It’s pretty tough to paint yourself into a corner when your show building is a giant round ball. Yet somehow the Imagineers managed to do it.
I’m sure Imagineering is more concerned with the big problems. How to simulate Zero G. How to make Abe Lincoln deliver a speech. How to apologize for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
I’m far more fascinated by the little problems. I think it’s because they are so hard to spot. Little problems usually have simple solutions, and unless you have Sherlock Holmes’s powers of perception, you will never realize that a problem existed to begin with.
I’ve found a few before. Truly minor things, like the Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster preshow. The only things that give them away are how intentional they are. You accept them at face value, and only when you begin to question how things work do you see these details as solutions to problems you didn’t think of at first blush.
If you sat down and thought about the problem for half a second, you’d hit upon the solution easily enough. I always wonder how far along things are before some of these problems rear their ugly head. I bet sometimes the ride is half built before somebody says, “Wait, what if it’s the cowboy instead of the gangster?”
When it comes to Spaceship Earth, I have to imagine they were locked into an Omnimover in a geosphere with a big star field at the top, well before somebody considered what might happen on the way down.
According to the safety spiel, Spaceship Earth is like riding on the Animal Kingdom sloth. It’s a slow moving journey through time. Except time in this case is measured by a series of progressively worse celebrity narrators.
Nobody thinks anything of strapping a chair onto a slow moving chain going uphill, because the back rest has already been invented. But move that chair downhill and a need for a front rest comes into sharp focus. Your time machines are rotating backwards for your return to Earth, solely to prevent you from looking like John Ritter at a staircase convention.
I’m being a bit disingenuous here, as Spaceship Earth wasn’t really the first time such a problem had been encountered. Ever since Imagineers first needed a way to get us out of the Attic and down into the Graveyard, they’ve known how to use the Omnimover to solve this little problem. I just highlight Spaceship Earth because it’s a rare instance of a feature being added solely to solve a single problem problem. The Doom Buggies frequently rotate to show you areas on the sides of the track. Spaceship Earth never uses the Omnimover feature, except to get you back down. Place the exact same ride in the Universe of Energy show building, and you could do the whole thing with Snow White Mine Cars (though you would have to put up with Stupid Judy).
So basically, they have to build an entire pivot mechanism into every single car in the train just because they wanted you to go up first. Seems like a lot of engineering work. And what I find even more fascinating is that they did extra vehicle customization not once, but twice! Ever notice how you board the Time Machines from the left side, but exit on the right? That means two sets of automatic doors on the cars, all because they didn’t orient the loading and exit stations the same way.
And we wonder why the maintenance department seems overburdened.