The attraction starred Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye, with the addition of small cameos by Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek and Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld). The ride comprised of a combination of four separate large-format film presentations and a slow-moving dark ride through audio-animatronic sets.
But this classic attraction will forever live on through our tribute video below.
WATCH – A TRIBUTE TO UNIVERSE OF ENERGY & ELLEN’S ENERGY ADVENTURE:
The ride began once guests entered into a pre-show area that played a video of Ellen falling asleep on a couch while watching “Jeopardy!” and dreaming that she was a contestant on the show. This is when Ellen was joined by her co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis (her competitor and ex-roommate), who destroys Ellen during the first round and Alex Trebek (the host).
Lucky for Ellen, who is losing miserably to her ex-roommate, she goes on a time-traveling adventure with Bill Nye to get a better understanding of energy during the show’s commercial brake. This is when guests to the attraction are taken on a wild adventure through time and history with Ellen and Bill Nye to get educated on the different types of energy in our world.
This also included a ride through a prehistoric diorama with audio-animatronic dinosaurs.
After getting a history of energy, guests would travel back to the present and Ellen would then compete again with her new found knowledge, beating her ex-roommate Judy (Curtis).
The Universe of Energy pavilion has been a staple attraction in Epcot since 1982 when it was first built. Before Ellen DeGeneres took center stage at the attraction, the ride was an educational tour that focused on the importance and innovations of energy.
The pavilion itself was actually an innovation in energy as the roof was covered in 80,000 photovoltaic solar cells that actually powered part of the ride.
Visitors would be moved throughout the pavilion with the power of large battery “traveling theatre cars” that were led with guide wires embedded in the floor. The original attraction also featured several films that discussed the seriousness of energy as well as a ride through a diorama with audio-animatronic dinosaurs.
The original pre-show was an eight-minute live-action presentation that discussed the various forms of energy that could be found within nature. This presentation wasn’t just a regular film, as it was actually a unique Kinetic Mosaic film presentation, invented by Czech film director Emil Radok. This presentation was built upon 100 rotating prism-shaped flip screens that were arranged twenty five screens wide and four high. This was all controlled by a computer, which was synchronized to a motion picture that projected onto their surface by five separate projectors. All of the flip screens had three sides, with two white for projections and one that was just black.
After guests took in this wild spectacle, they were seated in a theater with six different sections. This wasn’t just any theater though as it was capable of rotating 180 degrees to face three separate large movie screens. The first film was a four-minute hand-animated film that depicted the very beginning of life on earth and how fossil fuels were first formed.
Once this educational film ended, the seating area would rotate to face a curtain that raised to reveal a primeval diorama.
Then, the seating area would move into the diorama. This is where it separated into six multi-passenger vehicles that would take guests on a seven-minute journey through the diorama. The diorama contained several animatronic dinosaurs, including an Epadphosaurus and two Arthropleuras fighting. It also contained a family of Brontosaurus in a swamp with realistic swampy smells. Some other scenes guests could expect in the diorama were a Stegosaurus fighting with an Allosaurus on an overhead cliff, multiple Trachodon bathing under a waterfall and an Elasmosaurus that would come out of a tidal pool at guests.
Next, the moving theater vehicles would leave the diorama and enter the EPCOT Energy Information Center, where the vehicles would all join back together. This is where guests would view a twelve-minute live-action film that was displayed onto three massive wrap around screens. The film would give guests an in-depth look at some current and future energy resources from around the world.
At the end of the film, the screens would raise and the seating area would move underneath them, into the original theater the ride started in. The seating area would then rotate back into the position it started in. Here, guests would see a two-minute composer-animated film that was actually reflected off of mirrored walls that were installed within the theater. This film depicted an ever changing landscape of color and laser like imagery of the ways mankind has benefited from taking control of energy.
In January of 1996, the pavilion was closed down so construction could begin to transform the ride into Ellen’s Energy Adventure. This transformation got a brief pause in June later that year as the pavilion was re-opened to help with the summer crowds taking over the park. Unfortunately, at this time the attraction was still undergoing renovations which caused guests to face a few malfunctions while riding the ride.
When the ride re-opened in June for the summer crowds, the original pre-show was still being played for guests as they entered. Although, the Radok screens were no longer a part of the attraction as they had been replaced by flat screens.
When guests would ride through the prehistoric diorama, guests would see a large dinosaur attacking a large bush instead of what was supposed to be Ellen. The Ellen animatronic was installed but because the renovation was not complete it had to be hidden.
In the second theater, the holding area was another place where guests would experience disconnects within the ride. In this part of the ride guests would hear the same audio from the original ride, but the multiple screens that would play accompanying video during this presentation had been removed. So at this point in the ride guests would sit in complete darkness and only listen to the audio. The pavilion was later closed in the beginning of September to complete the renovation.
On September 15, 1996 Ellen DeGeneres made her debut in the ride alongside the popular television scientist personality, Bill Nye. Later, in 2008 the attraction was closed again to receive an upgrade to the ride’s sound system, and a few minor adjustments to the ride’s interior. The attraction later opened again in early 2009.
Source: Extinct Disney