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Queue Up For Virtual Horizons

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.

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3 comments to Queue Up For Virtual Horizons

  • RO93461

    When you have a soundtrack to build upon, these 3D recreations can be pretty compelling. In many ways they can favor the memory of the ride better than it being rebuilt. I thought the ride was good, not great at the time, but the message and story Horizons brought to EPCOT depicted that “optimistic hope for the future” that is still missing. It’s no wonder that it’s missed as it carried the mantle for the vision of the park. The Omnimax screen will be hard to match as it was so immersive and worked so well.

  • Cousin Orville

    I wish Disney would work with a game developer to create a virtual re-creation of their parks at different stages in history. With today’s tech, they could create a very realistic virtual park w/ all the attractions in all their various versions on a PS3 or Xbox 360. Look at the enormous, detailed open worlds that have been created for games like GTAIV and Red Dead Redemption by Rockstar. A Disney park would take up a fraction of the space that those worlds do.

    With online connectivity, people from all over the world could experience the parks and attractions together while chatting through their Bluetooth headsets. Playstation’s Home kind of has this same social approach, although it’s executed poorly IMO. Add in a little 3D support and you’ve got a killer product that every family and Disney nut will want to own!

    I do not think it would eat into park sales as nothing can really duplicate that real-life experience, instead I look at this like to next step in the classic souvenir video/book. Plus, for all those who simply cannot afford to travel to a Disney park, it is a great alternative.

    The potential for paid downloadable content is huge as well. Can include all types of things — in-game souvenirs, music tracks, costumes, fire works shows, alternate versions of shows. (Get Country Bears Vacation Hoedown for just $5.99!) Now introducing the Disney Hotel Expansion, only $30! Could take it in so many directions.

    Ok, now someone please make this. Thanks.

  • Cousin Orville

    And btw, since I forgot to say this — the Horizons demo is AWESOME and almost made me tear up a little. Was so sad to not see the omnimovers running when I turned the corner at the end. :) Can’t wait for the next update, excited to see that this guy seems to have the skills to make this happen and was able to make it interactive too. A very welcome surprise!

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