By far the coolest Disney-related fan project of recent vintage is Horizons: Resurrected, an exciting attempt to recreate the classic, beloved EPCOT attraction with interactive CGI.
This isn’t the first attempt to re-live Horizons virtually; an attempt was made several years ago to create a computer model of the pavilion, but despite some very exciting test renders that project now seems to be defunct. Similar projects include Virtual Toad, an extremely impressive attempt to recreate Walt Disney World’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. The visual quality of Virtual Toad knocked my socks off in the test renders that emerged in the middle of the last decade, and the sample VR tour shows how much potential the project held. Sadly, Virtual Toad has been in “hibernation” since 2008; hopefully it will return some day, as the quality of the existing work still holds up wonderfully and is a very atmospheric re-creation of the Toad vibe.
The grand-daddy of all these projects is a virtual re-creation of Disneyland’s fabled Adventures Thru Inner Space, created by Steve Wesson and released in 2004. This was notable not only for being the first project of its kind, but for re-creating an attraction that pre-dated the age of the ubiquitous camcorder and was thus not as well documented as others. For someone like myself, who was never able to ride that attraction and thus felt supremely left out, it was a very exciting development. Here’s a trailer for the Adventures Thru Inner Space ridethrough:
Horizons: Resurrected looks like it’s off to a good start, as the project has posted an incredible interactive proof of concept video. After loading the Unity player plugin, viewers can maneuver around the pavilion themselves, using the arrow keys (or WASD keys) to move and the mouse to look. Press spacebar to jump!
At this point you can only approach the pavilion and tour a low-rez model of the queue area but already the effect is striking. Hearing the ambient music play as you enter the queue, and the location-specific audio for each of the kaleidoscopic travel posters, is enough to give you chills. Of course, it is kind of strange walking around Horizons with the same keystrokes you’d use for an FPS game – it seems kind of wrong to feel like you should be walking around with a shotgun in the Horizons queue!
Check it out at Horizons: Resurrected; hopefully this is just a preview of exciting things to come.