Today in Disney History, 1996: Ellen’s Energy Adventure Opening Date at EPCOT

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Disney History, EPCOT, WDW Blog

Wondering what this zany EPCOT attraction was all about? Dive deep into the history as we celebrate the anniversary of the opening date of Ellen’s Energy Adventure.

Before she was Dory, Ellen DeGeneres was the star of Ellen’s Energy Adventure at EPCOT’s Universe of Energy, which opened on September 15, 1996. This will soon be home to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, but below, you’ll find details about this now-defunct attraction under Ellen’s reign.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure opening date: September 15, 1996

Lead photo by Loren Javier

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Universe of Energy


Photo by Brett Svenson

The opening of Ellen’s Energy Adventure marked the closing of EPCOT’s original Universe of Energy attraction, which debuted on the park’s opening day on October 1, 1982. 

Both versions of the attraction used similar ride vehicles and designs to share information on the importance of energy with guests visiting Future World.

The experience began with a 10-ish-minute pre-show followed by a slow-moving journey through different examples of energy, ranging from dinosaur Animatronics to video footage of extreme weather sequences. 

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The attraction’s ride vehicles offered one of the most unique experiences one could have at a theme park attraction. Following the pre-show, guests would be seated in large-scale “traveling theatre cars” that moved at a glacially slow pace. Each vehicle held a capacity of 97 guests, however, making the show extremely effective at moving people through the attraction and keeping wait times down. 

With the complete experience lasting about 45 minutes, the attraction, while a technological marvel in itself, lacked the excitement that some guests would have preferred to make the ride something they would need to experience multiple times.

Regardless of our opinions of the excitement factor of the original ride, with ways for guests to learn about everything from kinetic energy to fossil fuels, it certainly fulfilled the mission of a Future World Pavilion long before Ellen Degeneres and the rest of the refurbed attraction’s cast and crew landed in 1996.

Future World in the 1990s 


Photo by Judd Helms

In the summer of 1996, before the official Ellen’s Energy Adventure opening date (September 15, 1996), Disney ran a transitional version of the attraction

Some of the film footage and dinorama scenes of the dinosaurs had been enhanced, and while the full story for Ellen’s Energy Adventure was not yet fully fleshed out, Animatronics of both Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy were added to one of the show scenes

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This briefly shown version of the ride fit in with the rest of the changes at EPCOT and at the Walt Disney World Resort in general during this time. During the “Disney Decade,” attractions were constantly being revamped and plussed to better suit the interests of guests of all ages, especially thrill-seekers. (It is no surprise then that Test Track was already in development to replace World of Motion, opening nearby in Future World in 1998.) 

The experience of the summer 1996 version of Ellen’s Energy Adventure was rather unique in that guests do not often get a look at attractions that are still a work in progress, even if it’s something similar where the new ride is really a reimagined version of its former self. 

Ellen’s Energy Adventure


Photo via YouTube

When it was time to open on September 15, 1996, Ellen’s Energy Adventure had everything a revamp of a classic Future World attraction in the mid-90s needed. In addition to the star power that Ellen Degeneres brought on board, the show featured a classic pre-show that was set during an episode of Jeopardy! (meaning famed host Alex Trebek became a part of the ride). 

During the pre-show, guests were introduced to Ellen, who admittedly didn’t understand why energy was so important. She would fall asleep and find herself dreaming of being on Jeopardy!, pitted against the likes of Albert Einstein and “Stupid Judy” as she calls her old college classmate (played by Jamie Lee Curtis.)


Photo by Loren Javier

Thankfully, Ellen was friends with Bill Nye the Science Guy, who would take Ellen and the audience along throughout the rest of the attraction to make sure everyone walked away knowing the importance of energy in our world

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The Big Bang to 


Ellen’s Animatronic fending off a dinosaur in Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Man, the ’90s were a MOOD. Photo via EllenTube

Once the attraction got moving, guests came face to face with the Big Bang, seeing alongside Ellen an example of energy only otherwise discussed in science class.

From there, the duo ended up in the prehistoric era, where Ellen’s Audio-Animatronic was notably seen for years fending off a dinosaur. (Unfortunately if you’ve only ridden the attraction later in its lifespan you may have missed this. The effect stopped working and was removed in 2014.) 

The next show scene followed up a prehistoric radio show with full-screen footage showing examples of energy use from across the country. If you looked closely during this scene, you may have caught a brief cameo of actor Michael Richards, known for playing Cosmo on Seinfeld, playing a caveman

The ride’s final scene brought guests back to Ellen’s dream on the set of Jeopardy!, where they’d be tempted to listen to the fictional advertisement for a website called, (I just tried it and am sorry to disappoint, but the website indeed does not exist!) 

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The Future of the Universe of Energy

Cosmic Rewind coaster concept art epcot

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is slated for 2022. Concept art courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

Ellen’s Energy Adventure closed on August 13, 2017 (the same day as the Great Movie Ride’s closure in Disney’s Hollywood Studios) to make way for a new Marvel-themed rollercoaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.

On the final day of Ellen’s Energy Adventure, guests lined up to experience the attraction one last time. In a strange turn of events, the ride was actually down for much of the day, allowing some of its final guests to have the unique experience of walking the ride path, where Cast Members were able to let them take their time checking out all of the sets and Animatronics. 

On her talk show, Ellen Degeneres brought up how she actually had the exterior skin of her Animatronic from the attraction, and while it’s unconfirmed whether or not she had the actual prop, whatever she did show her studio audience was certainly … as unnerving as you might imagine skin from an Animatronic to be.

As part of a major retheming of Future World into multiple neighborhoods, the show building will be used to house the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. Set to open in 2022, the attraction promises a thrilling launch coaster complete with favorite characters (and we can only assume an incredible soundtrack!) adding to this corner of EPCOT. 

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Posts by Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.

Authored by
Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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