5 Snap Judgments From the Relaunched Mission SPACE

Disney officially relaunched Mission SPACE last weekend — and two other scrubbed missions (Universe of Energy and The Great Movie Ride) promptly buried it in the news stack.

So much for the celebration.

We’ve had our eyes on the relaunched Mission SPACE for a few weeks — ever since everyone learned that Mission SPACE would receive an entirely new Earth mission to go along with its existing mission to Mars. Usually, Disney rumor mills are all over this kind of thing, but D23 was full of surprises.

Here are some snap judgments from the new ride.

A New Robotic Narrator

At least in the delivery. Original CAPCOM Gary Sinise is gone, replaced by the new head of the Astronaut Training Corp, played by Gina Torres.

I’m not crazy about it. Judging by her line readings, neither is she.

Gina Torres as the new Capcom in the relaunched Mission SPACE
A googly-eyed mop would be more expressive than this.

Sinise’s performance was not as timeless as, say, all-time great Mr. Johnson’s from the Magic Kingdom’s Mission to Mars. But at least Sinise is a Best Supporting Actor nominee who was once a fake astronaut.

Mr. Johnson from Mission to Mars Trading Card
Pictured: Someone who never got second-billing to Tom Hanks.

Gina Torres is famous for Xena Warrior Princess.

The script for most of the pre-show and all of the Mars Mission is identical to the original. It’s jarring to hear Torres speaking Sinise’s words. She’s just not that good at it. While she doesn’t flat out tank the narration like that “Uh Ooh” guy from the Flight of Passage preshow, all her dialogue comes across as flat and robotic.

It’s strange that in this age of personalized and randomized experiences, they didn’t keep the Gary Sinise version in play. Torres could have narrated just the Earth mission.

Or better yet, they could have randomized between Torres and Sinise for Mars, a la Star Tours 2.

Or best yet, hired the real Xena Warrior Princess as the narrator.

Take a Visit to … Earth

Besides the new narrator, the other big change is the Earth Mission itself.

It would be a stretch to call the original Mars mission a classic ride. Yet it had some energy. A zippy slingshot around the moon. That clever hypersleep trick. An asteroid field for an alarm clock. Landing under emergency manual control. And the last big thrill with the collapsing cliff.

By contrast, the Earth Mission is a snooze.

You launch, you fly around the Earth, you land. They still activate the manual control sticks during the landing, but you aren’t swooping through Martian canyons or careening towards a snowy runway. Instead, you basically park the thing into a safety net with all the drama of Drivers Ed.

The Earth landing strip in Mission Space Green Team
The thrill of a space voyage combined with the joy of backwoods country roads.

The Earth Mission is only available to Green Team (less intense), which supposedly gave them the ability to lower the height requirement and get more toddlers into astronaut training. But when it comes to the motion effects, the original Green Team version of the Mars mission was about as intense as watching an episode of Xena Warrior Princess from the couch. One wonders why they couldn’t just keep a randomized Mars version for Green Team as well.

I guess they figure pre-schoolers won’t sit still unless it’s for pictures of dark continents.

Both Relaunched Space Missions Look Beautiful

Earth is obviously a brand new ride, but Disney has even retouched the Mars Mission, completely re-rendering the entire sequence. It looks light years better. Everything is crisp and detailed, especially in the asteroid belt and Mars landing scenes.

Apparently computer animation has improved in the last 14 years.

The Earth Mission is likewise fully rendered, but suffers because there’s not a whole lot to the story line. You’re basically hovering over the planet, watching glittering continents swing by below you, while the entire other half of the screen is the vastness of space.

The Earth as seen from the Green Team mission in the relaunched Mission Space
Not kidding.

They did a good job making it dark though.

A Call-out to Disney Parks Around the World?

I’m sure it’s just coincidence, but on the Earth Mission, if a country happens to host its own Disney park, a second-tier star of Xena Warrior Princess will call it out by name during the trip.

The pre-show confirms that you’re launching from Florida — home of Walt Disney World, duh. You traverse North America (also home to Disneyland) and according to the narrator, you leave the continent at San Francisco — home of the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The next thing our narrator recognizes is Hawaii, home to Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa. And not long after, she calls out Japan, home to Tokyo Disneyland Resort.

After Japan comes China (Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland). And further along, she specifically mentions Paris, the “City of Light.” I think there’s a Disneyland in Paris, but I forget what it’s called.

Of course, there are other regions named also, but I find it interesting that they managed to hit all of Disney’s real estate holdings.

How Does the Relaunched Mission SPACE Affect the Parkeology WDW49 / WDW47 Challenge?

If you’re not familiar with our world-famous challenge to ride every ride at Walt Disney World in a single day… why not? We created it years ago!

Since then, hundreds of people have attempted the challenge. And over the years, we’ve had to make alterations to the official ride count as Disney adds or removes rides.

We started the summer as WDW49 after Pandora opened. The closing of Universe of Energy and the Great Movie Ride — with a combined ride time of over one hour! — took two rides off the board.

Once we found out about the second Earth mission, we’ve been waiting until Disney relaunched Mission SPACE to see if would qualify as one or two rides. We can now make the call.

Earth and Mars outside of Mission Space
Two planets. One rocket ride.

