Horizons: Walt Disney’s Lost Futuristic Legacy
A late lamented attraction at Epcot shared Walt's vision of a happy future unlike any other.
June 20, 2013 - 9:00 am
Recently I wrote about what I call Walt Disney’s optimistic futurism. Walt Disney believed – perhaps to a fault – that advances in technology and communications would make the future an exciting and vibrant place for everyone. This notion manifested itself in Walt’s ultimate dream: his planned community, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow), which was to be part of the company’s Florida Project, which became Walt Disney World.
The EPCOT Center (now known as Epcot) theme park at Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1982. The park embodies the spirit of Disney’s optimistic futurism. One attraction in particular – Horizons, which was open from 1983 to 1999 – encapsulated Walt’s ideas like no other. Although Horizons closed nearly 15 years ago, a rabid cult following (including yours truly) still professes deep affection for the ride.
In its storyboard stage, Horizons went by the name Century 3, a nod to the third century of America’s existence. The Imagineers later changed the name to Futureprobe, but not for long, due to the unpleasant connotation of the word probe. General Electric sponsored the ride, and the Imagineers intended for it to be the sequel to another GE-sponsored attraction, The Carousel of Progress.
The slogan for Horizons – “If we can dream it, we can do it” – was the brainchild of Imagineer Tony Baxter, though it was so reminiscent of Walt Disney that to this day many writers falsely attribute it to Walt. In many ways, Horizons was a quintessential Disney dark ride, utilizing the company’s Omnimover technology to usher guests through the space, which looked like a diamond-shaped spaceship and suggested an unending horizon ahead.