After the massive success of Disneyland in California, Walt Disney had another dream: to create a never-before-seen development titled “Project X” in Florida. This idea was much more than the theme park resort that we now know and love. In fact, Walt envisioned building an ideal Utopian city known as EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). Sadly, in 1966, Walt Disney passed away, leaving his dreams of EPCOT to perish. However, years after his passing, the Walt Disney Company and its Imagineers were intrigued to consider developing EPCOT as a park. At the time, there were people who wanted the park to focus on Walt’s idea of technology, whereas, others wanted to showcase international culture, which Walt’s plans also touched on. Both ideas would eventually be joined together to create Future World (now known as World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery) and World Showcase. Although these distinct areas were created, plans for EPCOT’s attractions and showcases were either ditched or drastically changed both during the park’s planning stages and throughout its years of operation. Here’s a look at some of those ideas.
The Lost Concept of the Mount Fuji Roller Coaster
As previously outlined, during the many years of EPCOT’s designing stage and expansions, numerous attractions were proposed, but many of these ideas were put down either because Disney could not find a sponsor or as a result of other issues. One of these ideas that were canned was the Mount Fuji roller coaster that was planned for the Japan pavilion; it would have served as the backdrop. This ride was inspired by the Matterhorn Bobsleds located at Disneyland California. However, instead of the ride being centered in Europe, it would, of course, revolve around a mountain in Japan—Mount Fuji. EPCOT’s east coast version of the Matterhorn attraction was to be a coaster that would offer a similar thrill ride experience. The ride was designed to traverse guests around the inside and outside of the mountain, providing stellar views of the park and an overall exhilarating experience. Japan’s Mount Fuji attraction would have completely transformed the area’s atmosphere, and it would have served as a phenomenal E-ticket attraction for the park. In fact, it would have been the park’s first roller coaster. Ironically, Fujifilm, a photography company, offered to sponsor this Mount Fuji coaster; however, Kodak, a competitor in the photography business, was already sponsoring a major pavilion at the park—the Imagination Pavilion. This somewhat gave Kodak control over the development, and as a result, the attraction was ultimately dropped.
The Forgotten Alpine Village of the Switzerland Pavilion
A few years after the Mount Fuji roller coaster was buried, the Walt Disney Company brought back the idea of another east coast version of the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Except for this time, it would be located in a Switzerland pavilion, which was to be developed between Germany and Italy. Like Japan’s Mount Fuji proposal, a nearly 200-foot tall mountain would serve as the center of attention, towering behind the area’s structures. This massive mountain was to house a bobsled-themed ride with a track layout nearly identical to Disneyland’s Space Mountain (Disneyland’s layout for the ride is not the same as the Magic Kingdom’s version); the ride’s overall theme would compare more to Matterhorn Bobsleds. Switzerland’s mountain coaster would expand on these two rides, however, as more expansive show scenes were considered. In short, two storyline ideas were pitched for the ride: a typical bobsled race that goes wrong and a bobsled race that largely takes place in the dark and features bright, colorful elements. The queue for both ideas was relatively the same in that guests would venture inside a cavern, a high-tech security area, and ultimately, a command center, which would serve as the loading and unloading area.
In addition to the bobsled ride, the Switzerland area would also include a picturesque and charming village filled with lush greenery. This rural Swiss village was supposed to contain multiple shops, including a wood carving and crafts store, a candy and gourmet food store, a clock and music shop, and a clothing accessories store. Several buildings themed to appear as homes would contain a restaurant located upstairs and an extended queue for the bobsled coaster downstairs. The pavilion also called for a tourism center and a VIP lounge. Due to negotiations falling apart between Disney and the Swiss government back in 1987, the company was not able to find a commercial partner that could fund this project.
A Departed Journey Through the Tropical Rainforest of Venezuela
Imagine walking through a central plaza surrounded by colonial architecture with each building housing a charming store, a delightful restaurant, and a completely functional tourism headquarters. During the early developments of EPCOT, Imagineers wanted to bring Venezuela to World Showcase, and it would have featured just this as well as a stage encircled by water, serving as a venue for live music. As a matter of fact, in 1981 Disney announced that Venezuela had signed on for the project. This pavilion would have given guests the opportunity to see the past, present, and future of the nation. The pavilion’s major attraction? A cable car ride that would take guests through several locations around the lavishing country of Venezuela. Nonetheless, the deal fell through, and the plans were forgotten. Like most pavilions considered for EPCOT’s World Showcase, it was difficult to get the government or companies from the proposed country to financially support the projects. Often, those who signed on for such projects later dropped out. Unfortunately, this was the exact case with Venezuela.
A Look Into the Vanished Thames River Cruise Concept
Thames River Cruise was a boat ride Disney Imagineers conceived for EPCOT’s United Kingdom pavilion. The attraction would have been similar to another ride Disney was planning for EPCOT called the Rhine River Cruise, which was previously planned for the park’s Germany pavilion. There is not much information known about this proposal, but it would have provided guests with an alluring experience, allowing riders to sail along the River Thames and explore historic sites and landmarks such as the Tower of London and the Palace of Westminster, which would feature a replica of Big Ben. The ride experience actually compares a lot to cruising along the real River Thames in the United Kingdom but on a much smaller scale. The Thames River Cruise ride never really progressed beyond the planning phase, and the park’s United Kingdom area still lacks an attraction of any kind.
A Futuristic Twist on the Original “The Land” Pavilion
During the early developments of EPCOT, there were multiple pavilions that made it into construction. Despite this, many of the developments that were completed are vastly different from their original plans. A prime example of this is The Land pavilion. In the course of the earlier designs, The Land was intended to resemble a futuristic greenhouse, complete with large glass crystals and greenery. In fact, The Land would have featured numerous crystal chambers housing various climates and ecosystems. Additionally, if built as intended, guests could have the opportunity to enjoy an indoor vertical moving observation tower as well as a ride aboard an air balloon, an animatronic show, and more. Reportedly, the balloon attraction would whisk guests through diverse habitats, allowing them to experience the never-ending cycle of nature. The main purpose of The Land was to showcase sustainability, habitats, and ecosystems. Evidently, this concept differs greatly from the pavilion that exists today, and this is because of sponsorship issues. This plan was designed for a lumber company, but that company then dropped out of the development, and Kraft Foods offered to sponsor it instead. With the new sponsorship came different ideas. Kraft wanted The Land to focus on topics that were relevant to their brand, such as nutrition, agriculture, harvesting, and food; the original concept did not do this, so it was turned down. Thus, we ended up with the pavilion we are now familiar with.