Saturday, April 4, 2009

Disney of Yesteryear: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

One of the most innovative attractions ever created for the Disney theme parks was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A Walt Disney World "E-Ticket" attraction since its opening day on October 14, 1971 (back when WDW used individual coupons instead of pay-one-price tickets), this Fantasyland ride closed exactly 23 years to the day after it opened, making it the only E-Ticket attraction to ever be removed from the park.

The 38 passenger (39 with the Cast Member "Captain") subs used in the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction based on the Disney film of the same name were distinguished by their Roman numeral markings on the outside. They were built in a shipyard in nearby Tampa, and then brought over on flatbed trucks to Walt Disney World. In fact, when "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was open, the 24 subs that operated at Walt Disney World and Disneyland gave the Walt Disney Company the 5th largest naval fleet in the world!

Guests boarded Captain Nemo's submarine and traveled under the sea through coral reefs, dark caverns, and into unexpected danger below deadly ice caps. Sadly, the ride closed in 1994 with almost no notice to guests, not due to lack of popularity, but because of constant ride breakdowns, loading difficulties (the subs were not handicapped-accessible), long lines, and the difficulty and high costs of maintenance (including keeping 11.5 million gallons of water clear enough for guests to see through).

For some time after the attraction had closed, the subs remained "docked" in the lagoon, leaving futile hope that the ride would be refurbished and reopened. However, the subs were soon removed and the lagoon drained. They were later stored for some time in backstage maintenance areas, but have long since been removed to whereabouts unknown… well, for the most part, anyway. While rumors persist that many of the old subs have been either dismantled or buried on the property somewhere, two of the subs were brought to Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, for exploration by Disney Cruise Line passengers.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Timekeeper (also known as "From Time to Time" and "De Temps en Temps") was a 1992 Circle-Vision 360° film that was presented at three Disney parks around the world. Unlike previous films, it was the first show that was arranged and filmed with an actual plot and not just visions of landscapes, and the first to utilize Audio-Animatronics. The film features a cast of European film actors of France, Italy, Belgium, and England. The film was shown in highly stylized circular theaters, and featured historic and futuristic details both on the interior and exterior.

The Timekeeper and its original French counterpart Le Visionarium, formerly at Disneyland Paris, marked the first time that the Circle-Vision film process was used to deliver a narrative story line. This required a concept to explain the unusual visual characteristics of the theater, hence the character 9-Eye. 9-Eye is sent through time by The Timekeeper, so that she can send back the surrounding images as she records them in whichever era she finds herself in.

The French attraction was also known by its film name as: "De Temps en Temps", while the Japanese attraction was simply "Visionarium", with the caption "From Time to Time" on the poster, respectively. The American film theater was known as "Transportarium" for a period of six months after it debuted, but the name was later dropped in lieu of "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center", or formally "The Timekeeper".

"Le Visionarium" (the original title) was not just an ordinary Circle-Vision 360°Film, but was important in the fact that for the first time in a Circle-Vision film, that creators at Walt Disney Imagineering wanted to tell an immersive story and attempt a light-hearted dialog without just switching between scenes of landscapes, as had been done in all of the previous Circle-Vision films.

The original concept for the film had included Jules Verne and the culture of past and present European history and events, and new inventions. Along with the previous elements, the story had to do with the idea of time travel with one concept including a child that explored the story of the great European scientists of the past on a computer. However to keep the audience focused and use imagination to depict situations and places that do not cater to the average person, the number of visions of the past and extreme situations of the plot kept increasing all the time for the project.

The film first premiered in Discoveryland at Disneyland Paris on April 12, 1992 as Le Visionarium. It was an extravagant attraction and was touted by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner as the showcase of the land at the time. However, TIME Magazine derided the film as a "flop" of a "wan drama" in its review of Disneyland Paris.The next year, the third incarnation of the ride opened at Tokyo Disneyland, as part of that park's 10th Anniversary Celebration.

