"For eons our planet has drifted as a spaceship through the universe, and for a brief moment we have been its passengers..."
Spaceship Earth (1982-present) was originally sponsored by Bell System, then AT&T, and currently Siemens, with a sponsorship absence between AT&T and Siemens. There have been four narrators: Vic Perrin (1982-1986), Walter Cronkite (1986-1994), Jeremy Irons (1994-2007), and Judi Dench (2007-present).
Spaceship Earth, the center attraction of Epcot, is an 18-story "geosphere", that looks like a giant golf ball. Since it's opening in 1982, when it was sponsored by the Bell System, a few changes have happened including new sponsorships by AT&T and Siemens.
The Ball has had changes to the outside that included a sparkly 2000 sign held up by Mickey's hand and his sorcerer's wand with the Millennium Celebration that started in October 1999. In 2001, the 2000 sign changed to say "Epcot." Sparkly stars covered the top of the ball along with the sign. The "Epcot" sign and the hand/wand were completely removed from Spaceship Earth in summer 2007.
Also, the surrounding area of Spaceship Earth has changed. The area before the Ball used to be open with a tall fountain and sculpture in the middle with the Epcot symbol. Now it has the Leave a Legacy stones that make the area not as open.
The original narrator, Vic Perrin, changed to Walter Cronkite in 1986. Along with this change came the song "Tomorrow's Child." The narrator of the ride changed from Walter Cronkite to Jeremy Irons in 1994 along with a new musical score and 12 new scenes.
Within the geosphere guests travel through time from the beginning of civilization to today. From Ancient Greek drama and Gutenberg's printing press to telegraphs, telephones, radios, motion pictures, television, and computers, guests explore communication. The ride inclines through the geosphere, and at the end guests' vehicles decline backwards as if they were returning to Earth after their journey through time.
The declining area is where the new scenes were added for the Jeremy Irons version, such as a child's bedroom with high tech video equipment. These scenes replaced scenes of blue lights and images of a child playing with various objects such as computer chips found in the previous Cronkite/"Tomorrow's Child" version.
In 2002, AT&T ceased sponsoring Spaceship Earth. Also during this year, some view screens were added at the start of the ride that showed people in the ride vehicles blasting through space, and a spiel about safety rules is given.
In late 2005, Spaceship Earth got a new sponsor: Siemens. The walls that surround the ride entrance were given a new light blue paint job with the Siemens logo in late 2005. The entrace was redone again during Spaceship Earth's 2007 renovation - this current entrance rendition now features a brand new Siemens/Spaceship Earth logo with a new darker blue paint job.
Spaceship Earth went down for renovation in 2007 and reopened in late 2007 with new touch-screens that light up near the end of the ride, along with changed ride scenes. Jeremy Irons was replaced with a new narrator, Judi Dench. A new soundtrack was also put into place.
The following is a breakdown comparison between the Jeremy Irons version (1994-2007) and the current Siemens version (2007-present):
The major changes to the pavilion has been done to the area after of the ride. When the ride initially opened this area was called Earth Station. Here guests could see innovative communications of tomorrow. Through World Key Information Service, by the Bell System, information and imagery about Epcot and the rest of Walt Disney World was at the fingertips of guests to explore.
After Bell System pulled out, Spaceship Earth's new sponsor became AT&T. Earth Station remained but was now under AT&T sponsorship. Sometime later AT&T changed Earth Station into Global Neighborhood. It offered a planetarium view of earth and it's neighbors. In the late 90's AT&T updated Global Neighborhood into the "New" Global Neighborhood. Here, there were hands-on guest activities, like a tour of Epcot through a mini-cam. The Cheshire Cat starred in a virtual theater in which he would respond to certain things guests would say to him. The New Global Neighborhood was a very neon colored area compared to it's previous colors. Once AT&T pulled out of sponsorship, the New Global Neighborhood shut down and got boarded up.
The post ride area would not reopen again until late 2007, after Spaceship Earth had gone down for renovation under its new sponsor: Siemens. The new post ride area is called Project: Tomorrow. It features a large globe where pictures of guests' heads (taken at the beginning of the ride) would appear and then zoom to their home on the globe. Project: Tomorrow also features many smaller games such as "Dr. Bones" and a driving game. Many of the games also utilize 3-D glasses.