When EPCOT Center opened on October 24, 1982, it had the same two sections we know today: Future World and World Showcase. The park was dedicated by E. Cardon Walker, the CEO of Disney.
“Epcot Center is inspired by Walt Disney’s creative genius. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, the wonders of enterprise, and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire. And, above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”
Future World displayed concepts of the future to guests, showcased new technology, and celebrated the power of brainpower. The original goal was for companies to sponsor different pavilions. As Epcot grew older, companies stopped renewing their contracts and today many pavilions do not have sponsors.
FUTURE WORLD THEMES
In Future World, there were nine pavilions to visit in the first several years of the parks. They represented:
- ecosystems and nutrition
- creativity and imagination
- the ocean
- the body
- the future
Epcot was thought of as a permanent World’s Fair. Each pavilion was supposed to have a variety of attractions to entertain guests. Jack Linquist, the senior vice president in 1982, said
“One of the things that will mark EPCOT Center as adult-oriented is that it will be more complicated and take longer to absorb than anything at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. The Land Pavilion might take up to four hours to work one’s way through it.”
Epcot was called EPCOT Center until 1994. The “EPCOT” was capitalized because it is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. In 1994, the name was changed to Epcot ’94, and in 1995 it was changed to Epcot ’95. From 1996 to 2019, Epcot was simply called “Epcot”. In 2020, Disney announced a name change to EPCOT.
Each of the original pavilions had a logo, which was used widely across advertisements, Epcot, and in the rides. These logos were almost completely removed from the park, until the recent 2019 announcements to the park.
1. Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth is located inside of the geodesic sphere at the front entrance of the park. The theme of this attraction is actually communication, which may surprise you to hear at first. But, think about it. The attraction is all about how humans first learned to communicate with each other using words and symbols. Then, you learn about how records were kept using books, and how the printing press was created. Later you see when computers were made, and how that technology progressed.
The attraction was originally sponsored by Bell/AT&T (fitting for the communication theme), but was later sponsored by Siemens. This sponsorship ended in 2017. Spaceship Earth is one of the most classic attractions at all of Epcot and is the symbol of the park.
This pavilion may not be familiar to you. Communicore was later rebranded as Innoventions! Communicore had a similar concept: it had changing exhibits on technology sponsored by private companies. The official theme was innovation. The pavilion originally had a focus on educating guests about computers. A feature exhibit was a tour through EPCOT Computer Central which was the computer hub of Epcot that ran almost everything in the park. Communicore was branded as the “Main Street of ideas and innoventions”. Similar to Main Street U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom, Communicore was the entrance to Epcot and set the stage for the park.
There was a planned exhibit that would use the second floor to house a PeopleMover that would allow riders to see all of the attractions in Communicore. In 1994, Communicore was rebranded as Innoventions but remained focused on educating guests about new technology and science.
3. Universe of Energy
This pavilion featured [ 🙁 ] a moving theater that could take eighty people through the pavilion. Originally, the attraction was sponsored by Exxon. Originally, Exxon wanted the pavilion to focus primarily on fossil fuels, however Disney worked out a balance between fossil fuels and renewable energy. In 1989, the pavilion closed to remove the preshow film that referenced an Exxon tanker after a huge oil spill. The official theme of the pavilion was energy.
In 1996, Disney revamped the attraction and named it Ellen’s Energy Crisis, later changing that name to Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Ellen DeGeneres was the narrator and star of the story. Exxon dropped its sponsorship in 2004. Sadly, this pavilion is yet another classic Epcot pavilion that has been lost. This attraction took you through the ages of dinosaurs and taught guests about energy including solar power, fossil fuels, wind power, and more. Bill Nye the Science Guy also made an appearance.
