Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Disney that Never Was: EPCOT's Time Racers

It's been a bit since this series has been brought out so it seems appropriate to look back once again. With the summer winding down, and the time for relaxing ending we find ourselves wishing that we had a time machine that could return us to the beginning of the summer. A return to some type of relaxation, and respite. With that in mind we looked into that theory of time travel, and the link it has to Walt Disney World. Surprisingly, there is a connection.

In the early 2000's, there was a push by imagineering to make significant changes to EPCOT's Future World. As Disney fans know, Future World has been mired in an identity crisis since the mid 1990's with the attempts to change it from an educational area to a more thrill related space. With that concept in mind Disney imagineers came up with the Project Gemini  idea. Project Gemini focused on the addition of thrill attractions to EPCOT. In the coming weeks we will look at Project Gemini more closely, but for now lets look at the attraction at the center of that concept; Time Racers.

The Time Racers project laid claim to the area within Spaceship Earth, effectively ending the Spaceship Earth dark ride focusing on communication. Rumors persist that the EPCOT icon would have a new sponsor, Microsoft, and would call for the complete gutting of the icon, and the addition of a steel roller coaster within. This coaster would be themed around the idea of time travel, with projection screens whizzing past featuring images that remind guests of time travel. (Think Rock 'N' Roller Coaster for inspiration) The concept called for the icon of the park to no longer be a family friendly attraction, but an action packed thrill seekers dream. This plan was looked into and green lit for planning in 2006, which would have made its completion date somewhere in the year 2009 or so. Though not much more of the concept is known, many have speculated that the AT&T Global neighborhood would remain, and the queue line would remain as it is today; outside and underneath the well known structure.

The question then remains: what ever happened to Project Gemini? Why was this upgrade never accomplished nor even attempted? The answer lies in two places: nostalgia and money, with the latter playing the bigger role. The idea of Discoveryland showed great potential, but the over $500 million dollar cost proved to be too expensive for the Disney upper management, as was the idea of making the drastic changes that would have changed the very fabric of EPCOT. Also a manor concern that imagineers had was how to construct a roller coaster within the Spaceship Eart geosphere, as well as whether the supports could hold The real question that needs to be asked is what the thoughts would have been if this upgrade would have taken place.

Keeping in mind that Spaceship Earth was an iconic attraction, what would the ramifications have been if the original concept was changed ? The one thing that struck me was the fact that while this was being discussed, the Wonders of Life Pavilion was being emptied. The rest of Project Gemini called for only "future expansion" meaning simply that there was not a plan in place for the closed pavilion.

As an attraction I think Time Racers certainly would have been an exciting addition to the EPCOT attraction lineup. The issue does not seem to be the type of attraction it was, but more based on vs planned location. A roller coaster of such mag other would have made EPCOTt the place to be for thrill seekers if they would have found a better place for it. Unfortunately, the decision was made, and Time Racers never saw an opening day. As a result Siemens took over the sponsorship of Spaceship Earth, and made major changes to the descent of the attraction which has become a point of complaint for many Disney fans. (You can read my opinions about this refurbishment in Ranting and Raving) This however may have been a change that would be looked at as even more controversial.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

SpectroMagic Gone for Good

I apologize for the lateness of such a big news story, but as it was breaking I was in Walt Disney World and really unable to do it justice.

After all the rumors and the carrots telling us that Disneyworld's beloved SpectroMagic parade would be returning to grace Main Street USA at night, we have been let down and hopes have been dashed. Disney announced last week that not only would the parade not be returning, but that many of the floats have already been dismantled and destroyed. This is a huge blow, as many of us had been reporting that the parade was originally set to return this summer , than maybe this fall or after the holidays. Alas, this was all just a rouse and the return it seems will not be happening.

Rumors began moving around in early July that the parade had been destroyed, and Disney had denied that this was the case. What we have found out is that the decision on the parade was actually made by the Florida weather, as many of the floats had begun to deteriorate due to mold and weathering. It is a sad ending to a once great parade, and many people are lamenting the fact that they either never were able to see it, or were unaware when they last saw it that they would not be seeing it again.

On a personal note, I was not upset by the move to Main Street Electrical initially because it was the parade I grew up watching, but I also was led to believe it was a temporary change. This certainly made my happiness over being able to see it grow as my trip fell when It would be operational during Summer Nightastic in 2010. Once I had seen Main Street Electrical, I found myself longing for the days of SpectroMagic. The music, the floats became iconic to me and I hoped that I would see it again. It is sad to see it go but at least we have the memories, and YouTube.

Imagination Pavilion to Close?

It has been a swirling rumor, that Disney will not confirm nor deny that the Imagination Pavilion will be closing to the public in January 2014. This rumor has strong ties to the belief that Disney is looking to make remodeled changes to the EPCOT pavilions that have not received much TLC in the past few years. As it stands, the pavilion today is in a state of disarray, with an uncoordinated theme, a long time between refurbishments to its main attraction, and a loss of sponsorship and post show.

As it stands today, the rumor is that the pavilion will close, be cleaned and refurbished inside and out, with a change of attraction, and 3D show. There is thoughts that Phineas and Ferb will find their way into the pavilion in some capacity, though many traditionalists would much rather see them involved in the 3D theater. There is a rumor that an update of the original Journey into Imagination may find its way back into the pavilion, but that cannot be determined at this point. All that we know now is that Captain EO will be put back into the archives, and the current version of Journey into your Imagination, with Professor Nigel Channing, will also be changed.

The question here is what do the fans want? What are Disney enthusiasts thinking in terms of an update here? As it is already a known thought, this pavilion, among others, is in desperate need of an update. Though this news comes as a positive for the park, we cannot forget the past, and the past for this plot of land as well. It is well documented and remembered by Disney fans of the past how this pavilion went by the wayside after the 1999 refurbishment, and even the change a year later was not enough to make us forget. It will be a long few months before we know anything, unless Disney decides to clue us in at the D23 Expo. Hopefully there is more to come in the next few weeks on this as it is a hot topic.