Making your way through the Midway-styled interior of the Wonders of Life pavilion, the entrance to Body Wars feels like a stark contrast. The massive mural that wraps around part of the pavilion’s inner circumference might be enough on its own to ward away those grossed out by blood – it’s a collection of blood vessels, tubes, and alien-structures that, shockingly, must be – gulp – something inside of us.
And indeed, stepping into the ride’s queue, the pastel whimsy of the pavilion’s rotunda melts away as guests pass through Dermatopic Purification portals. The idea is simple: we’re in some sort of research facility sealed off from the pathogens of the rest of the world.
Soon, our location becomes clear: we’re at a laboratory run by MET (that’s Miniaturized Exploration Technologies), a pioneer in health and medicine dedicated to the betterment of our lives. Their newest breakthrough is why we’re here: the incredible LGS-2050 Body Probe Vehicle is a cutting-edge way to explore the human body. These sleek white pods can be miniaturized to barely the size of a cell and beamed into a human body for research and exploration. When all is said and done, the 26-ton vehicles will weigh less than a drop of water.
(The clever conceit masquerades our lesson on the body as a science fiction adventure, doubtlessly inspired by the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage.)
But today, you’ll be more than just a witness to this newfound technology; you’ll be a participant. In the ride’s preshow we learn that we’re mere minutes behind Dr. Cynthia Lair (played by Academy Award winning actress Elisabeth Shue), who’s volunteered to be miniaturized and beamed into a patient to study the body’s immune response to a splinter. Our mission is simple: follow Dr. Lair’s route inside the patient aboard Probe Bravo 229 piloted by Captain Braddock (Tim Matheson) to retrieve her and bring her out. Ready for miniaturization?
Strapped aboard Bravo 229, Captain Braddock appears via a small screen to the right of our viewport. As he welcomes us onboard and signals the start of our reduction sequence, a shield covering the viewport falls away.
It’s important to note that the ride film you’re about to see is cutting edge, with CGI animation to create the (startlingly realistic) look and feel of the body. And the whole thing is directed by someone with a keen understanding of “incredible journeys” – the late, great Leonard Nimoy, best known as Spock in Star Trek.
We’re pulling up to a particle reducer that’ll beam us just beneath the skin of our patient. As the particle reducer powers up, the vehicle lifts and jostles before being propelled forward (seemingly a re-use of Star Tours’ “lightspeed” maneuver, here beaming us under the skin).
When our view returns, we’re microscopic, drifting in a chamber of vessels and tubes with oblong spheres drifting past in the channel. “Directly in front of us is a group of white blood cells on their way to destroy the splinter.” As we drift aside to follow them, a continual pulse draws us back and forth, shuffling the pod. Then, it appears – a splinter which, on this scale, might as well be a skyscraper pierced through the skin with white blood cells clamping on.
Dr. Lair’s here. She needs just one more cell count before she can join us onboard. As we drift under the splinter, she calls out “Mayday!” Dr. Lair had been pulled into a capillary. We’ve got to find her, so the probe tears through a bulbous, fatty layer and races into a vein, slamming left and right as the heart’s pulse tears the ship forward and back. “I’m being pulled into the heart!” she cries.
We’ve got to time it just right so as not to be crushed by the flaps of the right ventricle’s valves. Still, she’s drawn further through the circulatory system and toward the lungs. “We have to chance it,” Braddock commands. As deep, guttural breaths from the patient draw the vehicle forward and back in nauseating tilts and thrusts, we stun a white blood cell determined to consume Dr. Lair and she climbs aboard.
Unfortunately, our journey so far as used too much power; we can’t beam out.
“We need an energy boost!” Braddock orders.
“The brain! It works on electrical impulse.”
The path forward? Another capillary. This time, we’re drawn backwards into the heart again, slamming and swaying with every pulse. We have only 5% power now. We’ve got to use the heartbeat to propel us!
With a pulse, we’re off, slamming again until a hard right takes us into the spinal fluid. With a jolt, we pass the blood-brain barrier as electrical nerves surround us, their sparks lighting the dark cabin. “The cerebral cortex!” Lair muses. “We’re in the brain!”
“Braddock, your power is gone!” the Mission Commander reports via radio. “I repeat, your power is gone!”
With the last bit of strength, the ship drifts against a neuron. “This neuron better fire…”
Then, with a pulse of energy, we enter into the warping beam again. In a flash, we’re back outside the particle reducer.
“Incredible!” Lair celebrates. “Do you realize what we just did?!”
“You broke every regulation in the book! You also managed to pull off the most spectacular mission this place has ever seen! Congratulations.”
We always include a point-of-view video in our Lost Legends entries to give you a first-person perspective of what it was like to experience these forgotten attractions. This one is particularly telling, as the videographer rides alone. A sure sign of things to come... Watch here:
And just like that, your mission is complete. You’ll pass down a series of simple, laboratory hallways before the pastel midway of Wonders of Life comes back into view. Sure, Body Wars might not have the stellar, emotional story of some of Disney’s best, and it’s a little more light on content than many of Epcot’s storied dark rides. But it was one hell of a ride. The question is, would you ride it again?
On the next page, we'll dissect the issues that might've meant Body Wars' time was short from the start.