Update: I originally published this article on November 17, 2006.

Removal of the Epcot Hand and Wand structure bagan on July 9th, 2007. For more information, please read Epcot’s Icon Tower at Spaceship Earth.
— Werner Weiss

The Not-So-Temporary
Epcot Hand and Wand

Nov. 17, 2006
Photo of the Millennium Celebration Icon
The Millennium Celebration Icon

Walt Disney World management wanted to do something big to draw attention to the Millennium Celebration at Epcot. Taking inspiration from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence of Fantasia, a 25-story-high structure rose next to and above Epcot’s Spaceship Earth. Sorcerer Mickey’s arm and hand held a gigantic magic wand, with “starfetti” raining down over a glistening “2000.”

Photo of Spaceship Earth at Epcot
Cinderella Castle Cake in 1997

A few years earlier, Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom had been dressed up as a giant, pink birthday cake for the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World. It was gaudy, but it was fun.

And it was temporary. When the 15-month celebration ended, Cinderella Castle was restored to its previous regal splendor.

With the oversized hand and wand towering over it, the magnificent geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth was stripped of its dignity. Even though the top of the sphere was still 180 feet—18 stories—above ground level, Spaceship Earth looked much smaller and less impressive. The bold and elegant symbol of Epcot became a cartoony marketing gimmick for the Millennium Celebration.

Okay, it was kind of fun too. And it would just be temporary, right?

Wrong. When the Millennium Celebration ended, the hand and wand remained in place. The number 2000 was replaced by “Epcot” in a weird font that didn’t look like any Epcot logo, past or present.

Photo of Spaceship Earth at Epcot
The hand and wand are still there in 2006.

There have been numerous Internet bulletin board postings and blog articles lamenting that the 25-story growth on the side of Spaceship Earth is still there. But enough of this negativity! Let’s take a positive look at the hand and wand...

Maybe the Sorcerer Mickey hand and wand aren’t that bad. Things could be much worse. I repeat, things could be much worse. For example...

Photo of Spaceship Earth at Epcot
How about a Mike Wazowski makeover?

Pixar has created a bunch of unforgettable characters, which are now part of numerous Disney theme park rides and shows. Perhaps Mike Wazowski from the 2001 Disney/Pixar movie Monsters, Inc. is more relevant to today’s audiences than Sorcerer Mickey.

But having Spaceship Wazowski looming over Future World would be a bit much.

Spaceship Captain Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain Jack Sparrow strikes again!

Considering the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and the even greater success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), it’s no surprise that Audio-Animatronic Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow now makes three appearances in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.

Fortunately, Captain Jack Sparrow hasn’t been added to the Spaceship Earth ride. Otherwise, the narration might go like this: “Phoenician merchants established the earliest commercial highways, trading goods and information at distant ports of call—and there’s Captain Jack Sparrow trading with them. Watch out, Phoenicians!”

Photo of Stichified Spaceship Earth
Everyone loves Stitch, right?

Disney’s Lilo & Stitch (2002) added a highly marketable new character to Disney’s roster. Stitch’s popularity on tee shirts, pins, beach towels, and other merchandise rivals that of the classic Disney characters.

However, we can be glad that there’s not a 25-story Stitch head (to the top of the ears) at Epcot.

Photo of Spaceship Earth
Hmmmmm... Spaceship Earth doesn’t need to be dressed up.

There have been Internet rumors that the wand structure will be removed to restore the dignity of Spaceship Earth. But that hasn’t happened yet.

The current sponsor of Spaceship Earth is Siemens, a huge electrical engineering and electronics company based in Germany. The word is that Siemens is updating the end of the ride and populating the post-ride area with new exhibits. On the outside, the only change has been that the Siemens logo replaced the AT&T logo. There’s no confirmation that Siemens wants to eliminate the hand and wand.

So, for the time being, we can only see a “pure” Spaceship Earth through the magic of Adobe Photoshop. Of course, that leaves the shade covers held up by huge, lilac poles adjacent to Spaceship Earth or (if we take a picture from the other side) the “Leave a Legacy” tombstones at the entrance to Epcot—but those are another story.

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© 2007-2015 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks
Updated November 13, 2015.
Photograph of the Millennium Celebration icon (wand with 2000): 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of the Cinderella Cake Castle: 1997 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Spaceship Earth with wand and “Epcot”: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
“Photoshopped” Spaceship Earth with Mike Wazowski makeover: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
“Photoshopped” Spaceship Earth with Captain Jack Sparrow hat: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
“Photoshopped” Spaceship Earth with Stitch makeover: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
“Photoshopped” Spaceship Earth with grandeur restored: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Characters © Disney/Pixar and Disney