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Unrealized Epcot: Rides, shows & entire pavilions that never quite made it off the drawing board

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Unrealized Epcot: Rides, shows & entire pavilions that never quite made it off the drawing board

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Jamie B. writes in to say:

I really enjoyed this past Friday's Why For. It was great to see that very early version of "The Living Seas" and finally get a sense of what the ride-thru attraction that was originally supposed to have been built there was supposed to have been like. Do you have any other photographs & concept art that you could share with JHM readers about other Future World & World Showcase rides & pavilions that were never built?

Ask and ye shall receive ...

Copyright 1978 Walt Disney Productions

The following material was culled from Walt Disney Productions annual reports from 1974 - 1978. Back when the entire Epcot project was still very much in flux. As the Imagineers struggled to get a handle on this thing that wasn't quite a city anymore. But -- rather -- some sort of free-form futuristic theme park.

You'd mentioned that you'd really liked looking at the "Living Seas" model, Jamie. Well, here's a concept painting for the actual aquarium portion of that proposed Future World pavilion ...

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

Please note the enormous clear plastic tube in the lower left hand corner of this concept painting. The one that's filled with Epcot guests that are riding right through the very heart of that enormous salt water tank. This was how the Imagineers originally wanted to stage the grand finale of this Future World pavilion's ride-thru attraction. By having these WDW visitors (who -- up until then -- had been riding along inside of their bubble-shaped omni-mover cars, looking out at faux undersea settings) suddenly find themselves really underwater, surrounded by all of these colorful really-for-real fish.

Speaking of Epcot's "Living Seas," here's a quick thumbnail description of the rides & shows that the Imagineers had originally wanted to install inside of this Future World pavilion:

The Seas -- Guests will board the clipper ship, "Spirit of Mankind," to sail through moments of peril and triumph with seven legendary mariners ... the great explorers who charted the seas for civilization. In another adventure, Poseidon the Sea Lord will challenge visitors to journey through ocean depths ... from the Continental Shelf to the Great Coral Reef. Finally arriving at "Sea Base Alpha," guests will experience an authentic ocean environment with live marine life, an undersea restaurant, and a showcase of oceanographic exhibits and displays.

Mind you, in addition to taking Epcot visitors down into the depths of the ocean, the Imagineers also wanted to send WDW guests out into outer space.

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

Of course, the "Space" pavilion that was proposed 'way back in 1977 was considerably different than "Mission: Space." Here's a brief description of that proposed Future World addition:

Space -- A huge, interstellar "Space Vehicle" will transport passengers to the outer frontiers of the universe, highlighting man's efforts to reach out to the stars around him ... from the early pioneers who looked and wondered ... to modern-day space travelers and their triumphs ... to the challenges and possibilities of future space technology and exploration.

The Imagineers recruited some top talent to work on this particular Future World pavilion. In the photo below, you see Academy Award-winning art director John DeCuir (left) conferring with literary giant Ray Bradbury on the design of the main theater for Epcot's "Space" pavilion.

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

Yeah, that particular version of Epcot's "Space" pavilion never made it off the launching pad. Of course, the same thing could be said about the "Wonders of Life" pavilion.

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

Which the Imagineers originally envisioned as being something like this:

Life and Health Pavilion -- Visitors to the Life & Health Pavilion will experience a new awareness and appreciation of themselves. "The Joy of Living," a multi-media show, will extol the beauty, the dignity and strength of man from birth to the golden years. "The Incredible Journey Within" will take guests to explore the inner workings of the fascinating, complex human machine. Along the "Great Midway of Life," they'll participate in a whimsical series of experiences, learning that good health is based, more than anything else, on their own personal responsibility and behavior.

Below, you'll see a piece of concept art for the "Incredible Journey With" attraction ...

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

... Which would have sent WDW visitors on a trip through an over-sized recreation of the human circulatory system aboard a giant plastic corpuscle.

Mind you, Future World wasn't the only part of Epcot that had projects that didn't quite make it off the drawing board. World Showcase had more than its share of rides & shows that were severely cut back and/or dropped at the last minute.

Copyright 1978 Walt Disney Productions

Take -- for example -- the Japanese pavilion. Now every good Disney dweeb already knows about the Americanized version of Tokyo Disneyland's "Meet the World" show that was originally supposed be part of this World Showcase pavilion. But how many of you know about the simulated bullet train ride that was also supposed to have been a signature attraction for Epcot's Japan pavilion?

In the center top of the concept painting below (Which shows the original layout of the interior for the Japanese pavilion), you'll see the very tip of a train engine. More importantly, WDW guests queuing up to enter that train engine.

