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The Disney Dish with Jim Hill Episode 459:  The “Christmas Carol” ride that EPCOT’s UK pavilion almost got                    12/25/2023

This episode is brought to you by: Cirque Du Soleil: Drawn to Life , Rocket Money , Agent of Excellence and TouringPlans .


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, December 25, 2023.  Merry Christmas, everyone


On the show today: News! Surveys! And listener questions!  Then in our main segment, Jim tells us about the time Disney wanted to design a ride based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.


Let’s get started by bringing in the man who says your oven, microwave, and blender all have see-through windows, which makes you wonder what secrets your dishwasher is keeping.  It’s Mr. Jim Hill.   Jim, how’s it going?


iTunes:Thanks to new subscribers ReviewTymeDom, Keith Schrod, Deelron, and our friend Andrew Justvig, and long-time subscribers JP Lemoine, Elizabeth Ferleger, Paul Novack, and Brenda Rothstein.  Jim, these are the Hollywood Studios cast members searching for ancient relics just outside of the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. They say the “Do not pull rope” sign is a gag that started with college program kids one year.  And so did the “Beware of Face-Melting Antiquities” sign, but we’ll save that for another time. True Story.


We’re moving the show to Patreon.  This is our last show posted to Bandcamp. Sign up at and don’t forget to close down your Bandcamp subscription after that.


The news is sponsored by TouringPlans helps you save time and money at theme parks like Walt Disney World.  Check us out at



  • Disney announced the return of Hollywood Studios’ Voyage of the Little Mermaid attraction for fall of 2024.
  • Opened 1992
  • Closed in 2020 with the pandemic
  • Around 500 seats.  No major theater renovations expected. A lot of the time between now and opening will probably be to bring all the infrastructure up to current building codes.
  • No word on the show length.  Previous show was around 14 or 15 minutes.  
  • Word on the street is that we might hear one more announcement soon.
  • It was announced that Universal has bought several hundred acres of land in Bedford, England, about 45 minutes north of London, for a new regional theme park.
  • Half the UK’s population is within two hours of travel of the theme park
  • Relatively temperate climate.  Highs still in the low 70s, lows in the 40s about 6 months of the year
  • Should be safe from global warming for decades
  • Fairly consistent rainfall of around 2” per month
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will have its second lengthy refurbishment in two years next year.
  • Begins January 8, 2024 and Disney says will reopen “summer”
  • Last closure was Feb 23 - May 25, 2023.
  • Despite that closure, still averaging almost 2 hours of downtime per day


Ed and Erica sent in a Disney World survey that asked some detailed questions about how much of their total vacation budget Disney got:


Listener Questions

Gene asks:

I’m enjoying the new shows with Jim Shull!

Any rumors concerning Tables in Wonderland? It seems the AP crowd would appreciate its return now that the DDP is coming back.  Not a DDP fan but enjoyed the benefits of Tables in Wonderland.

Len says: Tough to see it coming back now, since it would favor locals over out-of-town people, and we know Disney prefers the latter.

Nick writes in with an update on some missing dinos in Dinoland USA:

I really enjoyed Ep 456 where Jim recounted the history of Dinoland USA – I thought you might be interested to know that many of the fossils that were used in Dino Jubilee were donated to the Orlando Science Center when it closed in 2001.  Including Stan!  They are still on display at the Science Center in the Dino Digs exhibit.

From a 2001 press release:

"As part of a long-standing commitment on the part of Walt Disney World Co. to the Orlando Science Center and its focus on making education fun, Disney's Animal Kingdom has donated an assortment of dinosaur fossils and replicas to Orlando Science Center. Guests have the opportunity to view the fossils as part of OSC's new permanent exhibit, DinoDigs: Mysteries Unearthed. Eight full dinosaurs and 12 other pieces are included in the donation."

Len says: The Orlando Science Center is about 40 minutes north of Disney property, just off I-4.  So if you’re looking for something to do on your travel day out of WDW, it’s a fun stop for breakfast and some dinosaurs.  

Research/Patents (use query "disney enterprises".as AND "theme park".ab)


We’re going to take a quick commercial break.  We’ll be right back.

