Horizons in 1996

When I look back to the EPCOT Center I visited for the first time in the summer of 1983 (its first summer of operation), I have a difficult time choosing my favorite thing about the park. I do recall that, at the time, EPCOT was my favorite Disney park, hands down. I even made a pen-pal that worked as a video operator at the futuristic WorldKey.

I do know that, by the time I had my first digital camera in 1996, many of the things I loved, such as World of Motion and Journey into Imagination (original version), were gone. But, Horizons was there, and no other Future World pavilion did a better job at representing the Future World than Horizons.

I must have really liked it in 1996, because I took more photos of it than any other attraction.

For those too young to remember Horizons, it’s what came before Mission Space and it was a slow moving animatronic Omnimover dark ride rather than a spinning simulator thrill ride. But, it did feature space.

Let’s take a look…

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Looking back, while the building still looks cool, it does seem a bit dated. Geometric shapes in the 1980s seem to have taken over all the Logan’s Run white spires of the 1970s. But, darn, it still looks cool.

Upon entering the building, you would see two departure boards for the “Futureport.” There were four gates to the left (and a closed door), and four more gates to the right. I suppose the idea of “airport terminal” started with Horizons rather than Soarin’.

Epcot’s Horizons departure boardson August 29, 1996.

You’d then walk down some futuristic hallways and see kaleidoscope images that, if I recall, represented the three main locations in the ride – desert, undersea and space.

Epcot’s Horizons hallway “space” kalediescope on August 29, 1996.

It was a neat effect. I wonder if someone has behind-the-scenes of how it worked somewhere?

You would then reach the load area, and enter a sidewise facing Omnimover vehicle that sat four people.

Epcot’s Horizons ride vehicle on August 29, 1996.

There were speakers in the vehicle, just like a Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion. It also had sliding doors that would close automatically. One other unique feature, which you wouldn’t learn about until the end of the ride, were light up buttons in front of each passenger. They represented desert, undersea and space.

Here’s a side view:

Epcot’s Horizons side view of ride vehicle on August 29, 1996.

Although I would return in later years and take photos of almost every ride scene, in 1996, I took just a few photos inside the ride. I would wait for a gap in the line where no one was behind me, then stop and chat with the loading cast member for a bit. This would allow several empty cars to go past before I got on. As long as there were a few empty cars behind me, I would then break a Disney rule and take flash photos inside the ride — since I knew there were no guests to be disturbed. (This is also how I learned there were apparently no cameras inside this ride.)

The ride presented some of our visions of the future from the past, such as H.G. Wells and his rocket to the moon.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

There was also more of a 1950s look at what we thought the future would be like, with robots and luxury.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.
Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

There are many things I am happy to turn over to robots, but I’m not sure a haircut is one of them yet. Giving robots sharp objects still worries me a bit, and indeed, the very next scene in Horizons showed that robots sometimes went wrong.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Eventually we would come to scenes representing our three future habitats. The first showed us a future desert farmer, talking on video screen…

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

…then you’d see who she was talking to, from his end.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Although many things predicted in Horizons have yet to come true, video chatting is certainly here today. In the first seen, you saw an animatronic woman talking to a human on a video screen. In the next scene, we see an animatronic version of that human talking to a video screen human of the first animatronic. Mind blown. How cool would it have been to be those two, who get to be videos in a Disney ride, AND get animatronics made that look like them?

For undersea, we saw an animatronic woman talking to some guy working on his sub.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Was that a (simulated) large screen flat panel display? Mark that down as something else we now have. (A similarly wall screen was part of the 1970s and 1980s post-show at Space Mountain.)

Then we find the animatronic version of that guy talking to a video version of the previous animatronic… Inception!

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

There were other scenes that supported the scenario. For some reason, I took a few extra pictures of undersea. Here was a class (with their per sea lion?) getting ready for an undersea field trip:

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

You’d pass a portal that used a video effect to show them swimming outside. You’d also pass what appeared to be an underwater restaurant with diners inside and this kid looking out the window to another sea lion.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Are those sea lions? I never got to go to SeaWorld enough to really learn.

Eventually you got to space, and saw a zero gravity family scene.

Look, ma! No gravity! Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

And there was a scene showing crystals being grown in zero gravity, as well.

Epcot’s Horizons on August 29, 1996.

Incidentally, that crystal ended up in someone’s home…

Horizons crystal in someone’s personal collection.

And, just because I like to embarrass myself, here’s me riding Horizons in 1998.

Me riding Horizons on October 24, 1998.

I’m wearing one of my “Al’s Place” T-shirts, since this was before I registered DisneyFans.com. I’m not sure what the button is, but I had a button making machine back then so probably something self-made and geeky.

And that’s a pretty much complete tour through all the Horizons photos I took in 1996 with my first digital camera. I have many, many more Horizons photos, so maybe sometime I will post a more-complete tour.

Until next time…

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