Copyright 1975 Walt Disney Productions

Once these Epcot visitors got inside, they would have been treated to a unique variation of Disney's CircleVision 360 show. These WDW guests would have found themselves standing on board a vibrating recreation of the passenger compartment of a Japanese bullet train. And -- by looking out through the over-sized faux windows in this passenger car -- these folks would then have been treated to a high speed travelogue. As some of Japan's most beautiful scenery continually whizzed by all of the windows.

Copyright 1974 Walt Disney Productions

Germany too was originally supposed to have had an attraction that showed off that country's beautiful scenery. Only -- in this case -- this scenery was to have been recreated in miniature for that World Showcase pavilion's Rhine Boat Ride.

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions

According to Walt Disney Productions' 1976 annual report, this World Showcase attraction was to have featured:

" ... a cruise down Germany's most famous rivers -- the Rhine, the Tauber, the Ruhr and the Isar. Detailed miniatures of famous landmarks will also be seen, including one of the Cologne Cathedral."

There were other rides & shows that were originally proposed for World Showcase pavilions that never made it off WED's drawing board. Some of these attractions were lost because the pavilions themselves -- like the United Arab Emirates pavilion ...

Copyright 1977 Walt Disney Productions

... and the Venezuela pavilion ...

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions

... were cut. Which meant that UAE's "Flying Carpet" ride & Venezuela's aerial-tram-through-the-tropical-rainforest attraction never got the chance to move beyond the concept painting phase and/or the model building stage.

Copyright 1976 Walt Disney Productions

Now, I know, I know. It makes some of you guys sad to see all of this stuff that never actually made it off the drawing board. But me? Given that no good idea ever really dies at WDI, I believe that -- if we allow enough time to pass -- some of these concepts for Disney theme park rides, shows & attractions will eventually be revived. And (who knows?) maybe even find their way back into Epcot.

But how about you folks? Is there a particular ride or show that I described in today's article that you'd like to see the Imagineers consider as a possible future addition to World Showcase and/or Future World?

Your thoughts?

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  • What is EPCOT now?  Just going by the acronym, it's unclear... it is no longer really EXPIRIMENTAL (when was the last time you were wow-ed by new tech displayed?) there aren't really any PROTOTYPES to see, the COMMUNITY (while always vague) is not realized, and TOMORROW(?)- aside from some vaguely near-future lipservice before the E-Ticket extravaganza of M:S is similarly lost.  I have a day of fun at EPCOT, I just no longer understand its purpose.  These old concept paintings make the current lack of direction all the more apparent.  The sad reality of a park based on futurism long after the concept has become A-irrelevant and B-somewhat sinister...
  • World Showcase could benefit from some more attractions; some countries, like Italy, don't have much to do, so I'd welcome any new attraction/pavillion.  A magic carpet ride sounds fun, and they wouldn't have to make a new pavillion (Aladdin is part of the Moroccan pavillion).  As far as Future World, traveling through the body sounds fun; since "Body Wars" is gone, I wonder if they'll put in another ride dealing with the body.
  • How bout adding a New Country for heavens sake!   And maybe add a ride to some of the other countries that have only movies.  Any kind of ride will do.

    The concept art for the countries is amazing!

    And Jim I didnt see Nemo in your Living seas Concept art, I think u must have been mistaken! (sarcasm)
  • I was mesmorized by EPCOT in the mid 80's. I was, however, never really attracted to World Showcase. And that was because there was no WOW factor. If the rides shown above had been built, I would most likely have a different interest in that area of the park.
    Though today, Epcot has lost its WOW factor as bhb007 stated above. Even M:S after 3 or 4 times looses its repeatability (is that even a word!?)
    Thanks for sharing the concept art Jim!
  • Hi everybody,
    I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish they would do something about EPCOT.
    I, for one, would love to see a new WORLD SHOWCASE pavilion. Does anyone remember the sign that used to be up in the park announcing Isreal? I have a photo of it somewhere. I think it is where Morroco is now. How about the unofficial announcements or rumors for Thailand? Russia? Switzerland? How about the rumor years ago of a Japan version of CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS? Or the special appearance of Godzilla that was supposed to be the climax of the BULLET train ride?
    Are there any plans at all on the boards for a new pavilion?
  • ... really is in need of some help. Simply adding new attractions isn't enough. They really need to first figure out what the heck they're trying to do there. As of now, they're willy-nilly adding attractions that have little to do with the overarching theme of Epcot (or what I think it is anyway).

