In Volume 4 we look at a classic Disney ride that had some strong connections to a current Disney ride. It is a ride that many Disney fans would likely feel is off-limits for replacing. Is new always better?
Welcome To Volume 4 of The New vs Old Series
Disney World is in a never-ending state of improvement of its attractions, restaurants, and other experiences. That is, after all, part of Walt’s original vision. But do you miss the old version of something at Walt Disney World? We’re headed to EPCOT’s Future World for this edition’s comparisons! Do you agree with the choice for winner?
At the start of this series I worried that nostalgia would be too much of a factor in my decision making. My history bias is strong, but in Volumes 1 through 3 combined I chose the new attraction version three out of five times.
In the inaugural edition we took a look at opening day attractions in Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. Volume 2 took us on a wild (and sometimes dark) ride through Fantasyland. For Volume 3 we explored some of EPCOT’s World Showcase.
Now, in Volume 4 we are sliding back over to EPCOT’s Future World.
Horizons vs Mission: Space
For this matchup we are headed to EPCOT’s Future World. Horizons opened on October 1st, 1983. This Disney classic previewed what life might be like in the future, set to the hopeful theme “If we can dream it, we can do it!”
Sponsored by General Electric, guests boarded and Omnimover to take a look at the future of working, living, learning, and entertainment. Horizons did a nice job illustrating how all of the other themes throughout EPCOT Center’s Future World could create a better future for us all.
The ride brought together the elements of communication, energy, transportation, and environment interaction that were showcased throughout EPCOT.
Horizons utilized both audio-animatronic scenes and film scenes (known as OMNIMAX). Guests even had the option of choosing the ending for their ride experience.
The ride started at “Futureport” and guests would push a button to indicate how they wanted to return for the ride’s final scenes. The choices included the underwater research base Sea Castle, the space station Brava Centauri, or the desert farm Mesa Verde.
Sea Castle depicted future ocean colonization while Mesa Verde depicted arid-zone agriculture (many guests still remember the citrus smell). The scene Brava Centauri depicted space colonization. The final scene gave riders a simulated flyover of their selected scene.
Sequel to Carousel of Progress?
The ride started by showing guests how people of the past viewed life in the future. Who can forget the famous Robot Butler from the “Looking Back At Tomorrow” portion of the ride?
Horizons was unofficially the sequel to Carousel of Progress, which was Walt Disney’s ride in the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. The ride was eventually moved to Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom where it still is today.
The Carousel of Progress theme song “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was part of the opening Looking Back at Tomorrow scene in Horizons. The version of the song that could be heard coming from a TV in Horizons can still be heard today on a radio during the first act of Carousel of Progress.
Horizons closed for a brief period in 1993 after GE’s sponsorship ran out but then officially closed for good on January 9, 1999. The ride lacked corporate sponsorship and was dealing with technical issues at an increasing rate.
Disney was faced with the decision of investing in a Horizons overhaul or going in a new direction. Since its closure, Horizons has remained popular and has developed quite the cult following.
That new direction noted above came in the form of a space-themed replacement in Future World. After the Horizons building was demolished, a new building was built that is now home to a space shuttle simulator called Mission: Space using cutting-edge technology. Construction started in late 2000 and the ride officially opened on October 1, 2003.
Mission: Space is a space simulator that simulates the g-forces of rocket liftoff and weightlessness as guests experience a journey to Mars. Riders are trainees at the fictional International Space Training Center. After an introductory video featuring Apollo 13 and Mission to Mars star Gary Sinise (and now Gina Torres), riders are launched into space, slingshot around the moon, and eventually land on Mars. Each rider is a member of the team and has a role throughout the ride.
Mission: Space has two versions of intensity for guests to choose from. Orange is the more intense version, while Green has less spinning. Initially, the two were just different versions of the same ride, but a 2017 update now has different versions.
Today, Orange team guests still go to Mars, and there is an updated ride film. The Green team, however, experiences an orbiting flight around the Earth. In both versions there are hazards to navigate before landing safely.
Another change that came from the 2017 update was Gary Sinise being replaced by Gina Torres. Mission: Space is routinely one of the higher-demand rides in EPCOT.
Which Is Better?
Given what the ride meant to the park and overall Disney experience, Horizons wins this matchup of New vs. Old. When I started this series I talked about letting nostalgia play too much of a role in making decisions. In this case I believe it is warranted!
Horizons truly captured what guests talk about when a ride or experience has that Disney feeling. It might be hard for newer fans of Disney to believe that a 1980’s Omnimover ride could beat a cutting edge space shuttle simulator.
Horizons had the perfect Disney experience from the building architecture to the ride details. As we saw with some of the other past matchups, there is nothing wrong at all with Mission: Space. It is a good ride. Personally, I’m not a fan of spinning rides so that could have an affect on my decision. I also feel like the Green ride version is a little too tame, but then the Orange gets a little too intense. I’m in headache zone immediately. Also, much respect to astronauts and pilots who routinely deal with this!
Another possibly underrated reason was the loss of Gary Sinise in Mission: Space. I thought his inclusion in the ride was a definite plus. No offense to Gina Torres, but I felt the loss of Sinise and his connections to space movies was a downgrade. In addition, I did not factor in the Space 220 restaurant opening. While related to the pavilion area, I did not consider it part of the ride.
Finally, the Carousel of Progress connection certainly is a factor in my decision. I realize the costs involved with updating Horizons were high but keeping this unofficial sequel going would have been great. The two could have worked in tandem for future updates.
Maybe Mission: Space could have gone in a different section of Walt Disney World? Either way this isn’t a slight at Mission: Space but rather a nod to a classic Imagineering ride that captured the true essence of Disney.
What would you have picked in Volume 4’s matchup? Am I stuck in the past too much with my choice of Horizons? Are there any parts of Disney World (attractions and other areas) that you would like compared for a future article matchup? Let us know in the comments and on Facebook!