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BODY WARS: The "Inside" Story of the Lost Epcot E-Ticket That Left Riders Queasy

MetLife Leaves

Image: Disney

So what killed Wonders of Life? The same thing that’s taken other Lost Legends: Maelstrom, Journey into Imagination, Horizons, and most every revered-and-removed EPCOT Center original: sponsorship.

The would-be model for EPCOT Center called for wealthy corporations to finance pavilions tied to their areas of expertise in exchange for advertising and the chance to peddle their products. The plan’s initial success was short-lived. As the new millennium neared, contract negotiations mounted. Disney had counted on sponsor companies to finance the construction of Epcot’s future world (which they had). But now it was time for those sponsors to hold up the other end of the bargain, updating their pavilions and refreshing their contents.

And much to Disney’s dismay, instead of re-upping their investment, many companies began to bail. MetLife was one of them. The insurance company dropped its stake in 2001. Insiders say that MetLife’s refusal to continue financial support for Wonders of Life might have been tied to an internal dispute over Cast Members’ insurance policies. We can’t be sure. But in any case, Disney did what we’d expect: they set out to find a new sponsor.

Problem is, they never found one.

Image: Disney

From the time MetLife dropped out, the pavilion was more or less frozen in time. Even routine maintenance like painting simply stopped. So to answer our earlier question – what did Disney do to make Body Wars the guest favorite it could've been? – nothing. With poor word of mouth having spread and the remote attraction's pavilion aging, the proverbial writing seemed to be on the wall. 

The entire Wonders of Life pavilion was switched to seasonal operation in 2004 – three years after MetLife’s exit. That meant that the pavilion would only open during forecasted heavy-attendance times, like spring break, summer, and the weeks around Christmas. For Disney Parks fans, it was a death knell. While they waited for the pavilion’s unavoidable demise, the attractions within deteriorated, essentially frozen in whatever form they existed in when MetLife cut their support.  Especially at the start of the New Millennium, the contents of Wonders of Life – from Cranium Command to The Making of Me and Body Wars – looked, felt, and sounded like something from the 1980s. Because, of course, they were.

End of Life

Disney pulled the plug forever on January 1, 2007. After a (pretty long) lifetime of sixteen years, Wonders of Life was shuttered. The pavilion’s signage and the towering DNA sculpture were removed.

That same year, the pavilion re-opened. But now, it was the Festival Center for Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, offering culinary demos, wine tasting, guest speakers, and more. At first, evidence of the pavilion’s former life was very, very evident. For a few years, marquees for Life’s attractions were even prominent – very '90s-stylized reminders of the space's former life.

The bad news is, every year less and less of Wonders of Life is visible as the golden pavilion’s identity shifts inextricably to a flex space. On the flip side is the good news: every year, the space looks less like an old, forgotten, closed attraction and more like a purpose-built events pavilion, as documented splendidly in Yesterland's incredible Then & Now: Erasing Wonders of Life pictoral that's a must-view.

Image: Jennifer Lynn, Flickr (license)

While fans bemoan the loss of the Wonders of Life pavilion for something as static and seemingly underutilized as a Festival Center, the truth is a little more complex. After all, between Epcot’s three annual festivals (the International Food and Wine Festival, Flower and Garden Festival, and the new Festival of the Arts), the Festival Center housed in the former pavilion is occupied far more than half of the year – which means the pavilion is populated more often than the seasonal Wonders of Life was.

Does that excuse the closure of a pavilion and its attractions in favor of up-charge wine tastings, culinary demos, and gift shops? Of course not. But while it’s easy to imagine that the building is rotting in plain sight, it really isn’t.

Image: Disney

That doesn’t mean its contents aren’t. The truth is, few people know exactly what ultimately became of the hardware Body Wars used. Certainly the large rectangular showbuilding that housed the attraction is still there, hidden from view behind the domed pavilion. For a while, rumors circulated that the large (and very expensive) simulators themselves would be shipped to Hong Kong Disneyland and repurposed as Starspeeders for a new Star Tours there. The Hong Kong park never got a Star Tours – it got the Iron Man Experience instead – but it’s unlikely the Body Wars simulators were used. The enormous pods couldn’t have been snuck out of the building without someone noticing it and reporting on it.

The more likely answer is that the Body Wars pods are simply being used as spare parts to repair Star Tours’ Starspeeders as needed. Given that, it's likely that the Body Wars pods were removed in pieces and shipped elsewhere on property where they could be stripped down more easily.

Resting in Peace

Image: Disney

At the end of the day, Body Wars never earned the acclaim that its interstellar sister did, and it never stood amongst the revered rides that Epcot hosted in its earliest years – rides like World of Motion, Spaceship Earth, Journey into Imagination, Universe of Energy, or Listen to the Land.

But like every loved-and-lost attraction at Disney Parks, it touched a generation of fans who, as children, might’ve believed they’d truly shrunk down to the size of a cell to explore the wonders of the human body in an unthinkable way.  In Body Wars, Imagineers crafted a new way to stay true to Epcot’s origins – an educational and entertaining adventure, just infused with modern thrills. For that reason, it was groundbreaking and ought to be remembered as a landmark in the park’s story.

We started our Lost Legend series to chronicle the in-depth stories and experiences of these forgotten rides, but what we really need is you. Share your thoughts and memories about Body Wars in the comments below to preserve this ride experience for a new generation. Is Epcot missing something by not having a pavilion dedicated to the body? Was Body Wars a turning point in Epcot’s development? What other rides and attractions would you like to see in our Lost Legends series? We look forward to your memories!

Then, hop over to our In-Depth Features Library to set course for your next Lost Legend.

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There are 4 comments.

I remember wanting to ride Body Wars in April 2004, I was quite excited, and then it said that it was closed. Luckily for me I'd heard about things being closed before, so I just said ok. It's still a shame I didn't get to experience it, but aah well, that happens in life too.

I absolutely loved this ride as a child. I remember my dad did too and thought it was fascinating, especially the creative sterilization technique that they did in the queue. The fact that my father is a physician and I myself a pharmacist probably contributes to our fascination with Body Wars. It really is too bad that it is shuttered now as it was a very unique ride especially in terms of story and theming. Definitely deserves legend status and not disaster status.

I really enjoyed Body Wars. Strangely enough, I never had a motion sickness problem with it, even though I do occasionally have attacks. I did, however, long for a sports bra when I rode it. I vote for Legend, because it was very different than anything WDW had when it was first introduced.

I loved EPCOT and went frequently as a teen. However Body Wars was a horrible ride. I always viewed it as a Fantastic Voyage ripoff. The mechanics of the ride were also terrible. One time it might be fairly smooth and the next, you would think your spleen was going to explode because of the bucking motion that made the seat belt cut into your midsection. It was just uncomfortable and I would ride it once each time I went back to see if it had improved and then stay far away to allow my internal organs to heal. Mark this one in the disaster column for me.

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