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Neverworlds – The World Buffeteria

Here’s a little look at the development of an idea that never appeared in the parks; these sketches by Imagineer Herb Ryman show the evolution of a concept for a “buffeteria” dining area in EPCOT. The sketches are undated, but we can divine that they are from fairly early in the park’s development – most likely somewhere between 1976 and 1978. First, they’re labeled as “United States Pavilion” instead of American Adventure, and we also see the monorail in two of the sketches which indicates that this was indeed the earlier version of the pavilion that was to be built between Future World and World Showcase.

Notes on the sketches indicate that the facility would seat 150 inside the “shell” and 100 on an outside terrace. The restaurant is labeled as “World Buffeteria” – perhaps that indicates that it was to feature a variety of cuisines? Buffeteria, of course, is one of those great old coined words that Disney used to create for their parks; this invented vernacular helped create a sense that you were truly in a unique place set apart from the regular world. Other buffeterias included the original incarnation of EPCOT’s Le Cellier as well as the beloved Trail’s End Buffeteria at Fort Wilderness.

Take a look at this progression of sketches:

While few will argue that this was Ryman’s most compelling assignment, and, in fact, details of the building itself are frustratingly vague, there’s one thing that’s really entertaining about these sketches – the people! Ryman’s art was famous for the cast of characters that circulated in the foreground, and it looks like Herb might have been more interested in the people in these sketches than in the buffeteria. I especially love the Edwardian gent in the bowler hat with his stogie, with what appears to be Carmen Sandiego on his arm. In that last sketch it even looks like Mr. Smee is in attendance, and, in a strangely prescient touch, Princess Jasmine. Some of these characters are so detailed, I wonder if they were based on real people.

Maybe the World Buffeteria won’t wind up being as lamented a lost attraction as Equatorial Africa, but the cast of characters there would have been really interesting!

Special thanks to John Donaldson for sharing these images

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