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

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: The Epcot Space Pavilion



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.

THE EPCOT SPACE PAVILION THAT NEVER WAS

By Jim Korkis

As we continue the countdown to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, it’s fun to remember that there were always plans for a Space Pavilion at Epcot. However, despite multiple attempts, Disney was unable to find a sponsor for such a project.

One version, as described by Tad Stones, who worked at Imagineering with Tim Delaney but later found greater success supervising the animated series for the Disney Afternoon block of programming: “Joe Haldeman, the Hugo Award winning science fiction author wrote a script for a pavilion. You’re inside a giant ball that is rotating and the idea was you took a 360-degree theater and turned it vertically so you’re looking up and down as opposed to side to side.

“Down below are audio-animatronics of the crew and robots. The idea is that you go through an excursion through the solar system with characters interacting and providing entertainment as well as knowledge about all of this.

From timjdelaney.com

“We found that it was unnatural to turn the theater vertically because things like looking at a planet now become distorted because of the perspective. You would be on a balcony. It would have been hugely expensive and the show would have lasted eight minutes.”

One of the designs that got as far as a three-dimensional model was the work of Imagineer Larry Gertz. It was a white domed model to simulate a base located on an asteroid orbiting the moon where mining was taking place. It was supposedly a makeshift affair built of a used space station and parts of old space craft.

The “traveler” would arrive aboard a simulated space craft. When the guest steps off the vehicle onto a ramp, he would leave behind the noises of flight behind him and find himself in utter silence.

The ramp would lead the guest to a staging area and from there allow him to enter the base itself.

The four main elements in the dome would be the space station, the asteroid honeycombed with great caverns and mine shafts, an astronaut training thrill ride, and a children’s playscape.

“You’ll be able to wander at will through the asteroid,” Gertz said in the 1980s. “It will be a visceral experience of space. You can follow catwalks through the caves.”

One of the thrill rides would be a simulator. They would represent devices down in a gaping excavation, bobbing and probing into the rock like huge, spidery mining machines.

On the lower level would be the astronaut training facility. It was actually a modified roller coaster where guests would get into a mining car. A catapult would propel the vehicle from a standing stop to sixty miles per hour in four and a half seconds, putting three G’s of pressure on the passengers. The vehicle would rocket three times around the asteroid on tracks.

“We’ve tried to create something that feels like a mining town,” explained Gertz. “We’ve also created something that might resemble the living environment in a space station. There is a general store selling all kinds of space stuff. And we’ve put in a sales lot for used space craft. You’ll see satellite communications in operation too. Lots of education in this.”

The station pavilion would be 300 feet in diameter and 110 feet high. In comparison, Space Mountain at WDW was 200 feet in diameter and 90 feet high.

What stalled this project from developing further was the lack of a corporate sponsor to foot the bill.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! I had utterly forgotten about the Space Pavilion idea. And while I grew up on classic science fiction (Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke), Joe Haldeman’s Forever War series is one of my favorites.

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Mickey Mouse, 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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