Future World Past with David Koenig

by MouseStation Crew, staff writer

MouseStation 280 - Future World Past with David Koenig

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Show run time 0:40:05

In today's show, Steven Ng talks with MousePlanet columnist and author David Koenig about EPCOT Center's Future World of 1982.

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Feature: Future World Past with David Koenig

Steven Ng chatted with MousePlanet columnist and author (Mouse Tales, More Mouse Tales, Mouse Under Glass and Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World) David Koenig about EPCOT Center's original Future World of 1982 at last summer's NFFC convention in Garden Grove, California.

David started by talking about the beginnings of EPCOT Center and how Card Walker didn't really want to build EPCOT, but was forced into it because Disney was granted great concessions because they were going to build EPCOT. He couldn't build what Walt was originally going to build, but he wanted it to help the world. He had to get sponsors to put up big money in order to build it. After GM put up $35 million for 10 years of sponsorship, Exxon, GE and others came through.

They then took a virtual walk through the Future World of 1982:

Spaceship Earth still looks the same as it originally did (again, now that the wand is gone), and the inside is similar, though the ending is different and you've got a new narrator.

The Universe of Energy, again, was very high-minded yet still had to plug Exxon. It showed the history of energy and solutions for the future. It has a very different feel today, but the solar-powered vehicles are still there. It was the most troublesome pavilion when it opened, with an operational readiness of 55 percent. Among the problems was the fact that static electricity overloaded the attraction's computer systems.

In 1982, Horizons was still a construction site. Now, it's Mission Space. For the original EPCOT Center, they wanted to get a sponsor for a space attraction (which was originally going to be built where The Land is). Horizons was sponsored by GE, which had a superiority complex and didn't want to open their pavilion along with the other pavilions; they wanted to have their own opening a year later so that they wouldn't have to share the spotlight. GE didn't want to settle on one theme; they wanted the whole future. They wanted to focus on third century of America (one early working title for the pavilion was "Century 3"). By holding back they were able to get all of the top Imagineers from other pavilions after the rest of EPCOT Center was finished. The attraction was heavily Animatronic and people had a hard time letting Horizons go more than any other attraction because of that. David noted that Mission Space "delights, I'm sure, dozens of people each year." He feels that it's a bit too intense for many people and it only appeals to a small segment of the park's guests.

World of Motion was another heavily Animatronic, "old-time type attraction," sponsored by GM and designed by Ward Kimball. He had a series of crazy vignettes that you would ride past, ending in showroom of the latest GM cars. In the beginning, this attraction also had lots of run-time problems. In 1993, new management pushed out the original managers who came from Disneyland, and the new managers didn't have the same feel for history.

Steven asked David about the Ford Magic Skyway, a pavilion for Ford at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. You would ride a precursor to the PeopleMover, which took you through history of transportation but started with dinosaurs (which was more tied to Universe of Energy than World of Motion). The new managers that came in around 1993 wanted change, and GM also asked for an update when their contract came up for renewal in 1992, and Test Track came into being.

As we moved from Future World East to Future World West, David noted that EPCOT Center was modeled after a World's Fair with groups of exhibits in single pavilions.

Imagination was the last pavilion to be sponsored because Kodak was the last to come on. They decided to picked Imagination, and Figment and Dreamfinder were born. This was another Animatronic-based ride, which was somewhat complicated to work. It was loved by entire families, and was the second-most popular attraction in the first 12-15 years of EPCOT Center behind Spaceship Earth. There was also a 3-D movie called "Magic Journeys," which was a surprise hit. They also had the ImageWorks upstairs from the attraction. In the mid-90s, tastes were changing and the new management decided that the attraction was silly and old-fashioned and needed to be replaced. First, they replaced Magic Journeys with "Captain E-O" and then "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience." Next, they changed the signage in front of pavilion to change the traffic flow to point people to the movie first, then the ride, so traffic to the ride plummeted. With the new proof that the attraction was no longer popular, they killed off Figment, got rid of Dreamfinder and changed the tone of the entire ride. After that version of the attraction bombed, it was quickly replaced with more Figment, but it still lacks the original heart

Disney originally wanted Georgia-Pacific to sponsor The Land, but they couldn't sell it, so it was initially sponsored by Kraft. They ended up focusing on the food coming from the land with Listen to the Land and Kitchen Cabaret (which was replaced by Food Rocks until it was dismantled to become the queue for Soarin').

Communicore East and West (now Innoventions) still has largely the same function, with displays from companies that can't afford a whole pavilion and companies who needed more space than just their pavilion. In the mid-'90s they perked it up as Innoventions (the one freshening that actually worked) and attendance doubled or tripled. Steven missed Communicore, and first visited after Innoventions had opened.

Wonders of Life (originally with a working title of "Life & Health") opened in 1986 and was sponsored by Metropolitan Life, which got a contract to handle the insurance provider for services to Disney employees. However, the sponsorship didn't do much for Met Life, so they dropped it as soon as the contract ended. The pavilion stayed open for a few years after that, but now it hosts mostly special events like the festival center for Food & Wine Festival.

The Living Seas was another original idea for EPCOT Center, but they couldn't sell it then because it was hard to find a sponsor. Eventually, they found United Technologies, which supplied all elevators and air conditioning units on property, and they took the technology angle (hence the hydrolators). The original concept was that ride vehicles took you slowly down to the depths of the ocean with visuals starting with cartoons and eventually arriving at real fish. Ironically, the new Nemo ride goes back to that concept.

Mark thought that it was interesting that we were talking about the original Future World at EPCOT Center when it was just over two years ago (January 21, 2007) in Episode 2 (278 shows ago), that we talked about changes at Future World since the opening. Maybe it's an every-two-years kind of thing.

(As promised, here are links to George McGinnis' four-part series on the design and construction of Horizons: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

Mike's first visit to Epcot (that he can remember well) was around 1998, when he was 15 (Mark was there in 1983, when he was 19). The changes were already underway for Mike's visit. Mike misses choosing your own ending and the orange smell at Horizons, the full Journey Into Imagination and the original ImageWorks at the Imagination pavilion. For Mark, Horizons and the original Journey Into Imagination may be the two attractions that he misses the most out of all of Walt Disney World.

Mark talked a little bit about what the original Imagination pavilion was like, and admitted that he can't even walk through the current ImageWorks without getting depressed. Mike remarked a bit about the original attractions in Wonders of Life. Mark noted that he missed Cranium Command the most of those.

Our thanks to David Koenig for talking with Steven.

Listener Feedback

Let us know about your memories, what you think about the changes and what you miss the most about EPCOT Center.

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