Yester Epcot at Yesterland
Epcot’s Icon Tower
at Spaceship Earth
Epcot Icon Tower from park entrance

Photo by Chris Bales, 2002

Epcot park entrance

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 at Yester Walt Disney World is blessed with a giant “Epcot” sign so that Epcot guests will know exactly which park they’re visiting.

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 Yester Walt Disney World Resort.

You can see it from many places in the park.

Epcot Icon Tower and shade structure

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2002

Script letters shimmering in the sun

Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth from Italy

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2002

Icon Tower from World Showcase’s Italy

Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth at sunset

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2003

Florida sunset, competing 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 the 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.

Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth with fountain at night

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Future World’s spectacular fountain

Epcot Icon Tower and Spaceship Earth with fountain at night

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Elegant fountain; elegant geodesic sphere; cartoony Mickey hand and wand

Spaceship Earth at night with Siemens projection

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

After Illuminations, laser projections on Spaceship Earth

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

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.

Epcot Icon Tower with 2000 sign

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1983

When it was new

As the new millennium approached, 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.”

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.

Epcot Icon Tower with 2000 sign

Photo by Chris Bales, 2000

Epcot Icon Tower with 2000 sign

Photos by Allen Huffman, 2001

During the Millennium Celebration

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 Epcot landmark became a cartoonish 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 25-story growth on the side of Spaceship Earth remained in place. “Epcot” replaced the number 2000. The font didn’t look like any Epcot logo, past or present.

Epcot Icon Tower with Epcot sign

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

After the Millennium Celebration

It turned out not to be permanent after all. Workers began its removal on Monday, July 9th, 2007.

Perhaps we can thank German industrial tech giant Siemens AG for the decision to dismantle the Icon Tower. In 2005, Siemens entered into an epic sponsorship agreement to promote its advanced technologies (and its Sylvania light bulbs) at Epcot. Spaceship Earth would be “presented by Siemens.”

Spaceship Earth would once again be a marvel of futuristic architecture—not subservient to the cartoonish Icon Tower. The renewed focus on Spaceship Earth made sense, considering what Siemens must have been paying for the privilege.

Unlike the implosions that level obsolete Las Vegas resorts almost instantly, the demolition of the Icon Tower took a long time. Because the structure was cantilevered over Spaceship Earth, care had to be taken to avoid having it 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

screen capture from eBay, 2007

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.

Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 4, 2007

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

August 4, 2007: still a remnant of the wand

Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 15, 2007

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

By August 15, 2007: steel structure was noticeably lower

Epcot Icon Tower removal on August 18, 2007

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

August 18, 2007: steel structure below the tree line from inside Epcot

Spaceship Earth fully restored, October 1, 2007

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Marty Sklar at Epcot’s 25th anniversary

When Epcot had its 25th anniversary on October 1, 2007, the park’s spherical icon one again looked as magnificent as it did on opening day, October 1, 1982.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that there were some people who liked the Icon Tower—specifically Disney cast members who had an easy answer for a very common guest question: “Restrooms are at the base of the giant Mickey hand over there.”

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Updated June 30, 2023