Six Key Historical Disney Events ‘The Imagineering Story’ on Disney+ Left Out
This article appeared in the March 17, 2020 (#1070) edition of ALL EARS®
Editor’s Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.
Since the streaming service’s launch in November 2019, The Imagineering Story has been one of Disney+’s most well-received original programs. The series, from Iwerks & Co, takes an in-depth, sometimes surpassingly critical look at the story of Walt Disney Imagineering.
However, the history of Disney’s theme parks stretches back well over 60 years at this point, meaning that it would be near impossible for a six-episode mini-series to cover everything. Now don’t get us wrong: we loved the series – and would love to get a second season – but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some glaring omissions in The Imagineering Story’s narrative that we just can’t get over. These are six of the biggest.
The Opening – and Closing – of Horizons
A good portion of The Imagineering Story’s second episode is dedicated to Epcot. The hour delves into how it transformed from Walt Disney’s original vision and the massive amount of resources the company spent to open Epcot Center in 1982. However, comparatively little time is spent on the Horizons attraction. This is surprising, since Horizons was touted at its 1983 opening as the “thesis statement” of the entire park, combining elements of the other Future World Pavilions into one attraction that put the potential future of humanity – including a space station and undersea research facility – on full display.
Epcot purists adored the attraction, however it fell into irregular operation once sponsor General Electric failed to renew their contract in the 1990s (an issue that would plague several Epcot attractions). In 2000, Horizons was torn down and replaced with MISSION: Space, a highly-touted attraction that also receives little airtime throughout The Imagineering Story, likely due to the two fatalities that occurred early in the attraction’s lifespan.
Journey into Imagination Becomes Journey into Your Imagination
Speaking of classic Epcot pavilions that are sorely missed, there’s the case of the Imagination pavilion. While the original version of the pavilion and its headliner attraction are discussed in-depth early on in The Imagineering Story – including allowing Tony Baxter to tell the story of how he created Figment – the disastrous late 90s renovation of the ride (where the iconic characters were stripped away and the track cut by more than half) is barely acknowledged.
This begs the question as to why other Imagineering failures were openly discussed, while Imagination wasn’t? Our theory – and it’s just that: a theory – is that since the Imagination pavilion has yet to be “fixed” it was left on the cutting room floor. We can only hope that by the time a potential season 2 arrives, the Imagination story has a happy ending.
The Opening of Universal Studios Florida
It’s not all that surprising that The Imagineering Story didn’t mention Universal, as Disney is often understandably reluctant to give publicity to its main rival. However, given the fact that the development of Universal Orlando directly led to Disney building the MGM Studios theme park, it’s a glaring omission that the competition isn’t at least mentioned in conjunction with the development of the park now known as Hollywood Studios.
The Cancellation of Beastly Kingdom
While several unbuilt Disney projects are discussed in the series – Wescot, Discovery Bay, Disney’s America – Beastly Kingdom, the mythical land that was once scheduled for Animal Kingdom, went conspicuously unacknowledged. Why?
Well, theme park rumor has it that after Beastly Kingdom was cut from the Animal Kingdom budget, the laid-off designers brought many of their ideas, including a dragon-themed roller coaster, medieval village, and unicorns over to Universal and adapted them to fit into Islands of Adventure, which opened one year after Animal Kingdom. Obviously, this would be a touchy subject for both Disney and Imagineering to discuss even if it wasn’t true, so it makes sense that discussion of the land was left out entirely.
The Opening of Expedition Everest
Speaking of Animal Kingdom, it also came as somewhat of a shock that Expedition Everest went unmentioned in the series, especially considering the (well-deserved) praise lavished upon Imagineer Joe Rohde. Furthermore, the 2006 opening of the $100,000,000 roller coaster was one of the most hyped in Disney history, with countless television specials discussing the authenticity of the ride and its signature Yeti animatronic. However, said animatronic is likely why the ride was left out of the show, as any discussion of Expedition Everest would have to include the story of “Disco Yeti.”
For those unaware, “Disco Yeti” refers to the Yeti’s current state. Shortly after Expedition Everest’s opening, Imagineers found that the movements of the large animatronic were so powerful that they were damaging the structure of the mountain. Unable to figure out a way to repair the damage and fix the Yeti without significant downtime and a massive construction project, Disney has instead opted to keep the Yeti in a static position and use strobe lights (similar to disco clubs, hence the nomenclature) to give the animatronic the appearance of movement.
The Castle Cake
While this final entry on our list didn’t have the lasting ramifications of the others, we’d still have loved it if The Imagineering Story had dedicated some time to this overlay and allowed some of the Imagineers to give us their (ahem) unfiltered thoughts on the subject. For those either too young to remember or who’ve blocked out the whole episode entirely, Disney celebrated the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World by dressing Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle – arguably Imagineering’s most iconic structure – as a giant (Pepto) pink birthday cake, complete with icing and large candies.
While we’re not sure why they chose to omit this sweet (perhaps sickeningly so) overlay, we still think it’s a moment in Disney imagineering history that many fans would like a slice of.