Friday, October 26, 2012

Disney That Never Was: Switzerland and the Matterhorn

It is always a Disney tradition for there to be a certain landscape within the parks. This landscape revolves around the "mountain" region, or a mountainous weenie, as Walt called them, to draw people further into each land. Consider Magic Kingdom and its mountain dominated landscape: Space Mountain draws guests into the heart of Tomorrowland, and Big Thunder and Splash Mountains draw guests to the back corner of the park, through Adventureland and Frontierland. Even Animal Kingdom has Expedition Everest, which clearly draws guests through Animal Kingdom to the rear of the park. Believe it or not, there was once a concept that would leave Hollywood Studios as the only park without a mountain? Ok, true this is incorrect, and we will see why, but it is strange to think.

One of the ideas as an addition to World Showcase in and around 1989 was to create a Swiss Pavilion, that would sell cuckoo clocks, and Swiss chocolate (Swiss Miss hot cocoa anyone?) as well as add that distinct Swiss flair within the World Showcase. One of the real reasons for this addition is the ability to add the Matterhorn Bobsled to Walt Disney World. This attraction, which debuted in Disneyland in 1959 would serve as the weenie that would draw guests to the back of World Showcase, possibly located near the now Outpost. The mountain would have the coaster within, and an appearance by the legendary Yeti (anyone guess why this idea is completely out now?)

The legendary Matterhorn Mountain would serve as a suitable and appropriate backdrop to the pavilion as Disney prides itself on making each EPCOT pavilion as realistic as possible. It had been released in the Orlando Sentinel in May of 1989 that the Swiss government had approved the proposed plans, and would provide $10 million dollars funding, contingent on the approval by the Swiss population to match the $10 million the government had proposed to pay. This would have made the Swiss pavilion one of the few funded by the government in which it was replicating. The question we all must ask is, what happened here? It sounded like a done deal. It sounded too good to be true. Evidently, it was.

The Switzerland Pavilion never saw the light of day, and in fact only few stills and artist renderings actually exist to even prove that the concept existed. If we look into the timing of the whole project it might be easier to see what went wrong. This announcement and development began in 1989, around the time of the Disney/MGM Studios opening. As it is known, Michael Eisner believed MGM Studios to be a half-day park, and as such created in that image. As guests flocked, it became apparent that more needed to be added to the park to convert it into a more full day experience. This led to the opening of MuppetVision 3D and the eventual construction of Sunset Blvd. These ideas seemed to leave Disney with no extra cash, or resources (Imagineers, construction workers, time) to complete this project, and like all the World Showcase Pavilions, left behind to wonder. As it is now, there is virtually no chance of this pavilion being developed as Disney opened its Matterhorn attraction in Florida by ways of the Expedition Everest attraction in Animal Kingdom. Announced on April, 23 2003 and opened roughly three years later on April 9, 2006, the attraction features the Yeti and follows the similar story arc. It it understood that though it is not a "bobsled" coaster, its design has made the idea of moving the actual Matterhorn attraction to Walt Disney World a moot point. Thus, the Switzerland concept with its majestic Matterhorn will stay where it has for the past 20 years. On a piece of paper and a country's dream. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Fantasyland to have Soft-Openings Beginning Today!

As of this morning, it appears as though guests were treated to a surprise as the gates to New Fantasyland have been open, and soft-openings have begun. This is a bit of a surprise as it was thought that the Annual Passholder openings in early November would be the first days that guests could view the new land. Obviously, this is a big story, as many of us, including myself, have been covering and following this construction since its initial announcement. Stay tuned for news regarding the opening, including reactions from both guests and enthusiasts alike. I will be down there at the end of next month, just prior to the official December 6th opening, so I hope to have many photos and thoughts about the area.

In other news:

Splash Mountain to Go Down for Lengthy Rehab

The Disney Company has officially announced that Splash Mountain will go down for refurbishment from January 2nd until roughly March 20th. This is longer than the usual one month refurbishment, which leads many in the community to believe that this rehab might be the one where many of the issues that have been left off previous rehabs finally gets looked at. This tender, love and care is necessary when we look at issues like the turned off jumping fountains in the laughing place, and other issues with the unsynchronized music and dialogue within the mountain. This is something that I have spoken about recently, and it seems that Disney is realizing the need to have this attraction at peak condition. With the closure of Big Thunder Mountain last winter, and the track update and extensive refurbishment done there, it was rumored that this year would be reserved the time for Splash Mountain and its numerous needs. This appears to be happening, and though two and a half months of closure is long, it is necessary and welcomed by all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

EPCOT's 30th Anniversary

October 1st marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of EPCOT Center. This date is not only important in the history of the Disney Company, but also important in American popular culture. This date marked the culmination of thoughts from Walt Disney, and the company's ability to make as much of that vision come to life as possible. As we move into the 30th year that the park has been open, there are changes on the horizon (no pun intended) with the refurbishment of Test Track under way. The question now becomes: what else needs to be done? We know that EPCOT is certainly still a popular park, and as Food and Wine begins, the park has reached its own peak season. As we look around Future World, there seems to be things necessary to the future of the park that are in need of expansion. Looking at a few we see:

1. Wonders of Life- It may be time to make a decision regarding this pavilion. It is working right now as a special event locale, but if there is a need for attraction expansion, this is the most likely space. There have been construction demolition papers made up regarding this space, but that does not mean the entire pavilion is being demolished, unless there are structural issues. 

2. Universe of Energy- Even though Ellen is still a popular draw, it seems that it may be time to do something with this attraction, especially the 45 minute length.

3. Journey into Imagination with Figment- This has been worked on the last few years, although nothing really major, it is time for the attraction to be overhauled. It is interesting, if this was still the original Journey, we likely may not be having this conversation. Alas, this needs to be done.

4. Captain EO- The appeal is running out, as many people ho remember it from their childhood or younger days have returned to Disney to see it already, and now its attendance is fleeting. A new 3D attraction might be looked into in the near future. 

5. Spaceship Earth- I have ranted about this in the past, and it is time for Siemens to fix a mistake. Rumors swirl that the old future AA's are hidden behind the curtains on the descent, it is time to at least open it up and restart them. 

6. Soarin'- Though this is a rather new attraction, it would become much more fitting if they swapped the California film with either a Florida or a United States film. It has been said that the films could easily swap out, and it might be time.

As EPCOT hits 30, it is certainly an important time for the park, and now that the anniversary has passed, it might be time to look into refurbishing attractions that have run their course and might need, in some cases, slight upgrades. Some cases are unfortunately in need of full attractions. But for now, Happy 30th EPCOT, and many more!!!