    To me, it's become an entire park that's nothing but an incoherent patchwork of stuff that was crammed in to boost attendance. I think they need to take a step back, decide what they want the park to be, and build it out from there.
  • "How about the unofficial announcements or rumors for Thailand? Russia? Switzerland?"
    VERY unofficial. In Switzerland's case, "Wishfully created urban-legend fan crock, with more lives than the Door Ride and the Villains' Park combined".

    As for *real* rumors, nothing ever happened of that Spain announcement a while ago, and we suspect someone in their Tourism/Commerce department was just showing off.

    "How about the rumor years ago of a Japan version of CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS? Or the special appearance of Godzilla that was supposed to be the climax of the BULLET train ride?"
    How about the legendarily tightfisted Toho Studios, that's made it darn near impossible to get their pop-culture icon on DVD, let alone sponsor attractions at somebody else's studio?
  • A little over the top there, DerekJ.  Switzerland was a "wishfully created urban-legend fan crock"?  At the start of Eisner's "Disney Decade" I saw the concept art for the Switzerland pavilion, clearly labelled as such, at a display of future attractions at the Disney Welcome Center in Ocala.  Heck, I think it may have even had an opening date attached to it.  While I have no idea how serious they ever were about it, it's not something a fanboy thought up while he was high.

    Anyway, I'd like to see the current World Showcase pavilions all get attractions or at least exhibits before more countries are added.  With neither Germany nor Italy having anything to do besides shop and eat, for example, it feels lonely in that corner of the lagoon.

    Also, peglegpaul, the Japanese version of the CoP and the "Meet the World" attraction that Jim Hill mentions in his article are the same thing.  Both CoP and Meet the World revolving theatre concepts.
  • The bullet train idea through Japan seems like a much better idea than the  Circle-Visions in China and Canada.  Seating could be provided and, with appropriate gentle movement and sound, it could be a nice attraction.  Far better than what Japan offers now.

    Epcot has been getting better especially with Soarin' and Turtle Talk (M:S?  Won't be a long-time favorite, IMO).  But, if it is to become great again, WoL needs to be overhauled and reopened and World Showcase needs another country or at least a couple of non-film-based attractions added (ie., dark rides!)
  • I would love to see the Venezuela pavillion! A south-american rainforest attraction would be really cool...
  • I'm very curious about the original "Life and Health" pavilion.  I remember years ago seeing pre-production artwork of the "Incredible Journey Within" ride, as well as artwork about performing animated 'neurons'(?), at least that's what I remember seeing.  Also, it looked like there was to be a funhouse type maze in the foreground of the pavilion model.  Could you enighten us with more about the original "Life and Health" pavilion???
  • so, ARE there any plans for the inclusion of a new WORLD SHOWCASE PAVILION?
    Has there ever been an article with the full AFRICA pavilion story?
    As long as we are on the subject, is there a website to go to that focuses on plans for new rides/attractions?
    Disney-obsessive guy here!
    Oh, and I love WILLY THE WHALE!
  • epcot makes me legs sad.

    So much walking for not so much excitement. M:S is boring after riding it a few times. Test Track has been boring from the beginning. Oooo it goes 65? I went 85 in a GM car to GET to Walt Disney World. And i had the top down. (there was no embankment... but eh)

    I rode Ellen's Energy Adventure for the first time since I was a baby the other day. WOW. Ellen is funny. But 37 minutes going in a circle? It was boring.

    Thank god they closed wonders of life. Another waste of space... body wars made me sick.

    If it wasnt for Soarin and delcious alcohol at World Showcase. I wouldnt bother with Epcot. Illuminations is lame. And its just a tiring park.

    Doesnt have the same magic feel as the other parks. Even Animal Kingdoms scenerey astounds me.

    They need more, new, exciting stuff. Hopefully the 25th Anniversary will bring a whole new world of fun.
  • I agree that Epcot has lost it's way.  World Showcase is the only area that really is a cohesive whole and there is so little to do.  Even a cookie cutter ride here and there would be an improvement.  At least there would be something to occupy our time and keep the wee ones entertained.  I would rather see the existing countries enriched before adding new pavilions.  

    Innoventions is just sad.  A variant of Disneyquest would immediately give it a shot in the arm.  The exit to Spaceship Earth needs something.  ANYTHING!  One of the things we always liked to do there was to get the whole family in the large phone booth and call family back home while we played with the sound effects.  

    I hope the WoL pavilion has big plans laid out for it.  It is prime real estate that should not be wasted.

  • bhb007: You forgot the OF. I don't see a lot of OF in EPCOT anymore either. Well, I may have just missed it. Whenever I went there with my family, the only World Showcase piece we ever got to was Mexico for dinner. The OF might have been in Germany for all I know.
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