The Disney Dish with Jim Hill Ep 450: What was Epcot’s “Life & Health” pavilion originally supposed to have been like
Released Monday October 23, 2023
Normal Open: Welcome back to another edition of the Disney Dish podcast with Jim Hill. It’s me, Len Testa, and this is our show for the week of Shmursday, October 23, 2023.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
On the show today: A little bit of news and a whole lot of listener questions! Plus I went on a VIP tour at Universal Orlando. Then in our main segment, Jim gives us the early ideas for EPCOT’s Wonders of Life pavilion.
Let’s get started by bringing in the man who wonders if vampires are angry all the time because they can’t eat garlic bread. It’s Mr. Jim Hill. Jim, how’s it going?
And we’d like to introduce a special guest for today’s show,
iTunes: Thanks to new subscribers Jay Skiff, Betsy C, David Scott 606, and Tyler Dancy, and long-time subscribers Coldspot, Lynnbo1693, JRMCanada, and Matt Malbauer. Jim, this is the Disney park ops team who’ve come up with a new discounted ticket offer, called the Aladdin Nemo Pass, to make Disney park visits even more affordable. The pass works by getting you into attractions whose name starts with the letters A through M on odd-numbered days, and attractions with names in N through Z on even-numbered days. So for everyone visiting the Magic Kingdom today, October 23, enjoy everything from Astro Orbiters to Meeting Mickey Mouse, and we hope to see you tomorrow on everything from Peter Pan’s Flight to Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. True story.
DISNEY UNPACKED / PATREON
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We have a park reservation for Hollywood Studios on Saturday November 11...which I just realized is also the opening date for the new Jollywood Nights party. Do you think the party will reduce the daily crowd (similar to the Very Merry Party in the Magic Kingdom) or will it cause increased numbers all day?
Len says: When the MK has a MNSSHP, the average crowd level that day is a 2. On days when there’s not a MNSSHP, the MK’s average crowd level is 7. So there’s definitely a ‘party effect’ in WDW.
DHS’s going to be busy on Nov 11 because of social media folks who want to document the first event. Social media, by itself, will cause crowds. And Jollywood starts at 8:30, MNSSHP closes the park at 6 p.m., so there’s more time in the parks. So I think DHS will be busier than the MK is, relatively speaking, on these first few Jollywood Nights in November.
Listener Adam Varrenti wrote in with this question:
I was in EPCOT last week and decided to ride grand fiesta tour. It was busy and the line was wrapped around into the shopping area. When we got on the ride I noticed we were really moving through the show scenes. Then other people in the boat were making comments about the speed.
Does park ops increase the speed of boat rides if they know the day will be busy?
Normally I’d just ask Adam how many avocado margaritas he had before going on the Gran Fiesta Tour. But this was the SECOND email I got about ride speed that day. The other one was from listenerJillian O’Neelwho said:
I was most intrigued by a comment on a reddit thread that says Winnie the Pooh in WDW has gone from 3 mins to 2 min 20 seconds in just one year. Is this true? Has Disney sped up rides to increase capacity and if so, is this something they dial up and down based on park crowds?
Len says: I am super intrigued by this, because I’ve thought the same thing. The last time we timed Winnie the Pooh was 2022, and as far as I can tell, it was about 3 minutes in 2022. So we’re testing that and Gran Fiesta this week to see what’s going on.
Listener Kevin Dunne writes in with this question about Oga’s Cantina:
I had friends visiting WDW and they said that when they were in Oga’s Cantina a server told them that they no longer serve any drinks that use dry ice effects and the dry ice machines seem to have been removed. What happened, is this temporary or permanent? It’s a bummer because it’s the drink effects that really make the place special.
Len says: Yeah, apparently you’re not supposed to eat dry ice. And anyone who’s watched the Great British Baking Show knows the rule that says everything on your plate is supposed to be edible. I think this is a case of someone, you know, freezing their dry ice directly to their tongue, and Guest Relations (and legal) saying they don’t want to see this kind of thing.
