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Wonders of Life: The Sad (But True) Story of Epcot’s Abandoned Pavilion

Gutting the pavilion...slowly

Though much of the Wonders of Life pavilion was still present when the Festival Center made its debut in 2007, Disney has been removing some of the more overt pieces of Wonders of Life over the years in what has been a painfully slow process. The most notable example of this is probably the Body Wars simulators, which remained in place for several years following 2007's closure, and were only removed just recently (and reportedly broken down for parts). However, the Body Wars simulators aren't the only part of this former pavilion that has been removed in recent years. 

The Birth Theater, which housed the aforementioned The Making of Me film had a big curtain over its signage for the first few years when the facility was being used as a Festival Center. In 2008, The Making of Me sign came out from behind the curtain (even though the film never did), but sadly this piece of Wonders of Life history was pulled down for good the following year, negating the need for an inconvenient curtain. 

In recent years (2013 and 2014) Disney has finally gotten around to painting the area that previously housed Goofy About Health in the center of the pavilion and have installed permanent signage around this area indicating its status as a special event stage. 

Wonders of Life ceiling

Though traces of Wonders of Life still exist in the Festival Center (just look up the next time you find yourself in the Festival Center if you need proof), it seems like every year more of this original pavilion is erased. 

The legacy of the Wonders of Life closure

Though Wonders of Life isn't the first attraction to be lost thanks to a sponsorship gone sour, its closure was particularly devastating for fans, as this pavilion housed several classic attractions that were neglected when the sponsorship first ended in 2001 and then fell into decay and disrepair while the pavilion operated seasonally. Reports from guests in 2005 and 2006 recall headlining attractions like Body Wars and Cranium Command being in ridiculously poor shape, hardly ever being open, and breaking down frequently. By the time this pavilion limped along to its closing date in 2007, it was already in the saddest shape of pretty much anything at Walt Disney World at the time, and looking back, its closure was almost a mercy killing as this once-amazing pavilion had simply been allowed to slide too far into disrepair to ever make a comeback. 

However, beyond the rapid decay of Wonders of Life after the initial sponsorship was lost, the real tragedy of Wonders of Life is what replaced it. Though Epcot certainly needs a space for events related to the Food and Wine Festival as well as the Flower and Garden Festival, they took out a whole pavilion with two major attractions (and several smaller ones) and replaced it with...something that is only open 1/3 of the year and has no real value to most Epcot guests. More importantly, the Festival Center has nothing to do with the larger Future World area, and just doesn't make thematic sense in this portion of Epcot. 

Instead of teaching, entertaining and thrilling guests by taking them inside the circulatory system or demonstrating how different parts of the body work together in concert with your brain as the conductor, the former Wonders of Life building simply exists to give guests space to experience upcharge wine tastings and buy merchandise related to Epcot's two annual events. Hardly an inspired tradeoff.

It's crazy to think that an attraction pavilion that closed nearly a decade ago still hasn't been replaced (or at least demolished) and simply sits like a monolith next to the Universe of Energy, reminding longtime guests of what once was, and what will never be again. Though many longtime Epcot fans point to the losses of Horizons, The Living Seas and even World of Motion as negative turning points in the development of Future World, in this writer's opinion it was the closure of the Wonders of Life pavilion (and subsequent failure to replace it with anything) that really changed Epcot. It's one thing to try to update an attraction and/or replace it with something else, but to just close an attraction and give up on the concept behind it (which was one of the best in all Epcot) is just a shame and makes Wonders of Life the saddest (and most pointless) closure in Walt Disney World history. 

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There are 37 comments.

Unlike Frozen in Norway, this would actually make sense for an Inside Out inspired attraction.

Cranium Command was the original Inside Out. Such a good attraction lost :(

Agreed! Norway is Norway, not Frozen. Was sad in May not to ride Matterhorn.

I loved Cranium Command!!!!

Sadness. This ride was a family favorite.

The Maelstrom needs to stay! Put Frozen or Inside Out in the Pavilion. Let Norway be Norway and stop taking away Norwegian heritage!

Norway stopped sponsoring their pavilion years ago, Norway should be happy frozen is being put there instead of a whole new country.

