Five Facts About Epcot’s Horizons

by | Oct 17, 2017 | Disney History, Disney Parks and Resorts, Lists and Trivia

People have been dreaming about the future for centuries.

So we were told by actor Bob Holt, the voice of the Grandfather on Epcot’s Horizons Attraction. No ride better encapsulated the spirit of Future World. While the park’s signature attraction Spaceship Earth showed the history of communication, Horizons dared to dream the world yet to come. Guests were given a view of the future imagined by past generations, of the modern technology being used to build the future, and visions of the world to come. Though the Attraction has been closed for 18 years, die hard fans maintain that it is the greatest dark ride ever created. As we continue our journey through 35 years of Epcot history, let’s board the Omnimover and take a little trip.

Horizons 1 is now departing. Our final destination today: five facts about the history of Horizons.

1. George McGinnis
Imagineer George McGinnis worked as the principal designer for the Horizons Attraction. He joined the Disney company in 1966 and was the last Imagineer hired by Walt Disney. Before his hire, McGinnis caught the attention of Disney by designing a working model of a high speed train for his senior project at the Art Center College of Design.

Known to start his concept art on napkins, McGinnis worked on Disney projects like Space Mountain, the Carousel of Progress, the Peoplemover, and the monorail system. He later wrote a book titled, “From Horizons to Space Mountain: The Life of Disney Imagineer” about his time creating Disney magic.

2. Thomas Edison & FutureFair
Conceived as a sort of sequel to the Carousel of Progress, Horizons was sponsored by General Electric (who sponsored the Carousel at the 1964 World’s Fair when the Attraction was known as Progressland). The initial idea pitched to GE CEO Reginald Jones and future CEO Jack Welch would follow Edison’s career and the origins of GE.

According to McGinnis, “This idea didn’t impress GE’s Chairman, Reginald Jones. He didn’t want another history show, which the Carousel of Progress basically was. He suggested we tell a story of the promise of current technologies.”

Jack Welch asked Imagineers to omit a concept they pitched for a hands on, post-Attraction area featuring GE products. The area was called FutureFair, but Welch felt the idea was too commercial.

3. An Attraction With Many Names
Horizons went through several names prior to its opening. Originally, it was known as Century III in honor of the United States entering its third century of existence. Imagineers then changed the name to FutureProbe, which was scrapped after concerns about negative connotations associated with the word “probe.” After these falls starts, GE and Disney Imagineers finally settled on Horizons.

4. The Omnimover
Like Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and Journey Into Imagination, the Horizons Attraction utilized the ride system known as the Omnimover. Created by Roger Broggie and Bert Brundage, the Omnimover debuted in 1967 on Disneyland’s Adventures Through Inner Space Attraction. Imagineer Bob Gurr coined the name, combining the terms omnirange and people mover.

Horizons’ Omnimover was unique in that it was the only Attraction to utilize an inverted version of the system. While most Omnimover attractions followed a track on the ground, the Horizons version moved on a track above the vehicle.

5. Choose Your Own Adventure
At the end of Horizons, Guests were given the ability to choose their own ending. A touch screen inside their vehicle presented them with three futures to choose from.

“Marty (Sklar)…asked me to come up with a “weenie” (a Walt term for something that draws your attention) for the ending,” George McGinnis said. “I developed the traveling screen concept, which allowed for guests to “Choose Their Future” by voting on touch panels. The choices were video simulations of travel through environments we had visited: Desert, Undersea and Space, ending up back at the FuturePort where our journey began.”

Horizons closed in January of 1999, but the dreams it inspired continue to thrive. And remember:

One of the nice things about traveling into the future is that the journey’s just beginning…And I’ll tell you something … if we can dream it, we really can do it. And that’s the most exciting part.