Universe of Energy
Sponsors: Exxon (1982-1996), Exxon Mobile (1996-2004)
Located in Future World East, The Universe of Energy was an opening day attraction at Epcot. Though the building still exists, the pavilion has been through some major changes over the years.
The original pre-show was a roughly 8-minute film, directed by Emil Radok, known as the "Kinetic Mosaic." It featured a unique surface onto which the show was projected. Choreographed in time with the show were 100 small prisms that rotated at different angles to give an almost three-dimensional effect to the film. It was during this show that guests were introduced to one of the attraction's theme songs, "Energy: You Make the World Go 'Round."
After the preshow, guests entered a large theater and found seats in theater "cars" that moved through the attraction. After an introductory film, the theater cars moved together into a room where guests were introduced to a host of animatronic dinosaurs and creates from prehistoric times. Here, the storm shown in the first film followed guests into the environment, changing temperature and weather conditions as it did. After the first diorama scene, each car split off from the main grouping to form a train, as guests were moved through the rest of the prehistoric diorama scenes.
After the diorama, the individual cars reformed their theater layout for a roughly 12-minute film on how new sources of energy are being found and used.
The attraction ended back in the first theater, however, this time, the curtains were raised to reveal a room made almost entirely of mirrors. A closing film featuring laser and computer aided drawing was shown on the main screen that reflected the images around the room, surrounding guests with the show as well as another theme song, "Universe of Energy."
From the exit, guests could chose to follow a path that lead directly to the Energy Exchange, an exhibit located in Communicore East.
In January of 1996, the attraction closed for a major refurbishment that would include the addition of Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Initially planned to take a futuristic perspective, "Ellen's Energy Crisis" would be based on a completely new story line. This meant an updated preshow, new films for the attraction theaters throughout, and an overhaul of the existing diorama scenes.
In June of 1996, to handle increased summer crowds, the pavilion was re-opened despite the new attraction not yet being complete. As a result, the experience was somewhat disconnected. The original preshow was still used, however, the unique Radok screens were no longer in place. Once riding through the prehistoric diorama, many changes had already been made, including the reprogramming of the large Elasmosaurus. While the Ellen animatronic that the creature would now be attacking had been installed, because the new story line was not yet in place it had been hidden under a temporary rock feature. As a result, it instead appeared the Elasmosaurus was attacking empty space. As guests traveled to the second theater, where screens once showed different energy sources and progress around the world, newly recorded audio was used to distract guests from the fact that they were essentially in a dark room. This audio welcomed guests back from the past and explained a bit about the electrical systems used to power the attraction. The large K-NRG radio tower display had been installed but hidden using large curtains in this space. The last obvious occurrence of this disconnected experience was back in the first theater, where the final film had previously taken advantage of a surround of mirrored walls to create an impressive effect. With these walls removed, and the new smaller "television" screen installed in place of the original floor-to-ceiling screens, the finale felt very "small."
Exactly 3-months after the pavilion had reopened, it was closed once again to complete the refurbishments. It reopened two weeks later, on September 15, 1996, maintaining the pavilion title of "Universe of Energy" but with a new attraction name, "Ellen's Energy Adventure".
The new Universe of Energy followed identical paths through the pavilion. The diorama's remained much the same, with minor changes to scenes such as the lack of storm, pond, fog and temperature change in the first, and the addition of the new, state of the art, Ellen animatronic, now fighting off the Elasmosaurus.
In March of 2004, Exxon (now ExxonMobile) withdrew their sponsorship of the pavilion. All references to the company were removed, and the corporate lounge, including VIP views overlooking the diorama, closed.
In late 2008 the pavilion closed once again, opening in early 2009. Though there were no changes to the show itself, the attraction received some much-needed upgrades, including a new sound system, as well as a myriad of clean-ups throughout.
Over time, the motion of the Elasmosaurus was reduced. The Ellen animatronic was both one of the most expensive to had been built, as well as one of the most plagued with difficulty. With its constant technical problems, it was officially removed in late 2014, with the Elasmosaurus soon to follow. To some, this signaled the end of the attraction looming on the horizon. With the removal of the Ellen figure, the obvious connection between the diorama and film scenes had been lost.
On July 15, 2017, at the D23 Expo, it was announced that the Energy pavilion would close on August 13, 2017 to make way for a new Guardians of the Galaxy "E-Ticket" attraction. During its final ride, the moving theater cars seemingly experienced a malfunction, resulting in guests being evacuated from the attraction. Though appearing to be unplanned, guests were not evacuated as would typically be done. Instead, guests were allowed to roam the dioramas slowly, taking photos and getting up close and personal with the scenes, thus giving them a not easily forgotten once, in a lifetime experience.