By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Meet the World



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.

MEET THE WORLD, PLANNED FOR EPCOT’S JAPAN PAVILION

The huge show building in the Japan pavilion at the back of the Mitsukoshi store was meant to house an audio-animatronics attractions called “Meet the World,” and although the attraction isn’t, the building is still there (in red in the image—Dave).

Imagineer Tony Baxter stated that “It’s now the place where we store all the paint that’s used at Epcot and is also used for carpentry and some storage for the park.”

Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, had a strong interest in Japanese history and a fondness for WDW’s Hall of Presidents audio-animatronics in re-creating real historical figures. When he was approached in the late 1970s to sponsor a pavilion at the forthcoming Tokyo Disneyland, he agreed if there was an attraction that matched his interests.

Imagineer Claude Coats had been working on a theater attraction for Epcot’s Japan pavilion called “The Winds of Change” that would incorporate the history of Japan and use audio-animatronics of important figures of the past.

Certain politically sensitive issues like Japan’s participation in World War II were carefully sidestepped as they were in the show at the American Adventure. That time was alluded to in the show as the “dark days”.

As a cost saving measure since the attraction was already built, it was sent to Tokyo Disneyland which was being created at the same time as Epcot, along with the Magic Kingdom’s Mickey Mouse Revue and the new Dumbo attraction built for Walt Disney World. So doing helped lower the budget and the time necessary to open Tokyo Disneyland.

“Meet the World” opened at Tokyo Disneyland as one of that park’s initial attractions on April 15, 1983, and closed on June 30, 2002. It was advertised as “Explore Japan’s heritage on an incredible time-travel adventure!”

Matsushita Electric subsidized the attraction so it was one of the few free ones when the park still used attraction tickets. Japan Airlines later took over sponsorship.

It was only one of two attractions that focused on Japan since the Oriental Land Company wanted to present an American version of a Disney theme park and had cherry-picked attractions from both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to create the ultimate American experience.

“Meet the World” was a roughly eighteen minute four-act show that showcased Japan’s history of trade and interaction with other countries. The island nation’s volcanic beginnings were discussed along with early trading with other nations, isolationism, the reopening of the country, and its promising future.

The theater was similar but in away opposite to that of the Carousel of Progress. In the Carousel, the audience rotated around the various stages. In “Meet the World”, after each scene the seating area would slowly rotate 90 degrees to point the audience in the direction of the next stage. The rotating inner core with the stages in the outer ring allowed for larger stages but limited the overall seating capacity. In addition, each stage had a large movie screen in the background to help tell the story with the figures interacting with the images.

An audio-animatronics talking crane led a young boy and girl from Yokohama on a time travel journey that featured audio-animatronics representations of prominent Japanese and Western figures to re-create a particular event. The dialog was in Japanese with characters from other countries speaking in their native languages. Headphones were available in the back row for translated dialog.

The attraction had over thirty audio-animatronics figures. The figures were sculpted by Blaine Gibson, except for three Meiji figures who were done by a Japanese sculptor from Tokyo’s Toho Studios.

The “Meet the World” song was written by the Sherman Brothers and played as the theater rotated each time to its new position.

*  *  *  *  *

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

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Call Me Walt, 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.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!

RELATED STUFF

4 comments

1 Omaroms { 12.03.18 at 1:58 pm }

Will meet the world have a chance to comeback to Japan pavilion

2 Dave { 12.04.18 at 6:47 am }

With all the talk about changes coming to Epcot, I have not seen this as a possibility. So I’m thinking no…

3 Kyle Chang { 12.16.18 at 7:00 pm }

Actually both Tokyo Disneyland and Epcot were supposed to have duplicate versions of Meet the World-Meaning it would have the first Disney attraction to open the same time.

4 Dave { 12.17.18 at 7:06 am }

Thanks Kyle!

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2018 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.