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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Never-Built Venezuela Pavilion at Epcot



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

VENEZUELA AT EPCOT’S WORLD SHOWCASE

By Jim Korkis

Imagineer Alan Coats (son of Imagineer Claude Coats) was deeply involved in the creation of attractions for Epcot before it opened in 1982.

He worked on a film for the Universe of Energy pavilion that at one point was being written with Jim Algar and would have had a dialog between a scientist (writer Issac Asimov) and a reporter (actor Walter Pidgeon) with animated scenes of Jiminy Cricket interspersed to help explain things.

“I think the first piece I wrote was a sequence with Asimov, Pidgeon and the Cricket about using turbines for harnessing the wind to generate electricity, something common today but rare back then,” Alan told me at the Disneyana Fan Club Anaheim event in October 2017. “I wrote a scene where Jiminy in a lab coat demonstrates how to make a solar cell and in another, how to heat a house with sun power. When I re-read the script, it seemed he knew more than our expert did.

“When we finally pitched it to Ron Miller, it was called ‘Dialogue on Energy’ and we were now thinking of Arthur C. Clarke as the scientist and Hal Holbrook as the reporter. Ron loved it but when we later showed it to an Exxon executive, he fell asleep in the middle of the presentation. Later, Carl Sagan got involved but wanted to take over the whole thing and wanted it to focus more strongly on other alternatives than Exxon did who was paying for the thing. Sagan did like the use of Jiminy Cricket though.”

Among his other never realized projects for Epcot was a World Showcase pavilion that he told me about in an interview in 2012:

“I jump started development on the Venezuela pavilion with initial research on the country. Negotiation had been on going with several nations and the feeling was that it was a priority to include at least one country from the southern hemisphere. Brazil and Venezuela had shown interest in World Showcase participation.

“Using the WED research library, I assembled a series of storyboards, actually more like ‘subject boards’ on the history, culture, architecture, natural resources, festivals, whatever I could come up with as sort of a snapshot of the country. The overall idea for all the Showcase pavilions was to give the visitor a feeling of having been to the country, if only briefly, to taste the food, listen to the music, purchase the merchandise, and meet some of the young people from the nation who would be working there.

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“These subject boards became the basis for renderings, models, and ride-system layouts that would follow. My dad (Claude Coats) as show designer used every foot available. He laid out a suspended cable-car ride that snaked through the attraction giving visitors a bird’s eye view of activity below in the village sets filled with shops, the open restaurant, the musicians’ stage, and other scenes. The entire area was dominated by a large-screen projection of Angel Falls in the background on a continuous film loop.

“Collin Campbell painted a beautiful rendering of the interior in a nighttime setting. X. Atencio was show writer and also responsible for the theme song: ‘Discover Venezuela!’ The show was really coming together when Gordon Cooper acknowledged in an interview with Orlando-land magazine in October 1976 that among ten or twelve pavilions in the works, full scale sections had been built and ‘We’re very far along on the Venezuela pavilion’. However, as we know, that nation never was represented in Showcase, nor was any other country in South America.”

Of course, with Disney’s continuing popularity in Brazil, the Disney Company has also continued negotiations for a possible Brazil pavilion to be installed in the World Showcase.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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1 comment

1 Anonymous { 11.10.17 at 11:18 am }

Awesome write-up. It’s bittersweet to learn about what could have been.

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