Home » This is Why Disney Has Given Up on Expanding Epcot’s World Showcase

This is Why Disney Has Given Up on Expanding Epcot’s World Showcase

You know the story by now. Walt Disney’s vision for his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow included a permanent World’s Fair-style site. The founder of what we now know as The Walt Disney Company enjoyed his finest moment at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was during this two-year global event that the Imagineers of WED Enterprises cemented their reputation as some of the finest engineers in the world.

Disney built four attractions for the World’s Fair, and then they persuaded other companies to pay for their transportation to new permanent residences at Disneyland. One of them, Carousel of Progress, still exists (mostly) in its original form today at Walt Disney World. Another, It’s a Small World, has become one of the most famous theme park attractions on the planet.

As much as Disney as a company influenced the World’s Fair, however, the event itself similarly left a lingering imprint on Uncle Walt. He felt a profound connection to the world travelers who all came together in New York City, and he was touched by how much they loved his new creations. From that moment forward, the head of the Imagineers aspired to create a permanent host site for the people of the not-so-small world.

The method for bringing this fluctuating but constant World’s Fair into existence eventually became the World Showcase at EPCOT Center. By the time it arrived, however, the company, and the entire world for that matter, had lost the visionary who’d conceptualized its existence.

In their founder’s absence, Imagineers had to soldier on, doing the best job that they could of turning his wishes into reality. The problem they faced was that Walt Disney as a businessman was every bit as gifted as Walt Disney as an inventor or storyteller. Without his power and influence, many sacrifices were necessary to finish EPCOT Center.

Image: Disney

Perhaps the loss of the man who “invented” Walt Disney World explains why EPCOT Center took so long to construct and included so many attractions that aged poorly. Whatever the explanation, park planners did cross off one key component from Uncle Walt’s checklist. Half of the new park functioned as an ever-present World’s Fair, a host site for pavilions from many of the most prominent countries in the world.

In the early days, the World Showcase portion of EPCOT Center had grand ambitions as an often-expanding cultural melting point with a finger on the pulse of global interaction. Over time, those dreams became convoluted by a messy combination of politics and money. While nobody realized it at the time, the international representatives of Norway would introduce the final pavilion in 1988, almost 20 years ago. Meanwhile, promised appearances from Africa, Israel, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela never materialized.

What’s the explanation for the awkward, unchanging composition of the World Showcase? How did Disney officials choose the nine original countries and two later additions? Why weren’t there more at the start? And what went so wrong that Disney stopped building pavilions in spite of promises and press releases stating otherwise? Everyone has a strong opinion about the relevance of Future World in the Age of Technology, but don’t many of those same criticisms apply to World Showcase? Let’s find out…

The conceptualization of EPCOT

Image: Michael Gray, Flickr (license)

“This concept here will have to be something that is unique, so there is a distinction between Disneyland in California and whatever Disney does in Florida.”

“And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.”

All of these quotes are attributable to Walt Disney. He recited each one during the press phase of the EPCOT announcement, and each reflects the excitement and optimism Disney felt about the new endeavor. Sadly, he passed away in 1966, only two months after the company unveiled the Florida Project film. That left his amazing staff of Imagineers with an impossible situation. They had to anticipate what the company owner had intended for the 27,000 acres of land Disney had stealthily acquired from unassuming Floridians. Their short term financial loss was beneficial to the future of central Florida as a whole. Walt Disney World eventually became the most popular set of theme parks in the world, but their early struggles are well chronicled by now.

In order to finance the other parts of Walt Disney’s plan, his brother Roy O. Disney had to focus on monetization early on. Purchasing the land had left the company strapped for cash, and they’d already adapted their sweeping goals for the utopian city even before Uncle Walt’s death. Both men understood that the theme park ticket sales would pay for the other aspects of the City of Tomorrow. Still, no one expected an 11-year gap between the debut of “Disneyland East”, the Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Center.

The explanation for this delay is that Disney’s death left his successors without a guided path forward. They knew of his vague plans for a permanent World’s Fair site. Many of them had witnessed the 1964 New York exhibition firsthand, and they recounted stories of their employer’s joy over the reception of the four Disney pavilions. They understood that Walt Disney World would include something along those lines, but it’s akin to your boss telling you that you need to complete that project you discussed last year. You lack the specifics to feel comfortable about the project’s direction without additional input. With Walt Disney gone, nobody would offer that counsel. Imagineers had to make it up as they went along.