4. World of Motion
This is another attraction that may ring a bell, but you can’t figure out why. It was the predecessor to Test Track! This pavilion was sponsored by General Motors. It was a dark ride with 30 different scenes in that displayed all types of transportation, from the first steps taken to the first traffic jam. The song “It’s Fun to be Free” played throughout the ride. Guests boarded omnimover vehicles that would go outside in the open entrance of the pavilion before spiraling up a ramp around a column and entering the second floor
In 1996, it was closed and replaced by Test Track. Test Track took guests through the “vehicle testing process”. In 2012, it was revamped and is now sponsored by Chevrolet, a division of GM. The building for both transportation pavilions remained the same, and is meant to look like a wheel from an airplane view!
5. The Land Pavilion
This pavilion was developed and sponsored by Kraft, and later switched sponsorship to Nestle. It was meant to represent the development of agriculture and food technology. It housed several attractions and restaurants. Symbiosis was a twenty minute film that explored technological progress in the environment between people and the land. In 1995 it was replaced with Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable which featured characters from the Lion King. This attraction closed in 2018.
Kitchen Kabaret, later replaced with Food Rocks, was an audio-animatronics stage show. Many fondly remember the Kitchen Kabaret by the song “Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit”. In 1992, Nestle took over sponsorship of the pavilion and its three attractions were revamped. In 2004, Food Rocks was demolished to make way for the new ride Soarin’.
Listen to the Land was a narrated boat ride that sailed through different environments and food growing areas. The ride was narrated by a Cast Member at the head of the boat, and a popular song “Listen to the Land” was heard here. The original names of the greenhouses were Tropics House, Aquacell, Desert House, Production House, and Creative House. In 1983 the ride was renamed to Living with the Land, which kept live narrators until 2008.
The revolving restaurant is original to the Land Pavilion, but has changed names various times. It opened as the Good Turn Restaurant until 1986, was renamed Land Grille Room until 1993, and has been Garden Grille since then. Much of the food served here comes from the greenhouse in the pavilion.
The Imagination pavilion opened in 1983. Its theme was creativity and imagination. It was hosted by Kodak from 1983 to 2010. The original ride was called Journey Into Imagination. It was a slow moving omnimover ride that was hosted by two characters, Dreamfinder and Figment. Dreamfinder and Figment explored different areas of imagination. The tune “One Little Spark” played throughout the ride.
In 1998 the ride closed and reopened as Journey Into Your Imagination. This ride failed to feature Dreamfinder and barely featured Figment, and was revamped yet again in 2001 to Journey to Imagination with Figment.
Originally on the second floor of the pavilion was Image Works. It was described as “the creative playground of the future”. It closed in 1999 and ImageWorks was moved to the downstairs space. The space was briefly used for the Kim Possible activity, but was left abandoned after that. Much of the old attractions were left in tact for many years. Today, this area is used as a DVC lounge (which we visited, thanks to a great friend!) but part of ImageWorks remains, and can only be seen to guests through a vent (so cool). Click here to read all about the abandoned ImageWorks.
7. The Living Seas Pavilion
The Living Seas pavilion, featuring what was the world’s largest aquarium at the time, opened in 1986. It was sponsored by United Technologies until 1998. Since then, it has not had a sponsor.
Inside the pavilion, guests saw a movie, took a Hydrolator ride down to “Seabase Alpha”, and rode Seacabs through the coral reef. Seabase Alpha had the similar coral, manatee, fish, and other exhibits that you see today. The Hydrolators were “elevators” you would take down to sea base. They didn’t actually move, the rock walls inside would just move up and there were special effects to make it feel like you were going down!
The Seacabs were an omnimover ride that took guests from the Hydrolators to Seabase Alpha. In 1998 United Technologies pulled out sponsorship, and in 2001, the Seacabs were taken away. Attendance in the pavilion dropped dramatically, until Finding Nemo was added in 2004.
8. Wonders of Life Pavilion
In 1989, Disney opened the Wonders of Life pavilion, featuring the resort’s first motion-simulator ride, Body Wars. The theme of this pavilion was life, health, and the human body. The pavilion was sponsored by Metropolitan Life Insurance from 1989-2000. This pavilion is a gold-shaped dome between Universe of Energy and Mission Space. You may have been in it for special events or festivals.
