Universe of Energy

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Universe of Energy marquee

The Universe of Energy was a pavilion located in the eastern half of Future World at Epcot. The pavilion contained one attraction, Ellen's Energy Adventure, starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye, which was the second version of the show since the pavilion's 1982 opening. The attraction featured a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride through audio-animatronic filled sets.

The Universe of Energy pavilion was previously sponsored by ExxonMobil (formerly Exxon) from opening day on October 1, 1982 through 2004. At D23 Expo 2017, it was announced that the Universe of Energy pavilion would close to be replaced with a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed roller coaster.[1] The attraction closed permanently on August 13, 2017.

Universe of Energy (1982–1996)[edit]

Universe of Energy
Epcot Universe of Energy logo.svg
EPCOT Center
Area Future World
Coordinates 28°22′29″N 81°32′52″W / 28.374599°N 81.547877°W / 28.374599; -81.547877
Status Closed
Opening date October 1, 1982
Closing date January 21, 1996
Replaced by Ellen's Energy Adventure
General statistics
Attraction type Pavilion
Designer WED Enterprises
Theme Energy
Music Robert Moline - Energy (You Make the World Go 'Round), Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn - Universe of Energy, Buddy Baker - Film background scores
Vehicle type Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Vehicles 6
Riders per vehicle 80
Duration 45:00
Audio-animatronics 34
Sponsor Exxon (1982-1996)
Host Lawrence Dobkin
Handicapped/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 once again 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).

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 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 of that year to make way for Test Track, and Horizons was not operating consistently due to alleged structural issues with the building. The updated films for the attraction were behind schedule and with that side of Future World set to only have Wonders of Life open for the summer peak season, the decision was made to reopen Universe of Energy after renovations had been made to the pavilion in preparation for the new show.

This version of the ride featured all of the original films from the 1982 version, but lacked some of the effects. Most notably, the Kinetic Mosaic screen from the original pre-show had been removed resulting in the film being projected onto static screens and the shape-shifting effect of that film being lost. 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 of the new show and had to be hidden. This included the Audio-Animatronic figure of Ellen DeGeneres in the diorama. To solve this, 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 at the ride vehicles as it had originally done.

This version of the show only ran during the summer of 1996. The pavilion was closed again soon after peak season to allow final work to be done on the new version of the attraction.

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

Ellen's Energy Adventure
Universe of Energy - panoramio.jpg
Epcot
Area Future World
Coordinates 28°22′29″N 81°32′52″W / 28.374599°N 81.547877°W / 28.374599; -81.547877
Status Closed
Opening date September 15, 1996
Closing date August 13, 2017[2]
Replaced Universe of Energy
Replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy [2]
General statistics
Attraction type Traveling theater dark ride
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Theme Energy, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jeopardy!
Music Bruce Broughton (Ride Score)
Capacity 2432[3][4] riders per hour
Vehicle type Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV)
Vehicles 6
Riders per vehicle 80
Audience capacity 500 per show
Duration 45:00
Audio-animatronics 26
Sponsor ExxonMobil (1996-2004)
Host Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye 'The Science Guy'
Handicapped/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 attraction used the same traveling theater system that was used by 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]

Guests viewed an eight-minute film in which Ellen DeGeneres falls asleep and dreams that she is 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 fell way behind Judy. At the end of the first round, Bill Nye the Science Guy stepped in and offered to help teach Ellen about energy during the commercial break.

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 computer animated film in which Bill took Ellen back billions of years in time to witness the Big Bang and the formation of the earth. Finally, they ended up in a prehistoric jungle where he briefly explained how fossil fuels were formed.

Primeval diorama[edit]

Brontosaurus in the Universe of Energy

At the conclusion of the film, the seating area rotated once again to face a curtain, which then rose 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 audio-animatronic dinosaurs including an Edaphosaurus, two Arthropleura fighting and a family of Brontosaurus in a swamp (one of whom sneezed water 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 spit 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 entered a second theatre where they reassembled 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 viewed a twelve-minute live-action film on three giant wrap around screens in which Bill Nye took Ellen on an in-depth look at various current and future energy resources across the United States. Actor Michael Richards made a brief cameo as a caveman near the beginning of the film.

Theatre I finale film[edit]

At the conclusion of the film, the screens rose and the entire seating area traveled beneath them back into Theatre I and rotated back into its original starting position facing the audience towards a large television-shaped screen. The final two minute film presented the end of Ellen's dream in which she used her new knowledge about energy in Round 2 to unseat Judy as Jeopardy! champion.

Timeline[edit]

Ride vehicle and track
  • October 1, 1982 — The pavilion opens with the original Universe of Energy show.
  • 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 old films from the original Universe of Energy show are used during this time as the new films with Bill Nye and Ellen DeGeneres had not yet been 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.
  • 2003 — 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 breaks down forcing guests to evacuate mid-show. However, cast members make up for this by allowing guests to linger in the primeval diorama during the ride evacuation and take photos with the dinosaurs.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ "GUIDE: Calculating Persons Per Hour". themeparkreview.com. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  4. ^ "Theoretical Hourly Ride capacity". wolframalpha.com. Wolfram Alpha. Retrieved November 25, 2014. 
  5. ^ Rosebloom, Matt (14 August 2017). "Last ever Ellen ride ended with an evacuation, and fans loved it". Attractions Magazine. 

External links[edit]