The attraction had long been on the 'Discoveryland USA' proposal for the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort. However when financial difficulties arose because of the EuroDisney Project, the Discoveryland Project was canceled. At one point, the attraction was to be extended into a restaurant featured next door to the attraction. The Plaza Pavilion was to receive a makeover as the "Astronomer's Club" where a stage would have been located and actors portraying famed scientists such as Da Vinci and Galileo would appear in the restaurant only to be called back to the past by either 9-Eye or Timekeeper.

However, the film was named "From Time to Time" and opened in the Magic Kingdom's Circle-Vision theater rechristened "Transportarium" on November 21, 1994 as part of the New Tomorrowland expansion. Six months later the attraction under went some name changes. The theater was called "Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center" and the film was formally known as The Timekeeper, which is the most known and remembered name.

In 2001, the attraction was moved to the seasonal list of attractions along with Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. In February 2006, the Walt Disney World Resort reported that The Timekeeper was to be closed on February 26, 2006. Walt Disney World's version was the last version of the attraction to be closed. Both the Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris "Visionarium" films had closed in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Before the actual show, we are introduced to the invention of the show, "Circumvisual PhotoDroid", more commonly known as "9-Eye". The nine eyes she has represents the nine cameras used in filming the show in the round, thus showing the view from one of her "eyes" on each of the nine movie screens. She is the latest development from The Timekeeper, the keeper of the time machine. Guests are invited to be witnesses of the first ever use of the newly invented Time Machine.

After guests enter the theater, Timekeeper comes to life and has "9-Eye" prepare for the journey through time. Timekeeper then turns on the Machine for its first use, then watches from his control panel as 9-Eye is thrust back to the Jurassic age period in Earth's history. She narrowly escapes hungry dinosaurs as Timekeeper sends her to the last great ice age about 12,000 years ago. As she starts to freeze up Timekeeper sends her to 1450, for what is to be demonstration of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press.

However, Timekeeper has yet again messed up and sent her to a Scottish battle field in which one warrior comes after her, but is saved by Timekeeper. Finally working the kinks out of the time machine, Timekeeper sends 9-Eye to the year 1503, at the height of the Renaissance. The machine has placed right in the middle of Leonardo da Vinci's workshop where he is painting the Mona Lisa. 9-Eye, being curious starts to pick up some of the painting supplies and is noticed by Leonardo, who becomes fascinated by the strange machine. However the meeting between 9-Eye and DaVinci is cut short as her next stop in time is 1763, where Mozart is giving a performance to a crowd, which includes Louis XVI. However the meeting is again short as she is noticed by the people who begin to chase her through a house. Timekeeper decides to send her to the Exposition Universelle (1878) but the machine is stuck on fast forward with a skyline of Paris in such a motion that the progress of the Eiffel Tower, symbol of the Exposition Universelle (1889), is shown in the background. Finally Timekeeper has the machine stop in 1900, just in time for the Exposition Universelle (1900).

Timekeeper announces that guests are in time for a meeting between H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. 9-Eye hides from the fair-goers but not so that Verne and Wells are hidden. After a brief meeting, Wells walks away leaving with Verne a model of his time machine, which Verne had just criticized to him as impossible. After a sarcastic comment about time travel from Verne, 9-Eye rebuts his claim, and Verne notices her. Jules Verne decides to take a closer look at 9-Eye and tries to grab her. Timekeeper seeing this tries to bring her back to the present but brings not only her back but Verne.

Timekeeper and 9-Eye realizing their mistake try to send him back, but he refuses after discovering he is finally in the future and begs for them to show him the world of today in 10 minutes or less, so he can return to 1900 and deliver his speech. They agree and Timekeeper sets the machine for today. He sends Verne and 9-Eye to a dark tunnel, which Verne believes to be a dark future, however they are unaware they are standing in a railroad tunnel. The next thing to happen is a collision between Jules Verne and a French TGV train, and Verne becomes a new hood ornament.

From the train, Jules Verne and 9-Eye explore the modern roads of Paris with cars, which leads Verne, curious, to try driving. However Timekeeper puts him in the front seat of a race car, and Verne takes off, albeit in the wrong direction. From race car driving, Verne then enjoys a bobsled run. After the bobsled run, Timekeeper sends Verne and 9-Eye to the bottom of the sea, to show Verne how his novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea has come to life.

