The Universe of Energy, located in EPCOT, is one of 7 pavilions that make up Future World, one of two themed lands at EPCOT. It is located in the eastern portion of Future World and is neighbored by the semi-abandoned Wonders of Life pavilion. While the Universe of Energy has never formally been abandoned or vacant, its’ current tenant, Ellen’s Energy Adventure is dated and the building is in massive need of an overhaul from having no renovations done to it for a long time. EPCOT needs a lot of work, and the Universe of Energy pavilion is one of the things that need to be addressed. It’s among the saddest things within the Happiest Place on Earth.
The history of the Universe begins with the planning of EPCOT in late 1970’s. Imagineers came up with basic themes for pavilions for a section of EPCOT Center named Future. These were the Land, the Sea, Movies, Life, Transportation, Space, Imagination, Progress, and Energy. The Movie Pavilion eventually became Disney-MGM Studios (Now Hollywood Studios), and the rest of these remained as pavilions as EPCOT Center.
The Universe of Energy, a pavilion dedicated to energy of all kinds, was dedicated on October 4th, 1982, while officially opening with EPCOT Center on October 1st. The pavilion housed one ride, titled the Universe of Energy, was sponsored by Exxon and took a pretty solemn look at how energy is created, used, and how humans are destroying the supply of it.
The attraction as a whole was about 45 minutes long, with a ten minute pre-show and a 35-minute ride. By far the longest ride at EPCOT Center, the length of the attraction scared some people away. That being said, it was fairly popular for a while. The ride was very innovative, showcasing really futuristic ride technologies such as rotating vehicles and a very odd pre-show screen. Innovation can only attract people for so long, and eventually it had to be updated. The ride was too dark and serious, and Disney decided it needed a more comical tone (For some reason). The original Universe of Energy closed on January 21st, 1996 to become Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
Before Ellen’s Energy Adventure was completed, the Universe of Energy reopened in June of 1996 to help alleviate the crowds of the busy summer season. At this time, the World of Motion had closed to become Test Track, and Horizons was having major structural issues (A sinkhole formed under the ride), so Wonders of Life would have been the only operating pavilion if the UofE had not opened. But because of ongoing enhancements and renovations to the Universe of Energy, the attraction was really awkward. It used the original films, but there were some noticeable differences to the ride itself. The odd Pre-Show screen was gone, replaced with a typical curved screen like what was found at most other places in the attraction. The dinosaur scene was also awkward, with a dinosaur lunging at rocks which hid an Ellen DeGeneres Animatronic. That attraction lasted until September 2nd, 1996, when it closed again to add the new films. On September 15th, Ellen’s Energy Crisis officially opened. The title was quickly renamed Ellen’s Energy Adventure, the current tenant of the Universe of Energy.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure is a 45-minute attraction featuring a ten minute preshow and a 25-minute ride. It was very similar to the former Universe of Energy attraction, with the ride vehicles and film screens all being similar. The dinosaur scene was slightly different, as the dinosaurs were repainted and all acted slightly differently than they did before.. But the biggest differences were the films. The films starred Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, and Alex Trebek, and took a very comical approach to energy, including both new forms and old forms. It was a stark contrast to its’ predecessors’ serious approach to the concept. The new ride used Jeopardy to convey its’ message, which actually works. The problem: Disney let the attraction become dated and die.
The true beginning of the end of the Universe of Energy began in 2004, when ExxonMobil gave up the sponsorship of the attraction. When an attraction lost a sponsor, it was bad news. Wonders of Life was pretty much left abandoned after MetLife dropped sponsorship, and the Imagination pavilion isn’t in much better shape. Disney counted (And somewhat still does) on the sponsor to pay for upkeep and renovations of these ultra expensive attractions. After a sponsor leaves an attraction, it typically gets left with no major refurbishments. This is mostly the case for Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
The attraction was left with no changes and routine refurbishments until 2009, when it went under pretty extensive refurbishments. The exterior was repainted (Back to red, orange, and yellow from a rainbow scheme), the computer systems were updated, the ride vehicles were painted a light blue color, and the animatronics were updated. However, the biggest problem with Ellen’s Energy Adventure was left unaddressed: The films. At this time, the films were beginning to show their age, with the quality not being the best Disney could offer, and the dialogue and characters becoming increasingly dated. It’s a ride stuck in the 90’s, and that’s what it has been ever since. While I still like it (It’s a fun edutainment ride and pretty the much the last remnant of EPCOT Center), it needs to be updated. The films and some aspects of the attraction are far too dated and need some attention.
Redevelopment of the attraction has been circulating for the last year, beginning with WDWNT reporting that the Universe of Energy will close sometime soon. That was a year ago (June 30th, 2016), and nothing has happened since. More recently, WDWNT also reported on leaked plans which pretty much prove that the days are numbered for the Universe of Energy. But what will replace it?
The future of the Universe of Energy looks bleak. As I reported in my Epcot Renovations article, the rumors surrounding the redevelopment of the pavilion point to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride replacing it. This completely destroys the Energy theme that this pavilion has represented for decades, and pretty much destroys all of the history of it. This announcement is rumored to take place at D23, and I’ll be waiting for it, however sad I am about it. Guardians of the Galaxy is not futuristic, so it doesn’t belong at EPCOT.
The other redevelopment rumors suggest that the TRON coaster from Shanghai Disneyland may be replacing the Universe of Energy. While this concept is more futuristic, and I’m more okay with it, this rumor just means that Disney is done with original attractions and would just rather find an IP, give it ride, and put that ride in every resort, something I’m against.
Either one it turns out to be makes no difference: the redevelopment of Ellen’s Energy Adventure means the end of the Energy theme that the Universe of Energy pavilion has represented for so many years.
Anyway, thanks for reading this post on the Universe of Energy! I actually enjoy Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and I’m sad to see the rumors of its’ death and redevelopment. It’s not as good as the original, but it’s a good ride Disney left to become dated and die after it lost a sponsor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxqH7VnHE1Y – Official Dedication of the UoE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c76VO7JwJSg – Pre Show (OG UoE)