Although World Showcase has been part of EPCOT Center since that pivotal day when models for two separate parks were pushed together to form what we know today (or at least so the story goes), World Showcase has changed over the years. It has changed a lot less than Future World, and much of what you can see today within World Showcase could also be seen by guests who entered EPCOT Center in 1982. Still, there have been additions and changes over the years.
I think it’s interesting to look at old World Showcase photos to see how much has changed, but at the same time how the fundamental elements have mostly stayed the same. With the exception of Morocco and Norway, which opened in 1984 and 1988, respectively, the rest of the pavilions in World Showcase all existed on EPCOT Center’s opening day.
Since these pavilions are short on actual rides, not much has changed on that front. Mexico’s boat ride El Rio del Tiempo became the Gran Fiesta Tour in 2007, and some of the films have been updated in the countries, but World Showcase has not seen a fundamental paradigm shift like Future World has seen.
For most people, the more interesting aspect of World Showcase’s history is the unbuilt pavilions. Disney has developed a reputation for building incomplete theme parks following EPCOT Center due to the financial strain it put on the Company in the early 1980s (though in fairness, The Walt Disney Company was not nearly as strong then as it is today), and the Disney-MGM Studios, Disney’s California Adventure, Disney’s Animal Kingdom–basically every park except Disneyland Paris and Tokyo DisneySea–are all examples of this thinking. But the mentality was around even during EPCOT Center’s construction, as World Showcase opened incomplete, with several countries slated to open shortly following the opening of the park.
There’s a lot about this in Beard’s 240-page book, Walt Disney’s Epcot Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow. There are three versions of this book, two of which are 240 pages. Make sure you get one of those. One was released pre-opening and one was released post-opening, with the only difference being that concept art in the pre-opening version was replaced by photos in the post-opening version. (There’s also a 127 page book from 1982 by a similar name–don’t get this version.) At the time this book was written, it was still believed that these pavilions were coming to the park, so the books spends time discussing them. It’s fascinating and a bit eerie–plans were strong enough at the time that Disney wasn’t concerned about placing them in a book. It’s even more eerie to watch Danny Kaye speak with Alex Haley, author of Roots, about the Equatorial Africa pavilion, which would be opening in “about a year” as they stood over a detailed model of the pavilion at its future site in the video below.
Other pavilions, including Spain and Israel, were also planned, as were attractions for existing World Showcase countries. The most fascinating of these to me is the Rhine River Cruise, which is described in detail in the Beard Epcot book above, and even had its entrance in Germany built! Another interesting one is the Japan Bullet Train Ride, although it sounds like that one might not have made it beyond the Blue Sky stage. For a more comprehensive look at EPCOT Center history, check out The Epcot Explorer’s Encyclopedia.
These unbuilt World Showcase countries and attractions are really fascinating to me, especially since it so much of it was greenlit and almost came to fruition. I wonder how much was actually fabricated (was the movie hosted by Alex Haley for the Africa pavilion actually filmed?), but never installed in EPCOT Center. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to have photos of these unbuilt things, so you’ll have to settle for the photos below of things that were built!
As EPCOT Center fans continue to celebrate the park’s 30th Anniversary until October 1, 2013, we will continue to share these vintage reader-submitted EPCOT Center photos from time to time. If you have EPCOT Center photos you’d like to share with our readers, please click here for details on submitting them!
For photographer attribution and other information, hover your cursor over each photo. Also, be sure to check out our photo credits page. If you haven’t caught the other installments in this EPCOT30 tribute series, check them out here!
What extinct aspect of World Showcase do you miss most? I know I’d love for the creepy dolls to make a reappearance! Share your thoughts on this post in the comments.