Off to Neverland! – Epcot Attractions and Lands that Never Happened (Part 1)
Welcome back to Neverland! We will continue our tour of Disney’s newest theme park, Neverland. If you are joining us for the first time on this tour, welcome! If you didn’t join us on our last tour back in February, you can go back and check out our inaugural visit. What is Neverland, you ask? Here’s the explanation from our first visit:
Neverland is a fictional place in Disney’s “Peter Pan,” where pirates rule the seas, mermaids lurk the waters, fairies are real, and you never grow up. It’s a place of “never.” For a moment, let’s pretend that it is the year 2078. In this time period, Disney has just announced plans for their 6th theme park which would be 500 acres – their biggest park yet. This park would be called Neverland. This park is filled with shows, rides, concepts, ideas and many other things that Disney had plans for, but never fully put into effect. Let me be your VIP tour guide and show you what would be in this fictional Disney park of things that have “never” happened.
On today’s tour, we will journey across the world and explore lost continents. Pack your suitcase, get your passport, and buy your plane ticket, because we’re heading to the Land of Forgotten Countries! This particular tour will be separated into multiple parts to ensure you don’t get jet lag!
Land of Forgotten Countries (World Showcase, EPCOT)
ISRAEL PAVILION- In 1980, the State of Israel entered into a contractual agreement to be officially sponsored in the World Showcase. The pavilion would feature a center courtyard with a menorah, as well as artifacts from the Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv. Also planned was an open-air restaurant. Think of the Holy Land, but on a much smaller scale. It wasn’t built because of threatened boycotts and security issues arising in Israel. However, from 1999-2001, the Millenium Pavilion featured an Israel Exhibit and had a simulator-type ride called “Journey to Jerusalem,” which was a virtual tour of historic holy sites.
COSTA RICA PAVILION- Below is a model of the planned pavilion for Costa Rica. The pavilion would feature a crystal palace shown below, which looks very similar in design to the Crystal Palace Restaurant at Magic Kingdom. The palace was to be the pavilion’s main centerpiece. In addition to the palace, there were to be waterfalls, exotic animals, and gardens similar to the nation itself. Food and shopping locations would have had a tropical vibe as well. There were also plans for an arts and crafts area inside the palace.
EQUATORIAL AFRICA PAVILION- This pavilion was actually in the final stages of development before being cancelled. Even shows were already planned out. However, due to a lack of funding owing to the lack of an African nation sponsor, the construction never began. Why Disney has never revisited the idea, no one knows. The two pictures below show concept art and a map of the future land. The ‘Equatorial’ in Equatorial Africa refers to the group of African countries that lie along the equator and to which the pavilion would have been themed. The pavilion was also known as the “African Nations pavilion” or the “Africa pavilion” and the pavilion would have been located between China and Germany. The main attraction would have been a theater show called the ‘Heartbeat of Africa.’ The entrance to the area would feature a larger-than-life African treehouse. There is so much more to this pavilion, I could write an entire article just on this topic, but our tour must move on.
IRAN PAVILION- Before Epcot was constructed, this pavilion was proposed. Unfortunately, we have never seen any concept art for this pavilion, so it’s possible the concept never reached full planning stages yet and was only an idea created by Disney Imagineers. It would have featured a dark ride that would explore different parts of Persian history and have a shopping area that would be based on a bazaar. Because of the upheaval after the Iranian Revolution, the idea was scrapped.
PUERTO RICO PAVILION- Details are vague for this pavilion. We do not know much because, although it was ‘technically planned’, at some point, the Walt Disney Company decided to announce that the idea was completely false. Even though the company said it was false, the idea was under investigation and was indeed proven to have been ‘in the works’ at some point. In 2014, rumors arose that Epcot would finally see this pavilion because of some new agreements between Puerto Rico and the U.S., but turns out this speculation was only for a booth at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
SOVIET UNION (RUSSIA) PAVILION- Based on the Kremlin in Moscow, the pavilion would feature a replica of St. Basil’s Cathedral. Two rides that were planned would be a sled journey through the Russian scenery, and a ride-through attraction based on Russia’s famous folk tale The Fool and the Fish. The story is about Ivan, a young fool who spares the life of a fish, specifically a pike. It just so happens that the pike is magical, and in return, Ivan is granted wishes from the pike. The plans were scrapped when the Soviet Union was dissolved. Below were two concept art images for this proposed land.
SPAIN PAVILION-Two attractions for this pavilion included a dark ride through Spain highlighting Spanish culture, and a film (likely a Circle-Vision 360) about the nation’s landmarks, showcasing the beauty of the country. The pavilion would have also featured a waterside restaurant on the World Showcase Lagoon. Unfortunately, the plans got scrapped, most likely due to budget reasons and a lack of sponsorships. Below are two images confirming the concept for the land.
SWITZERLAND PAVILION- The Switzerland pavilion would actually have featured a Swiss mountain, containing a version of the Matterhorn Bobsleds attraction from Disneyland. We did a huge write-up on this planned pavilion back in December of 2014 including an entire book of concept art!
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES PAVILION- The UAE pavilion was an idea created by Imagineers, but never matured beyond an idea. The pavilion would feature a ‘flying carpet’ ride that would be a simulation where you are flying on a magic carpet (though nothing like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin at Magic Kingdom).
VENEZUELA PAVILION- For the same reason, this idea never got off of the drawing board. In this pavilion, there would have been an aerial tram ride through a Venezuelan rainforest as pictured below.
This will conclude our tour of the Land of Forgotten Countries for now. If you enjoyed this article and want more, stay tuned for more about the ancient past of Epcot when our tour continues…