Sometimes you can see a picture a dozen times and miss a very crucial detail. I recently watched the 1987 Disney Channel special, Backstage Disney: The American Adventure; I’ve seen this show several times since its debut oh so long ago, but somehow every time I did, I seemed to miss a very important detail.
Near the start of the show, the camera lovingly takes in the large Imagineering model of Epcot Center that we’ve seen countless times in print and film. But… there are a few important details.
Yes, that’s the Epcot Center model but there are a couple of major additions depicted that have sadly never been brought to life in the real world. Long-time fans might know that during the “Disney Decade” of the 1990s, plans were announced to build a replica of Japan’s Mount Fuji in World Showcase, as well as a new Switzerland Pavilion featuring the Matterhorn. But while some artwork was released at the time, and in subsequent years, I have never seen an image of the park model with both attractions in place. It’s a stunning thing to see with your own eyes, and really does convey just how much these attractions would have changed the park’s landscape.
Aside from the mountains, you might also note that the model of the Italy Pavilion features some of the once-planned expansions for that area.
It’s somewhat surprising to see these mountains on the World Showcase horizon at this early date; they weren’t announced to the public until 1990. And while Switzerland had long been anticipated as a future part of Epcot Center since its 1982 opening, most early plans for expanding the Japan Pavilion centered on the Meet the World theater attraction.
At the very least, these mountains might have blocked out some of the visual intrusions from the Swan and Dolphin hotels.
Planned for the Matterhorn was a slightly more elaborate version of Disneyland’s original bobsled rollercoaster. Mount Fuji, too, was intended to house a thrill ride, with bullet trains instead of bobsleds as the coaster vehicles. It seems strange that Imagineers considered adding two steel coaster rides at the same time, on either side of American Adventure, and yet that is what was announced for the Disney Decade in 1990.
Obviously, the plan never went through. These attractions, as well as an announced Russia Pavilion, had not appeared by the end of the decade. Mount Fuji fell prey to a few factors; funding was one, of course, as well as the fact that Fujifilm was the prime rival of existing Epcot Center sponsor Kodak. Deals to fund Switzerland fell through, too, but the idea continued to be revisited until at least the end of the 1990s. World Showcase has not been expanded since; its most recent addition was the Norway Pavilion in 1988.
Still, it’s exciting to get a rare glimpse at what could have been. It just goes to show that you really need to pay attention when a camera pans across the room at Imagineering.