The scene changes and going from under water to flying. The screen now shows a flight through the air above the European countrysides featuring castles and mountains. Verne is shown in a helicopter, sitting dangerously close to its open door. After a view of English countrysides and New York skylines, Verne requests to go even higher. They take him to space to show that another one of his ideas, space travel, has come true from his books, this time, From the Earth to the Moon.

Time is running out so Timekeeper and 9-Eye return Verne to the site of the Grand Palais of Exposition Universelle (1900); however, Timekeeper makes one mistake in the wrong year, and Verne is in the right place, but at the wrong time. When they finally return Verne to his right place, H.G. Wells happens to return to the site of his discussion with Verne and sees all that is going on with the Timekeeper.. Wells is flabbergasted, and Verne and 9-Eye exchange goodbyes as Wells tries to understand what is happening. 9-Eye returns to the present time, and now that the guests have witnessed a "flawless" demonstration of his time machine, Timekeeper decides he wants to see the future. Timekeeper sends 9-Eye to 2189, 300 years after Exposition Universelle of 1889 and the completion of the Eiffel Tower. As they explore a futuristic Paris, they see many flying cars. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells appear in what looks like a model of Wells' time machine from 1900. After they jet off the show ends, and Timekeeper wishes everyone well. As guests leave, Timekeeper makes plans to see other important events during history and in the future with his machine and 9-Eye.

After being placed on a seasonal schedule in April of 2001, The Timekeeper at Walt Disney World was open on a sporadic schedule during the busy seasons. Some attribute it to the following criticisms, which the overseas versions of the attraction had not been faced with:

* Obese or elderly guests may have found it hard to stand or strainful on the eyes
* The lack of familiar Disney characters
* The building's entrance was very inconspicuous and did not feature a large rotating globe icon or full title.

After the events of September 11, 2001 the attraction faced even harder times. With a decrease in tourism due to the terrorist acts in the United States and the fact the film featured a scene of New York that still included the now-destroyed World Trade Center Towers, the attraction's demise was only certain. To preserve the memory of those events, the Timekeeper's clock registered the current year as 2000, placing him in a time prior to the attacks.

However, it managed to last five more years. During the time when construction was occurring on Stitch's Great Escape!, it was open more frequently along with Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. On days when the show was not opened, the queue was a meet-and-greet for such Disney characters as Stitch and Pixar characters Buzz Lightyear and The Incredibles.

Until December 2005, the Timekeeper attraction in Walt Disney World Resort was the last Timekeeper still entertaining guests, as the Tokyo Disneyland version closed in 2002 and was replaced with Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters in 2004 and the Disneyland Paris version closed in 2004 and was replaced by Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast in 2006, respectively although the Disneyland Paris version closed mainly because they lost their sponsor, Renault.

In early 2007 the former location of the Timekeeper became home to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. The attraction building still retains most of the elements of the previous tenant, including the water columns in the queue and the basic Circle-Vision theater, however, the theater floor has been modified to include seating and several of the screens are now covered by other elements. The building, theoretically, is still able to revert to a Circle-Vision theater, however, the likelihood of this occurring is low.

While many guests may had not appreciated Timekeeper, in addition to some Disney fans seeing the American version straying away from the original film's point of view, the attraction kept an uplifting and optimistic spirit about science and the future.

During the early 1990s, former Disney-Executive, Michael Eisner released ambitious plans for changes to the parks. "Tomorrowland 2055" was plan for a remake of Tomorrowland and the Disneyland Resort in California. The Timekeeper, along with ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter and Plectu's Fantastic Intergalactic Revue, was to be a showcase attraction. One promotional brochure had Delta Air Lines[8] sponsoring the film. But the plans were later scrapped due to financial difficulties within the Parks & Resorts division, most stemming from the billion dollar losses incurred with the EuroDisney project.

Other information placed "Visionarium" as an opening day attraction at the unbuilt park next to Disneyland, WestCOT. The show would have been housed in a European Renaissance building in a European section of the WestCOT version of World Showcase. However, like the New Tomorrowland plan, this also did not occur.