Somehow, all parties worked together well enough to launch a version of EPCOT Center worthy of Walt Disney’s legacy – even if it didn’t come anywhere close to matching his overarching vision of a living, breathing community. A great deal of credit should go to the employees involved as well as the man who trained them as Imagineers. They embraced the challenge and unified under a singular purpose: honoring their leader’s vision of a better world. A key component of that new and improved tomorrow was an international hub. The politics of it were a nightmare, though.

Thanks anyway, but we’re good

Unbridled enthusiasm embodied the earliest days of planning EPCOT Center. The launch of Magic Kingdom left Imagineers and park planners in a celebratory mood. The park had almost instantly become one of the top tourist destinations in America. While the company still suffered financial challenges that forced them to choose selectively among options for new attractions, everyone involved felt that the first Walt Disney World gate had succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations. Once the corporate purse strings loosened, they had complete confidence in phase two, the place we now know as Epcot.

The planning phase of the second Florida gate came from strategists brimming with confidence. They saw no reason why countries would choose not to join Disney in their unprecedented endeavor. In their view, the new locale would offer its participants the opportunity to grow their brand, so to speak. For a country, that meant indoctrinating tourists to a new culture brimming with authentic foods, merchandise, and artisans. The first members of the World Showcase would effectively gain a new point of ingress to American dollars.

And here’s where the story takes a turn. To bring the truest version of Walt Disney’s dream to life, park planners reached out to 31 countries. Their sales pitch was simple. Disney would build two parks in one space, the equivalent of a constant World’s Fair site. The front half would highlight emerging technologies while prophesying future feats of science and engineering. It would mimic Disney’s 1964 pavilions such as Ford with the Magic Skyway. This portion would attract adults seeking something a bit more mature than the Mickey Mouse-based fare available at Magic Kingdom.

The back half of EPCOT Center, the World Showcase, would cater to the same guests in a different way. It would feature permanent shops and restaurants inside breathtaking facilities representative of the presenting countries. Each participant would enjoy input into the design of their pavilion, a first for Disney as a company. They contracted some engineering work out to businesses such as Arrow Dynamics, but Disney had always maintained control of the creative process. With the World Showcase, they were willing to cede control of some aspects to the governments who knew their heritage and aesthetics better. It was a thoughtful gesture on Disney’s part.

How many of the 31 countries with Disney offers would you guess signed up?

Unless you guessed zero, you’re wrong.

You down with BIE?

Image: Sam Howzit, Flickr (license)

Amazing as this proposition is to consider, no country felt the onus to join Disney’s new enterprise. Their governments offered a multitude of reasons to explain the universal rejections. Some parties worried that by joining an unsanctioned institution masquerading as a de facto World’s Fair, they might incur the wrath of the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE), the governing body of official World’s Fairs.

While the idea seems quaint today, losing World’s Fair privileges caused a great deal of consternation during the second half of the 20th century. Amusingly, the 1964 New York World’s Fair faced the same issues since it too was unsanctioned. The bylaws of the BIE stated that such events could only last for a year. New York’s event actually ran for parts of 1964 and 1965. Meanwhile, the World Showcase at EPCOT Center would remain open constantly. That was one of the core concepts of the facility. The BIE rattled its saber about severe punishment for countries who stepped out of line. At the time, their threats had some teeth.

Bureaucracy of that sort was only a small part of the problem, though. Actual political bureaucracy was a larger problem. Every potential country needed to garner the favor of a majority of their elected officials when applicable or royalty/unelected rulers in other cases. That task is never easy in any day or age.

Even when governing bodies agreed, they also needed to form alliances with popular businesses from their regions. Disney emphasized commercialization prior to the launch of the World Showcase. Without major corporations onboard, the stores wouldn’t seem aptly reflective of the countries they represented. While commerce was king, the negotiations also required a political stamp of approval. Imagine trying to get the American government to agree to an endeavor but also needing the approval of major corporations like Google, Facebook, and Apple. That’s far too many conflicting interests to bring together at once.

Finally, Disney just couldn’t win the public relations battle. While we all know and appreciate the legacy and importance of Epcot today, foreign governments of the mid-1970s didn’t understand the sales pitch well enough to waste political capital supporting it. Disney as a brand was already unimaginably popular worldwide, but EPCOT Center wasn’t selling Mickey Mouse at all. To the contrary, it was stubbornly standing apart from that image, instead highlighting international cultures. The potential countries didn’t understand why they needed that type of PR in what was up until very recently Florida swampland.