Sam Bennett wrote in with this question:
I was given your name through a Reddit post where I was asking the Disney Parks community about something. They said you might know.
I’m looking for the name, and better yet, a high quality recording of the song that plays under John’s monologue in the 1940’s scene of the current version of Carousel of Progress at WDW. Nobody seems to know a thing and there’s little to no information about it available to the public from what I’ve found.
Some have said it’s just a swing rendition of the main theme, so if that’s true then I guess that would be the name. But regardless, this song is highly nostalgic for me, and I’d love to have a high quality version to listen to. If you have any leads then please let me know.
I attached a low quality version that I was able to edit together for reference.
The bad news:
I visited the Buddy Baker archives today and went through the Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow folders, but unfortunately didn't find a reference to this song. (I did find some cool stuff about the re-do of Innoventions, though, which is a separate thing.)
The good news:
At this point, I was pretty sure it was a musical cue that someone came up with during the COP re-do in the 1990's. As far as I could tell, it doesn't appear in the original 1964 World's Fair audio. So that was a big hint.
I was talking this over with my wife this evening, whose Google skills are apparently vastly superior to mine. She found this official Disney page that explains the origins of your song:
Question: Good afternoon, I have a question regarding the Carousel of Progress. In Act 3 we move to the 1940s and the father is sitting in a booth in a fairly modern kitchen. As he speaks there is a beautiful piece of Jazz playing in the background. Some people say it sounds a bit like “Moonlight Serenade,” but it’s clearly not. Do we know what that piece of music is called? Can one get a copy of it? It’s amazing. At the very least, the music isn’t “Moonlight Serenade.” I’m guessing it will be something like Jazz-instrumental 7 or something of that nature. Regardless, it’s fantastic and the highlight of the attraction for me every time. Thank you so much.—Corey (Celebration, FL)
Answer: To answer your question, I turned to Imagineer Kevin Rafferty, who led the 1993 redo of the attraction, and says the music you asked about was new. According to Kevin: “I worked with [composer] George Wilkins to deliver new musical arrangements/recordings. We made sure they were in the styles of the eras each scene depicted, so the ’40s scene, for example, had a Glenn Miller vibe.” A couple of other fun facts: When you first see Grandmother and Grandfather watching TV in that scene, you hear the instrumental of Two Silhouettes, from Make Mine Music. Also, the Imagineers cast Jean Shepherd (of Christmas Story fame) to play the part of father. Turns out he could not sing! So they asked Jess Harnell to imitate Jean’s voice in singing “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” Harnell has done extensive Disney voice work, including Cedric/Sir Gilliam in Sofia the First, Chilly in Doc McStuffins, Don in Wreck-It Ralph, and Marlin in the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage.
So there you have it - it's an original music cue written around 1993 by George Wilkins for Disney.
Listener David Poole writes in with this for you, Jim:
I saw you mentioned as 'Disney Expert Jim Hill" in my WDW magazine a couple months ago. Never heard it mentioned in the podcast and just wanted to make sure you knew you were recognized as such. Keep up the great shows!
Research/Patents (use query "disney enterprises".as AND "theme park".ab)
We’re going to take a quick commercial break. When we return, Jim tells us about EPCOT’s Wonders of Life pavilion. We’ll be right back.
MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show
“Life and Health” pavilion feature story
There’s this great story that Jim Shull – our collaborator on “Disney Unpacked” – tells. It’s December of 1989 and the Florida version of the original “Star Tours” has just opened. Jim S is standing at the exit of this then-new attraction at Disney-MGM. And as he watches one family walk out of “Star Tours,” he hears the teenage son turn to his parents say “Jeese, that was NOT a new ride. That was just a rip-off of ‘Body Wars.’ “
Mind you, if you were someone who only frequented Disney’s theme parks in Florida, it would be easy to see why you might have that opinion:
Whereas the Florida version of “Star Tours” wouldn’t open at Disney-MGM ‘til December 15th of that same year (Some seven weeks & two days later).