* The futuristic scenes of 2189 were created by Rhythm and Hues Studios.[12]
* The first and only Circle-Vision film to utilize Audio-Animatronics.
* The three planes featured in the scene at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris are an Air France AĆ©rospatiale-BAC Concorde and a Boeing 747 and DC-10, both operated by Union des Transports AĆ©riens, respectively.
o Because UTA was absorbed by Air France in 1990, the film must have begun filming in 1990.
* The Arctic scene in the film was taken from an old Circle-Vision film, "Magic Carpet ‘Round the World", and shadows from helicopters were digitally removed.
* The Mickey Mouse hot air balloon "Ear Force One" can be seen during the Red Square scene.
* During the scene of a conversation between Verne and Wells at the Exposition Universal 1900, a man stands between the two men. In the French Version, he acts as a translator between the two men, however when the film was dubbed into English his lines were dubbed over, and left with one line of dialog.
* The submarine in the film is called the Johnson-Sea Link and is a research submarine at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
* The only new Circle-Vision film of the 1990s. The last new Circle-Vision film was "American Journeys" in 1984 and the next new film would be "Reflections of China" in 2002.
* During the 'The Anglo-Scot Wars' scene a camera man could be seen crouching atop a wooden ram.
* Both the Paris and Tokyo attractions featured a metal-globe with the title "(Le) Visionarium" rotating around the globe. The Orlando version featured a large poster and LED ticker bar held from the entrance rotunda was the outside element.
* Following the tradition of hiding a trace of the past within a new attraction, the Parisian version's audio-animatronic of Nine-Eye can be seen in Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast.
* The film's Executive Producer, John Badham, also directed Saturday Night Fever, WarGames and Short Circuit.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Captain EO

Captain EO

Captain EO (alternately, Captain Eo) is a 3- D formerly shown at EPCOT. I was 12 at the time of it's release, and as many girls of the 1980's- I was CRAZY aboput Micheal Jackson. I HAD to see it, and see it I did. I was lucky to visit EPCOT during it's inaugural year of 1982 and remember well how I sat on the floor to view the movie (nope- no seating at all! You sat or stood.) and how I had these crazy purple glasses that we all had to wear. LOL!

The film stars Michael Jackson. It was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, executive-produced by George Lucas, choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday, photographed by Vittorio Storaro, produced by Rusty Lemorande, and written by Lemorande, Lucas and Coppola. The score was written by James Horner, and featured two songs ("We Are Here to Change the World" and "Another Part of Me") by Michael Jackson. The Supreme Leader was played by Anjelica Huston.

The movie tells the story of Captain EO and the ragtag crew of his spaceship on a mission to deliver a gift to a wicked alien queen, the Supreme Leader, on her home world of rotting, twisted metal and steaming vents. Captain EO's alien crew consists of his small flying sidekick Fuzzball, the double-headed navigator and pilot Idee and Odee, robotic security officer Major Domo, a small robot Minor Domo (who fits like a module into Major Domo), and the clumsy elephant-like shipmate Hooter (Tony Cox) who always manages to blunder the crew's missions.

Upon arriving on the planet, the crew is captured and sentenced to be tortured. Before being sent away, EO tells the Queen that he sees the beauty hidden within her, and that he brings her the key to unlock it: his song.

The two robot members of the crew transform into music instruments and the crew members begin to play the various instruments. As Hooter runs toward his instrument, he trips over EO's cape and breaks his instrument, stopping the music. The spell broken, the Queen orders her guards to capture Captain EO and his crew.

Hooter manages to repair his instrument and sends out a blast of music, providing EO with the power to throw off the guards. He uses his power to transform the dark hulking guards into agile dancers who fall into step behind him for a dance number. As EO presses forward toward the Supreme Leader she unleashes her Whip Warriors, two cybernetic defenders each with a whip and shield that can deflect EO's power.

