Yester Epcot at Yesterland Epcot’s Icon Tower
at Spaceship Earth
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and shade structure
Shimmering script letters announce the name of the park.

Cinderella Castle doesn’t have a giant “Magic Kingdom” sign above it. The Tree of Life doesn’t have a giant “Animal Kingdom” sign above it. But Spaceship Earth was blessed with a giant “Epcot” sign so that Epcot guests would always know exactly what park they’re visiting.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth from Italy
You can see the Icon Tower from World Showcase’s Italy.

The Icon Tower is a steel structure weighing 500,000 pounds and extending 257 feet into the sky. It’s the tallest theme park structure in the entire Walt Disney World Resort.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth at sunset
A Florida sunset competes with the Icon Tower for attention.

You might remember the Icon Tower from the 15-month Millennium Celebration. Back then, it didn’t say “Epcot.” The structure featured the arm and hand of Mickey Mouse holding a sorcerer’s wand, while glittery numerals arched over Spaceship Earth announcing the year 2000.

Instead of dismantling the Icon Tower at the end of Millennium Celebration, the decision makers at Disney decided to make it permanent. A Walt Disney World press release in December 2000 proudly announced, “The makeover will turn the 15-month Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration icon created for Spaceship Earth into a new and lasting beacon to a magical Disney world.”

The press release quoted a senior show producer with Walt Disney Imagineering. The intent of the icon design was “to wed a core Disney element—the Sorcerer Mickey hand and wand—with the futuristic vision of Spaceship Earth” in an effort “to better identify the spherical entryway to Epcot.”

Aren’t you glad that they finally fixed that “spherical entryway?” Maybe they can fix Cinderella Castle and the Tree of Life with big signs arching over them too. (They’ve already fixed the Chinese Theater by hiding it behind a giant Sorcerer Mickey hat.)

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth with fountain at night
Imagine the spectacular Future World fountain without the giant Epcot script.

Consider these fun facts from a December 2000 press release:

Spaceship Earth Icon by the Numbers
  • 257 feet: Height to the sparkles above the tip of Sorcerer Mickey’s wand
  • 250 tons: Weight of steel frame supporting the icon
  • 100,000 pounds: Weight of Mickey's gloved hand, the wand and the “Epcot” lettering
  • 250,000: Number of shimmering metallic eye-catchers used to spell “Epcot”
  • 36 feet: Height of the tallest letters in “Epcot”
  • 5 months: Duration of the construction changeover from "2000" to “Epcot”
  • 180 feet: Height above ground level of the top of Spaceship Earth
  • 16 million pounds: Weight of Spaceship Earth
  • 11,324: Number of aluminum/plastic-alloy triangles comprising Spaceship Earth exterior
Photo of Spaceship Earth at night with Siemens projection
After Illuminations, laser projections on Spaceship Earth announce the show’s sponsor.
 

When EPCOT Center (as the park was originally named) opened at Walt Disney World on October 1, 1982, Spaceship Earth was a simple, elegant sphere. And that’s how it remained until early 1999 when the Walt Disney Company began to build a structure for the Millennium Celebration.

For more information, see the Yesterland article The Not-So-Temporary Epcot Hand and Wand (which also has Photoshopped pictures that you might enjoy).

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower with 2000 sign
During the Millennium Celebration.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower with Epcot sign
After the Millennium Celebration.

The Icon Tower turned out not to be permanent after all.

Workers began to remove the tower on Monday, July 9th, 2007. Unlike implosions of obsolete Las Vegas resorts, this wasn’t a quick demolition. The structure was cantilevered over Spaceship Earth, so care had to be taken to avoid having the structure crash through the skin and structure of Spaceship Earth. Workers removed pieces one by one, as if dismantling a giant erector set structure.

Screen capture of eBay auction for Spaceship Earth wand reflector part
It’s amazing what you can buy on eBay.

It didn’t take long for a “Spaceship Earth wand reflector part” to show up on eBay. By the end of the eBay auction, there were 23 bids. The winning bidder bought the reflector parts for $202.50 and $3.00 for shipping.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 4, 2007
On August 4, 2007, there was still a remnant of the wand.

Perhaps we can thank Siemens, the current sponsor of Spaceship Earth, for the decision to dismantle the Icon Tower. Considering what Siemens must be paying for the opportunity to promote their advanced technologies (and their Sylvania light bulbs) at Epcot, it’s reasonable that they would want Spaceship Earth again to be a marvel of futuristic architecture—properly presented, without the Icon Tower detracting from it.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 15, 2007
By August 15, 2007, the steel structure was noticeably lower.

October 1, 2007, is Epcot’s 25th anniversary. Spaceship Earth will again have the grand appearance that it had on October 1, 1982.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 18, 2007
By August 18, 2007, the steel structure was below the tree line from inside Epcot.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that there were some people who liked the Icon Tower—specifically Disney cast members in Future World who could answer the most common guest question with, “there are rest rooms right by the base of the giant Mickey hand over there.”

Photo of Spaceship Earth fully restored, October 1, 2007
Spaceship Earth was fully restored before Epcot’s 25th anniversry on October 1, 2007.

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© 2007-2009 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated May 15, 2009.

Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and shade structure: 2002 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth from Italy: 2002 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth at sunset: 2003 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth with fountain at night: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Spaceship Earth at night with Siemens projection: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower with 2000 sign: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower with Epcot sign: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Screen capture of eBay auction for “Spaceship Earth wand reflector part”: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 4, 2007: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 15, 2007: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 18, 2007: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Spaceship Earth fully restored, October 1, 2007: 2007 by Werner Weiss.