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The Future World Was Born Today

After 26 years of visiting Walt Disney World, I’ve seen many attractions come and go. Some were great, some were past their prime, and I miss many of them. I miss Horizons the most.

Horizons opened 25 years ago today, on the 1st of October, 1983. Arriving in EPCOT Center a year after the park’s debut, it served as the park’s thesis statement. Focusing not on any one topic, but rather the full potential of humanity’s future, Horizons incorporated concepts from all of Future World’s theme pavilions to synthesize a vision of what we can achieve as a society if we put our minds to it. If we can dream it, we can do it, claimed the ride.

The pavilion served as a sequel of sorts to the Carousel of Progress, expanding the tale of that show’s family into the 21st century and beyond. The ride consisted of three segments; the first, “Looking Back At Tomorrow”, provided a tongue-in-cheek look at the history of futurism. A dual-screen Omnimax theater then surrounded guests with a large-format film of then-current technologies that were ushering in the future. The final segment, “Tomorrow’s Windows”, showed the future of mankind “on land, sea, and even out in space.” The show’s finale allowed guests to choose the way they would return to earth; depending on how each vehicle’s riders voted, one of three different simulator films would be shown.

Horizons was a high water mark for Imagineering. Some fans, including myself, consider it their finest work. It was an animatronic spectacle that used cutting-edge technology to present an inspiring yet accessible message with humor and style. It certainly seems to have sparked the imaginations of an entire generation, seeing as its legion of fans continue to discuss and dissect it nearly ten years after its tragic closure. Many continue to hope to see it return, in some form, someday.

Happy Birthday, Horizons. You are missed.

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6 comments to The Future World Was Born Today

  • Horizons was one of my favorite attractions anywhere. I considered it the “theme” attraction for Future World – tying in the other pavilions to ook at futurism in general. I was so sad to see it go. I felt that with the right update, it would have continued to be right. Obviously, sponsorship is a major issue. But I couldn’t help but think its high capacity and ability to constantly load, which kept the lines short (or nonexistent) and constantly moving, made the attraction appear to be less popular than it was.

  • I can think of only one attraction that while only talking about it quickens my heart rate every single time, and that attraction is Horizons. It embodied Future World like no other attraction, combining elements from every single pavilion in Future World and made the future something more than real, something tangible. I seldom question Disney’s right, though more often their sense, in removing attractions and adventures, but this continues to be one of the very few instances that I feel they got it wrong.

    Horizons, we miss you, Happy Birthday!

  • Ivonne

    I still miss Horizons and if there is one attraction out of all the ones that have been removed that I want back, it’s this one. There’s not much more I can say that hasn’t been said before about how amazing this attraction was. Everytime I ride Soarin’ and you smell the orange groves I think of Horizons.

    On a side note, is that last picture of the buttons from Horizons yours? I ask because I think it would look great on a T-shirt and I would love to use it but wanted to ask your permission first.

  • Ken: You’re right about Horizons tying together the messages of the other Future World pavilions. And yes, it could continue to be very relevant today with the right upgrades. As I understand it, there was an extensive plan to update the attraction in the 1990’s which was nixed by Eisner when a corporate sponsor could not be found. EPCOT would be much better off today if he had just manned up and paid for the upgrades out of Disney’s money.

    Ryan: I’m fairly quick to pull the trigger when I think Disney’s gotten something wrong, but usually I can at least understand the reason they made a decision. I might think it completely wrong-headed and short-sighted, but I understand. But Horizons is second only to Journey Into Imagination under the heading of attractions whose closures are nearly incomprehensible.

    Ivonne: Agreed about everything, especially the orange smell in Soarin’. The image of the ride buttons was posted by Martin Smith in a thread on WDWMagic, but seeing it on a t-shirt would be absolutely, completely awesome. That’s a fantastic idea…

  • Was a t-shirt of the ride buttons ever made, and if so, how can I obtain one? Thanks.

  • Smaha

    Edward – you could always create one with an online design site. Not sure if this link will get you there directly or not:

    I’ve used Customink several times and they do a nice job, but single shirts will run you about $22-$25 when it’s all done.

    The graphic itself could have used a bit of touch-up work, since there was black-on-black bleed issues with a dark shirt color, and it just doesn’t look as good on white. Good luck….

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