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: From Horizons to Mission: SPACE



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.

EDDIE SOTTO: FROM HORIZONS TO MISSION: SPACE

By Jim Korkis

Eddie Sotto is a former Disney Imagineer who worked for the Walt Disney Company for 13 years, from 1986 to 1999. I interviewed him in June 2019 about how Horizons evolved into Mission: SPACE.

Sotto:  Horizons had very low guest satisfaction ratings, to the point where people didn’t even remember which show it was. I think the topic of Horizons is great, and that retro-future attraction should be there in some form, but the economics of running unpopular shows was not an option, so we jumped in and filled the “need” with a different attraction. GE had left and there was no one to pay for Horizons. Walt Disney World wanted it gone. Sad but true.  They wanted a thrill ride.

To lose Horizons is to gut the dream, or storytelling of what the whole park means and that’s powerful. Replacing Horizons with the Mission: SPACE attraction does not really fill the gap left by the hole made in the story or mission statement of the park. I think Mission: SPACE is a great pavilion and is the “science fact” challenging story of the real journey to space, not the Disneyland “Moon Ride” version we’ve all experienced.

I reviewed the Horizons numbers and listened to their concerns and what they thought would help Epcot’s image. In response, I pitched to Marty Sklar a very intense, claustrophobic “science fact” Space Capsule type attraction that was more about the heroism of the journey versus the destination. The real challenge of going to Space, a la The Right Stuff feature film.

He approved doing a mock-up of the capsule for Eisner, based on my pretending to be in the capsule pressing buttons, etc. Embarrassing, but it got us $100,000. We rented all the interior switch panels used in the movie Apollo 13, housed them in a capsule mock-up out of plywood, and put the six foot plus Michael Eisner in it, lights flashing and space footage playing outside the capsule window. He got the idea, loved it right on the spot. Florida was thrilled as well.

We developed with the ride engineers a track-based roller coaster type ride to fit the existing Horizons building, but for lots of good engineering and other reasons, it eventually evolved into the spinning centrifuge design we have today. Believe me, centrifuges are not cheap, and an entirely new ride system. That was considered a breakthrough as it generated sustained G-forces, something coasters do not do, but lift-off does.

The ride really reflected those forces of liftoff in a realistic way. That meant a lot to me. We had all ridden the military centrifuges and even flown the NASA Shuttle simulator in Houston. We tried to make it very “science fact” and Epcot, leveraging the fact that eventually the public will be able to go to space.

One thing I miss that was changed after I left was the story itself. The original treatment called for a moment to pause and look back at the Earth, and a rescue in space. The current version, as good as it is, was more about the continual thrill and G Forces racing around Mars, etc. and all that extra spinning may have contributed to motion sickness for some guests. Can’t know that for sure.

Maybe my first treatment was too boring, but I do like having pauses and rests in an experience (love how your banshee in Pandora pauses so you can take in that “world” before leaping off the cliff, stuff like that) to make them a bit more episodic.  The unbuilt pavilion concepts never suffer budget cuts and always have the unfair advantage of being flawless in our imagination!

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Thanks, Jim! and come back next Friday for more from Jim KorAis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, The Vault of Walt Volume 8: Outer Space Edition, his recent  Disney Never Lands, and about planned but unbuilt concepts, and 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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