Epcot’s Horizons – Part One


I miss Horizons. This was a wonderful attraction that allowed me to be immersed in science fiction and science fact with a touch of Disney magic. It was grand in scope and possibilities. I’m sure when the Imagineers were designing Horizons they believed they were creating another Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion – an attraction that would live on and on. But alas, it didn’t work out that way. What is to follow is a brief history of this once illustrious attraction and then a trip down memory lane as we take one last ride.

Horizons' Logo

Horizons officially opened on October 1, 1983, exactly one year to the day after the opening of Epcot. Sponsored by General Electric (GE), the story of Horizons was designed to be a sequel to the story presented in another GE sponsored attraction, Carousel of Progress.

Carousel of Progress - Disneyland

At the New York World’s Fair, Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, Carousel of Progress told the story of a family dealing with new technologies in the 20th century. Horizons continued this story by presenting us with a family living in the 21st century. But unlike Carousel of Progress where the family remained physically close, in Horizons adult children move to the desert, beneath the ocean, and out into space.

The Horizons building was unique in its design. Imagineer George McGinnis and architect Bill Norton created a structure that looked like a spaceship to some and a giant multifaceted gem to others. In either case, their desire was to present viewers with a structure like they had never seen before – something that would help guests transition their thinking from the present into the future.

Horizons Concept Drawing

Horizons Building

During the early planning stages of Horizons, the attraction was to be called Century 3. This was to honor the third century of the United State’s existence, 1976-2076. But as Epcot began to take on a more international flavor with the inclusion of World Showcase, it was decided that a less “country specific” name was in order. Next came the name FutureProbe. However the word “probe” had a negative connotation and it too was abandoned. Finally the name Horizons was selected as the word conveyed the future ahead of us. It’s interesting to note, the name “Century 3″ could be seen on a space vehicle during the ride.

Century 3 Space Craft

Representatives from GE worked closely with Imagineers during the development of this attraction. Early concepts centered around the inventions of Thomas Edison and the creation of the General Electric company. As time passed, the idea evolved into a presentation of America’s progression into the future. But like the attraction’s name, a more international subject was needed. In order to appeal to a global audience, it was finally decided to offer a view of man’s future as seen through the eyes of scientist and authors both past and present. But unlike the original Carousel of Progress whose focus was on technology, Horizons would put the emphasis on humanity.

Horizons’ ride mechanism was similar to the Peter Pan attraction in the Magic Kingdom. Vehicles were suspended from an overhead rail and the track determined the direction the carriage faced. The ride had 174 vehicles that each held up to four guests. Horizons had a capacity of 2,784 riders per hour and lasted a little over fourteen and a half minutes. Fifty-four Audio-Animatronics figures and 770 props were used on 24 sets. In addition, twelve projectors and two Omnimax screens were incorporated into the ride.

The show was narrated by a couple living in the future and voiced by Bob Holt and Dena Dietrich. Holt was primarily a voice actor who also appeared in a number of movies including Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks.” Dietrich guest starred on many television series but is best remembered for playing Mother Nature in Chiffon margarine commercials.

Bob Holt

Dena Dietrich

Horizons was unique in that it allowed guests to select their own ending to the ride. Toward the end of the journey, riders could choose between Desert (Mesa Verde Reclamation Project), Ocean (Sea Castle Floating City), and Space (Brava Centauri Orbiting Station) from buttons position in front of them. As the vehicle continued to move forward, individual monitors appeared before each car and a 31-second video was played showing a simulated adventure over land, under water, or through space. To create the videos, scale models were built and a camera swept across and through the futuristic terrains. These models were some of the largest ever created at the time.

From October 1, 1983 to March 10, 1985, GE sponsored two attractions at Disney World, Carousel of Progress and Horizons. But when their ten-year Carousel of Progress contract expired, they chose not to renew. GE also sponsored various incarnations of IllumiNations from January 30, 1988 until September 21, 1999.

