Thursday, February 17, 2011

Horizons, Simulated

First of all, I want to thank all 44 people who voted on the poll concerning the blog’s recent visual overhaul. Three-quarters of you liked the new look, so it will stay. If anyone has any suggestions on how to improve things, please fire away in the comments. Now, on to today’s topic:

The future is never what we imagine. Sometime in the mid-80s, my parents bought my sister and I a set of educational National Geographic books. One of them, entitled Science-It’s Changing Your World, contained this picture of a kid playing a futuristic videogame:

I have absolutely no idea how this game was supposed to have worked (I think it involved lasers) or why the kid was wearing a motorcycle helmet, but it looked so futuristic, like TRON! I was sure that, by the time I was in high school, I would be able to go down to the local arcade and play the Laser Pod Game for myself.

By the time high school rolled around in the early-90s, I had forgotten all about the Laser Pod. Instead, I was anticipating the newest Big Thing That Was Just Around The Corner: virtual reality! As crazy as it sounds, we spent most of the ‘90s believing that the future of video games looked like this:

Which is why I wasn’t one bit upset when I learned that EPCOT Center’s CommuniCore was being replaced by something called Innoventions. In the beginning, Innoventions was advertised as the place you could test drive all the new technologies that were about to revolutionize our lives, including virtual reality. Because I was young and stupid, I assumed that this was EPCOT’s way of taking the first step into the New Millennium. I imagined that, on future EPCOT visits, I’d spend some time playing with the virtual reality in Innoventions, then head out to ride updated, plussed versions of Horizons, Journey Into Imagination, and World of Motion.

And just like we arrived in the 1990s without Laser Pods at our local arcades, the Innoventions of 2011 is significantly less exciting than we imagined it would be. Excepting the Sum of All Thrills exhibit, it seems more geared to showcasing stuff we already have in our living rooms.


Case in point

Also, the place seems largely empty. Imagine how Future World would look if every sponsor-less pavilion got bulldozed. Clearly, Innoventions needs some fun, permanent exhibits that aren’t dependent on corporate sponsorships. For example, a Horizons simulator.

This is not a farfetched idea. The guys behind WEDCon are already building one that could easily fit into one of the larger plots of empty exhibition space. And Chris Wallace, the guy behind the Horizons Resurrected project, is in the midst of creating a virtual reality version of everyone’s favorite lost EPCOT pavilion that could be utilized in a much smaller space, like where the Wall O’ Playstations currently resides. It would be Disney’s favorite type of attraction: a relatively inexpensive, permanent exhibit that, aside from regular maintenance, never needs any costly upgrades. (Okay, that’s not completely true. Disney’s favorite “attractions” are actually revenue generators like gift shops and character Meet-and-Greets)

Over the past year or so, little things have been happening at the park that delight EPCOT Center fans. Universe of Energy was returned to its old exterior color scheme, the painted monoliths on Spaceship Earth’s legs were removed, the Fountain of Nations got that cool new railing, and the whirlygigs are disappearing from Innoventions plaza. Clearly, someone with decision-making authority at the company has at least a passing affection for old-school EPCOT. So why not a Horizons simulator, or maybe a 21st century refresh of old CommuniCore exhibits like Energy Exchange? Not only would it make people happy, but it could fuel an expansion of the extremely popular line of retro EPCOT merchandise.

So come on, Disney. You know this needs to happen. In fact, I am willing to throw a little something in. Remember how I once promised to publicly embarrass myself before the whole Internet if the Imagination pavilion ever gets a worthy overhaul? That promise still stands, but now I’m going to add to it: if a worthy Imagination overhaul happens OR if Innoventions gets a Horizons simulator, I will celebrate like a crazed chipmunk, and said reaction will be posted on YouTube for all the Internet to see. So come on, Team Disney Orlando. Do the right thing. Make me embarrass myself on the Internet.

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