There is a lot of discussion about the rise and fall of Epcot’s iconic Imagination Pavilion, but today we’re going to be focusing on just one piece: the rainbow tunnel! Officially called the Rainbow Corridor, the rainbow tunnel sat within the Sensor that was part of the large ImageWorks play area on the second floor of the Imagination pavilion.
1982 – 1992
After exiting Journey into Imagination, guests could explore the ImageWorks area, located within the glass pyramid. Opening with the pavilion in 1982, this area featured a number of hands-on activities, such as Figment’s Coloring Book, Bubble Projectors, Dreamfinder’s School of Drama, and of course, the Rainbow Corridor. The rainbow tunnel gained particular popularity in the 1980s when Michael Jackson did a photoshoot inside.
There were motion detectors built into the tunnel and originally when you walked inside, one color was supposed to follow you all the way through. However, the effect didn’t fully work as planned, so the tunnel was set to “show mode cascade”. Early footage shows only some colors working and moving slower than what we became used to years later!
As you walked though the rainbow tunnel, the colors would change and the rings would move to create a futuristic sensory experience. To get a better sense of the tunnel’s full effects, check out this home video from 1989!
In 1992, the Journey into Imagination pavilion was completely overhauled. The ride was redone and ImageWorks was moved downstairs and re-named to the What If Labs? The second floor of the Imagination Pavilion was closed to the public and for years, it was unclear on what had happened to the rainbow tunnel and the rest of the original ImageWorks area.
In this video from 2011 – almost 20 years after the area was permanently closed – you can see that the rainbow tunnel was actually still fully intact, abandoned as a remnant of what once was. NOTE: We do not condone sneaking into off-limit areas and have never done so ourselves. However, this is a pretty cool video that showcases a lot of what was left of ImageWorks! (Skip to 2:05):
In this photo, you can clearly see that the full rainbow tunnel remained intact. The lights on the signs continued to light up, along with a few lonely red rings. However, the area is littered with random chairs, lights, and even a ladder, as opposed to children and families enjoying ImageWorks.
In 2016, the second floor of the Imagination Pavilion finally reopened – but this time, as a DVC lounge! The lounge sits directly beneath the large glass pyramid, and there is a wall filled with Coke Freestyle machines and sitting areas that separates it from the rest of the old ImageWorks area.
This video from 2016 was shot shortly after the DVC lounge opened. In it, the videographer finds a vent through which you can see the remnants of the Sensor sign and rainbow tunnel. As you can see, it appears that the tunnel has begun to be dismantled, with only a few pieces remaining (skip to 2:02):
The vent you see in this video has since been covered, but the DVC lounge proved popular and is still open at the time of posting!
This final video from May 2017 does not have any sound, but in it, you can see the rainbow tunnel in its final dismantled stages. The tunnel itself has been stripped and removed, with only a few remnants remaining (skip to 10:07):
This image, posted to Twitter in May 2017 by DreamfinderGuy, shows the rainbow tunnel in its final stage – stripped down to nothing but a few pieces of metal. The iconic tunnel has been completely dismantled, never to return to its former glory:
Sadly, it’s clear that the iconic rainbow tunnel is officially gone for good. However, as you can see in the final video, a number of pieces from the original ImageWorks area, including the iconic Sensor sign, were salvaged by the Walt Disney Archives – so who knows where they may end up next! For now, it seems that the second floor of the Imagination Pavilion will remain the DVC lounge and that the rainbow tunnel, along with all of the original ImageWorks, will be lost in the past. If you ever experienced the rainbow tunnel, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Images courtesy of Epcot Center Media, Lynn Goldsmith, Disney Park History, Attractions Magazine, and DreamfinderGuy.
Image credit for Michael Jackson photo: Michael Jackson at Epcot Center in a rainbow tunnel, taken during the Victory/ Off the Wall tour in 1984. © Lynn Goldsmith