Epcot Parks & Resorts Walt Disney World Resort

Epcot Re-Imagined – Part 1: The Wonders of Life

As most of you know by now, Epcot, especially Future World, is scheduled to undergo quite extensive and expansive changes over the next few years. While Disney Imagineering is re-imagining the park as we speak, I thought I would re-imagine the park myself.

This series will start in Future World, slowly making its way to World Showcase, as I will re-imagine all current pavilions in both sections. With that being said, let’s start this series by looking at the former Wonders of Life pavilion, now often repurposed as the Festival Center.

The Wonders of Life is my favorite Future World pavilion, past or present. I believe that it is the best attempt and the best representation of the Epcot vision of edutainment and the future. Its message of health and the human body was so well integrated into the pavilion.

Wonders of Life opened to the public on October 19th, 1989, and was sponsored by MetLife. The 100,000 sq. ft. pavilion housed two headline attractions: Body Wars and Cranium Command, as well as several smaller attractions: Frontiers of Medicine, Wonder Cycles, Sensory Funhouse, Coach’s Corner, The Making of Me, Goofy About Health, and The Anacomical Players Theatre. Additionally, there was a store (of course), Well & Goods Limited, and a counter-service restaurant, Pure & Simple. Below, you’ll find videos of the past experiences the pavilion offered, just in case you forgot what they were or never got to see them. This will help set the stage for the changes I will be pitching.

MetLife pulled its sponsorship in 2001, and as a result, the pavilion became a seasonal offering in 2004, eventually closing forever on January 1st, 2007. Instead of doing anything with the pavilion, it was essentially left abandoned. As you are well aware, it didn’t stay abandoned for long.

Later in the year, it was repurposed as the Festival Center for International Food & Wine Festival, eventually also finding use for the Flower and Garden Festival. Any signage was removed, painted over, or covered to hide as reference to what once was. The external ride buildings were abandoned after the four motion simulators of Body Wars were removed.

As it stands today, Wonders of Life is a shell of its past, but that doesn’t mean its glory days are gone forever.

The Wonders Of Life

The question still remains: What would be required to re-imagine Wonders of Life for the present time?

Simply bringing it back to what it used to be cannot happen (as much as us Epcot fanboys would want it to). Instead, in my re-imagining plan, Wonders of Life would undergo a massive transformation so that it can properly enter the 21st Century.

The carnival-style concept will be scrapped. The entire interior will be given a face lift, including a new paint scheme, with blues, reds, purples, greens, and neon outlines. The DNA tower will stay out front, but the archway sign will come back along with the second iteration of the sign which will be located in a planter in front of the walkway to the pavilion.

The pavilion’s new sponsor will either be another life insurance company, like Voya, or it will be a major medical/healthcare or pharmaceutical company like CVS or Pfizer.

ATTRACTIONS

Body Wars: Though the four simulators from the ride have been completely decimated, the queue and loading areas are still somewhat intact. Disney’s patented ATLAS (Advanced Technology Leisure Application Simulator) was used in Star Tours in 1987 and then Body Wars two years later. I have no doubt that Imagineering is up to the task of building a brand new simulator ride system. Along with new simulators, the queue and loading areas would be updated to reflect the changes in the simulators. Instead of updating the original ride film picture, a completely new film will be directed. Disney can even incorporate an IP into the attraction by using Baymax, your personal health care assistant from Big Hero 6. If not, cast relevant, popular actors and actresses to keep interest for the attraction high. All of this will generate big crowds for what was the first-ever thrill ride in Epcot.

Cranium Command: Other than the attraction marquee signage being removed, the queue and show theater haven’t been touched, so it should be easy to renovate. The show ran into a problem as it became time capsule of the height of 1980s comedy due to those who were cast for the attraction. The original actors reached their height in the 1980s, most due to Saturday Night Life, but the cast was never updated from the original, which led to its downfall. The solution for the longevity of the revival of this attraction is simple: continuously update the show cast with relevant actors and actresses. Disney can go even further by internally marketing IPs by using actors and actresses from popular Disney films. If the cast is continually updated, the film stays fresh for newer generations of park guests.

The Making of Me: This show, narrated by comedian/actor Martin Short, was controversial to say the least. The show theatre is still intact, and it will be easy to re-purpose. Instead of keeping with the childbirth them, a new film will be shown, one about the anatomy and development of the human body.  The film’s narrator will be Benedict Cumberbatch, simply because of his Oscar-nominated role as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. The theater itself will be updated with a new projection and sound system.

