Welcome to the first installment in our Practically Perfect Opinion series!
First of all, let me be clear that Dame Judi Dench is an absolutely phenomenal actress. This is not about her acting skills or her value as a person. This rant is dedicated specifically and solely to her Spaceship Earth narration.
I had the pleasure of listening to an audio ride-through of Spaceship Earth as narrated by Jeremy Irons recently on the Mouse Guest Weekly podcast. I also rode Spaceship Earth four times on my most recent WDW trip (late Feb/early March 2011) with the DJD narration. My problem with the new narration is threefold:
1) The point of a WDW trip for me, personally, is reliving my childhood memories. Having gone to Disney so often in my formative years, WDW holds many memories for me. Therefore, I am initially VERY AVERSE to any change to any part of the park that holds a memory for me from the 1980s/early 1990s version. In my mind, the Polynesian, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and MGM (ahem, Hollywood Studios) should stay the same as they were when I experienced them in the 1980s/early 1990s. On the other hand, I have no childhood memories of Animal Kingdom since it did not open until I was 16, so my gut reaction is not to oppose changes to that park.
I realize this is a solipsistic view, and I apologize for the selfish view. But since there is pretty much nothing I can do to stop Disney from removing my personal childhood memories from its property, I hope this opinion doesn't upset that many people. ANYWAY, back to Spaceship Earth. Obviously my memories are of Mr. Irons's narration. Therefore this change to DJD is unwelcome to me.
2) Here is the REAL meat of the issue. This part may be more universally accepted that part 1. Listen to Jeremy Irons's narration. Then listen to DJD's version. The problem is her TONE. It sounds like she's reading Goodnight Moon to a 3 year old. The way she says "Thank the Phoenicians." Her tone indicates she is speaking down to us, as if she is our kindergarten teacher. That may make the ride more accessible to young children, but young children are not the only ones who ride this attraction. Spaceship Earth is a CLASSIC. I would guess that pretty much every Epcot visitor will ride it. This includes single adults, childless couples, teens, senior citizens, DFs, all people who can read Goodnight Moon on their own.
Now, perhaps I am a little quick on the trigger here. Perhaps there are other forces at play, BUT: my immediate instinct when listening to DJD narrate like this (which is not necessarily her natural, normal intonation (see, e.g., her film performances)) is that she drastically misunderstands Walt Disney World as a whole. Walk with me here: if her narration sounds like she is speaking solely to small children, then it follows that she must think her narration will be directed almost solely at small children. By that logic, I suspect that DJD imagines every WDW ride (or at least this one in particular) to be full of small children and parents. The evidence indicates that she believes WDW to be almost entirely for small children. Which it is not. The point of WDW was to provide entertainment accessible for ALL members of the family. Including adults. Walt wanted a place where he and his daughters could have fun together. DJD's narration is the opposite of that idea.
3) Jeremy Irons's narration was SUPERAWESOME.
So that is why I have a problem with Dame Judi Dench's Spaceship Earth narration. I blame the producers and other people in charge for not correcting her (alleged) misperception. If my theory is true, I bet that, had someone corrected her, DJD would have done a much better (dare I say amazing?) narration and the ride today would be far superior to how it appears in its current state.