Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Horizons 2012: Try to Imagine. . .

Imagine, if you will, that Disney decided to celebrate Epcot's 30th anniversary in a big way by rechristening it EPCOT Center and, on October 1, 2012 unveiling a brand-new Horizons pavilion in Future World. "Sure," you say sarcastically, "and imagine that I could fly there for free on a giant winged pig!" I hear you, but since Disney is all about wishing on stars to make dreams come true and crap like that let's just close our eyes and pretend, okay? (I meant that figuratively. You can't keep reading if your eyes are closed) Anyway, if Horizons were to live again, where in Future World would it go? How would a new incarnation of the pavilion differ from the original? Those are the questions I'm going to try to address here.

First of all, just where would it go? The Horizons pavilion was massive, and looking at an aerial photo of Future World it's hard to see where a new building would fit. More than one person on the forums has pointed out that the old Wonders of Life pavilion would be perfect for a new Horizons, and I agree that's probably the best fit. But would you put Horizons into the existing building, or demolish it and start anew? I'm not sure what the best answer is, but since the design of the old Horizons pavilion was so much a part o
f its identity, I'd prefer to see the existing structure demolished in favor of a re-constructed pavilion that's outwardly identical to the original Horizons.

Now that we know where a new Horizons would go, what would it be like? Well, the first two scenes ("Looking Back at Tomorrow") could be virtually unchanged, although it might be good to add some more recent mistaken views of the future. The Omnimax sequence would need to highlight current advances in things like nanotechnology and green energy. Of course, the "future" sequence would need the biggest overhaul. Here are some bullet points I thought of to serve as a guide:
  • No flying cars: Although they've been included any almost every vision of the future for the last hundred years, they're obviously not practical. All they'd do is make auto accidents more deadly.
  • No videophones: The videophone is another staple of the generic "world of the future". Although we've had the technology for quite a while, there just isn't any widespread consumer demand for it. To be sure, the future Horizons shows us should have some kind of innovation in communication. But in today's world where we carry around personal communication devices that double as handheld computer/camera/music player/GPS devices, I personally can't imagine what that innovation would be. Still, something's bound to come up. After all, who in 1983 could have imagined texting on a cell phone?
  • No ridiculous clothing: Trying to predict future fashions is a huge mistake that will just date the show. Put everybody in regular clothes; nothing overly faddish, no visible brand names, just simple, middle-of-the-road outfits. Spacesuits and undersea gear should look advanced, but without flourishes that seem futuristic now but may look dated in a few years.
Those points take care of things that the future should not contain, but just what would we see? Well, the city of Nova Cite could look a lot the "green megacity" envisioned in a recent issue of Popular Science. The idea of desert farms seems like an even better idea now than it was in the early eighties, but the utility of space habitats or ocean cities isn't as immediately apparent. The original Horizons did mention aquaculture (primarily kelp farming) as one benefit of ocean colonies, and a new ride should probably show that there's a point to ocean colonization beyond scuba diving and undersea restaurants.

It's ironic that we think less about space colonization in 2008 than we did in 1983. Most folks wonder exactly what benefit there would be to space habitats, other than the fact that living in space would be cool.
Physicist Gerard O'Neill had the answer when he floated the idea that space colonies could double as solar power stations that collect energy from the sun and beam it back to Earth, and that idea could definitely be touched on. One idea from the original "space" scene that should be dispensed with is the asteroid mining. It's just too science-fictiony. Unless the asteriod belt between Mars and Jupiter is full of some magical space mineral that cures baldness, flatulence, and cancer, I don't see how it could possibly be cost-effective to go all the way out there to grab asteriods, then tow them all the way back to someplace between the Earth and the Moon. Also, the space shuttle should be seen nowhere. Any space vehicles should look appropriately futuristic.

The original Horizons had no room for a post-show area, but if you've visited any Disney park in the last decade you know that many of the rides exit into a gift shop. I'm not totally averse to this idea, as long as the gift shop is full of can't-get-it-anywhere-else Horizons gear and not just the same stuff that MouseGear sells. It would be nice if there were a section of
CommuniCore (I refuse to call it Innoventions) set aside for exhibits where you could learn more about the technologies that make up the Horizons future.

So,those are my ideas for Horizons 2012. As always, I claim no ownership of them, and I certainly don't claim that they're any good. If anyone reading this has additional or better ideas, leave a comment!


  1. I'm enjoying reading your entries. I never saw the old Horizons, but from the comments I see by just about everyone, it must have been something special. One interesting thing I saw in a magazine from the Museum of Science and Industry recently is the concept of vertical farming - farming in high rise buildings, where the floors are actually productive farms. Just something to think about...

  2. Yes, I've seen the vertical farming concept in Popular Science as well. No self-respecting City O' The Future should be without a vertical farm, in my opinion.

  3. I think the Popular Science magazine should be the sponsor. I enjoy reading their magazine because it reminds me of riding Horizons. They seem to get the whole fun, positive future-view thing. Just sayin'...


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