09 July 2014

Have You Ever Looked Beyond Today

A couple of nights ago I had a dream. I had arrived at Epcot early, waiting for rope drop. It was one of those dead times of year, late January or something along those lines, and crowds were extremely light. When the park opened I walked right through the park, took a left, and walk straight up the hill and into Horizons. I took my time, meandered amongst the mirrored travel posters, and then boarded my Horizons 1 shuttle to depart for the future. There were no lines, so I was able to stay on my ride vehicle and ride through a couple of times. I woke up as I exited the building. At first my heart was full, but then that fullness became a heaviness in my chest as I realized this was just a dream that could never be a reality.

But do you want to know something? I’m okay with that.

No, this isn’t a speech about how Walt Disney always wanted his parks to continually evolve, and how in support of that belief I like to see continual change in the parks. Instead, let’s talk about human nature for a few moments. It is, in the very fiber of our beings to fight change all the while searching for something better. In other words, if Epcot were to have never removed or refurbished old attractions, it would likely have fallen off of vacationers’ radars by now for someplace far more grand. So, it adapts to survive. Am I okay with all the changes I’ve seen in the park over the last 30 some-odd years? Well, we’ll get to that.

What I cherish about Horizons being closed and only able to visit it through videos and dreams is the fact that it is complete. What I mean is that there will never be another change to Horizons, and we can only examine it from a historical perspective and gleam bits of wisdom from what we find there. Seeing where scientists and storytellers thought we would be by now, and comparing the ‘what might have been’ against the ‘what really happened.’ But it doesn’t stop there. You can also explore the manner in which Imagineers put the attraction together, from track systems and layout to storytelling tools such as IMAX screens, scenes filled Audio-Animatronics, and previous videos from the futures of yesterday. There is a lot to explore and understand about Horizons, and that is never going to change, only our perception and understanding of what it was can.

I enjoy reading and viewing documentaries on the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. I was never able to visit, never able to set foot on the first Ferris Wheel, marvel at the White City, take in the overwhelming number of artifacts presented, or engage in the fun and debauchery of the Midway. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t lived it vicariously or stopped studying about it in the hopes that I will find or learn something new, and most of the time I do find something new to get excited about. Horizons, and EPCOT Center as a whole for that matter, can be see through very much the same lens.

Here’s where I get up on my high-horse a little bit though. Horizons didn’t have a post-show to speak of, but many of the attractions in Future World did. They weren’t the post-shows we have today, filled with new technologies, but ultimately just places to burn a little bit of time. They found ways to engage guests, young and old, and give them a glimpse of what was coming in the next few years. Even if the best guesses of Imagineers and scientist ended up being incorrect, they instilled in each of us with a sense of bigger changes that we could be a part of. EPCOT Center, and Horizons specifically, spoke to the history of the world and humankind, showing us where we had been and where we could be going. That feel, for me, is not present in the current incarnation of Epcot.

The two lone standouts against this plight are Spaceship Earth and Living With the Land. Of course, that means there is hope for tomorrow’s children. Eventually, I believe Epcot will return to its roots, and find a way to blend the very best tools available for storytelling and given each pavilion, whether focused on energy, transportation, space travel, imagination, or any other conceivable topic, a story worth getting excited about.

My children will never step foot inside the spacecraft looking building that housed Horizons. They will never smell the loranges of Mesa Verde. They will never choose their own flight path back to the FuturePort. They will, however, know about Horizons and hopefully dream of it the way I dream of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. As for me, I’ll never ride along those tracks again myself either, but as we are the collection of our own experiences, it will always be a part of me. However it has given me a dream, and my dream for my children is that Epcot will become a better version of itself, taking the best parts of its yesterdays and tomorrows, so that my children's experiences there will become a part of them and lead them to become better people in the world they inherit.

What was it that Horizons used to advocate to us, “If we can dream it, then we can do it…”


Anonymous said...

I can relate. I spent hours on line to see the remains of the NY State Pavilion, even though I wasn't born until over a decade after the 1964-65 World's Fair closed.
I've obsessed over the maps and pictures. With a flux capacitor, I could even be a pretty good tour guide there. But I know that if the Fair had never closed, it would be a sad shell of what was there originally.

Dan said...

I'm such a fan of Horizons, though I do understand what you say about it being great that it was never changed. We've seen what they've done with Imagination.

I would still love to go back to EPCOT in the '80s or even as recent as '94 before World of Motion closed. The 1964-1965 Worlds Fair is definitely an even that I would have loved to see.