The others all run away leaving Captain EO to fight the whip warriors alone. EO is trapped by a closing gate and is preparing for a last stand as both the whip warriors draw their whips back for a final blow. Fuzzball drops his instrument and speedily flies over to tie the two whips together, causing the whip warriors to be thrown off balance giving EO an opportunity to transform them as well. With no further obstacles, EO uses his power to transform the Queen into a beautiful woman, her lair into a peaceful Greek temple and the planet into a verdant paradise.

A celebration breaks out as EO and his crew triumphantly exit and fly off into space.

Captain EO made full use of its 3-D effects. The action on the screen extended into the audience, including lasers, laser impacts, smoke effects, and starfields that filled the theater. These effects resulted in the seventeen-minute film costing an estimated $17 to $30 million dollars to produce. At the time it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis.

Two new songs appeared in the film. The first, "Another Part of Me", later appeared on Jackson's hugely successful Bad album.

"We Are Here To Change The World", which was not officially released until 2004 as part of Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection. Soul/R&B singer Deniece Williams covered the song on her As Good As It Gets album (1988).[1]

In the movie we see the blue elephantine creature Hooter play the keyboard. This is very reminiscent of George Lucas' Star Wars character Max Rebo who plays keyboard in Jabba's Palace.

It has been rumored that there might be a limited return of Captain EO to the Disney Theme parks as part of a "retro" look into the history of the parks. As well, rumors have circulated for some time of a home DVD release of Captain EO. Both seem very unlikely as there have been disputes in the past between Jackson and Disney over the use of his likeness (according to Disney staff at the theme parks) as well as contractual agreements that would have to take place between Disney and LucasFilm. Such a return would undoubtably be successful and draw massive attendance numbers, but also controversial considering Jackson's past legal problems. Bootleg DVD's taken from a BETA transfer as well as a direct transfer from the right projector film (3D requires two projectors) can also be found for sale online. Much of the effect of the film is lost however, as the movie is intended for 3D viewing in the custom theatres that housed the special effects.

Now- experience it for yourself and tell me what YOU think:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter!

The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter (often abbreviated Alien Encounter) is a former Tomorrowland "theater-in-the-round" attraction in the Magic Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort. It was one of my favorite attractions! It was a darkly humorous science-fiction experience that used binaural sound to achieve many of its effects- and yes, it scared the pee out of most kids (and some adults!).

A warning outside the attraction's entrance alerted guests that it was very intense; parents were recommended to not bring small children into the attraction. They were WARNED!!!!!!

It opened briefly for previews on December 16, 1994 on the site of the former Mission to Mars attraction, but was ordered closed for retooling by then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner in January 1995. It opened officially on June 20, 1995 as part of the New Tomorrowland and closed permanently on October 12, 2003. It was replaced by Stitch's Great Escape!, which uses much of the same technology and set pieces.

While the attraction was short-lived, it developed a cult following among Disney fans. Some praised it for its sophisticated tone, a sharp contrast to a lot of the attractions at Disney's theme parks. It was like an adult escape within the attraction. Many people who love Disneyquest also know that there is an Alien Encounter interactive attraction in that building that opened at the same time. If you have not played that- it is fun!

The Ride Went Like This:

Guests are ushered into the "Tomorrowland Interplanetary Convention Center" for a demonstration of new technology from an alien corporation known as X-S Tech. The company's chairman, L.C. Clench (Jeffrey Jones), sets the attraction's subtly sinister tone with a welcome that includes his corporate philosophy — If something can't be done with X-S [excess], then it shouldn't be done at all.

Next, guests proceed into a second area where an X-S robot known as the Simulated Intelligence Robotics (Tim Curry), or S.I.R. for short, demonstrates the company's "practically painless" teleportation technology using a cute little alien named Skippy. The creature's charred and disoriented appearance after being teleported a short distance across the room suggests that the technology is flawed.

Finally, guests are seated in harnesses within a circular chamber surrounding a teleportation tube. Clench and two X-S Tech employees, Spinlok (Kevin Pollak) and Dr. Femus (Kathy Najimy), communicate "live" from across the galaxy via video screens. Initially, a single guest is to be teleported out of the chamber for a meeting with Clench. Instead, Clench is "seized" by inspiration and decides to have himself teleported into the chamber to meet the entire group.