Body Wars was Epcot’s first height required thrill ride. It is similar to Star Tours today. In this ride, you entered a research facility and were shrunk down. You then traveled through a human body and had a mission to retrieve Dr. Lair, who was inside the body already. This ride was one of a kind at its time!
There were other attractions including Cranium Command, Fitness Fairgrounds, and Goofy About Healthy. Cranium Command was a show about Buzzy, an Audio-Animatronics Cranium Commando recruit. Guests entered the brain’s cortex, a theater meant to look like the inside of a mechanical brain. Fitness Fairgrounds was the central area of the pavilion. Many different attractions were here, including Goofy About Health, which showed clips of old Goofy shorts!
Other attractions included AnaComical Players, Wondercycles, Coach’s Corner, Met Lifestyle Review, Frontiers in Medicine, and the Sensory Funhouse.
That pavilion became seasonal in 2004, and closed permanently 2007 and is now used for special events. For many years, there were very visible reminders of the old purpose of the pavilion. The sign for Body Wars remained, and the ride was actually left in tact for many years. Today, Disney has all but cleared out the old traces of the ride and is repainting the gold dome.
Horizons opened in 1983 and closed in 1999. It was about living in the future as a family, and sponsored by General Electric. It applied Future World into one attraction by incorporating energy, communication, transportation, imagination, land, sea, and life into what it would look like in the future.
The ride was a dark ride. It allowed you to choose your future destination, through a selection of video clips shown during the ride. The theme song is nostalgic to many, called “New Horizons”. When you first boarded the ride, you got into an omnimover vehicle that was suspended from a track above. After boarding, you heard “Horizons 1 is now departing. Our final destination today: the 21st Century”. You traveled along with a futuristic family.
The ride took you through many scenes including Jules Verne in a rocket, a scene of what Paris would have looked like in the “future year” of 1950, a robot butler, neon houses, the desert Mesa Verde, and more. For a more detailed description of the ride, check out this article. The ride ended with the dad of the family saying “If we can dream it, we can do it, and that’s the most exciting part”.
In 1993, GE pulled its sponsorship and the ride fluctuated between opening and closing. It officially closed in 1999, and was demolished in the summer of 2000 to make room for Mission Space. Mission Space opened in 2003.
Horizons was one of the most beloved attractions in Walt Disney World. Disney added a reference to it in Space Mountain in 2009. After you exit your rocket, look for a suitcase with travel stickers of future destinations. One of them has “Mesa Verde” on it, one of the destinations you went in Horizons!
The Epcot today has changed significantly from the original pavilion themes of communication, innovation, energy, transportation, ecosystems and nutrition, creativity and imagination, the ocean, the body, and the future. There is no longer a pavilion representing energy, the body, or the future. Additionally, the innovation pavilion is as shell of itself and at this point is mostly empty and lacking sponsorship.
The energy pavilion is becoming a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster set to open in 2019. Disney describes it and said “We’re going big. This one-of-a-kind family attraction will be one of the world’s longest enclosed roller coasters when it’s added to Future World at Epcot. It’ll feature a unique story currently being created by Walt Disney Imagineering and include a new innovative ride system that’s guaranteed to ‘wow’ guests”. Guaranteed this coaster will wow guests, but we have to wonder, does it fit in with the theme and purpose of Epcot? In our opinion, that’s a clear no. Guests will not learn from this ride like they do the other thrill rides, Soarin’ and Test Track. This rollercoaster feels random and forced in Future World
Horizons was replaced with Mission Space. Rather then learn about the future, here you learn about a space command center and what it is like to work inside a spacecraft. Though Horizons is missed greatly, Mission Space in our opinion sticks to the original theme of Epcot.
The last pavilion, the body pavilion, is soon becoming the Play Pavilion. We’re excited to see how this pavilion will be transformed and incorporated into the themes of Future World.
Disney is working to revamp Epcot with a massive redesign coming soon. We look forward to seeing the end result of this redesign!