The closing of Horizons came on January 9, 1999 and was generated by several events. First, changing public tastes. Most guests were no longer content to sit for almost 15 minutes and watch one vignette after another pass by. Lines for this attraction were practically nonexistent in the later years. Next, General Electric, sensing that this attraction had seen its day, let their contract expire. This forced Disney to pick up the operating costs for a tired attraction. And finally, it was alleged that along with major roof problems, a sinkhole was discovered under the building in 1998. Something needed to be done.

Some sort of Space Pavilion had been envisioned for Epcot since the parks inception so Disney decided that maybe now was the time to move forward with this idea. But the first step would be to demolish the Horizons building. For a number of months during 2000, cranes and bulldozers chipped away at the building. A large amount of the structure’s materials were recycled.

A number of the props were acquired by the Imagineers and others found their way to Disney parks around the world. The picture below was taken while I was riding the Tram Tour at the Walt Disney Studios in Paris in 2005. Here we see the submarine from the Underwater City scene and a hover craft from the Mesa Verde farming scene.


That’s it for Part One. Check back tomorrow when we take a ride on this great attraction.

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26 Replies to “Epcot’s Horizons – Part One”

  1. I miss Horizons so much I’m dedicating a prismacolor drawing to it.In the story that goes with it the 2 animatronics escape from their world {the ride} that’s crumbling around them as it’s being taken down.
    Horizons has haunted me and never left me.Too me fast rides don’t have that same powerful effect.
    I don’t like Epcot conforming to what the other amusement parks do.
    If people want fast rides they shouldn’t go to Epcot go to a darn six flags.
    I see misson Space and feel like crying for the imagineers that saw their creations ripped to pieces.
    I would’ve protested if I had known!

  2. Another tidbit I can add regarding Horizons…although there is the band of glass along the front of the roof slope, the building didn’t actually have windows. In the GE Sponsor Lounge/offices, one wall housed a large projection screen, connected to a high-quality camera on the roof. The “window” was remote controlled from inside, and gave some of the most spectacular views of the park…and broke quite often.

  3. Jack,
    I have one question for you.
    After they tore down Horizons, what did they build in its place?

    Thanks for another great blog!

    Jack’s Answer:

    Mission: Space

  4. Claude Coates was the initial concept Show Designer for Horizons, along with most of the rest of EPCOT Center. He had first pass on the ride design and layout along with Bill Norton (Show Architect) and Bob Kurzweil (Designer), working in conjunction with Horizons project Show Designer George McGinnis.

  5. Jack!

    Excellent, as always – but I really do miss Horizons! What a wonderful attraction that was – it’ll always be the one that got away, I think, even more so than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

  6. Thank you for this wonderful article. Like everyone else I miss Horizons. It was my favorite ride at Epcot and I still can’t believe that such an elaborate ride was shut down. I look forward to checking the links everyone has posted, and to part two of this article since my wife has never experienced this ride, and I would also like to relive it myself.

  7. The funniest thing about this blog is that when I first went to click on it, I said to myself “I miss Horizons”. Sure enough that was your first line. Another great blog that makes me think about the older days of EPCOT.

    I was a former cast member living on my for the first time back in 89-90 and I spent A LOT of my off time just walking around Epcot.

    I miss Horizon’s as well as Wonders of Life, the ORIGINAL Journey to Imagination and the pre-Ellen Universe of Energy pre-show. I always thought the turning screen triangles were the coolest things.

  8. This is so awesome! Just when I think there is nothing else I can learn about Disney. I had never heard of Horizon until I read your blog. My many many trips to WDW did not begin until 2001. I just missed it. It would have been nice to have been able to ride this incredible ride.

  9. Thank you, thank you! A lovely flash back to this ride. If you ever have the opportunity, could you also do the original Figment ride? I lost my two front teeth on that ride when I was 7. 🙂 Thank you!

  10. Thank You!

    This was my absolute favorite, I was soo sad when it left, while I love its replacement– i will always remember the joy that Horizons brought me!

  11. What a coincidence! I was just getting fondly nostalgic over Horizons with my mother just an hour or so ago. Her first park visit was years later, so she never got to ride. But I loved and miss Horizons too. Great to see these posts!