Clench's impatience and the change of plans cause the teleportation signal to be diverted through an unknown planet. As a result, a towering winged, carnivorous alien is beamed into the tube by mistake and quickly escapes. A power outage plunges the chamber into total darkness as guests sit helplessly restrained by their seat harnesses.

During the portions of the attraction that take place in darkness, binaural sound effects suggest that the alien is moving through the chamber, menacing the guests and even devours a maintenance man. In-seat effects contribute to the illusion, with the alien appearing to be breathing and at one point licking the guests. Spatters of blood were simulated by the spraying of water.

With assistance from the two X-S Tech technicians, the ravenous alien is ultimately driven back into the broken teleportation device and destroyed. Guests are then released from their seats.

I bet you didn't know:

* The attraction's binaural sound effects were developed by Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with George Lucas.

* Tyra Banks played the female alien who greets guests in the first preshow video, although her lines were voiced by another actress.

* Tim Curry voiced the Audio-Animatronic robot S.I.R. (Simulated Intelligence Robotics) in the second preshow area. In the original version, the character was voiced by Phil Hartman.

* Some of the other events in pre-show included a "Mission to Mars: History or Hoax", Championship Pet Show, and The Walt Disney Company Pan Galactic Stock Holders Meeting with a holographic transmission from Lunar Disneyland - The Happiest Place Off Earth.

* According to Internet reports, the attraction was originally going to feature the title creature from the 1979 movie Alien, but it was decided that the character was too scary.However, the creature is featured in a scene from Alien as part of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

* A game within the DisneyQuest indoor interactive theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort called Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter features some of the X-S Tech mythology, although its game play bears no resemblance to the Tomorrowland attraction.

* In honor of co-creator George Lucas, a brief image of Darth Vader could be seen while the guests were being "scanned".

* Although the attraction closed down on October 12, 2003, the small alien Skippy (who was used in the first demonstration) still resides in the preshow chamber of Stitch's Great Escape.
* The term X-S in the ride is a pun. (Living your life with excess.)

* The audio-animatronic robot S.I.R in the preshow uses the same animatronic body that was Mr Johnson / Tom Morrow in the former Flight To The Moon / Mission to Mars attraction.

Now Experience It for Yourself in this Video!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Disney of Yesteryear Part Two: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Florida was one of the Magic Kingdom's opening day attractions on October 1, 1971. Although it was modeled after the Disneyland attraction, it had some unique characteristics that set it apart from its California counterpart. The most obvious was that the Florida incarnation had two separate boarding areas. The vehicles (in the form of jalopies) in each boarding area were on separate tracks that followed different paths, so riders would get a slightly different ride, depending on where they boarded. I was fortunate in that I did get to ride both.

It was not a thrill ride, but it was not slow and quiet like most dark rides. It made sudden turns and often the vehicle would move at full speed towards an obstacle, which would move out of the way at the last second.
At one point the vehicles on different tracks would head directly towards each other, giving the sense of an oncoming collision. It was a very stylized attraction and resembled a cartoon more than any other Disney ride. It contained highly ornate plywood characters and sets that were very reminiscent of the multiplane camerawork featured in many Disney films. It was FUN, hilarity, and Toad was he** on wheels! I can recall how it felt to me as a 12 year old, and I shrieked at every turn. The devil I found particularly frightening, but in a good, Disney kind of scary. I loved it!

Despite the ride's popularity and many protests, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride closed on September 7, 1998 and was subsequently replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Many have disputed the reason for Toad's departure, but some including Save Mr. Toad's Wild Ride believe that money was the deciding factor. While minor tributes to the ride can be found in Disney World, including paintings of Mr. Toad and Moley within The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and a statue of Toad in a pet cemetery outside of Haunted Mansion, traces of "The Wind in the Willows" characters within Walt Disney World are minimal. Efforts have already been made to reconstruct the ride, including a 3D virtual recreation that I love! CLICK HERE FOR VIRTUAL TOAD!

