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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Tomorrowland and the Kugel Ball



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

THE THEMING OF TOMORROWLAND AND THE KUGEL BALL

By Jim Korkis

“New Tomorrowland [which opened at the Magic Kingdom in 1994] was conceived as the meeting place of the universe,” stated Imagineer Alex Wright. “It is an interplanetary hub chosen to serve as the headquarters of the League of Planets. Everything in this land relates to excitement and optimism about the future. Every detail relates to this theme.

“Ours is a retro-future concept replete with all the trappings of an intergalactic spaceport. We all remember when we thought the future would be like this. Tomorrowland offers us the opportunity to visit it.”

In keeping with the theme that this is a city that exists in some alternative version of the future, at the entrance is a huge sign from the Tomorrowland Chamber of Commerce that welcomes guests with its motto: “The Future That Never Was Is Finally Here.”

Walking down the main street of the Avenue of the Planets, guests find themselves in the central hub of Rockettower Plaza. The names are a playful reference to New York’s famous Avenue of the Americas and Rockefeller Plaza.

This hub is the main transportation system for the community.

With so many interstellar travelers passing through this area, some are bound to need directions. So a map of the universe was installed near the Merchant of Venus merchandise shop.

The map is a large black granite ball floating on a very thin layer of water less than the thickness of a credit card. The water, pumped from below, lubricates the stone and creates a pressure so that the solid heavy piece of stone is easily rotated.

Looking closely on the exterior of the ball, there is a gold “You Are Here” star that marks the location of Rockettower Plaza. Further examination will reveal other clever notations including an exit from the fabled Route 66 and not far from that marking is a symbol indicating that fuel can be obtained just like on the iconic gas station road maps of the 1950s.

This unique ball is not a Disney creation, and several exist in similar fountains around the world with different images. It is just another example of a Kugel Ball.

The term kugel is from the German word meaning ball or sphere.

Kusser Fountainworks of Tampa, Florida represents the sophisticated fountain construction technology developed by Kusser Aicha Granitwerke, a leading European fountain company. This family-owned business with almost one hundred years of history is in the hands of its third generation.

In 1989 the first Kusser Fountain known as The Kugel was installed in the United States. Today there are similar versions in science museums, parks and more.

The granite must be a perfect sphere, placed on a base that has the exact same curvature as the ball in order for the magic of physics to make it possible for even a child to move the several tons easily with a push.

The kugel ball in Tomorrowland reportedly weighs about six tons, or over 13,227 pounds. Roughly that is the same weight of a full-sized adult African elephant. While low friction of the water bearing helps the ball to rotate, there is still some friction, so the ball will not perpetually roll, and guests can use their hands to stop the ball as well. Of course, shutting off the water pressure will also stop the ball from moving.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Call Me Walt, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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