Monday, September 21, 2009

Two Birds With One Stone (or how to get Horizons back, sort of)

There's a lot of love for Horizons out there, and no shortage of ideas on how to bring it back. Some folks advocate a new Horizons pavilion between The Land and The Seas With Nemo and His Computer-Generated Friends. Others point out that the former Wonders of Life pavilion is sufficiently large, and since it's sitting vacant a new Horizons ride would be a good fit there. A couple weeks ago, a person on one of the message boards I frequent suggested a Horizons-themed eatery be installed in the Odyssey building, with different rooms themed to the various futures presented during the course of the ride (Jules Verne's future, the Neon City future from the '50s, etc.) and I got to thinking: what about converting the Wonders of Life into a huge, immersive Horizons restaurant?

It could be divided into exquisitely-themed areas representing the different "future" environments seen on the ride. You'd check in at the with the maitre'd in the FuturePort, and from there you'd be escorted to your table in one of the restaurant's three main areas: the Nova Cite Concourse, the Mesa Verde Terrace, or the Brava Centuari RefreshmentPort. Utilizing either high-definition or (ideally) glasses-free stereoscopic 3D screens, each area would offer an expansive view of the environment "outside", be it Nova Cite's bustling futuristic metropolis, Mesa Verde's desert oasis (with just the subtlest hint of orangey scent) or the magnificent vista outside the viewport of the Earth-orbiting Brava Centuari station. No, I'm not forgetting the floating city of Sea Castle, but the fact is that Future World already has an underwater restaurant of sorts. However, in my post about the shortcomings of the Coral Reef restaurant, a commenter named Omnispace put forth the intriguing idea of doing away with the Coral Reef altogether and extending the Seas ride-through attraction through there, and if that were to happen (or if the Coral Reef were to close for some other reason, such as declining patronage due to poor-quality food and iffy service) then of course the Horizons Restaurant would not be complete without a Sea Castle section. The "view" through the "windows" could automatically change according to the time of day, so breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the restaurant would each be a unique experience.

None of this is impossible from a technological standpoint. Using technology available in 1998, Industrial Light and Magic created hyper-realistic 3D-modeled environments for Star Wars Episode I. Eleven-and-a-half years later, the technology is much more affordable. Glasses-free stereoscopic 3D screens exist too. Sure, as yet they're not very large, but as technology advances they'll quickly get bigger and less expensive. For the menus, what about building a multitouch system like Microsoft Surface into the tables?

Of course, someone will wonder why in the world EPCOT would need another restaurant. After all, the World Showcase is full of them, and Future World already has two table service and two counter service venues. The last time I was in Future World on Labor Day in 2007, though, they were all packed to capacity at lunchtime (okay, I'm not sure about the Coral Reef, since it's so out-of-the way, but the rest of them definitely were). Even though my wife and I had an ADR at the Garden Grille, we still waited almost twenty minutes for our table. I think another table service eatery in Future World would do pretty well. But, if I'm wrong and attendance figures just wouldn't support a large new restaurant, then I say they should close the Coral Reef. It was a great place to eat once, but now positive reviews of the place are few and far between. It really isn't worth it to eat there unless you get a table right next to the tank, and even that can be a mixed blessing if nearby diners allow their children to come press their noses against the glass right next to you and crowd you while you're trying to enjoy your meal. I figure if you're going to have some vacant real estate in Future World anyway, the hind end of the Seas pavilion is a better place for it than a huge, hard-to-ignore golden-domed building.

Sure, it's not a perfect idea, but it does address some of Future World's problems: it gives that monstrous building between Universe of Energy and Mission:Space a reason to exist, it adds a needed restaurant to Future World, and it allows us to spend a little time immersed in Horizons' futuristic utopia.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some EPCOT Pictures from Disney's Hollywood Studios

My wife really wanted to get out of town on Labor Day, so we headed south to Disney's Hollywood Studios, and I snapped some pictures of some EPCOT-related things I found there.

Inside One Man's Dream, you'll find a diorama of Walt presenting his original plans for EPCOT to a television audience.

The TV cameras even sport the old-school WED logo!

Finally, if you climb to the very top of the bleachers at the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show, you can see Spaceship Earth in the distance.

It's amazing how close together the two parks actually are. I've recently become an annual passholder, so over the next fifteen months I hope to be making several more little day trips to EPCOT to take pictures and report on what's going on there.

Thanks for reading!