If there’s one attraction that is missed most by Disney Fans, it is Horizons at Epcot. The attraction opened on Epcot’s first anniversary in 1983, and used an Omnimover system to take guests on a journey through visions of the future. The ride used animatronics, film and an at the time revolutionary multiple ending system to educate guests about what the technology of the future might look like.
The ride was a spiritual successor to Carousel of Progress, and whilst that attraction dealt with the evolution of a family throughout the 20th Century, Horizons took that ideal into the 21st Century and beyond. The attraction’s show building resembled a spaceship, and used more steel in its construction that Spaceship Earth. This unusual shape highlighted the futuristic nature of the ride, and the 15 minute long attractions meandered through the show building past animatronic scenes and landscapes of the future.
The ride began by exploring perceptions of the future from history, from the works of Jules Verne to movies such as Metropolis. The ride vehicles then moved past two enormous OMNIMAX screens (or IMAX as it is known today), groundbreaking technology at the time. These displayed technology and ideas that could be used to build a bright future, and the ride then moved into its main portion, with animatronic depictions of man’s future relationship with the air, land, sea and space. The ride was the only one which contained all of Future World’s elements, including communication, community interaction, energy, transportation, anatomy and physiology.
At the end of the ride, guests could choose between three different endings, either showing a desert, sea or space themed film. This was a revolutionary concept at the time, and the 31-second films were made using huge models, the largest ever constructed at the time.
Costing $60 Million, the Horizons that was built was actually a watered down version of the original concept. The original budget for the attraction was slashed by $10 Million, and the building size and ride length were slashed by 35%, with a loss to the ride length of 600 feet.
So what happened to Horizons? GE dropped its sponsorship of the Pavilion, and Disney looked at whether or not the attraction could be rethemed to revolve around Space. Horizons closed in 1994, as Disney pondered what to do. It reopened in 1995 to help deal with crowds as both Universe of Energy and World of Motion began large refurbishments.
In 1998, All Ears, the Disney internal newsletter, confirmed that Horizons would close permanently, and the attraction admitted its final guests in early January 1999. Disney gave no official reason for the closure, but lack of sponsorship likely played a part. There were also widely cited rumours that the show building had become unstable, with a marshland sinkhole forming beneath the building sometime in 1998.
In September 1998, a small number of press groups were allowed to ride Horizons, and the groups confirmed that the ride was wholly intact almost ten months after it closed. When Epcot reached capacity on Millennium night, Disney surprised many by keeping Horizons closed, despite the benefit it would have provided in managing crowds.
As the building sat abandoned, Disney pondered a replacement, and in 2000, they started to demolish the Horizons show building. This signified the first time a Disney show building would be demolished to be replaced by a new one. Disney stated that Mission: Space, Horizons’ successor, would not fit in the existing show building, despite the fact that Mission: Space’s show building is smaller than Horizons’. This adds weight to the rumours of the structural instability of the Pavilion.
Hoot and Jeff, two Urban Explorers who run a Blog called Mesa Verde Times (a reference to the planet seen in Horizons), entered the Pavilion during its closure and managed to get some awesome photographs of the show scenes:
So, do you miss Horizons at Epcot? Let us know in the comments!
Luke Dunsmore is a lover of Theme Parks, and is the editor of ThemeParkInvestigator.Com, a news, review and opinion site dedicated to the fascinating World of Theme Parks. He lives in Manchester, UK.