Goofy About Health: The show’s original theme about living a healthy lifestyle, is one that should be taught. The problem is that the original show is outdated by 2017 standards, but the show building is still intact. The new show will be a completely new and original 10-minute film, set to style of the classic Goofy cartoons. The physical set will be taken out in place of a giant video screen. The new film, titled “Goofy About Health,” will highlight the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through the clumsy, but lovable Goofy, just like the original.

Sensory Funhouse: The Sensory Funhouse was a great place for kids to roam free. However, it is simply outdated by today’s standards. The re-imagined Sensory Funhouse will be uniquely different and immersive, even more than its predecessor. These new experiences, like VR and digital scent technology, among other things, will truly amaze those who interact.

Coach’s Corner: The way for this smaller attraction to have any staying power is to have relevant professional athletes teach kids. For example, have Mike Trout or Bryce Harper show kids how to hit a baseball, have Russell Wilson and Odell Beckham Jr. show kids how to throw and catch a football, and Steph Curry show kids how to shoot a basketball. If you continue to update the coaching videos with relevant players who kids like, this attraction will continuously have long lines.

Frontiers of Medicine: It is important to inform about the advances that are currently being made in the areas of medicine, and science related to the body. The way to keep this attraction current is to update the different exhibitions within the attraction with touch-screen interactivity. The more that the guests can do within the attraction, the more likely they are to spend more time in that attraction, and hopefully, they will take something away from what they looked at.

Wonder Cycles: There are two ways in which this attraction can be updated: change the destinations people are biking through, and implement new visual technologies, like VR. Those are simple and easy updates that will make the younger demographics enjoy the attraction more while also getting physical exercise.

Anacomical Players Theatre: While this played an integral part in the original pavilion, though it did end several years before the entire pavilion closed, the concept of the original show doesn’t fit the new pavilion concept well enough. Unfortunately, it won’t be coming back in the re-imagining. The show building will be taken down to allow for an expansion of the Sensory Funhouse. While Sensory already takes up a significant part of the pavilion, the expansion of the play area is where the new VR experience will take place, keeping the theme of interactivity.

DINING & SHOPPING

Well & Goods Limited: The pavilion’s flagship store will continue to sell pavilion and Epcot merchandise, but the store’s footprint inside the pavilion will expand. The interior of the store will be completely new and re-designed.

Pure and Simple: The seating area will be renovated and updated. The menu for the counter-service will essentially stay the same, serving a plethora of healthy food choices and of course, the iconic Wonder Waffle and the hot and cold toppings bar. Anything for the Wonder Waffle.

Who knows if this will happen, but it’s fun to think of what could be.

Well, that’s my plan for the Wonders of Life! Next time, I’m going to help Figment out in the Imagination Pavilion…

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About the author

Alex Murphy

Alex has been visiting Disney parks since the ripe age of 1, but has really gotten into the Disney fan community around two years ago. Alex is currently studying journalism, with a concentration in sports journalism, at the University of Maryland - College Park. Outside of Disney, you'll find Alex cheering on his beloved Maryland Terrapins, Tampa Bay Rays, and Arsenal FC.

13 Comments

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  • Retaining Edutainment and the Pavilions flavor of Wonders of Life just won’t work without a corporate sponsor. That was why it was abandoned in the first place. Thus, swapping out the original attractions with a edutainment update that will feel outdated within a few years and will be a wasted opportunity. Disney is the only corporate sponsor that matters. They should infuse it with more Disney IP. As you suggested, Baymax IP is a good choice. Other choices include The Incredibles and Dr. Strange. However, to be consistent between the new Guardians attraction and Mission Space, obviously the space theme should be extended. The announced Space restaurant isn’t rumored to be coming to the Wonders of Life building, but they should definitely consider it. It’ll add a second reason to visit the pavilion.

    • Some great ideas, but you are missing NEW ideas in your re-imagination and not just updating the old attractions. Baymax is a great idea to add in. Definitely agree with the other poster that nothing would happen without a new major sponsor.

      • The NEW thing is it should be a space themed makeover with lots of Disney IP and not a health focused edutainment pavilion. That’s the NEW idea that you brushed over. Epcot is so over the corporate sponsorship. That ship has sailed. Disney won’t be looking at new corporate sponsorships especially with the abandonment of Spaceship Earth by Siemens. It almost seems like Disney has moved on since they aren’t courting any corporations to stay at Epcot. Disney is in the business of promoting its own IPs as that is much more lucrative.

        I won’t suggest any new attraction ideas since Disney seems to come up with better ones. They should pair the new Space themed restaurant with a new Space attraction. Just saying.

