Home » Lost in Time: 12 Epcot World Showcase Pavilions That Were Never Built

    Lost in Time: 12 Epcot World Showcase Pavilions That Were Never Built

    Boating School

    When Walt Disney died, his dream of a futuristic Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow largely died with him. Eventually, the company that he left behind did go ahead and build EPCOT. However, Walt’s dream of a futuristic, working city that would provide a model for other cities to learn from did not come to pass.

    One element of Walt’s EPCOT that did survive, though, was an international marketplace selling goods from all over the world. The World Showcase was one the main elements of EPCOT Center when it eventually opened in 1982. It featured a host of pavilions representing different nations from around the world, packed with shops, restaurants and attractions.

    To help fund the building of the World Showcase, Disney sought sponsorship from national governments and major corporations within the countries that it hoped to represent. Not all of them signed up. That meant that a number of pavilions were conceived that were ultimately never built. Similarly, a number of expansions to the World Showcase, in the form of new pavilions, have been proposed and subsequently dropped since Epcot opened.

    Let’s take a look at 12 pavilions that never made it off Disney’s drawing board…and even this list isn’t exhaustive!

    12. Denmark Pavilion

    Boating School

    Legoland’s Boating School is the nearest you’ll get to a Denmark Pavilion boat ride these days.

    In the mid-1990s, Denmark came desperately close to signing on as the latest World Showcase pavilion. Inside would have been a recreation of Tivoli Gardens, a Ferris wheel, a carousel and a LEGO-themed canal boat ride.

    11. Costa Rica Pavilion

    One early plan for the World Showcase included a pavilion dedicated to Costa Rica, boasting Spanish Colonial architecture. The main attraction would have been a “crystal palace” hosting tropical gardens, birds and waterfalls. Food would have been available from a snack bar serving seafood and melons, and arts and crafts would have been on sale in a retail area.

    10. Iran Pavilion

    Iran Pavilion World Expo 2010

    The Iran Pavilion at World Expo 2010 in China.
    Image: Ola Løvholm, Flickr

    The Iran Pavilion, proposed before Epcot was built, would have featured an elaborate dark ride through Persian history, along with a bazaar-style shopping area. However, when the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the plans were dropped.

    9. Scandinavia Pavilion

    Scandinavia Pavilion

    Image © Disney via Progress City USA

    Disney has chased Denmark several times over the years with an idea of a pavilion. It has also considered an alternative approach – bundling several Scandinavian nations together to create a more cost-effective option. In the end, only Norway signed up, and has its own dedicated pavilion as a result.

    8. Russia Pavilion

    Russia Pavilion

    Image © Disney via Jim Hill Media

    Despite the frosty relations between the US and the Soviet Union, plans were drawn up in the early 1990s for a Russia Pavilion. The concept artwork shows that it would have been dominated by a recreation of St. Basil’s Cathedral. The central attraction would have been “Russia – The Bells of Change”, a show that would combine audio-animatronics, movie footage and live actors to bring the history of the country to life. The collapse of the Soviet Union put an end to the plan.

    7. Israel Pavilion

    Israel was intended to be one of the original tenants in World Showcase. The ruins of an ancient minaret would have served as an information center at the entrance, with a central courtyard featuring a cluster of market-style shops.

    6. Spain Pavilion

    “Phase II” of World Showcase was to include a Spanish pavilion, boasting two attractions. The first would be a movie showing landmarks in the country, while the second was a dark ride showing off the country’s culture. The main restaurant would have served tapas.

    5. United Arab Emirates Pavilion

    A 1978 plan for World Showcase includes a United Arab Emirates Pavilion, which would have seen guests entering past two Arabic Dhow ships. Inside, a Bedouin desert encampment would await them. The main attraction would have been a magic carpet ride through the Arab world.

    4. Venezuela Pavilion

    Venezuela Pavilion

    Image © Disney via Jim Hill Media

    In 1981, Disney announced that Venezuela had signed on as the fifth South American tenant in World Showcase. The main attraction was to be an aerial tram ride through the tropical rainforest, but the deal fell through.

    3. Australia Pavilion

    Sydney Opera House

    Image: Edwin Lee, Flickr

    Little is known about plans for an Australia Pavilion, other than that Imagineers hoped that it would form part of the original World Showcase line-up. It is believed that the design would have included a recreation of Sydney’s iconic Opera House.

    2. Equatorial Africa Pavilion

    Equatorial Africa Pavilion

    Image © Disney via Jim Hill Media

    One of the most intriguing pavilions that was dropped from the original World Showcase plans was the Equatorial Africa Pavilion. This would have boasted an enormous, 60-foot treehouse, which guests could climb to look down on an image of animals gathering at a waterhole at dusk (an illusion created by Imagineers). A live show featuring African musicians and dancers would be hosted in an outdoor amphitheater, while the “Heartbeat of Africa” show would offer insights into the continent’s culture.

    1. Switzerland Pavilion

    Image © Disney

    The Switzerland Pavilion would have been dominated by an East Coast version of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds roller coaster. Negotiations with the Swiss government fell apart in 1987, and Disney was unable to secure a commercial partner to help fund the pavilion.

    Learn more about Disney’s unbuilt attractions

    I’ll soon be releasing my third book, Possibilityland: The Disney Theme Parks That Could Have Been. This will include detailed descriptions of many Disney parks and attractions that were designed but never built. It will place these in the context of the overall story of Disney’s theme park business, so that you can learn why they were proposed in the first place, why the projects didn’t go ahead and how they influenced subsequent attractions that really did see the light of day. If you’d like to be notified when the book is released, sign up for the special newsletter.