996 Version[edit]

The Summer of 1996 saw many changes come to Future World East. World of Motion closed in January in preparation for its conversion into Test Track, and Horizons was not operating consistently due to alleged structural issues with the pavilion. Universe of Energy was set to reopen in June after a five month refurbishment, but this was delayed due to filming troubles. This meant that Future World East would only have the Wonders of Life pavilion open for the peak summer season. To address the issue, Epcot made the decision to reopen Universe of Energy while the remodel was in progress.

This temporary version of the show featured the original 1982 films, but most of the effects were completely disabled. Most notably, the Kinetic Mosaic screen from the original pre-show had been removed resulting in the film being projected onto static screens, losing the shape-shifting effect of the film. Also removed were the maps and television monitors on the wall in the Epcot Energy Information Center in Theatre II, having already been replaced by the KNRG radio tower backdrop for the new show. For this scene, a new narration played that covered much of the same information as the original narration minus any mention of the maps and monitors. In Theatre I, the mirrors on the walls had already been removed by this point, resulting in a much less dramatic version of the finale film.

During this period, some elements for the new show had already been installed in preparation for the new show and had to be hidden. This included the Audio-Animatronic figure of Ellen DeGeneres in the diorama. Temporary rockwork was placed in front of the figure hiding it from view. However, the elasmosaurus figure had already been reprogrammed for the new show, leading to the awkward result of having it lunge at rocks instead of the ride vehicles as it had originally done. There were several other changes being made to the diorama. The dinosaurs were repainted and a new soundtrack was added. One of the brontosaurus animatronics could now have the ability to sneeze water. Several effects were turned off, including the storm and swamp smell. The lava flow was changed to running water and the fog effects inside the volcano were changed to mist and flashing lights.

This version of the show only ran from June 14 to September 2, 1996. The pavilion was closed again soon after peak season to add the new films for the new version of the attraction.

Ellen's Energy Adventure (1996–2017)[edit]

Ellen's Energy Adventure
Universe of Energy - panoramio.jpg
Epcot
AreaFuture World
Coordinates28°22′29″N 81°32′52″W / 28.374599°N 81.547877°W / 28.374599; -81.547877
StatusRemoved
Opening dateSeptember 15, 1996
Closing dateAugust 13, 2017[6]
ReplacedUniverse of Energy
Replaced byGuardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Wonders of Xandar
(World Discovery)[6]
General statistics
Attraction typeTraveling theater dark ride
DesignerWalt Disney Imagineering
ThemeEnergy, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jeopardy!
MusicBruce Broughton (Ride Score)
Capacity2432[7][8] riders per hour
Vehicle typeAutomated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Vehicles6
Riders per vehicle80
Audience capacity500 per show
Duration45:00
Audio-animatronics26
SponsorExxonMobil (1996-2004)
HostEllen DeGeneres, Bill Nye 'The Science Guy'
Disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Assistive listening icon.svg Assistive listening available

Ellen's Energy Adventure starred Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye "The Science Guy", Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek, and Johnny Gilbert. It took a light-hearted look at various energy resources, how energy was produced, the history of energy production, and the search for new energy resources. In particular it focused on the origins of fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal and natural gas. It also mentioned renewable sources such as solar and hydroelectric power. In 2011, Ellen's Energy Adventure surpassed the original Universe of Energy show as the longest running version of the attraction.

The second version of the show reused the traveling theater system of the original Universe of Energy show. The primeval diorama used essentially the same sets and Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs as the original show, although during the renovation to the Ellen's Energy Adventure show, all of the dinosaurs were repainted in much brighter colors, and several audio-animatronic figures were added along with an upbeat musical score to help tie it into the new film footage.

Pre-show theatre film[edit]

The pre-show is an eight-minute film. At the beginning, Ellen DeGeneres greets the guests and welcomes them to the Universe of Energy. Ellen was watching television in the living room of her apartment complex when her neighbor Bill Nye the Science Guy comes in. She falls asleep and dreams that she was in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy!, playing against an old college rival Judy Peterson (Curtis) and Albert Einstein (Benny Wasserman). Not knowing anything about energy, Ellen falls way behind Judy. At the end of the first round, Bill Nye steps in and offers to help teach Ellen about energy during the commercial break. Ellen has trouble answering the questions, so Bill Nye requests her to go back. While she tells him to go backstage, he tells her that they are actually going way back, like many billion years ago.

Theatre I film[edit]

Upon entering the theatre, guests are seated in one of six sections. The seating area rotates 180 degrees to the right as guests face three large movie screens above the exit doors for the first part of the film: a five-minute CGI live-action film in which Bill takes Ellen back billions of years in time to witness the Big Bang and the formation of the earth. They put on their headphones and close the door. Following a big explosion, the screens show a Milky Way galaxy, the Solar System, a volcanic biome and rocky terrain. Finally, the pair end up in a prehistoric jungle and Bill looks at his watch saying that they are set 220 million years in the past. There, he explains how fossil fuels are formed. Ellen tells the guests that they would be going with him. During this time, the seating area rotates 90 degrees to the left as guests face a curtain. After Ellen asks them about their upcoming experience, a dinosaur roar can be heard as the screen shakes.

