There’s no doubt that EPCOT’s World Showcase is one of the most popular areas in any Disney theme park. For nearly 40 years, the collection of international pavilions has thrilled visitors with in-depth theming, attractions, and especially authentic food and drink. However, as beloved as World Showcase is, there have been some missteps throughout its history. From unbuilt attractions and questionable replacements to a building built to the wrong specifications – yes, really – these are four of the biggest mistakes in World Showcase History.
Meet the World’s Botched Show Building
During the early planning and construction of EPCOT Center, there were several planned World Showcase attractions that were dropped at various states of development and weren’t present on opening. However, none of the others have a story quite like Meet the World.
The attraction, which was developed for both EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland simultaneously, was a rotating theater show (think Carousel of Progress) that the story of Japan’s history through the country’s interactions with the outside world.
Meet the World was supposed to be located in a large show building at the far end of the Japanese pavilion, behind the palace hates. Said show building was constructed, however due to “miscalculations” made in the building’s design, it could not support the weight of the rotating theater.
Instead of retrofitting the building, which would have required an expensive and near-complete teardown, Meet the World was bumped to the planned Phase 2 of EPCOT’s construction. However, a combination of budget cuts and fear that that the large number of WWII veterans who visited the parks would be offended by the show’s treatment of that portion of Japanese history, led to the show being cut from EPCOT completely.
Today, the botched show building is still present in the Japanese pavilion, with most of the space originally allocated for Meet the World being used for storage.
The Tokyo Disneyland version operated from the park’s opening in 1983 to 2002, when it was closed to make way for Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek.
Never Building Mount Fuji
Over the years, there have been numerous planned-yet-unbuilt World Showcase attractions in pretty much every World Showcase country. However, we’d argue that the biggest opportunity Disney repeatedly missed out on was building the long-gestating Mount Fuji roller coaster.
Much like Disneyland’s Matterhorn and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest, the attraction was supposed to be a steel roller coaster housed within a large show building designed to look like a scaled down version of the real Mount Fuji. Numerous versions of the coaster were considered over the years, including one that would feature Godzilla.
Sadly, the Mount Fuji coaster was never built, likely due to budgetary issues (though there’s also a longstanding urban legend that longtime Disney sponsor Kodak film put the kibosh on a version that was going to be sponsored by their competitor Fuji Film).
We think it’s a shame that Mount Fuji isn’t currently towering over the Japanese pavilion, as the coaster would have given the World Showcase a shot of thematically appropriate adrenaline while at the same time adding an iconic element to EPCOT’s skyline.
Replacing Maelstrom with Frozen Ever After
Without a doubt, the most controversial change ever to come to World Showcase came in 2014, when Disney announced the replacement of the Norway pavilion’s beloved Maelstrom attraction with a ride based on the massively popular animated film Frozen.
Upon the announcement, there was an immediate outcry from fans who decried the company for closing a “classic World Showcase attraction” and replacing it with an “out of place” IP-based attraction. However, as usual in these situations, the protests fell on deaf ears, and Maelstrom was closed in October of 2014.
After a 20-month construction process, Frozen Ever After opened as part of the Norway pavilion on June 21, 2016. The attraction was warmly received, even by many who weren’t in favor of the switch. For what it’s worth, we do like the attraction; however, the fantasy tale still feels out of place in the Norway pavilion.
Furthermore, the opening of Frozen Ever After signaled a sea-change in the ethos of World Showcase, with IP-based attractions and characters overtaking the previous realistic approach to the pavilions.
Not Adding a New Country Since 1988
During the aforementioned construction of EPCOT Center, there were as many as 20 countries planned for World Showcase at any given time. Due to budget issues as well as reluctance of many international companies and governments to sponsor pavilions, the park opened in 1982 with only nine nations represented.
World Showcase did feature numerous expansion pads for more countries to be added, and signs present on opening promised Spain, Israel, and Equatorial Africa. As the 1980s went on, none of these promised pavilions came to be. Two new nations did join the World Showcase: Morocco in 1984 and Norway in 1988.
In the 30+ years since Norway opened, several new nations have been rumored, or even officially announced, for the World Showcase including Brazil and the Soviet Union (Russia).
However, none of these new countries have been added as of January 2021. This lack of new blood has left World Showcase, as fun as it is, feeling a bit stagnant. All hope is not lost however, as there are still approximately 4-6 available expansion pads left, simply waiting for new countries to join EPCOT’s league of nations.
Which of these World Showcase mistakes do you think was the most egregious? Are there any massive ones we missed in your opinion? Let us know in the comment below.