Horizons

horizons

Horizons was the name of an attraction at Disney’s Epcot theme park in Orlando. Located on the eastern side of the ‘Future World’ section of Epcot, the attraction used Disney’s Omnimover conveyance system, which took guests past show scenes depicting visions of the future. It is believed to be the sequel to Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, an attraction in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. Horizons was the only attraction in Future World to showcase all of Epcot’s elements: communication, community interaction, energy, transportation, anatomy, physiology, along with man’s relationship to the sea, land, air, and space.

The attraction officially opened in 1983 and first closed in 1994 after General Electric ended sponsorship of the attraction. It was temporarily reopened in 1995 due to the closure of other attractions for refurbishment, but the attraction permanently closed in 1999, after which the attraction was dismantled and its structure demolished to make room for Mission: SPACE, a motion simulator thrill ride.

Horizons began with a section entitled ‘Looking Back at Tomorrow,’ showcasing visions of the future as perceived from the era of Jules Verne through the 1950s. The ride then moved past two immense OMNIMAX screens (groundbreaking technology at the time the ride was built), showing modern technologies and ideas that could be used to build the world of tomorrow. Afterward came the main part of the ride: visions of futuristic life in cities, deserts, undersea, and even in space. The only Disney attraction at the time with multiple endings, Horizons then allowed riders to select which path they wanted to take back to the FuturePort: from the space station Brava Centauri (depicting space colonization), from the desert farm of Mesa Verde (depicting arid-zone agriculture), or from the Sea Castle research base (depicting ocean colonization).

As the final part of the ride, guests in their ‘omnimover’ would push a button to select amongst the three choices and would be presented with a 31-second video sequence. A film would then be displayed to riders in each individual car. The videos showed a simulated flyover of an outdoor scene. To create the effect, scale models were built and a camera swept across the futuristic terrain. The models were some of the largest ever created at the time. The model for the desert sequence, for example, was 32 feet (9.8 m) by 75 feet (23 m) long. The visual effects were filmed in a hangar at the Burbank airport. Produced in 1983 by 30 model makers, it took over a year to build and shoot the three segments. The exit corridor of the ride originally featured the mural ‘The Prologue and the Promise’ by renowned space artist Robert T. McCall.

It was proposed that Horizons would be the sequel to the Carousel of Progress, Disney’s ride from the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. As the Carousel of Progress followed the changes in lifestyle that faced a family as they lived through the 20th century, Horizons continued their story, showing how they might live in the 21st century. The Carousel’s theme song ‘There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ was part of the ‘Looking Back at Tomorrow’ portion of Horizons.

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