This is a very sad story. But WDW makes a lot of money through ticket sales, food and merchandising. This should not have occurred.

As sad as I was to see this pavilion close, I did realize that 2007 was at the beginning of the task estate bubble burst. Disney did not do well at all in that period. Like many companies, they had to cut expenses to survive, ultimately laying off employees

Wonders of Life lost its corporate sponsorship as did many pavilions at Epcot right after 9/11. That crisis was a huge economic blow to Epcot and the entire resort. Do you know that some resort hotels closed entirely for a time?

You made no mention that Cranium Command used several celebrities to portray the brain's components,just like Inside Out in theaters now.

You failed to mention that the building during its vacancy had some severe structural problems like leaking rainwater.

And you make it sound like its repurposing as a Festival Center is a bad thing. For both Epcot festivals it serves as a grear welcome center and a venue for all the very popular seminars and demonstrations.

Love theme park tourist, but you guys need to do your homework.

I agree, if it had to go for economic reasons having a welcome center for the festivals is a wonderful replacement. I love all of the speakers on gardening every spring. Especially the Florida weekend.

I think they should turn it into Stark Expo and have Iron Man simulator ride. You could incorporate educational interactive stuff about robotics, computers, etc and have that movie tie in which attracts people. I agree, right now a waste. Universe of Energy needs an update as well. Use the same theme but just with an older Ellen and Bill Nye!

Heartily seconded on the Universe of Energy suggestion.

They can't Have any marvel themes in Walt Disney world due to marvels deal with universal

Disney has lost direction experimental community dropped for continously run world's fair now world fair losing focus corporate Disney looks at demographics & Hispanics wanted rides rides rides they did not want education however rides do not endure education is timeless so short term profit gets the money , Frozen was a BIG suprise so it gets attention and earns money. Demographic 2 parents 5 children translates to lots of tee shirts & cheesy toys no quality souvenirs excepting the hundred dollar purse's & jewelry the mommy buys! Disney core fans have been left behind too bad so sad now selfie sticks thank god have been banned next eliminate tablets used as camera at night ruining photos for anyone behind the bright blinkey screens.
Thinking learning educated adults are not part of the money demographics again to bad so sad in this case for Disney because demographics says this year's people are going to universal next year.

I agree, what Disney has allowed the Wonders of Life pavillion to become is so sad! I also agree that Inside Out would absolutely make sense to be put into that space and breathe new life into the pavillion. I've never understood why they use that area for festivals that make far more sense to be presented in the old Millennium Village building that was erected back in 2000. Both Food & wine and flower & garden relate more to the world showcase than to future world. If anything, Disney should try to add a special section on to the Land pavilion to be used for seminars or demonstrations foe these festivals, since both have a direct connection to the Land. (I suppose if Wonders of Life ever did re-open, there could be a tie-in with food & wine as far as ways to cook healthily and nutritiously). I know there is a rumor that Inside Out is going to take over the Captain EO theater, but I would much rather see Disney use Inside Out to completely restore Wonders of Life once and for all. I've said it since the pavillion closed, that there is still a huge need for a space devoted to health and fitness, given all the obesity in this country. Add in all the teen pregnancies and the current shift in human sexual orientation and Disney could actually make a huge impact on today's youth with a re-do of this pavillion. ABC Family has that new show on Transgender families, so why not try to do a tie-tie-in with that? And ABC has been running Extreme weight loss for easily 6 years now and I think it is finally becoming a serious Contender to the Biggest loser (which unfortunately Disney can't use since they are NBC Universal). And last but certainly not least, why doesn't Disney try to tie in Dancing with the Stars. I know it's not entirely weight loss-centric, but there have been so many stars that have gone on and lost lots of weight, it is almost crazy that Disney hasn't figured out a way to connect their number 1 reality show to that pavillion. Obviously, the pavillion would still have the issue of easily going out of date as soon as dancing with the stars and extreme weight loss go off the air, but again, with their being so many health issues happening in our nation right now, I think the Wonders of Life pavillion is more important than ever. I know I loved it when it first opened so I would love to see it brought back. Heck, they're struggling so much to make the imagination pavillion work, why not re-do the original Figment and Dream finder ride and add that to the pavillion too? Imagination is definitely a part of life, since we use our brains to imagine. The whole Imagination lab could be moved into the pavillion as one section and that would free up the original pavillion for something else (a new country for world showcase or another area about the future, though not sure what). And finally, they need to re-open the old Odyssey restaurant. So sad when that closed because the live show with Mickey and his friends in 80s rainbow space suits was just too awesome! It just made sense to be right there in Epcot and it is so sad to walk past it and see only meeting space and restrooms!!
(One more thing: Disney keeps pushing the good dinosaur as their next feature. Who's with me that that movie should be used to help upgrade the Universe of Energy? Supposedly the movie is a what - if the meteor never hit and dinosaurs lived among man. What a great way to teach kids about energy if they see what life would be like if they had to share their energy that is created and consumed with dinosaurs? I think it would definitely breathe new life into that pavillion and then Disney can update the Seas with Nemo too and still keep Ellen DeGeneres on their roster cause they can record new scenes for Finding Dory! That's my wish list for Epcot!! (And yes, very sad about Maelstrom becoming Frozen but it's happening so we gotta move on and hope that they still respect Norway ' history, heritage and culture, even if it is all under the guise of Arrendelle. Sorry so long, thanks for reading! :)

