Sunday, August 7, 2011

History of WDW: The Wonders of Life Pavilion

Part of the Epcot family since October 19th 1989, The Wonders of Life pavilion showed guests the amazing scientific phenomenon that is the human body. An original Epcot concept, the Wonders of Life spent over 5 years on the drawing table, mostly looking for a corporate sponsor willing to take on the costs of the construction and upkeep. That sponsor was found in MetLife. The Wonders of Life pavilion, though hidden by trees and landscaping was easily spotted by its 75 foot tall double helix statue made to resemble a DNA chain, as well as its creative gold geodesic roof. The pavilion housed more attractions than most of the other Epcot pavilions of its time. Attractions like Body Wars, Cranium Command, Goofy about Health and The Making of Me were the major marquees of the building. Each followed the theme of exploration the human body, and each did it in a different way.

Body Wars took guests on a bumpy and thrilling ride within the human body was a way to present the inner anatomy and show guests what it would be like to be inside of our own blood stream. Using the same technology that Disney used in creating the Star Tours simulator guests were taken on a queasy and more violent trip than any Star Tours fans could ever remember. Directed by Star Trek alum Lenord Nimoy, guests were shrunk to the size of a single cell by actor Tim Matheson. Along for the ride is Dr Cynthia Lair, (a young Elizabeth Shue) which as you all know does not go according to plan. After entering the body from a splinter, guests were introduced to Dr. Lair as she was swept up by the blood stream. Craziness insues as guests witness a race against time, a power loss that can only be rectified by traveling to the brain, and a last second escape. Though a popular ride in it's day, Body Wars lost it's appeal as it aged because of it's violent trip and lack of a refurbishments.

Cranium Command took guests through a day in the life of a twelve year old boy. As we meet General Knowledge and his "Cranium Commandos" in the presume we realize that these commandos' job is to direct the mind of the humans and control the body functions. As a small and unknown commando Buzzy (voiced by Scott Curtis) is given a twelve year old, we see just how hard dealing with beig a child really is. Having to control this all-star cast of organs, Buzzy must carefully monitor the heart (voiced by Jon Lovitz and Charles Grodin) the adrenal gland, (Bobcat Goldthwait) the stomach,(George Wendt) the bladder, (Jeff Doucette) the hearts ventricles (Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey playing their famous Hans and Franz routine) and the hypothalamus(Kirk Wise). Each poses its own issue from being hungry, to sweating profusely and almost heart palpitations, Buzzy struggles to control the boy throughout the show until the end as he finally gets all the organs to work together. With an audio animatronic Buzzy, and different screens for each character, the show was an instant hit, run it the entire time of the pavilion. As time passed however the attraction dated itself because of it's actors and their popularity (many children did not know the Hans and Franz routine on the mid 90's or really knew the show Cheers any more) this led to a loss in popularity towards the end.

The last major part of the pavilion was The Making of Me. Narrated by Martin Short, the show demonstrated how life is created and childbirth works. Because of its topic there was an advisory sign posted outside to warn parents of the theme of the show. This attraction was not a huge draw in the pavilion as it had a topic that was known as "not Disney friendly".

MetLife dropped it's sponsorship of the pavilion in 2001, which led to the pavilion to eventually run on a seasonal schedule by 2004. The pavilion officially closed on January 1, 2007 after operating seasonally for three years. As it stands now the pavilion is used generally for Epcot's Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden festivals. The building inside and out has been gutted of what made it a special place in the early 90's and now looks generic. It is the first, and right now only Epcot pavilion to close without a new attraction or theming to replace it. It's closure was blamed more on the attractions that quickly dated themselves rather than the lost sponsorship. As of today many guests and Disney enthusiasts are waiting for some legitimate refurbishment to this pavilion as it still stand and is still usable. It's immense size and scope allows for attractions to be put within it. Is the future bright for this empty pavilion, or are we just hoping and dreaming for a miracle?

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