MAIN TOPIC - iTunes Show

Disney Dish Feature Story for December 2023
“A Christmas Carol” attraction for UK pavilion

Given that this episode of “Disney Dish” is going live on Christmas Day … Well, I thought that we’d talk about something that we all get to see a lot of this time of year. And that is Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

This novella was first published in London back in 1843 (This year marks the 180th anniversary of its publication) and immediately became a holiday favorite. First movie version was a silent version produced in 1908 (115 years ago) at Essanay Studios in Chicago.

Disney fans – of course – have a variety of “Christmas Carols” to choose from.

  • There’s “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.” Which was first released to theaters 40 years ago this month (On December 16, 1983).

FYI: What’s not often talked about – when it comes to this animated featurette – was that “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” was originally supposed to be released to theaters in 1982 (The very same year that EPCOT Center first opened). But when Don Bluth walked out the door at Disney in September of 1979 and then took a third of the Studio’s animation staff with him (Those are the folks who eventually made “The Secret of NIMH.” Which was released theatrically in July of 1982) … Well, that totally disrupted Disney’s production pipeline. Which then not only delayed the release of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” by a full year but had a similar impact on the full length animated feature that Disney had in the works at that time, “The Fox and the Hound.”

As a direct result of Bluth’s departure, the theatrical release of that animated feature got pushed back from December of 1980 to July of the following year (1981).

Then there’s the CG version of “A Christmas Carol” that Disney released in November of 2009. This one was directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced using the performance capture method. It starred Jim Carrey and featured him in multiple roles. Carrey not only played Scrooge, but all of the Ghosts who then visited this miserable old miser.

Interesting side note about this version of “A Christmas Carol” was how Disney chose to promote it. Starting in May of 2009 (A full six months before this film arrived in theaters), the Company tricked out this train (which had four vintage cars filled with exhibits about how this new version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale was produced) and then sent it off on a publicity tour. Over the next 24 weeks, Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” train would make 40 stops in 36 states.

Mind you, Dick Cook (who was the Head of Disney Studios at that time) just loved this idea. When he first started with the Company back in the Summer of 1970, Cook’s very first job was working on the steam train that circled Disneyland Park. So to have Disney’s new CG version of “A Christmas Carol” being promoted via a cross-country train tour … It was like old home week for Dick.

The irony here is … By the time “Disney’s a Christmas Carol” train pulled into its final stop (It arrived in New York City on October 30, 2009 at Grand Central Station), Cook had been out as the Head of Disney Studios for six weeks at that point. Reportedly Bob Iger & Dick Cook couldn’t see eye-to-eye when it came to how Disney Studios should be run. So Cook was effectively railroaded out of the Studios prior to “A Christmas Carol” ‘s world premiere. Which was held in London, by the way (On November 3rd, to be exact). NOT NYC.

But we’re not here today to talk about either of those Disney-produced movies. But – rather – something that the Company ultimately chose not to produce. And that was “A Christmas Carol” ride that the Imagineers designed for the UK pavilion at EPCOT Center.

So okay. This story starts prior to the opening of WDW’s 2nd gate (Which happened in October of 1982). Which is when people at WED were mapping out Phase Two of World Showcase. To increase the overall capacity of EPCOT Center (as well as to give Guests who were returning to this theme park something new to see), the plan was – prior to the 5th anniversary of EPCOT’s grand opening (October of 1987), the following things would be open:

  • “Horizons”
  • The Seas pavilion
  • The Equatorial Africa pavilion
  • The Rhine River Ride in Germany
  • The “Meet the World” show in the Japan pavilion
  • as well as the Musical Hall in the UK pavilion

Of this list, only “Horizons” & “The Living Seas” gets built. at that point. “Horizons” (sponsored by General Electric) opens on October 1, 1983. Whereas “The Living Seas” (which Disney genuinely struggled to find a sponsor for. Eventually United Technologies agreed to underwrite this Future World pavilion) opened on January 15, 1986.

Whereas all of the expansion stuff that was planned for the World Showcase portion of EPCOT Center … Due to WDW’s 2nd gate not meeting its initial attendance projections (not to mention this whole project going over-budget by several hundred million dollars), all of this stuff was put on hold.

