What if? Almost any project that passes through Walt Disney Imagineering is shaped by that simple question, posed in a design phase called “Blue Sky.” In this early stage of Disney’s design process, Imagineers are encouraged to “forget the box;” to think beyond budgets or technologies and instead live up their titles and imagine.
And while some projects are eventually selected and pared down to more realistic, reasonable limits, others are simply left on the editing room floor never to be seen again… well, maybe not never.
Here at Theme Park Tourist, our Possibilityland series is all about touring through those never-built attractions, lands, and theme parks that exist only by way of concept art, abandoned ideas, and forgotten concepts. Already, we’ve stepped into the Magic Kingdom that never was, explored cancelled lands of mythical creatures, aliens, cowboys, Muppets, and inventors and even gone for a ride on Disney “mountains” that never came to be.
Today, we’ll take a pavilion-by-pavilion tour of the never-built projects that could’ve changed Epcot's Future World forever. Would this “Possibility World” version of Epcot be better or worse than the park we know today? We’ll leave you to decide…
The first thing to know? Here in our alternate reality “Possibility World” version of Epcot, Future World is no more. Maybe you can see why… In the 1980s, Epcot’s arrival was billed as the dawning of the 21st century. The problem is, by the late-90s, the real 21st century was around the corner… and it wasn’t shaping up to look much like Epcot’s Future World had foretold.
Just the opposite, Future World like the future as envisioned in the 1980s with its brutal architecture, its colorless concrete plazas, and its stark, sterile design. (It wasn’t the first or last time that Disney’s imagined future had fallen out of sync with the real future… a common recurrence called “The Tomorrowland Problem” that’s caused a half-dozen “New Tomorrowland” revisions across the U.S. parks.)
It would take more than new rides to get Future World rolling again – it would take a fundamental redesign. That’s why Disney allegedly cooked up Project: GEMINI, a massive overhaul to the park centered on transforming Future World into Discoveryland; a lush, forested, golden eco-future disguising the dated ‘80s architecture and ambiance with a more naturally-fueled future. The additions brought on by Project: GEMINI are just a piece of some of the Possibility World realities you'll see below...
1. Spaceship Earth?
If you’ve come to Spaceship Earth looking for an epic dark ride through the history of communication from the Stone Age to the birth of the digital age… you’ll need to look elsewhere. In this alternate reality “Possibility World,” Spaceship Earth is no more. Sure, the 180-foot geodesic sphere is still the centerpiece of Epcot’s Future World, but the era of Epcot being Disney’s “educational” park – the one kids dread wasting a day at – is over, which means many of Epcot’s original, epic dark rides are over, too.
Spaceship Earth is now home to a high-speed thrill ride through the ages called Time Racers. Not much is known about this time-traveling thrill ride allegedly planned as the centerpiece of Epcot’s transformation… Many sources say it would’ve been a hybrid dark ride / roller coaster with initial scenes at the base of the sphere turning into a launch into Spaceship Earth itself, diving and twisting through scenes.
Forget Disney’s “educational” park… This is Disney’s “discovery” park, marked by technological thrill rides somewhat loosely tied to science and history.
2. The Seas
Here in Possibility World, the story of the Seas is told a little differently…
Possibility A: In this alternate reality, designers stuck to their original idea for the pavilion… That would mean that the original pavilion would’ve begun with a surrounding film telling the tale of our planet’s creation and the formation of the ocean narrated by Poseidon himself before the theater would rotate to a magical, underwater world ruled over by a statue of the god of the seas.
A lengthy, full, Omnimover dark ride through underwater scenes would then carry guests to an underwater research facility located in a gigantic aquarium, totally surrounded by water!
Possibility B: Even if this “possibility” version of The Seas had come to life, it probably wouldn’t have survived Project: GEMINI either… Because even back then, Disney’s designers were eager to incorporate more characters into Epcot. Back then, the go-to characters for an underwater experience? You guessed it… The pavilion was set to be renamed Under the Sea, featuring characters from Disney’s 1989 hit, The Little Mermaid. In that case, the lengthy Omnimover ride might've become a full-fledged Little Mermaid dark ride, eliminating the ride from the New Fantasyland that would come a decade later.
The real story: In the real world, The Living Seas shifted from a mythological atmosphere to the more grounded SeaBase Alpha storyline during its design phase. Plans for the attraction were heavily scaled back (though it remained one of the world’s largest aquariums). Eventually, characters did make their way into the Living Seas, but it wasn’t The Little Mermaid… We told the tale of the original concept and its “Pixarification” in a full feature, Lost Legends: The Living Seas.
But that’s not the half of it… Read on as we continue through Future World! Er… Discoveryland.