  12. That was my favorite ride at EPCOT when i was a kid!! I loved the scene w/ the robot vacuuming heh. That part at the end when you could pick which way u wanted to travel was pretty cool too. Ugh, why do they take out all the classics? It was way cooler than Mission Space 🙁

  13. Wonderful!
    Horizons was one of my favorite rides.It’s funny I had several reasons why I loved this ride so much, and I didn’t realize one of the reasons was b/c of its relation to Carousel of Progress, which is one of my top favorite rides. One fond memeory I will always have is waiting till the end of the ride and pouncing and elbowing my brothers ( of course they did the same !) picking my favorite ending !

  14. Jack,

    Horizons was always a family favorite! I am so glad you are capturing the magic for us once again. This would also be a great time to mention another terrific fansite at http://mesaverdetimes.blogspot.com/

    I don’t want to give too much away but these guys risked their lives by LEAVING their ride vehicles and exploring the sets during off peak hours and they captured it all on camera months before the attraction closed for good in 1999. It’s a must read/watch for any Horizons fan!

  15. Jack,
    How I would have loved to experience this attraction. Unfortunately I am only 13 so I was too young and I never made it there. Question,is it true that Claude Coates worked on this attraction? Thanks so much, I really love your Blog!

    Jack’s Answer:

    Yes, Claude Coats did work on Horizons. I don’t know exactly in what capacity, but this Disney Legend was definitely one of the Imagineers that helped bring this ride to life.

  16. Like everyone above, I too, miss this ride. One of the best parts was the orange crop that smelled so much like real oranges! I still remind myself “if we can dream it, then we can do it–yes we can!”

  17. This was always my favorite ride as a child. Sometimes I wish I could ride it just one more time. So sad that it is gone and there is a whole new generation that will never experience it.

  18. Thank you so much for writing about Horizons, Jack!

    This was hands down my favorite ride and still is, despite the fact that I can no longer experience it. I miss Horizons immensely, along with World of Motion!

    At 28 years old with over 35 Disney trips under my belt, I guess I’m more of a Disney traditionalist than a ‘typical’ person in their 20’s who desires new technology and thrill rides. Not that I don’t love thrill rides, but I don’t need that experience to enjoy a ride.

    To me, there will always be something special about the traditional, classic rides such as Horizons, World of Motion, Imagination before the pavilion was changed, even Dreamflight, etc.

    Thanks again! Can’t wait for the next post!

  19. Thank you so much for doing this blog, I’ve been waiting for someone to do something on this for awhile, I read about Horizons on the forums I frequent (and the ride still has faithful following) but I can’t remember ever going on it. I can’t wait for the rest :O)

  20. Sadly, I was never able to experience this ride. I was five years old in 1989 during my first day trip to WDW and Magic Kingdom. We made many day trips through the years, but always at Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. My first visit to Epcot was in 2007. Now that I’m a Disneyphile, I’ve heard a lot about Horizons, but I’m not able to share the lament of Horizons passing.

    In short, since I’ve never ridden the ride, I was very happy to see your blog post on it so that I can see why people liked it. Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts. Looking forward to part 2!

  21. This was my favorite ride growing up. I loved the interactivity of choosing my own ending. I was very upset when it closed (as well as World of Motion).

    I always love reading about Horizons – it’s a chance to reminisce and maybe learn something new about this amazing attraction! Thanks, Jack!

  22. Jack,

    Horizons is my absolute favorite attraction in Disney I never got to visit. I first went to WDW in 2007, and never got a chance to see all these amazing attractions. Horizons is the one that has most captured my imagination, and though I’ve read about it, seen photos, listened to the audio track, and watched ride videos, nothing at all is like riding it.

    Thank you SO much for this retrospective. I am thrilled!

  23. I’m so glad you’re doing posts on Horizons! I really miss it, and I love learning about its history. Leave it to you Jack, to find interesting details I didn’t know! Looking forward to the next post!

  24. Hi Jack – excellent blog post!

    I can remember this attraction from my trips to the World in 1993, 1996 & 1998… we always seemed to pick the desert ending, I’m not sure why!

    Looking forward to part 2 🙂