Mind you, the original “Star Tours” --- the one that had opened in Disneyland Park out in Anaheim in January of 1987 (some 23 months earlier) – had predated the Florida version. But that didn’t matter to this teenage boy. He’d just been on a simulator ride at a Disney Park that was very similar to another simulator ride he’d recently ridden in another Disney theme park that was located just a mile or so away.
Mind you, if the Imagineers had built the “Life & Health” pavilion that they had originally wanted to build at EPCOT Center as part of that theme park’s Future World section, that teenage boy would have had nothing to complain about.
You see, the marquee attraction for that version of the “Life & Health” pavilion wouldn’t have been a simulator attraction. But – rather – a dark ride. One that was supposed to have been called “The Incredible Journey Within.” And …
Well, here’s a description of this proposed attraction. Which I pulled from a copy of “Imaginews” (That’s the in-house newsletter for WED & MAPO). And the issue I’m referencing here was originally published & distributed to the Imagineers working at Walt Disney Productions on December 17, 1982:
This dark ride will be titled “The Incredible Journey Within,” a thrilling ride in which guests are reduced in size to travel in an ultrasonic probe vehicle through the human body. Inside, they will see how our body “machines” operate.
Mind you, the concept art that accompanies this article (which talks about some of the attractions that are originally planned for EPCOT Center for Phase II of this project) does NOT show Guests seated in an “ultrasonic probe vehicle.” This artwork shows Guests seated in a ride vehicle that sort of looks like the one used in Future World’s “World of Motion” ride. Four passengers per vehicle. Only this rounded ride vehicle … Well, it sort of looks like a blood cell.
Which – given that the story idea was that Guests were supposed to take advantage of the circulatory system to … Well, circulate around the human body. See all of the major systems in action … It only made sense that you’d have to climb aboard a blood cell to take an “Incredible Journey Within” like that.
By the way, when I say “makes sense” … Well, you have to remember that – in this phase of the project – EPCOT Center’s “Life & Health” pavilion was largely being designed by one of Walt’s favorite Imagineers. Which was Rolly Crump (with an assist by then-new Imagineer Steve Kirk).
Now the giveaway that Rolly Crump had once led the team on the project that eventually became EPCOT Center’s “Wonders of Life” pavilion was … Well, when you entered the big golden dome that housed the central space of this Future World pavilion and looked up, you’d have seen – dangling down from the ceiling – this huge, spectacular mobile.
And Rolly was famous for his mobiles. That’s what initially caught Walt’s attention. Crump first began to work for Disney Studios in 1952. Back then, Rolly was an inbetweener and worked on classic Disney films like “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp” and “Sleeping Beauty.” And – over time – Crump would rise through the ranks and become an assistant animator.
Anyway … Rolly (when he wasn’t animated) would decorate his office at the Studio with all of these elaborate mobiles that he’d fashion out of materials that he had right at hand. We’re talking push pins, paper clips, and the sheets of paper that the artists who worked at Disney would actually animated on.
And Walt … Because it was his studio after all, Walt felt that he had the right – whenever all of his artists & animators had gone home from the day and/or were out of the building on the weekends – to wander through each & every office in the animation building and then see what his staff was actually up.
I have to tell you that some of the stories that are associated with this particular behavior by Walt border on creepy. Frank Thomas once told me about how he had done a drawing of Captain Hook on a Friday afternoon that he hadn’t particularly liked. So he balled it up and threw it in the trash can by his animation desk.
So Monday morning, Frank comes back into work. And what does he now find on his animation desk? This very same drawing. Which has now been uncrumpled & smoothed out. To hear Thomas tell this story, this was proof that Walt had come into Frank’s office over the weekend and then gone through his trash looking at Thomas’ discarded drawings as he struggled to get a handle on Captain Hook.
I mean, yes, this shows that Walt was kind of the ultimate hands-on guy when it came to his Studios’ animated feature. No detail is too small to overlook if your goal – in the end – is to make a great film. But at the same time, going through someone else’s trash … That IS kind of creepy.
