Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another From the MVT Chicken Bag! (Eric)

THIS IS A MUST READ! Proof that Horizons inspired kids.

From, Bob Weekes, "last of the cool people" member:


I was 3 the first time I went to EPCOT Center and my brother was barely 1. I don't have many memories from that visit, but one that stood out was a mysterious ride that took you underwater, into outer space and allowed you to choose one of multiple endings. Oh yea, and it smelled like oranges.

The next time we went to Disney World as a family, I was 8 and my brother was 5. This time, I had grown far more conscious about where we were going and what we were going to experience. More than any other ride, I was fascinated with what I knew then as Horizons. In a Disney high inspired by my previous memories and endless loops of those great old vacation planning videos, I forced my younger brother to participate in "Disney" days. These days would consist of watching Disney planning videos and constructing mini lego and cardboard model Disney ride sets. Horizons was a personal favorite to include. I wish horribly that I had held onto these little creations, but of course I went through that teenage "this is stupid" phase and probably tossed everything.

ANYWAYS, we finally got to Disney World in November of 1994. Looking back, I now realize how damn lucky we were, as we JUST missed the first major closing of Horizons. When we got there, we went straight for EPCOT Center and made a B-line for Horizons. It was the closest thing to a religious experience I had in my childhood. Individuals on this blog have posted many great memories and aspects of this ride that made it so grand, and it does not differ here. The ride expanded what I thought was possible and blew my imagination wide open. I don't know how many times I rode Horizons with my brother that trip, but it probably wasn't enough. I cried when he we had to return to upstate NY after the 11 day trip, but I probably would have had to have been dragged out of the place had I known it would be the last time I would ever ride Horizons again in my life.

When we returned home, I was obsessed. I could not get the ride out of my head. Delusional with love for this ride, I made a pact with my younger brother Jim: we were going to build a replica of Horizons in our backyard.

Now of course even THEN I knew this was absurd, but in a Fitzcarraldo-esque way I thought it was somehow feasible. And after all, the Horizons motto was "If we can dream it, we can do it." Jim and I set out to business. We collected reams of cardboard from Sam's Club (or forced my mom to grab some whenever she went), because of course cardboard is the most reliable building block for a project such as this. We spent our nights fantasizing about how we would portray different scenes; how it would feel to be able to head outside into the backyard after our evening baths and go for a spin on Horizons. Of course, the fact that the Horizons show building took up 3 acres and our background MAYBE encompassed 1/16 of that did not deter us in the least. After all, we had plenty of other issues to deal with. We began drawing up designs for the AA (which would be constructed out of...DUH DUH DUH...CARDBOARD!) and presenting my mother (a seamstress) with designs for the costumes (s
he played along with our little "game" so nicely). We determined that the ride vehicle would be an ingenious cardboard box that would ride on top of my youngest brother's giant toy train along an expanse of plastic tracks (we only had about 10 feet of track, but hey whatever), which some unlucky "worker" would have to push through the ride. The show building would be a giant mold of duct-taped cardboard boxes that would be painted to look like the real Horizons (I don't think we ever considered that upon the first rainfall, or god forbid snowfall, our beloved attraction would look like a melted Jell-O mold).

After we got the basics out of the way, we moved onto the little details. For example, that robot butler with the spinning head: how was his head going to spin!? EASY, we make the head a seperate cardboard piece, attach it to a pole that's in the ground, then lead a piece of string from the head up through the roof where the other end was attached to a pencil would straddle the hole. The wind will take care of the rest. Genius. How are we going to have a working TV singing "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" during that scene? Obviously we'd steal the tube TV from the basement and stick it in there. What's that? Electricity? Who needs it!? Oh and the orange smell? Nothing that a ton of car air fresheners couldn't handle.

We had all these details "written" (in whatever scribble short-hand we were using at the time) down on sheets of paper from weeks of idea generating. Again, I wish SO badly that we still had these somewhere, but they're long since gone.