From Day One, we have considered Disney’s website to be the definitive list of attractions. The relaunched Mission SPACE appears as a single attraction on Disney’s list. Furthermore, the My Disney Experience app categorizes Mission SPACE as a single attraction for FastPass purposes.

Therefore, we will continue to count Mission SPACE as one attraction, making the current challenge WDW47.

Comments (15)

  1. While I hate the new Green Team mission and Gina Torres replacing the beloved Gary Sinise, I must say that some of the additions are nice. There’s minor things like adding Brava Centauri to the new mural at the entrance, and major things like the new graphics of the Mars Mission. But truly, the cons are more substantial than the pros.

    • I only recently experienced the re-rendered Orange side. It’s obviously much improved in quality. Walking by Mission Space last night, I was reminded of the promise of what it could have been. The pavilion has always fallen short of what it could have been.

  2. Please bring back Gary!!!

    • Sinise seemed like the perfect star for the role. Space street-cred for his role in Apollo 13, and not a big enough star that he can’t slum it in theme parks.

      • This is by far my favorite Disney ride but omitting Gary Sinise was a big mistake. He gave it that extra touch and made it sound important when you have to play the special “roles” like Pilot and Navigator. The new lady just literally read her lines poorly. Not a “Disney” performance. Big disappointment….

  3. My wife and I are longtime Disney people, even more now that the kids are grown. When we hit Epcot the first thing I do is make my way to Mission Space. Last week was the first time I’ve ridden it since the change and I really think it’s pretty much ruined for me.

    My wife will not do the more intense version so I do that alone. She does go on the lesser one with me and the new ride is just a joke. There’s nothing to it and it’s over before you can blink. Very lame and not worth standing in line for.

    And for both versions, Gina Torres is just terrible. No emotion, she puts absolutely nothing into it. She looks like she doesn’t even want to be there. Gary Sinise WAS Mission Space, he sold the ride and built the anticipation that was half the fun of the ride, it made the experience. Now you watch Ms. Torres sleep walk through the same lines which is bad enough but then they have another “flight officer” who’s wearing a business suit! It looks like they just grabbed some Disney exec who was standing around, told him to take off his tie, slap on a Mission Space lapel pin and read some lines.

    It’s all very lame and a shadow of it’s former self. Way to take a great ride and make it mediocre Disney! It’s really a shame.

    • The moon trip is a real disappointment. Nothing happens, and it just ends up being a flyover of the world. They try for a little bit of forced conflict at the end, but it’s nothing compared the “canyon’s edge” sequence in the Mars version. I wish they would have just added randomization of several missions, with “more intense” and “less intense” options.

  4. I rode it for the first time with the new visuals the other day. The new voice acting is far better suited for the fictional ISTC’s Public Relations department than to Mission Control. And a “lieutenant” in a blazer and open collar rather than an ISTC uniform just doesn’t make sense. It was also easy to tell that this was being done against a green screen than a Mission Control set. The background radio chatter could also benefit from a rewrite by someone who has actually sat through pre-launch radio chatter (although the “Mr. Johnson” page to mission “M2M” is a nice touch).

    The new “Earth” mission felt rushed and boring (most of the buttons get pressed within the first 30 seconds and the sequence doesn’t make sense). It’s “Soarin’ Around the World” done several miles higher into space. I’d rather wait in line for “Soarin'” instead.

    The updated “Mars” mission is ruined by the new audio track done by the same actors who should have been in the PR department instead of Mission Control, and it sounds like it was laid over the original track (there are snippets of Gary Sinise’s original CAPCOM disguised as background radio communication that simply doesn’t fit). I do like the more detailed visuals, but the new soundtrack just ruined the experience for me.

    To me the entire “reboot” felt like it was rushed into production on a less-than-shoestring budget and without much thinking through by whoever spearheaded this redo.

    • Agreed. There just wasn’t any substance to the Earth mission. the Mars mission at least attempts some moments of excitement, with coming out of hypersleep into an asteroid field, and the loss of control during landing, and the canyon edge balancing act. It also has the hypersleep effect, which is my favorite part of the mission. Earth, by contrast, is just a simple flight over glowing lights.

      Great catch on the Gary Sinise background dialog though. I’ll have to listen for that on the next ride.

  5. Oh, Mr. Johnson! He was the first human audio-animatronic I ever saw in person. I remember that day there was something going on with his shoulder, and there were weird lumpy movements coming from underneath his lab coat. I was fascinated and creeped out at the same time. Mission to Mars was one of my favorite childhood rides. Oddly enough, my sister has no memory of it at all

  6. It was so obvious she is reading queue cards or a prompter. It was driving me nuts.

    • Yes! Slow, plodding line readings. I blame the director. She could have used some of George Lucas’s “Faster, more intense.”

    • Gary Sinise was reading cue cards also (you could see his eyes reading the lines), but he is also a veteran actor who could put the experience into the lines.

  7. Awww, she’s also famous for Firefly. I quite liked her character. But I’ll miss Gary and his forehead. 🙁

    • Yeah, I know she’s in Firefly. But the Xena reference was more fun 🙂 I’m a die-hard Gary apologist, so they could have replaced him with practically anybody and it would get me riled up.

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