Disney’s blueprint for the World Showcase

Image: Disney

In 1975, Disney delivered a message to shareholders that brimmed with optimism. It highlighted all the eventual wonders of the World Showcase at EPCOT Center. Park planners believed that “the World Showcase will communicate the culture, heritage, history, technology, trade, tourism and future goals of the participating nations.” More than 40 years later, they’re largely right about what transpired. It was the getting there that hurt.

The shareholder message indicated a 1979 debut for the World Showcase. As you know, that was three years premature. And their original goals fell by the wayside. Disney announced:

“These dynamic structures will face each other across a Courtyard of Nations, where there will be an outdoor theater for performances by international celebrities and entertainment groups, and where parades, pageants and special events will be staged by entertainers from the participating nations.

“Although these national pavilions may vary in size, each will enjoy equal façade exposure to the guest. The entire complex will be tied together by a Disney people-moving system that will offer visitors a preview look into each attraction.

Image: Disney

“Unlike a world’s fair, it will offer participating countries a permanent installation for such features as themed restaurants and shops, product exhibits, industrial displays, cultural presentations, a trade center, and even special facilities for business meetings. A major part of each pavilion will be a Disney-designed ride or attraction which will give guests a foretaste of an actual visit to the country. National musical groups or other performing artists could present special entertainment on a continuing basis.”

As you flip through your mental rolodex about the validity of these claims, consider that Epcot does feature international celebrities and entertainment groups on a regular basis. They also have outdoor theater performances thanks to talented cast members. The Courtyard of Nations with “equal façade exposure” is also largely accurate. Many of the merchandising and cultural claims are also valid.

Where Disney loses points for prophecy is with the Disney-designed attractions. You can count on one hand the number of rides offered, and the situation only looks marginally better if you generously describe the outdated country-based films at some Pavilions as attractions, too. And while that might sound nitpicky, it underlines where Disney miscalculated the interest from foreign parties.

Wait, I thought this was free

A different part of Disney’s anticipated sales pitch is where they ceded any chance of enticing countries and international businesses to participate. From Disney’s perspective, they were building a permanent World’s Fair. One of the presumed aspects of the pavilions at such exhibits was that the participants all paid their own way.

In Disney’s estimation, “Each participating nation will be asked to provide the capital to cover the cost of designing, developing and constructing its attraction and/or ride and all exhibits, as well as the Pavilion itself. It will also have the responsibility for funding the housing for its employees in the International Village. Its land lease will cover the cost of maintaining the attraction for a minimum of ten years.”

They felt this request was perfectly reasonable, as it was in line with standard World’s Fair practices. The potential countries involved already didn’t like the idea of upsetting the BIE. Paying to have a tentpole Pavilion in central Florida made no sense to anyone. The Orlando of the mid-1970s wasn’t what it is today, the unofficial theme park tourist capital of planet Earth. Countries were already shaky on the premise. The fact that it came with a rather significant price tag proved to be the deal breaker.

Disney could have persuaded some countries right from the start if they hadn’t tried to stick these governments with the bill. That’s the explanation for why none of the 31 countries said yes. Disney had to use different methods to persuade them, and even those weren’t certain to work. As late as 1979, Disney warned shareholders that the World Showcase could open with only five nations as participants. That’s not much of a World Showcase. In fact, it’s barely half of the number of countries in Western Europe.

Sales pitch V2.0

After a firm rebuke from 31 different nations, Disney park planners faced a seemingly impossible challenge. They had to bring the vision of their dead founder to life in a way that would honor his memory. And they had to do it without the passionate support of any single nation. Corporate execs felt confident that if they could entice a couple of major countries to join the World Showcase, others would feel more pressure to join.

A new outline was created for the World Showcase that reflected the company’s desperation. While noting the lack of participants at the start, Disney explained to its shareholders that companies simply weren’t willing to spend money on a questionable tourist venture in a foreign country. 

Image: Disney

The World Showcase would still finance itself, though. Disney would target international businesses rather than governments. Park planners accepted that they’d aimed too high with their original outreach program. A handful of countries acknowledged that they were willing to participate in the World Showcase, even at the risk of incurring the wrath of the BIE. They would only do it for free, though.

The World Showcase needed a different revenue stream to survive. What park financiers started to do was reach out to potential countries. This new diplomacy mission simply required a head count of who would provide a definitive yes if Disney paid for everything.

