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.

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