6 Whimsical Transformations and Facts About Walt Disney World’s Park Icons

by | Dec 28, 2020 | Disney History, Disney Parks and Resorts, Lists and Trivia, Uncategorized

Both Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom and the entrance of Epcot have undergone changes recently. The castle has received a “royal” upgrade, with new paint including sapphire dusting on the rooftops and gold trim on the spires. Meanwhile, there’s a new entrance at Epcot. Just in front of Spaceship Earth, Guests will find a beautiful fountain and prism pylons that are reminiscent of the old days and Epcot Center. It got us thinking about some of the memorable transformations of Walt Disney World’s icons.

Cinderella Castle Makeover

1. The Birthday Cake Castle

In 1996, Walt Disney World was celebrating its silver jubilee. Obviously something momentous needed to be done to celebrate the occasion, and what Disney came up with was truly unforgettable. Cinderella Castle was transformed into a 189 foot tall birthday cake! Red and pink “icing” covered the castle. Gumdrops, sprinkles, candy canes, candy hearts, and stars also adorned the building. There were, of course, birthday candles, including a large 25 that sat front and center on the castle. All told, over 400 gallons of pink paint was used to transform Cinderella’s elegant abode into an eye catching explosion of birthday cheer. The transformation lasted for a whopping 15 months!

Cinderella Castle Birthday Cake

2. Spaceship Earth and the Mickey Mouse Wand

The year 2000 was a momentous occasion. Anyone who lived through the transition from the 1990s to the 2000s remember where they were when the year changed. We all waited with baited breath to see what havoc Y2K would wreak on the world (ask your parents kids). With that done, we were free to enjoy the delights on the New Year. Among them: the transformation of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.

One of Disney’s most iconic structures, Spaceship Earth was designed with the help of Ray Bradbury and based on the work of American architect Buckminster Fuller. A hulking geodesic dome, the attraction commands attention and is an absolute wonder of design. To mark the year 2000 and Walt Disney World’s “millennium celebration,” Disney added a 25-story Mickey Mouse hand and wand that stood beside the dome. The wand was a reference to Mickey Mouse in Fantasia’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” Though, in the interest of full disclosure we should note that Mickey does not actually use a wand in the segment. In addition to the wand, there was a large cutout of the number 2000 to mark the year. At the end of the year, the 2000 was replaced by the word “Epcot” in fancy script.

A few numbers: The sparkles above the wand stood 257 feet off the ground and it required 250 tons of steel to support the icon. The hand, wand, and Epcot letter weighed a whopping 100,000 pounds. In addition, the lettering on the word Epcot required 250,000 shimmering metallic eye catchers.

The hand, wand, and lettering remained in place until 2007.

Mickey Wand on Spaceship Earth

3. The Earfful Tower

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has had several icons over the years. These days, the most recognizable structures in the park are probably the Hollywood Tower Hotel and The Chinese Theatre which houses Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (and was formerly home to The Great Movie Ride). However, the park’s original icon was The Earfful Tower.

Standing 130 feet tall, the faux water tower was located in the Studio Backlot Tour area. It was adorned with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and was originally painted with the words “Disney MGM Studios” before becoming “Disney’s Hollywood Studios.” It served as the park’s lone icon until 2001 and the introduction of the Sorcerer’s Hat (more on that later). It remained in park until 2016 when construction on Toy Story Land began.

Earfull Tower

4. The Sorcerer’s Hat

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is one of the all-time great moments in Disney animation and has inspired Walt Disney World in a number of ways, from the spectacular Fantasmic! to the wand on Spaceship Earth mentioned above. It also inspired the massive Sorcerer’s Hat, which functioned as Hollywood Studios’ icon from September of 2001 until January of 2015.

Located in front of The Great Movie Ride, the icon depicted Mickey Mouse’s hat from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, along with his hand and ears. It debuted in the park as part of the 100 Years of Magic celebration. The hat stood a whopping 122 feet tall, but the original design called for it to be twice that height. The Mickey ears were meant to be Ferris wheels and the whole structure was to be built outside of the park!

Mickey's Sorcerer Hat

5. Mike Wazowski

Spaceship Earth seems like an ideal structure for projection mapping, a fact which was put to good use in 2013 for Walt Disney World’s Monstrous Summer. As part of the celebration, Spaceship Earth was transformed into an animated version of Mike Wazowski to promote the film Monsters University. Mike smiled and looked about. At 180 feet tall, it must have made it particularly easy for Roz to keep watching him…always watching.

Spaceship earth Mike Wazowski

6. Toilet Paper on Cinderella Castle

Everyone knows that Experiment 626 (known to his friends as Stitch) is a bit of a trouble maker. After all, Dr. Jumba Jookiba literally designed him to be destructive. In 2004, Stitch brought his mischief making to the Magic Kingdom when Stitch’s Great Escape opened. To mark the opening, Stitch toilet papered Cinderella Castle (and added a bit of graffiti)! To the relief of park goers, the “decorations” were quickly removed…but not before Stitch – in his own, mischievous way – made his “mark” on Walt Disney World’s most famous structure.

Stitch Takes Over Cinderella Castle

Those are just a few of the transformations that Walt Disney World’s icons have received over the years. As we kick off the celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, we’re sure to see some more exciting enhancements in the coming months. We can hardly wait!

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