Primeval diorama[edit]

Brontosaurus in the Universe of Energy

At the conclusion of the film, the curtain rises to reveal the primeval diorama. The entire seating area moves into the diorama where it then breaks apart into six multi-passenger vehicles that takes guests on a seven-minute journey through the diorama, which is populated by numerous audio-animatronic dinosaurs including an Edaphosaurus, two Arthropleura fighting and a family of Brontosaurus in a swamp (one of whom sneezes water from its nose onto guests), a Stegosaurus fighting an Allosaurus on an overhead cliff, several Trachodon bathing beneath a waterfall, a number of Ornithomimus drinking from a pond (one of whom splashes water at guests), an Audio-Animatronic Ellen standing near a tidal pool fighting off an Elasmosaurus with a tree branch, and numerous Pteranodon perched around an erupting volcano. After November 2014, the Audio-Animatronic figure of Ellen fighting off the Elasmosaurus with a tree branch stopped working and was removed. It was replaced with a group of smaller Pteranodons.

Theatre II film[edit]

Leaving the diorama, the vehicles enter a second theatre where they reassemble back into their original theatre seating formation. After listening to a brief prehistoric broadcast from KNRG News Radio (which featured the voices of Willard Scott and Chris Berman), guests view a fourteen-minute live-action film on three giant wrap around screens in which Bill Nye takes Ellen on an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources across the United States. (Actor Michael Richards makes a brief cameo as a caveman). Ellen uses her new knowledge about energy upon returning to the Jeopardy! Studio. The game continues as a Double Jeopardy! round. Albert Einstein receives a light bulb and exits the game.

Theatre I finale[edit]

When the vehicles return to Theater I and rotate back to their starting position, guests view a final three-minute scene in which the ladies complete the last Jeopardy! round. Ellen becomes the Jeopardy! champion with a score of $35,600. Bill Nye and the studio employees throw a party with balloons, while Ellen finishes her story and tells guests to look out for the dinosaur. As Ellen says goodbye to the guests, a dinosaur roar can be heard and the ride concludes.

Timeline[edit]

Ride vehicle and track
  • October 1, 1982 — The pavilion opens with the original Universe of Energy show.
  • November 1995 — Disney announces that the original Universe of Energy will undergo a makeover.[9]
  • January 21, 1996 — The original Universe of Energy show and pavilion are closed for refurbishment.
  • June 14, 1996 — The fully refurbished pavilion temporarily reopens in an effort to help handle the park's busy summer crowds. The original films from the original Universe of Energy show are used during this time while the new films with Bill Nye and Ellen DeGeneres are being completed.
  • September 2, 1996 — The pavilion closes and the new films are installed.
  • September 15, 1996 — The pavilion re-opens with a new show entitled Ellen's Energy Crisis, but for reasons unknown, is immediately renamed Ellen's Energy Adventure.
  • 2001 — The original Universe of Energy marquees at the entrance of the pavilion are replaced with all new signage to reflect the sponsor's new name, ExxonMobil.
  • 2004 — ExxonMobil drops its 22-year sponsorship of the pavilion, and all references to the company are removed from the signage and show.
  • 2008 — The pavilion closes for an extensive refurbishment. During this time, numerous scenes within the diorama are refreshed, the audio systems are upgraded and the computer systems that operate the attraction are updated. Additionally, the exterior of the pavilion is repainted back to its original color scheme of reds, oranges and yellows (during the 1996 refurbishment, the exterior of the pavilion was repainted into a pastel rainbow color scheme) and the traveling theatre vehicles are repainted from their original purple color into a light blue color.
  • March 28, 2009 — The pavilion re-opens after a lengthy refurbishment.
  • July 15, 2017 — Disney confirms that the Universe of Energy pavilion will close and be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction.
  • August 13, 2017 — The Universe of Energy pavilion has its last day of operation. During the final show, the attraction broke down, forcing guests to evacuate mid-show. While cast members initially reassured guests they would get to re-ride and somewhat allowed guests to linger in the primeval diorama during the ride evacuation and take photos with the dinosaurs, due to the complexity of the breakdown they were not able to re-ride.[10][11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Geryak, Cole (June 7, 2018). "Disney Extinct Attractions: Universe of (Ellen's) Energy (Adventure)". The Laughing Place. Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Guide to Attraction Closures". United Thrills. February 18, 2018. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  3. ^ Barnes, Brooks (July 15, 2017). "Disney Vows to Give Epcot a Magical, Long-Overdue Makeover". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  4. ^ Nolfi, Joey (November 15, 2018). "Disney unveils spinning Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster cars, new ride details". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  5. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (August 1, 2018). "Disney World: Look at latest Epcot construction". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Fickley-Baker, Jennifer. "'Guardians of the Galaxy' & 'Ratatouille' Attractions Coming to Epcot". Disney Parks Blog. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  7. ^ "GUIDE: Calculating Persons Per Hour". themeparkreview.com. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  8. ^ "Theoretical Hourly Ride capacity". wolframalpha.com. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  9. ^ "What's New: Last Chance". The Orlando Sentinel. November 25, 1995. Retrieved January 3, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Ellen's Energy Adventure Last Ride with Evacuation Complete Unedited Footage August 13, 2017 EPCOT, retrieved September 11, 2021
  11. ^ Rosebloom, Matt (August 14, 2017). "Last ever Ellen ride ended with an evacuation, and fans loved it". Attractions Magazine.

External links[edit]