Anyway … At some point, Walt starts regularly visiting Rolly’s office at that studio because he’s just fascinated by this interconnected mobiles that Crump has set up around his animation desk. And at some point in 1959, Disney decides “I really need a guy with a mind like this over at Imagineering.” So Walt puts in a personnel transfer request for Rolly. A temporary reassignment to WED. Crump then spend the next several decades working on projects for the Disney Parks, among them the Tower of the Four Winds at Flushing Meadows. Which was this 120-foot-tall structure that stood at the entrance of the “Small World” ride at the 1964 – 1965 New York World’s Fair.
Fun little side note here: Rolly had built the original model version of the Tower of the Four Winds out of bits of paper & balsa wood. So it was light & airy looking. But when it went to recreating this structure for the 1964 – 1965 New York World’s Fair, the industrial engineers that Disney hired were concerned about the strong winds in Queens (the ones that would come roaring in off Flushing Bay). So – with the safety of the Guests visiting the Fair in mind – these industrial engineers really over-designed the full-sized version of the Tower of the Four Winds. Building it out of thick steel pipe.
Anyway … Prior to shipping the whole thing off to Flushing, Walt had the Tower of the Four Winds erected in a parking lot at Glendale. And Disney then brought Crump outside to proudly show off this structure.
So Walt turns to Rolly and says “Well, what do you think?”
Crump turns to Disney and says “If I’m being honest here, I think it looks like a piece of crap, Walt.”
Walt turns to Rolly and says “It can’t be a piece of crap, Roland. I spent over $200,000 to build this thing. Besides, I like it.” So off it went to Queens. Where the Tower of the Four Winds then became one of the true icons of the 1964 – 1965 New York World’s Fair.
But that was the early 1960s when Walt was still alive … If we now jump ahead to the early 1980s (which is when Rolly Crump & Steve Kirk are working on the “Life & Health” pavilion for EPCOT Center … Well, what’s kind of ironic is that the giant mobile that Crump designed for the interior of this Future World attraction was one of the only elements that Rolly personally designed that was still part of the project when “Wonder of Life” first opened in October of 1989.
Just to put this in perspective: Rolly first began working on a “Life & Health” pavilion for EPCOT Center in 1975. So this plan from December of 1982 that we’re talking about in today’s show was seven years in the making at this point.
Back in the early 1980s, EPCOT Center’s “Life & Health” pavilion was supposed to have had one dark ride and three theater shows. The three theater shows were:
The 16 minute-long movie that eventually wound up being shown in this same space at “The Wonders of Life” pavilion (“The Making of Me,” which was written & directed by Glenn Gordon Caron, the guy who’d created “Moonlighting,” the hit series that first premiered on ABC in March of 1985 and – earlier this month – began running streaming on Hulu. Loved that show back in the day.
The idea behind “The Head Trip” show (Just the name of that show suggested that Rolly have a heavy hand in crafting it) was that this presentation was supposed to take guests (Again, I’m quoting directly from that December 1982 “Imaginews” article) “ … on a tour of the human brain, humorously explaining the data handling and internal capabilities within us all.”
Obviously this was a precursor of “Cranium Command.” Though that show ultimately had only one AA figure, Buzzy. And the rest of the internal functions of the brain & the human body were represented by filmed scenes of live actors like Charles Grodin, Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey and George Wendt.
This use of well-known / easily recognized celebrities & performers (just like in “The Making of Me” with Martin Short) was very much a hallmark of the Michael Eisner era at the Walt Disney Company.
This is – of course – what eventually became the “Goofy About Health” show at the “Wonders of Life” pavilion. Which – by the way – was the very first thing that Jim Shull worked on when he was hired to be an Imagineer.
Jim Shull was the show designer on this project (Barry Braverman was the producer of the entire “Wonder of Life” pavilion. Which is why Barry consulted with Jim S on this project). Back when he came on board “Goofy About Health,” this show existed only as a concept. Mr. Shull then had to get it up out of the ground.