    • I offer you this is a counterargument. Remember when no one wanted to go to The Living Seas towards the tail end of its existence? While Disney added in an IP (Finding Nemo) to the pavilion, they kept the edutainment aspect of the pavilion while continuing to draw in more guests, much like when the pavilion first opened with United Technologies as its sponsor. Again, this counterargument does support your point about not having a corporate sponsor, but it is more than possible to keep the edutainment theme. I mean Test Track did that while getting a new sponsor. They kept the edutainment theme to an extent while keeping a corporate sponsor. So they did both while retaining a high number of guest traffic. However, I do understand what you are saying about corporate sponsorship. I simply added that in if Disney wanted to continue to keep that going because there are many companies in the life insurance/health/medicine fields that could make great sponsors of the pavilion.

      • My question is why Disney decided to close Wonders of Life instead of just keeping it open with the investments already made when it had a corporate sponsor. I felt Body Wars was a worthy attraction, but it made it nauseated and I almost threw up. If they made the motion less rough and made a few changes in the film with lighter moments, it should still survive. The fundamental flaw of this pavilion is it’s about exciting as visiting the doctor’s office. The waiting rooms of doctor’s offices are educational. Get a pamphlet on diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol. You can see videos on health issues on continuous loop in the waiting room. This made Wonders of Life redundant. You can’t make such an attraction more entertaining since it’s available in real life.

        Living Seas with Nemo and Test Track works. People are fascinated with fish and cars. You can’t say the same thing about health care and energy. As for Imagination, that attraction is actually quite insulting. To think our imagination needs someone like Dreamfinder or Figment to spark our imagination or we’ll be the dull people we actually are. Oh well. Just tread carefully.

        Epcot needs to rethink what pillars of Future World makes sense. They already decided Health and Energy don’t work. Let’s introduce newer ideas.

  • I really think this writer, as well as many other people out there, need to get the whole sponsorship idea out of their head. Today’s Parks’ operations is totally different from yesterday. Yesterday, the Parks were corporate money-grabbers. They needed funding via any means necessary. Today, it’s 100% Disney-focused. Disney wants you focused on their properties and their properties only. Why would they need sponsorship money when they can just raise ticket prices? You know what….they’ve done that and people STILL come.

    Regardless of what type of entertainment (educational, E-ticket ride, etc.), it will not be sponsored. Disney wants full ownership over everything, every penny of profit and every single impression.

  • It would be nice if the Disney Company would do something with Innoventions in Epcot. According to the Disney World web site https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/epcot/innoventions/ all that’s left in there is Colortopia (altho I think they also have a Mickey/Minnie/Goofy meet and greet in one of the buildings). Surely the Imagineers could think of things to put in there, if Disney would cough up the money. Kind of embarrassing to have all that unused space.

  • I think Cranium Command should have animated characters instead of actors. Disney has plenty of options to use. Keep the video with the human pre-teen.

    Body Wars needs to be Marvel themed. Baymax, Ant-man, Dr Strange all could appear. Have Baymax be the vehicle and Ant-man be the rescue. Dr Strange or Nick Fury could be the narrator. Let the reveal of the patient be Dr Bruce Banner and as a twist, he Hulks out and the ride changes to angry Green blood.

    Goofy needs to have a presence there but not the original attraction.

    Making of Me either scrap it or use the original one.

    Update the Sensory Funhouse but thin the rest down.

  • I’d love to see a reimagined health and wellness pavilion, and some of these reboot ideas would work (I’m surprised no one has yet suggested the Inside Out cast here). Better, in my opinion, would be to put it in a new area, and we all know Epcot has plenty of available spaces. Let the space theme expand in this section of the park and place a new emphasis on human development, including personal health and wellness as one topic, front and center in the areas nearer to Spaceship Earth and the center hub.

  • Have to admit, I like that you want to retain most of the original attractions and activities within it. I just hope when Body Wars “re-opens,” it is something more than dealing with a splinter for why guests are reduced to microscopic size. I miss Cranium Command, but it did need some updating. Would make it more up-to-date, such as using digital screens and more modern design for the inside-the-head main area? Looking forward to the rest of your series. Used to work at the Imagination pavilion, so like to compare notes.

  • It seems to me that the reimagining of Future World is setting up for two distinct areas … Future Space to the east and Future Earth to the west. In that light, I’d like to see the Wonders of Life pavilion give a nod to the past while boldly embracing the future in becoming a Martian biodome.

    The Body Wars area could simulate an expedition up and down Olympus Mans (the largest volcano in the solar system).

    Cranium Command was my favorite ride after Horizons, but they’ll never bring it back. The theater could play well to a miniaturization-of-the-theater-goers concept into a robot exploring the Martian surface and, accidentally, discovering life.

    Other areas can include an opportunity to walk through a manmade greenhouse and/or quarry, and training to pilot exploratory robot rovers on the red planet.

    And, then of course, why not the first restaurant on Mars?