Once they had those countries onboard, Disney reached out to some of the most prosperous corporations from said countries. They brokered deals to split revenue with any businesses willing to pay for some of the initial costs. One of the recurring issues when Disney opens new theme parks is that they run into cash-flow issues.

The best way to solve such financial woes is by finding interested parties to agree to joint revenue plans. It’s how Disney financed several of the 1964 New York World’s Fair programs before persuading the corporations to pay for the transportation of those attractions to Disneyland. Uncle Walt would have LOVED the ensuing World Showcase negotiations since they aptly represented his business skills (and those of his brother, Roy).

Nine Pavilions, 19 Sponsors

Image: Disney

When EPCOT Center debuted in 1982, the World Showcase included nine Pavilions, eight of which represented foreign countries. NO international government paid as much as a dime for these Pavilions. Disney still managed to offset part of the $800 million cost of EPCOT Center through partnership agreements with corporate entities. Here’s the list:

The United States Pavilion aka The American Adventure had sponsorship deals with American Express and Coca Cola. In lieu of mom and apple pie, those are the most obvious brands available. It’s interesting that Disney has negotiated long-term deals with Coca Cola AND Pepsi Cola over the years, too.

The United Kingdom Pavilion included three licensing and sponsorship agreements with Bass Export Ltd. (now known as Bass Brewery), Pringle of Scotland (a knitwear retailer), and Royal Doulton (glassware and collectibles).

The France Pavilion enjoyed the second largest number of sponsorships, one of which continues to pay dividends for foodies today. Barton & Guestier (winemakers), Guy Laroche (perfume and clothing manufacturers), Lanson Champagne, and The France Chefs all licensed deals with Disney. The France Chefs included Paul Bocuse, founder of the legendary cooking competition, the Bocuse d’Or. He and his family have also hosted one of Epcot’s finest restaurants, Les Chefs de France, which his son Jérôme continues to operate today.

The Japan Pavilion only managed one sponsor, but that vendor has proven incredibly lucrative over the years as well. Mitsukoshi, Inc. has run Mitsukoshi Department Store since the park’s inception, and the retail outlet maintains its status as arguably the most popular merchandising location at Epcot to this day. Fans of Kawaii get stars in their eyes when they think of its merchandise.  

The Italy Pavilion had two sponsors, and they were of the food and wine variety, a tactic that later became Epcot’s bread and butter. Alfredo, The Original of Rome aka L’ Originale Alfredo di Roma Ristorante traced its lineage back to the old country. It was there that Alfredo Di Lelio founded a restaurant bearing his name that has become an Italian staple over the past century. Epcot’s securing a central Floridian franchise was something of a coup, and they secured a 25-year contract. The restaurant remained open for exactly 25 years, as Alfredo refused to extend the deal. The other sponsor was Brolio/Ricasoli & Bersano Wines of Italy, the second oldest winery in the world.

The Germany Pavilion claimed the most sponsors. Five of them signed up for this endeavor. Bahlsen is a 19th century food producer whose products are still available at Epcot today. Beck’s Brewery, also known as Brauerei Beck and Co., provided the adult suds that made every day at the park feel like Oktoberfest. Wine also had representation thanks to Schmitt Söhne.

The other authentic cultural tie-in disguised as a sponsorship was Goebel. Their store would sell the finest products, and artisans would occasionally personalize them for Disney tourists. While their products are still available, the store is now a Werther’s. Hutschenreuther joined Goebel in selling products befitting German heritage with their line of Bavarian porcelain.

Finally, the Mexico Pavilion also followed the food and wine path. Moctezuma Brewery was always one of the most popular breweries in the world, eventually winding up as a purchase of Heineken International during the 21st century. The other sponsor was unique. It was the entire San Angel Inn construction, including the building as well as the stores and restaurants inside. It’s effectively a theme park mirror of the very real property in Mexico City.

Neither Canada nor China had sponsors for their pavilions in 1982, showing that Disney wasn’t always able to broker a deal. The fact that several of these sponsorships lasted for decades wasn’t accidental, and it directly leads to Disney’s expansion problems that followed. Let’s discuss them now.

The second wave

As early as 1979, Disney brokered deals with countries that still don’t have a presence at the World Showcase. Oddly, some of those negotiations completed successfully, only to fall apart later. Sometimes, the blame was Disney’s. On other occasions, the governments of the potentially joining countries changed or the corporations financially backing them backed out of a completed agreement.

In a specific instance, nobody could have foreseen the collapse of the deal. The implosion of the deal was…whose name would go first in a multi-country pavilion agreement. That’s a real thing that happened and the perfect example of how much turmoil EPCOT Center park planners faced in putting together the World Showcase as we know it.

