Being a history-oriented Disney obsessive means that occasionally, from time to time, you find yourself immersed in activities both arcane and inexplicable to the general population. Sometimes you have to invent names for these pastimes; for this post I’m voting for “berm analysis.”
When Walt Disney Productions announced in 1978 that it would proceed with the design and construction of EPCOT Center, one of the pavilions planned for the park’s 1982 debut was known as Life & Health. While this attraction would not appear until 1989 under the name Wonders of Life, a pavilion centered around the theme of human health was central to EPCOT Center’s design from its inception.
While a full retelling of this pavilion’s origins will have to wait for a future post, there is a historical oddity that I’d like to throw out to the open internet in the hope that someone out there might be able to shed a little light on this mystery.
I was recently discussing the Life & Health pavilion with Disney historian extraordinaire Martin Smith, when I mentioned that during EPCOT Center’s first year there had been a sign between The Land and the future site of The Living Seas trumpeting the soon-to-arrive Life & Health pavilion. Martin thought that I must be wrong, as the only pavilion ever planned for that plot that he was aware of was the second iteration of Journeys in Space. This opinion was echoed by Mike Lee, webmaster of the spectacular Widen Your World, who also remembered the Health pavilion as always being planned for the Wonders of Life spot. As I trust Mike and Martin’s research far more than I trust my childhood memories, I surveyed the members of my family who had been on those early trips to see if they recalled the sign. Strangely enough, the only person who clearly recalled seeing it also remembered without prompting that it had been between Land and Seas.
Further contributing to the confusion were a couple of pictures which were the only documentation I’ve been able to find over the years of the signs in situ:
As you see, the berm behind the two signs looks very similar. As Foxx from Passport to Dreams pointed out, the round planter on the edge of the picture resembles those in Future World West as opposed to the angular planters in Future World East (now that’s good fandom!). I also speculate that, if the Life & Health sign were in the position currently occupied by Wonders of Life, the construction of Horizons would be clearly visible in the background. Perhaps more definitive is this photo that Martin sent along, which comes from the book Walt Disney World: The First Decade:
You can clearly make out the berm in front of the land intended for The Living Seas which matches the landscaping behind both signs. The walkway past the site is close enough to the berm that these pictures would be possible, and it might be my imagination but I think I can make out the circular planter seen in the picture. In Future World East, where Wonders of Life would eventually be located, the Horizons construction wall dominates the angular terrain and there’s no sign of a berm or significant landscaping.
So, mystery solved? Not really, but it does indicate that my youthful memory isn’t as bad as I suspected. What we need to know now is whether this sign was really in Future World West, and whether the Imagineers ever intended for the pavilion to actually be located on that site.
After that we’ll move on to the mystery of how I have a girlfriend, and people who talk to me in real life when they know I spend my free time doing berm analysis.