Early, early days of Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Not all of the “Goofy” shorts from the 1940s & 1950s were on VHS yet. To determine the footage that could be used in this Future World attraction, Shull eventually found himself in a screening room on the Disney lot watching “Goofy” shorts up on the big screen.
Another problem: These films from the 1940s & 1950s – while very funny – often featured Goofy doing the wrong thing health-wise (i.e., drinking, smoking, over-eating). So to get the footage that he needed for EPCOT’s “Goofy About Health” show, Shull had to Frankenstein a show together. He take animation from one short and then have a reaction shot from another film tacked on that footage.
Also … You have to remember that this was back in the late 1980s. And if you were going to show your show on a big video monitor … Well, there were no flat screens back then. Giant monitors with huge picture tubes. Had to be safely anchored to the wall high enough up for the Guests to see. Also had to meet with industrial engineers because TVs of this size threw off a lot of heat. Which was then going to put a certain amount of demand on the air conditioning systems for this Future World pavilion.
All of this sort of stuff had to be taken into consideration when doing what appeared to be (from the outside, anyway) a video-driven show that ran continuously in a small theater in the “Wonders of Life” pavilion.
So why didn’t we get the “Life & Health” pavilion that Rolly Crump dreamed up back in the early 1980s? To be honest, The Walt Disney Company struggled for years to find a sponsor for this addition to Future World.
That “Incredible Journey Within” – with its Omnimover-based ride system that was supposed to take Guests through all of these huge physical sets that then represented parts of human anatomy / various bodily functions – was going to be very expensive to build. EX: That blood cell ride vehicle was – at some point in this attraction – was supposed to pass through a 30-foot-tall heart valve that would then need to open & close, open & close all day long.
So – when Metlife finally agreed to be the sponsor of EPCOT Center’s “Wonders of Life” pavilion in 1987 or thereabouts – this was why one of the chief tenets of this sponsorship deal was that this addition to Future World has to be built … Well, not exactly on the cheap, but economically. This is why the bulk of the open-to-the-public space inside of “Wonders of Life” is house inside of a giant golden dome. Because – when you get right down to it – domes are cheap to build.
FYI: In that live podcast that Len & I will be presenting at MIT later this month, which will be titled “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” we will touch on what happened to Buzzy. The one full-on Audio Animatronic figure that was built for the “Cranium Command” show at EPCOT’s “Wonders of Life” pavilion. Which closed back in January of 2007 but – on occasion – was re-opened as festival space during Food & Wine and Flower & Garden.
And don’t even get me started on the announced-but-never-opened replacement for “Wonders of Life,” EPCOT’s PLAY! Pavilion.
That’s going to do it for the show today. You can help support our show and JimHillMedia by subscribing over at Patreon.com/jimhillmedia, where we’re posting a brand-new exclusive show about the SpectroMagic parade and on Disneyland’s Robin Hood Castle, plus our new behind the scenes videos with Imagineer Jim Shull, who created the Aladdin attractions for Disney theme parks all around the world.
Bandcamp: That’s going to do it for the show today. Thanks for subscribing and supporting the Disney Dish.
ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW: Jim shows us how limited-time park shows like Tiana’s Showboat Jubilee are complex bargaining efforts between different factions within the Disney company.
You can find more of Jim at JimHillMedia.com, and more of me at TouringPlans.com.
Also, Jim and I will be doing a live podcast from the Theme Park Play Workshop at MIT’s Game Lab, at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 9, 2023 at the Stata Center, room 32-155. It’s free and it’s open to the general public. Jim, the last time I was on MIT’s campus I was delivering an extra large with cheese, so this is a real treat.
iTunes Show: We’re produced fabulously by Aaron Adams, who’ll be spinning yarns and tall tales at the Nebraska Storytelling Festival, on Thursday, November 2, 2023 from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Jasmine Room by Venue, on North 10th Street, in beautiful, downtown Lincoln, Nebraska.
While Aaron’s doing that, please go on to iTunes and rate our show and tell us what you’d like to hear next.
For Jim, this is Len, we’ll see you on the next show.