Perhaps we can learn the most about why certain pavilions failed to materialize from the ones that arrived after EPCOT Center’s debut. Once the World Showcase opened on October 1, 1982, Disney had proof of concept for the next wave of countries desiring their own pavilions.

Park planners could show the revenue stream available to corporations willing to sign sponsorship agreements. They could also use the current nine pavilions as proof that EPCOT Center would boost tourism for the participating countries. This thought process is the reason why Disney accepted that they didn’t need financial backing from the original nine. They felt they could give away the first nine in exchange for paying members later. Once non-participating countries saw the benefits, Disney felt confident that these governments would more readily open their wallets.

Was Disney right? Well, they went two for everyone else…

And then there were ten.

I’m going to blur the timeline a bit here to discuss the first two additions to the World Showcase since they’re instrumental to understanding what Disney sought in their negotiations. As you may know, Morocco became the tenth participant in 1984, less than two years after EPCOT Center opened. It was the first pavilion to possess the business arrangement that Disney execs desired.

King Hassan II of Morocco ruled his country from 1961 until his death in 1999. The son of Sultan Mohammed V, he and his father led Morocco for 90 years, an absolutely staggering statistic. Despite the longevity of their rule, King Hassan II was only a decade removed from a coup attempt by his Minister of Defense when EPCOT Center opened. As a way to secure his perception in western civilization, the Moroccan ruler decided to construct a pavilion at Walt Disney World.

From Disney’s perspective, the human rights record of King Hassan II was problematic, but a Morocco Pavilion embodied Walt Disney’s vision for a permanent World’s Fair. Their culture and heritage is catnip to North Americans, and so they overlooked the potential political ramifications. It helped that the country’s ruler had sided with the United States, negating the potential public outcry at the time.

Best of all, King Hassan II was a billionaire. People only suspected this during the early 1980s, but it’s since been confirmed that he was one of the richest men who ever lived. The Moroccan ruler willingly paid for the entirety of the Morocco Pavilion. He cared about the project in a way that Disney had always hoped that every country would.

The son of the Sultan shipped dozens of his finest artisans to Orlando. Their sole purpose was to create a pavilion befitting the people of Morocco. The building itself features a minaret that would seem perfectly at home in Marrakesh. That’s because they used a real one as the inspiration. The famous commerce of Morocco also received special attention at the pavilion. The thematic Bazaar is the merchandising capital of the facility.

The current version of the Morocco Pavilion, still at least somewhat overseen by the Moroccan government, varies little from its original setup. That’s a tribute to the reverence the Moroccan people displayed in providing westerners with an authentic replication of their culture. More than any other pavilion at Epcot, this one exemplifies what Disney wanted and expected from the World Showcase. Each pavilion should accurately display a country’s heritage, and said country should pay for everything.

And then there were eleven

The Norway Pavilion has certainly received the most attention of any World Showcase participant in recent years. That’s due to a little film called Frozen. The ramifications of the most popular animated movie of all-time still ripple through Epcot today, but the early days of this project went exactly as Disney had hoped for all participants.

The government of Norway felt that their nation suffered from a tourism problem, particularly with North Americans. They carefully monitored the World Showcase during its early days and watched with more than curiosity when Morocco expanded the park in 1984. At this point, Norway’s deciders chose to jump in with both feet. History has justified their decision a thousand fold due to the Frozen factor, but it was already a great idea during the 1980s.

Due to the Norwegian government’s desire to add their presence to the World Showcase, Disney brokered another strong deal. The people of Norway invested at least $33 million in an endeavor that cost…$33 million. The Mouse House once again added new selling points to their park without spending much money. No less than the Crown Prince of Norway backed the project. The unmistakable conclusion is that Disney eventually realized that royal governments were less mercurial than ones with constantly rotating rulers.

The Norway Pavilion was once again close to what Disney park planners intended with the World Showcase. The Norwegian government itself couldn’t fund the entire project. Instead, they sought donations from corporations within the country to secure the requisite funding. Disney wound up with an entire government and a consortium of corporations tethered to the pavilion. It was again the most beneficial possible arrangement for them. If you’d like to read additional details, here’s an excellent newspaper article from 1988.

This all seems great! Why did the pavilions stop?