Finally it came time to put our idea in motion. We began construction on the first section. Since this was a time before the internet and the ability to see a detailed ride-through of the attraction, we had to go completely by memory. Since the section we wanted most and stood out to us the most was Brava Centauri, we began construction on outer space. We connected our first few boxes together in the kitchen. We spent days coloring the inside black with Sharpie MARKERS (I'm surprised our brains didn't melt...though that probably explains a lot now). We then poked holes in the sides for the "stars." We then began to hang little models of the space scene from the top of the box. Looking back on it, it really didn't make a half-bad giant diorama of the scene. Even though the reality of this project's futility was sinking in (the space obviously wasn't NEARLY large enough for even a person to walk through, let alone a carboard omnimover to make it through, there was no w
ay we could make the track ride "up-hill" as we had originally planed, and the whole "wow that was a lot of work for so little" was beginning to kick in), but damn if we weren't enthralled with it. That little section stood for a lot. It represented our love and nostalgia for the ride. We would sit in it, play the famous "Space" track from the ancient Disney Park Music album (which I still listen to and tear up at), and pretend that we were there. We realized that this was the sort of thing to leave in the safe hands of Disney. In the end, we were meant to enjoy the ride, not build it, and we would see it again soon enough. In the meantime we enjoyed our little section of our ride.

Fairly soon after that, the "ride" section and the plans were tossed for whatever reason (probably my parents needing their space back). But we waited, hoping to ride Horizons again. Of course, you know the story. When I heard that Horizons was closing for good in 1999, I remember crying my eyes out. It was (and is) so bizarre. So many pieces of my childhood and things that made life special back then, like certain movies, Nintendo games, books...I can pull them out and relive them. That's something that can never happen with Horizons (or the other rides in EPCOT), so when it closed it felt like a part of my childhood died forever. This site is the closest I've been brought back to the "Horizons feeling" since those days, and I thank you for it. Horizons inspired a lot of things in my life. It brought creativity out in me, it inspired me to want to tell stories, it was a motivating factor in wanting to become a Disney Cast Member in the parks for 8 months during a Disney College Internship. Sure it's "only" a ride, but I always feel like Horizons is a part of me.

In 2 days, I'm heading back to WDW for the first time in 3 years. I get to take my girlfriend with me for the first time to Epcot, but I wish I could have shown her EPCOT Center. There will simply be no way to ever convey what it was like in its glory days, or how amazing an experience Horizons was.


That's an amazing story if ever there was one. It inspires me to want to turn my living room into Nova Cite. Get me some card board!

11 comments:

  1. Well I must say that reading this I went from laughing my ass off at seeing my "Chickenbag" suggestion proudly displayed - to being filled with nostalgia by the end of this fabulous story.

    Bob, you have a way with words and have eloquently summarized why we're all here enjoying this place. Absolutely great story, man.

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  2. Awesome - this is the inspiration that was so valuable about Epcot. And fie to the corporate overlords who run Disney now. Fie.

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  3. Wow. That is simply awesome. And I share your disappoint with showing someone the current Epcot. It's impossible to describe in words the difference the years have made.

    -Joe from myparkmyrides.blogspot.com

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  4. After my first trip there in January '83, I came home and made a replica of the freeway system of WDW in my front yard by pushing my "Ziffy Whomper" around. That tree would represent EPCOT Center, that tree would be the Magic Kingdom. I think I may have drawn a "turn your radio to 810" sign in the snow too.

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  5. We first visited in November of 1983. The second half of the trip was in Tampa, and I immediately headed to the beach to "recreate" EPCOT Center via sand. When we got home I drew picture after picture of what I remembered, and built the buildings in LEGOs. Even now, I am still trying to recreate EPCOT Center of old through Roller Coaster Tycoon.

    Nerdy? Yes. But it's therapeutic in re-living some of my best childhood memories.

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