America, spread your golden wings Sail on freedom's wind, across the skyGreat bird, with your golden dreams Flying high, flying high ...
As any good Disneyana fan will tell you, those are the words to "Golden Dreams." The theme song (so to speak) of Epcot's "American Adventure."
But what many folks may not know is that it took quite a while for this "Great bird" to get off the ground. For the Imagineers to find just the right mix of elements in order to make Epcot's U.S.A. pavilion what it is today: The centerpiece of World Showcase.
Indeed, for a number of years, even the proposed placement of this pavilion was the subject of many loud discussions at WED. You see, as this photograph of an early model of EPCOT Center will demonstrate ...
Copyright Walt Disney Productions
Back then, many Imagineers felt that the U.S.A. pavilion should serve as sort of a gateway between Future World & World Showcase. That -- given that the United States was such a forward looking nation, always with an eye on the horizon, wondering what the future might bring -- it just made sense that the U.S.A. pavilion would have one foot in Future World and another foot in World Showcase.
Which explains this rather futuristic-looking structure ...
Which was to have stood virtually at the water's edge of World Showcase Lagoon.
The only problem with this version of the U.S.A. pavilion is that ... Well, to be honest, this show building seemed to be giving off a number of mixed signals. Like the height factor here. By building this particular show building so tall, did that mean that Disney executives thought that America is above it all?
Or better yet, what about the placement of the U.S.A. pavilion? By building this particular show building so far away from all of the other international pavilions that were to be built at World Showcase, did that mean that Mouse House managers believe that America should stand alone? That the United States wasn't really willing to be a member of the community of nations?
As you can see, politics (More importantly, people's impressions) played a huge part in the placement of particular pavilions around EPCOT Center. Though -- to be honest -- one of the other factors that came into play here was World Showcase's lack of a wienie.
To explain: Walt Disney -- when he was designing Disneyland -- always made sure that each of the various "lands" at that theme park had a "wienie." As in: A object that would catch your attention, that would compell you to walk forward and explore what lay just ahead of you.
So, in Main Street U.S.A.'s case, there was Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end of the street. In Frontierland's case, there were the puffs of smoke and the steam whistle coming off of the Mark Twain riverboat. For Tomorrowland, there was the towering TWA "Rocket to the Moon."
Well, when it came to the Imagineer's original plans for EPCOT Center, what was supposed to compell you to walk all the way around World Showcase was the international friendship bridge that you'd see on the far side. This low ornate structure was to have provided a primo viewing spot for EPCOT Center's fountain show. This elaborate extravaganza (which was to have been presented every half hour) would have shot water hundreds of feet in the air in carefully choreographed shows.
Now keep in mind that this was decades before the Fountains at Bellagio. Even well before EPCOT Center's own leapfrog fountains (Which -- for nearly 25 years now -- have been delighting visitors to Future World's Imagination pavilion). And WED officials weren't entirely convinced that just a fountain show would be enough to get people to hike all the way around World Showcase Lagoon.
On the other hand, were the Imagineers to move the U.S.A. pavilion over to the far side of World Showcase Lagoon ... Well, that might be a big enough wienie to get people to hike all the way around this man-made lake.
Which is what ultimately happened. The U.S.A. pavilion got moved to the far side of the lagoon with the hope that this might then compell EPCOT Center visitors to hike all the way around World Showcase.
But then the question became ... Well, if they weren't going to go with that far-too-tall, futuristically-styled structure, what sort of show building should the Imagineers build for the U.S.A. pavilion? More importantly, what sort of American-themed attraction should then be housed inside of this structure?
Well, all told, the Imagineers went through six very different plans for the U.S.A. pavilion. Two of which were prepared by some high-powered Hollywood types that Walt Disney Productions deliberately brought in to work on this show ... Only to have these Tinseltown tricksters (after they'd cashed Disney's check, of course) deliver totally unworkable ideas for this proposed EPCOT Center attraction.
Mind you, it wasn't just outsiders that came up with awful ideas for the U.S.A. pavilion. The Imagineers (working all on their own) came up with some pretty awful concepts for this proposed attraction as well. Among the many terrible ideas that got tossed back in the mid-1970s was building a show building that looked like the upper third of the Statue of Liberty ...
And as for the show that was to have been staged inside this version of the U.S.A. pavilion, would you believe ... a musical boat ride? One very similar to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "it's a small world." Where EPCOT Center visitors would have floated passed these incredibly stylized scenes from American history. Where Ben Franklin would have flown a kite that was shaped like a firecracker up into a Fourth of July sky ...
And a cowboy & an Indian would have shaken hands in front of a movie camera (To signify the taming of the West), while a nearby frontiersman milked a cow in perfect time to the attraction's theme song ...
Speaking of music ... Did I mention that this version of the U.S.A. pavilion was supposed to have featured over-sized versions of figures from American folklore. Like John Henry or Paul Bunyan & his blue ox, Babe ...
... Who would also have been seen singing the attraction's theme song. Which was supposed to have been some tune patterned after Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."
But -- in the end -- this proposed version to the U.S.A. pavilion was eventually abandoned because ... Well, the powers-that-be at Disney at this time allegedly felt that it just wasn't dignified enough. That a great nation like the United States of America deserved a really great theme park attraction. One that summed up the country's history with a little style and a lot of flair.
Which is where the late Randy Bright came in. As the writer and show producer of "The American Adventure," Randy was the guy who came up with the concept of a stage show that -- through a combination of Audio Animatronics, film and elaborate sets -- basically inserted EPCOT Center visitors right into American history. Surrounding them with the story of how the United States of America came to be, warts and all.
Mind you, even Bright's brilliant concept for "The American Adventure" needed to be refined a bit. Randy's original notion for the show -- which was that it would be hosted by a trio of famous Americans ...
Ben Franklin, representing the Colonial period of the country; Mark Twain, representing America's period of western expansion; and Will Rogers; representing the 20th Century -- was shot down when Bright presented the show (in storyboard form) at a gathering of history students in the eastern United States.
"What happened at this meeting to cause Rogers to be dropped as one of the narrators of 'The American Adventure'?," you ask. Mostly because -- out of the hundred history students who attended this storyboard pitch -- only three of them actually knew who Will Rogers was. And Randy figured that -- if these history students couldn't remember who Will was -- what chance did the average theme park guests have?
Which is why Will was cut from the show's then-trio of narrators. Leaving behind Ben & Mark ...
Though -- because Bright was such a big fan of Roger's wit & writings -- Randy still found a way to work Will into the proceeding. Making the Ziegfeld Follies star one of the radio performers that those folks on the porch are listening to during "The American Adventure" 's Great Depression sequence.
Anyway ... That's a brief overview at to how Epcot's U.S.A. pavilion wound up where it is today. More importantly, how we wound up with the show that's currently being presented inside of that giant Colonial brick structure.