Image: Disney

By telling this story out of order, I’ve shown you exactly how the process looks from Disney’s side. With the first 31 requests, they faced sound rejection. Every possible country swiped left. Then, when Disney offered to pay, nine countries expressed the marginal interest needed to proceed. After those pavilions all worked well, EPCOT Center officials enticed two other countries not just to participate but also to pay for everything.

Your confusion at this moment is understandable. If Disney could broker deals like this, why wouldn’t they continue? No downside exists to a deal where one party boosts the appeal of their park while the other pays for everything. Alas, it was never that easy.

What I’ve detailed are the “success” stories, some of which required a great deal of Disney coercion and hefty financial outlays from the corporation. The other side of the equation involves the failed negotiations. A shocking number of these exist. Let’s start with Israel, a country who actually signed a contract to join Epcot. Does that surprise you? Would you be shocked to learn that Disney sent out a press release trumpeting this agreement? It’s absolutely true.

Here’s the pertinent text from the 1981 statement: “The Venezuelan pavilion joins a number of countries and areas of the world scheduled for addition to the eight inaugural World Showcase nations. They include: Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, the United Kingdom and Canada. Venezuela, the State of Israel and Equatorial Africa are among the Phase II pavilions planned.”

Yes. Wait, no. Well, maybe. Whose name will go first?

That last sentence likely confused you so much that you had to read it again. It’s not your imagination, though. All of those pavilions were close enough to construction that Disney felt ready to announce them to the press. None of them wound up breaking ground. What went wrong? A little bit of everything is the depressing answer.

Nervous members of Disney’s board expressed concerns about Israel’s presence. EPCOT Center was supposed to grow the Walt Disney World brand by encouraging even more tourists to head to central Florida. The presence of an Israel Pavilion sadly caused worry about terrorism. Even 35 years ago, park planners fretted over security concerns involving EPCOT Center, as did federal investigators.

While the rich history of the Israeli people seemed like a wonderful augmenting of the World Showcase, park officials believed that the best case scenario for the Israel Pavilion would involve frequent protests. Disney never officially updated the public on this venture, but their fears were later validated, at least somewhat, in 1999. The Arab League called for a boycott of Epcot due to its 18-month Millennium Village addition, which included a temporary Israel Pavilion.

As for Venezuela, they joined Spain on the list of countries with governments who longed to add a presence at EPCOT Center. Both countries paid the $500,000 required to design blueprints for a pavilion, a Disney requirement for potential Phase II participants. Alas, their governments changed hands or lost influence and financial flexibility around this timeframe, causing current or new regimes to back away entirely.

The heartbreak here is that the blueprints for these pavilions are available online. If you decide to look at them, you’ll note that Venezuela would have featured an aerial tram that guides you through the rainforest. Spain’s blueprints were even more ambitious. They included two attractions, which is double what any current pavilion possesses. Those aren’t even the most tantalizing plans, though.

Switzerland Pavilion artwork

Image: Disney

When Norway struggled to come up with the $30 million required, other countries from the region pounced on the idea of a pavilion representing several countries. Once Norway’s corporations found the money, Switzerland’s government plotted their own pavilion. They didn’t want to cede tourism to Norway. One of the most exciting plans ever for the World Showcase almost became a reality. The Switzerland Pavilion would have included a Walt Disney World version of The Matterhorn.

Perhaps the strangest collapse of a deal is the one I referenced earlier. Disney announced an Equatorial Africa Pavilion in 1980. The Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Senegal all agreed to join forces for a joint pavilion. Each one signed paperwork, and the economics of the agreement weren’t an issue. The reason this pavilion doesn’t exist today is infuriating.

The countries squabbled over whose name should go first on the various listings. All three of them would enjoy equal representation and a windfall of tourism from the agreement. Jingoism prevented that from happening. Unreasonable national pride led to all parties walking away, leaving Disney execs feeling bitter about the experience.

In fact, let’s examine the situation from Disney’s perspective. It’ll enlighten you on why the World Showcase has remained static for the body of three decades. After originally going 0-for-31 in persuading countries to join, Disney finally got nine to play along…as long as Disney paid.

After these nations agreed, others changed their stance, at least slightly. Over the course of a decade, Disney entered negotiations with Costa Rica, Denmark, Iran, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Russia, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Eleven countries currently have a presence at the World Showcase. That’s *12* others Disney desperately worked to add to the park, failing in each instance. Out of those missing dozen, only Israel isn’t there due to Disney’s choice.

Why are there no new World Showcase pavilions? Getting 11 was such a nightmare that it’s completely understandable why Disney eventually just gave up.