Editor’s Note: This series is a look at how one staff member would re-imagine Epcot pavilions. Previous articles in the series can be found here.
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 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.
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…