EPCOT, GM and the World of Motion: Part four of our Disney Groundbreakers Series.

EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) opened in 1982 to widespread acclaim.  The vision of Walt Disney’s EPCOT, which was to be the city of the future, became a permanent world fair, becoming the world’s largest theme park at opening.  To put it in perspective, from an acreage point of view, you can fit Disneyland, the esplanade, and Disney’s California Adventure in Epcot with room to spare.

To reduce construction costs and keep the spirit of world fair’s, sponsors were sought for each pavilion, with Disney succeeding at most of them.  Some of them were governments, others private companies.  AT&T sponsored Spaceship Earth, which presented the transformation of communication from cave dwellers to videophone at the time.  Exxon presented the Universe of Energy, describing how oil and fossil fuels came to be and exploring future technologies to power humankind.  MetLife presented Wonders of Life, which showed how the human body worked in serious, fun, and thrilling ways.  Horizons opened in 1983, sponsored by General Electric, delivering a look at future technologies and giving guests a choice to see what ending they wanted to view.  General Motors had seen what the 1964 World Fair in New York had done for Ford with the Ford’s Magic Skyway, created by Disney, and didn’t want to be left out.  To that end, they signed on to sponsor the transportation pavilion. 

Continuing, guests arrived at Journey into Imagination, which encouraged guests to use their imagination, explore and enjoy life.  Sponsored by Kodak, the pavilion also housed a 3-D cinema.   The land showed how food was produced and created, with greenhouses and a fishery behind the pavilion.  Guests enjoyed shows, and the main attraction was Listen to the Land, where guests boarded a boat for a guided tour of the greenhouses, fishery.  Small dark ride elements mix it up, giving it the Disney touch.  Kraft sponsored the pavilion, which also housed a large food court naturally.  One particular element about the pavilion was that guests walked up a subtle hill up to the second floor to enter the building.  The Living Seas was a large aquarium with a short omnimover dark ride through, presented by United Technologies.  All of those pavilions included a lounge for the sponsor’s use.

CommuniCore held a look at computers and necessary park facilities in both of its buildings.  Centrium, a large gift shop, a tour showcased the computers powering the park, and two quick-service restaurants. 

Over in World Showcase, nine countries originally composed the roster, with ample space open for more.  A large corporation from that country sponsored many pavilions. One exception, Morocco opened its pavilion in 1984. King Hassan I sent artisans from Morocco to help construct the pavilion and bring as much authenticity to it as possible.  It was sponsored by the Moroccan government, with a private company operating the shops and restaurants until 2020. 

The lack of any thrill ride when the park opened was not addressed until 1988.  The first attempt at a thrilling attraction was Maelstrom, in the last pavilion added to World Showcase, Norway.  The water flume dark ride Opened in 1988, featuring a short backward drop and segment.  The ride ended with a significant drop near oil derricks, transitioning between Norse mythology such as trolls, wildlife like a large fearsome polar bear, and modern Norway.  Lower capacity hamstrung the attraction, but it was a good start.  In 1989, Wonders of Life opened with three attractions, one of which was Body Wars. This intense motion simulator used the same technology as Star Tours but took guests inside the human vascular system.  Odd premise and setting, leading to the attraction losing popularity and traction quickly with the park guests.  The pavilion changed vocation in 2007, with the attractions and food counter shuttered and becoming a Festival Center for functions and events held during the many festivals held each year at Epcot. 

The pavilion we will focus on for this Serie is World of Motion. It experienced a drastic change in 1996 at both Disney’s and General Motors’ request. 

World of Motion used a version of the omnimover ride system, seen previously at Haunted Mansion and If you had Wings. The endless chain was broken down in 141 ride vehicles due to the very long track.  At 1749 feet long, the ride was over 14 minutes long.  The larger ride vehicles allowed an extraordinary capacity of 3240 guests an hour. 

The circular building laid the basic layout that many attractions in compact spaces would be used to great success later.  The bottom floor housed an indoor queue and ramp leading to the elevated load platform on the left side.  After boarding, guests went back outside in a gentle spiral that enticed passers-by to try the attraction and transitioned to the next level.  The upper level of the attraction is all track and show, in a winding path around the building clockwise.  The center of the course was left open for the attraction finale.  The finale was a spiral that gently went down, showing prototype cars and a city of the future at the bottom.

24 show scenes composed the attraction, showing the evolution of transportation through the years, from walking, the wheel, and easier movements.   After guests exited the ride portion of World of Motion, they walked through Transcenter, which was a walkthrough attraction showing different concepts and experiments.  The top floor of the attraction was partially used for a VIP lounge for employees and guests of General Motors (GM), the attraction’s sponsor. 

In 1992, GM opted to renew the attraction sponsorship for an extra year while it decided on long-term plans.  At the same time, Disney was looking to renew EPCOT Center attractions, as science and technology were moving on, leaving EPCOT’s “future” often looking like the past or present. Initially, a second ride was planned for World of Motions, which would have allowed guests to test-drive a future concept outside. 

GM wanted something that was more representative of its current image and what they offered to customers.  Disney went back to the drawing board and realized the second unrealized attraction was quite close to what GM desired.  Disney and GM agreed to change World of Motions, with GM signing on to sponsor the pavilion long-term.

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