After you are done playing with the Virtual Toad, check out this video:

Now don't get me wrong- I love going on Winnie the Pooh and have nothing against that ride, but I have often been saddened that they could not keep Mr. Toad intact and add Pooh elsewhere.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride was the only attraction in history to entice riders with the prospect of donning the persona of a crazed amphibian. That alone deserves respect.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Disney of Yesteryear...Part One

This is the first in a series of Blogs in which I will show you some of the most famous Disney attractions that are no longer with us. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy putting them together!

You can comment here or join us at for more Disney magic!

Attraction # 1: Horizons

Horizons was large. I mean it- really beautiful and a large building. Horizons was an Epcot pavilion and dark ride based on an Omnimover ride system. It would take guests to see how the past saw the future and the future. Some believe that the ride was a follow up to the
Carousel of Progress. Horizons was the only Epcot pavilion to show all the 'Future World' elements in one pavilion. It was meant to show us all what technological advances were in store for our society.

Looking Back at Tomorrow was a section of the ride that showed how the past viewed the future from the time of Jules Verne to the 1950s.

Next, guests would move past two large OMNIMAX screens showing modern technologies and ideas for how we can build the world of tomorrow.

Other sections include visions of futuristic life in deserts, undersea, and space.

Horizons allowed guests to select their ending to the ride as they go back to the FuturePort. These choices were 31 second videos that were shown to riders in individual cars. To create the videos, Imagineers created some of the largest scale models of the time. It took 30 model makers over a year to build and take the endings. The endings were:
  • Brava Centauri - A space station showing space colonization.
  • Mesa Verde - A desert farm showing arid agriculture.
  • Sea Castle - An underwater research base and colonization
Can you imagine taking over a year to build a model? I can't! (Bowing to the model builders!)

The ride concept came from Reginald Jones (CEO of GE) and Jack Welch (future CEO of GE). Their idea was to have the pavilion focus on Thomas Edison and his work and the origin of GE. The idea was then re-worked to focus on the future of America. It's building was built to resemble a spaceship while giving the impression of an infinite horizon. It's diamond shape was very unique for the time it was built. It was a grand building and people that worked on the project took pride in it.

Horizons was scheduled to open a year after the opening of Epcot during Phase II. Prior to construction, the budget for the attraction was cut by $10 million and the building size was reduced. Because of this reduction, the ride was shortened by 600 feet, or 35% of the ride. Wow- do you realize that the $10 million would be $30 million by today's standards?

As with all Disney attractions, there was music. The main theme song was an homage to Walt Disney himself and is one of my favorite quotes from him:
New Horizons written by George Wilkins. If we can dream it, then we can do it, yes we can, (yes we can.)

If we can dream it, then we can do it, yes we can, (yes we can.)

Have you ever looked beyond today, into the future? Picturing a world, we've yet to see. The wonder of finding new ways, that lead to the promise of brighter days.

Have you ever dreamed the dreams of the children? Just imagine the magic, their minds can see. (if we can dream it). Horizons, all shining and new, (shining and new). Horizons, where dreams do come true (they do come true).

And it will be, a future filled with care. For you and me, a world we all can share. For today holds the challenge to make this world a better place to be. New Horizons, for you and for me.

Horizons became Seasonal in 1994 when General Electric ended it's sponsorship. In 1995 it was opened temporarily while Universe of Energy was under rehabilitation. It would occasionally open again during periods of heavy attendance. It's last seasonally open time was while the World of Motion was being changed to Test Track in 1999. In 1999, the attraction was officially closed when it's demolition started to make way for Mission: SPACE.

After its change to being seasonal, there were plans to convert the pavilion theming to space. The building would be remodeled and allowing guests to control the pitch and yaw of their space vehicle while viewing outer space and its many space stations in the future. This idea became Mission: SPACE which replaced Horizons. Disney decided to totally tear down the building instead of re-theme or re-model as had been done previously on other attractions; this was a first.

No reason was given for the closing of Horizons in 1999 besides the lack of sponsorship since GE left. Some unofficial reasons that were later discovered were major structural problems with the building because of a sink-hole below the building. There are several known sink-holes around Epcot.

Mission: SPACE offers tribute to Horizons where the gravity wheel in the ride queue has the Horizons logo. (Check it out!)