Renaissance: Italy, Books, and Bowlcuts

Behold! The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art.  The printing press allowed the ideas of the era to spread far from their native cultures. The Renaissance led to a flowering of music, literature and art, and architecture (1).  Buckle up, because this one is a series of scenes that culminates in an animatronic extravaganza!

Statue of Sophocles

Real life Statue of Sophocles
A statue of  Sophocles found in Terracina, Italy and is preserved in the Gregorian Museum of Profane Art, in the Vatican.
Sophocles Statue from Spaceship Earth
Sophocles Statue from Spaceship Earth

The first thing we see to the right after the printer press scene is a statue of Sophocles, the celebrated writer of tragedy plays in ancient Greece.  Prior to the 2008 refurbishment it was a play by Sophocles being portrayed in the Ancient Greece Theater scene.  He returns again at the start of the Renaissance scene to let us know that we have moved from Gutenberg’s print shop in Germany to Italy and to signify we are psyched about dramas again.

The pail next to Sophocles isn’t for park maps, its holding eight scrolls, a reference to his seven extant tragedies and one satyr play (2).  The statue was found after the Renaissance south of Florence Italy.

Florence, Italy

Within just a few years, printing presses were being estabslished all over Italy.   By the end of the 15th Century about 80 towns in Italy had printing presses.  Italy was responsible for almost 1/3 of the books published in Europe during this time (3).  One city in Italy didn’t do nearly as well as others for print and that city is Florence.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence by Filippo Brunelleschi
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence by Filippo Brunelleschi

Florence was the “intellectual capital” of the Italian Renaissance as well as a producer of hand written manuscript books.   The elite were reluctant to adopt the new, less beautiful means of production from the printing press (3).

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore painted as the background of the scene in the ride
Spaceship Earth Renaissance Background

Books and Ideas

Despite Florence’s resistence to to print at the start, the first characters we see after the statue are two men reading from a pile of books.  The gentleman is reading from Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid.

They may be poets, philosophers, or scientists but regardless they are dressed in fancy pants!

Two male poets read to eachother in an outdoor atrium
First Renaissance Scene post 2008.

Our friend on the left (above) looks an awful lot like future President, Andrew Jackson and a previous press operator from Gutenberg’s press.   Perhaps having an inside printer is what warmed these guys up to the idea of mass produced non-elitist texts.

In the older scene it was one poet reading to two men
First Renaissance Scene pre 2008.

Previous versions of this ride featured someone reading to two people with bowl cuts.  If I was a betting’ woman, I would day these two bowl cuts went back in time to Ancient Greece for some re-schooling and fortunately for them, better hair.

Two male poets from the previous scene who have bowl haircuts
Renaissance, Italy Circa 1500 AD
Image of the current ride's Greek Scene of students for comparison
Ancient Greece circa 400 BC

The next post will share the music these poets or philosophers get to listen to.  On a loop.  For all the days. (We were stuck at this part in the ride once for an extended period of time.)

Clip about scene
From 1982 Spaceship Earth Guide

February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

Books make it easier to invent the future in every field, and the result is an incredible explosion of innovation that we call the Renaissance.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

Scientists, explorers, and scholars spread their discoveries in books and essays. Poets, musicians, and artists fueled by the passion of the age created timeless works of beauty and majesty.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994
Narrated by Walter Cronkite

The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986
Narrated by Larry Dobkin

Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script


  3. Pettegree, A. (2010). The Book in the Renaissance. New Haven and London, Yale University Press