January 10, 2014

Epcot Past: Wonders of Life

It was during a quick peruse of my more than 1,000 posts on this blog that I realized I write quite often about the Epcot that was. It was then I decided to make it official: I would begin a series of posts that would periodically look at Epcot Past, when the park was truly at its peak of creativity and wonder.

Ah, speaking of wonder, let's begin with the Wonders of Life in Future World.  

In 1989 and continuing on (untouched no less) for almost 20 years, the Wonders of Life joined the park in an effort to educate guests about the wonders of the human body. The beautiful golden dome and the genetic spiral metalwork beckoned to guests, drawing them into a pavilion just slightly out of synch positionally from the others around it. yet, it was worth the journey. While Imagineering's concept art (above) is pretty nice, for once the rendering paled in comparison to the reality.

Stepping away from the crush of the crowds and into the airy, white ceiling but color filled building was delightful. It felt like a World's Fair destination with its festive and playful approach. The attractions themselves were each presented in a humorous way, even if tongue in cheek at times. 

The centerpiece draw was to be Body Wars, a trip through the human body using the latest flight simulator technology of the day also found in Star Tours at both Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios). It was also the most vomit inducing attraction since the Mad Tea Party, long before the crown was claimed by the overrated Mission:Space. Personally, one ride was enough for me. I'd have preferred the same theme presented a la Disneyland's classic Adventure Thru Inner Space. The other part of the attraction I was not fond of had nothing to do with the ride itself as much as the Studios inspired trend of adding contemporary actors to the story, in this case, Elizabeth Shue. As I mentioned in an earlier post this year, using Hollywood celebrities instantly time stamps an attraction.

Since Body Wars wasn't my favorite, why did I enjoy the pavilion so much? Cranium Command, a journey into the head of an adolescent boy was great fun, but The Making of Me, a short film on procreation was an absolute side-splitting riot. With actor Martin Short playing the lead in a tightly crafted little film, the writing was so sharp, so witty, so dead on, I found myself laughing with little control. Something pretty rare in a Disney theme park. (That is aside from the Comedy Warehouse and its spoof of Disney park culture.) 

Other attractions included a series of hands on activities (Fitness Fairgrounds), lessons on staying healthy with a bit of character influence (Goofy About Health), and other odds end ends which made the Wonders of Life pavilion an easy two hour diversion. 

That was then, and this is now. Wonders eventually transitioned to a cheaper to run corporate event facility as a destination location for the park's seasonal festivals. It's a shame, really, as the mix of attractions and the differing presentation style was a complement to Universe of Energy and Horizons, its nearby neighbors.

To see a greatly detailed look at the transformation, go to Werner Weiss' excellent Yesterland article here.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company. Photographer unknown. The last photo might be mine!)

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