Inside Out also made a nod to Epcot several times, but one of my favorite moments was a quick shot of Figment on a cargo box. Wonders of Life, come back with Inside Out and Figment! !!

I used to work at the Wonders of Life as a teen in high school. The 5 years I spent there were some of the best times I had. To the day I walk in during F&G or F&W just to reminisce.

I miss this pavilion as well. I loved Cranium Command and loved seeing the nod to it with the Inside Out movie. One of my favorite rides from the past, The Universe of Energy, however, has also lost it's luster and I just wonder how much longer they are going to keep that one going.

I always thought that EPCOT could stay in the future .. How about work with a car company and show the future of driver less cars... have an actual design / test environment were guest can actually ride in a make shift city to see how they operate ..

Never liked this attraction, but it should be revamped into something else instead of just sitting there 15 years later. There needs to be more rides in Epcot. The lack of attendance at Universe of Energy, along with the Innoventions pavilion should be redone.

My two children watched The Making of Me as the beginning of their sex education. Cranium Command was so so creative. Seems stupid to have this building empty!

While Cranium Command was one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions, I never really like the whole Wonders of Life concept. But, it is sad Disney hasn't replaced the building with something new in all this time. Of course, Universe of Energy needs a complete face lift and Journey into Imagination needs to go altogether.

I think Disney should convert the front part of EPCOT into being 100% Star Wars. Move the Star Wars ride from Hollywood Studios to EPCOT to replace the BODY WARS ride. Each pavilion in EPCOT could be a unique Star Wars experience. Change SOARIN into some type of Flying through the forest of ENDOR. With this approach EPCOT could still have the future spin but with a very strong movie tie-in that disney now owns.

Apparently this investment has worked as well as MetLife's Long Term Care program.

The artical is completely a wasted read. The food and wine festival is a major draw for the park at the present time we go every year just enjoy it. Cant say the same for the wonders of life

The pavillon is used for a lot more than 1/3rd of the year. It is actually used year round as conference center for corporate clients, which makes a lot more money for Disney.

While I'm not saying the festivals and other conferences aren't important to Disney, it just isn't right to use old attraction space right in the middle of a theme park to do it. Again, why not use the building that was originally built as the Millennium Village for all the festivals and conferences. It's huge and it can probably be broken up so that a few seminars can take place at once. The Wonders of Life pavillion should be given a full makeover as a new attraction (or as a Wonders of Life update) because it is right in the midst of Future World. Epcot today is a theme park; it's not the experimental prototype community that Walt wanted. Both Future World and World Showcase are laid out like world fairs, with pavillions to explore and enjoy. That is still true today, even if a major attraction is the key focus of that pavillion (test track's education focus is on the advancement of vehicle technology, while mission space's educational focus is on the space program). So kids and adults are still learning while having fun. Wonders of Life and Universe of Energy are both highly relevant in our current world and therefore should be shown respect and given the facelifts they deserve (the imagination pavilion too, since without imagination, what happens to creation and dreams becoming reality?) I'm sorry, but to me, using the Wonders of Life pavillion for festival and conference space has just been a quick fix to the problem, a band-aid so that the Disney Imagineers don't actually have to solve the problem.

