Man And His Spaceship Earth: Unraveling Ray Bradbury’s 1977 Script
With recent attentions focused on Spaceship Earth’s script, due to Ray Bradbury’s passing, concept art from early conceptual plans are beginning to make a bit more sense when compared to Bradbury’s ideas for the pavilion.
Bradbury’s script is flowing, dynamic, and heavily reliant on imagery and animation. Considering that his writings were mostly linked to the 1978 plans for the pavilion, some of the more fantastical scenes that he planned out could have been viable concepts, as Spaceship Earth would have been housed in a massive dome, not the intricate geosphere that would eventually come to be EPCOT Cener’s icon. With more room to play with, Bradbury’s script has countless scenes featuring moving architecture, perhaps supplemented by projected backdrops.
From his 1977 script:
As they (guests) listen to the Universal Man (narrator) speak the audience becomes invovled in a physical experience that seems to sink them into the layers of the past.
The cities begin to unbuild themselves and we see in these sculpted pieces of antiquity the historical remnants of man through the ages.
The Rhodes Colossus dismantles itself. The Roman Forum, with its pillars, falls, stone by stone. We see the Sphinx return to the dust from which it came…
The first leg of our journey terminates at the beginning of time. We sit in blackness.
Out of the blackness comes an explosion of light, color, and sound. The great Andromeda Nebula spirals by, tossing out suns and planets. The Horsehead Nebula spins up. The Orion Nebula goes over and around, in heartbeats of universal push and shove.
As we move, we see the fireball comet nearest us cool down into a sphere and form before our eyes. Its fires fill our vision. It is… EARTH!
From here on out, Bradbury describes the formation of Earth and civilizations with metaphorical means and visual movements.
Above, B. Fleming’s concept art shows the familiar scenes that Bradbury is describing. Considering that these scenes would be truncated in the final version of Spaceship Earth, and filled in with Audio Animatronics, the more intimate scale of Bradbury’s vision for EPCOT could have provided for a much more personal experience.
Bradbury’s vision for Spaceship Earth also runs concurrent with the concept to give the ride a aesthetic skewed toward time travel, with a “Time Station” at the entrance. This entrance would have featured similar projections and effects that Bradbury wanted in the ride itself.
Further, it is interesting to note that these concepts were not totally abandoned. Tom Gilleon’s rendering (first, on the right) of a space stations and spacecrafts were applied to the finale scenes of Spaceship Earth’s first two iterations, with the simulated trip into space by utilizing the planetarium dome of the geosphere.
Also, the art work depicting time “unraveling” looks uncannily like the same projections used in Spaceship Earth’s 1994 version of the ride which had an abstract time tunnel or time warp effect as the omnimover ride system wended it’s way up into the dome. These projections had an original role in Spaceship Earth in 1982, and an updated version still exists today. Bradbury also wrote of a chorus of voices to play as guests entered their ride vehicles and began their venture back into antiquity:
As the audience enters the Domed Theater, vague voices float in and out of mists and vapors, coming clear, then dissolving in others.
We hear the voices of Kennedy dedicating us to space travel.
Martin Luther King speaking of his dream.
Truman giving them hell.
Roosevelt speaking of the Day That Will Live In Infamy.
Mingled with other voices, traveling us slowly back into time….
This concept was used directly in Spaceship Earth’s 1994 narration and were among the first things guests heard before Jeremy Irons narrated the ride.
Visually, many of Bradbury’s (and Fleming’s) concepts would prove to be too ambitious for the limited room inside Spaceship Earth. However, the idea was used in the World of Motion where video screens and projections frequently accompanied Audio Animatronics in tableaux and scenes redolent of Spaceship Earth. After all, both rides revolved around exhibition of the past and progress.
This is not to bemoan the grand version of Spaceship Earth that finally came to be, but to show the differences in concept and creativity that Bradbury applied to his involvement in EPCOT and the communications pavilion. Bradbury’s master plan was one of great ingenuity and art for EPCOT Center. Even though most of these concepts never came to fruition, they influenced and benefitted EPCOT as a whole, and still do, even today.
For a full version of Ray Bradbury’s 1977 script, courtesy of BoingBoing:
For more information of Spaceship Earth’s “Time Station” entrance:
For more information on Tom Gilleon’s concept work for Spaceship Earth:
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