I would prefer to see something else, but I just don't think the math works out from Disney's perspective. Even if they put an excellent attraction in the pavilion, it wouldn't draw that many more people to the park especially in the off season. On the other hand, they book corporate clients in there throughout the year and those clients are paying tens of thousands a day (use of the space, personnel, food, etc). It would take so many regular guests to make that money back. As far as the Millennium Village is concern, that is used for conferences as well. The Odyssey Center is also used for conferences. Unfortunately, it seems that Epcot is more about food and drink these days than rides.

It's sad for me to see any theme park attraction die, but especially one such as this which should have great potential. Even with the loss of a sponsor, it should be the type of attraction that Disney would keep alive. The message is universal as is the appeal. Surely a co-sponsor could be found to help keep it going. But, even if not, Disney has deep pockets, and they should easily be able to fund a couple of attraction re-vamps to make this something people could enjoy once again.
The problem, as I see it though, is Disney began asking too much of their attraction sponsors, and in return gave them very little of a return. Back in the day, Walt knew how to sell the parks and movies in a way that made others want to join with him. That's gone now, and it's all about profit and how much they can make off both the guest and the sponsor.

One important note left out here is what the building is used for now. It's operational more than just 1/3 of the year. This is one of the most rented spaces on property for corporate receptions and convention spaces. Jim Hill has reported in the past that WDW is so reliant on having this space to offer to corporate guests that it's unlikely the pavillion will ever reopen to the general public on a full time basis.

Now, on the off chance it ever could reopen, I think the Disney corporate family has an ideal property they could use to bring back the Wonders of Life. It's ESPN. Particularly their Sports Science segments.

Wonders of Life pavilion was a part of my childhood memories. I remember all the rides and exhibits. I loved it! I am glad I found this article, I have always wondered what happen to the pavilion. It's really sad how Disney can waist money on letting buildings or even whole waterparks decade and not do anything with them. We pay good money to get in the Disney theme parks they should be able to afford to rebuild and maintain a pavilion. Being healthy and eating right is a part of our society. They should bring Wonders of Life back!

Exactly! It's just as sad as what they've allowed happen to River Country and Discovery Island. Either keep those areas maintained or demolish them once and for all! (don't demolish wonders of life, just restore it to the current times)

The Wonders of Life should get retooled as The Wonders of the Mind, which would be inspired from the Disney/Pixar's Inside Out.

I can tell you it doesn't just sit around for 2/3 of the year. Hidden in the building are large conference rooms that they hold meetings in and when I was there with my college, some Disney youth to youth programs. It was actually a great space for the youth to youth and professional programs to use.

Well - that's even sadder to hear. I've noticed Disney renting areas of Epcot to "Private Parties". Now that the tickets are up to $125 a day most times - that should include access to ALL attractions -- and after 30+ years of operations; there should be MORE exhibits in the park - not less. Opening Soarin' does not constitute closing The Making of Me; Cranium Command and Body Wars. The park is in trouble. It's only a matter of time that non-locals realize they're being bamboozled and go elsewhere. It will just take a few more years - as "Frozen" fever will last through 2019 or so.

Exactly! Renovating Soarin and making the Frozen ride are a decent start, but the park still needs a lot of work. Universe of Energy and the Imagination pavilions need total overhauls and again, an actual attraction should go where Wonders of Life was. I don't care if they use their characters, but they need to breathe new life into these areas for the money they are charging. Use The Good Dinosaur for The Universe of Energy and use Inside Out to re-launch Wonders of Life. And if they have a new comic book with Figment and Dreamfinder, they can and should revitalize Journey into Imagination with those characters and restore the beautiful energy and spirit that the pavilion had when it first opened with the Imagination Lab (imagination is so important to a developing child's mind). It would take some work, some money and some years, but all of it is possible and it would help bring back what makes Epcot such an amazing park: a place where you can learn and be entertained all at the same time! Here's hoping the Disney Imagineers read all this feedback and put some of these ideas into motion. If they could do it with Soarin and the Norway pavillion, they can do it with these pavillions too! :)

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