As for that English musical hall that was supposed to be built at the UK pavilion, I’ve shared a piece of concept art with Len this morning which shows where this theater was supposed to be built. Towards the very back of the pavilion stretching into the Park area that exists there today.

Richard Beard – in his 1982 coffee table book, “Walt Disney’s EPCOT: Creating the New World of Tomorrow” – describes this proposed addition to the UK pavilion thusly:

One side of the square remains open, the future site of a show still being created by the Imagineers. Early in the planning there was talk of a tour presentation space, to be housed in an old English railroad station.

This idea then metamorphosed into an Elizabethan-type dinner theater, from which it evolved into a Victorian music hall. That’s where it now stands – if a genius can be found to successfully bowdlerize the rough-and-tumble British vaudeville style for a family audience.

Mind you, Michael Crawford – he’s the guy behind the always excellent Progress City blog – did some additional digging here. And what Michael discovered is that this English Music Hall idea might have gotten tripped up by some miscommunication at the corporate level at Disney.

To explain: There was evidently a high muckety-muck at the Mouse House who – while visiting San Francisco in the 1970s – happened upon an Americanized version of the English Music Hall. Which was very much an entertainment in the style of “The Golden Horseshoe Revue” at Disneyland Park and “The Hoop Dee Doo Revue” at WDW’s Pioneer Hall. So this exec goes back to the Imagineers and says “We need one of these at the English pavilion in World Showcase.”

So the Imagineers being who they are … Well, they then go off and research authentic English Music Hall shows. Which are far more bawdy than what this Disney exec saw when it visited that show in San Francisco. So when they then present this project to Disney upper management, they’re kind of appalled. Because this place that the Imagineers now want to build at the UK pavilion at Epcot promotes drinking as well as the singing of bawdy songs. Which is very much NOT what Walt Disney Productions is about in the early 1980s.

So right after EPCOT Center opens in the Fall of 1982, the idea of building an authentic English Music Hall at the back of the UK pavilion gets tabled. Starting in the Spring of 1983, Disney starts getting its first round of surveys when it comes to what Guests really think of WDW’s second gate. And the message that comes across loud & clear is … EPCOT Center doesn’t have nearly enough rides.

So that’s what the Imagineers then do. They pivot to developing more rides for this theme park. Especially since they can’t persuade any German companies to come sponsor the Rhine River Ride that WED had previously developed for World Showcase.

So the Imagineers have this building site at the back of the UK pavilion where that English Music Hall was supposed to be built. Could a ride be built back there? Sam McKim goes off and noodles on something he initially calls the Dickens ride. Which was to have been this dark ride that would have taken EPCOT visitors past vignettes pulled from Charles Dickens’ best loved books (i.e., “Oliver Twist,” “Great Expectations,” and “A Tale of Two Cities”).

Here’s the thing, though: Americans (who would make up the bulk of visitors to EPCOT Center) may know the titles of those written-by-Charles-Dickens books, but they haven’t necessarily actually read them. So Version 2 of this dark ride – which Sam worked on well into 1984 – focused on the one Charles Dickens story that Americans were sure to know. And that was “A Christmas Carol.”

McKim faced a unique challenge. Had to tell the entire story of “A Christmas Carol” in a theme park setting. Each significant scene from that story had to be told in a single scene. Had to occupy the same footprint as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” (Instead of horseless carriages, ghost-powered carriage taking you through 1840s Londontowne. Pepper’s Ghost image of the Ghost of Christmas Future pulling your carriage).

Each ghost (i.e., Marley, Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present & Ghost of Christmas Future) got a scene. Likewise Scrooge’s counting house, the Crachit Home, and Scrooge reformed scene. Not the Cliff Notes version of this story. The Post It Notes version.

Sam finished working on this project about the same time Michael Eisner was named as Disney’s new CEO. To Eisner’s way of thinking, an old-fashioned dark ride wasn’t the way to fix EPCOT. A new 4D movie starring Michael Jackson was.

Speaking of Michael Jackson … In this exact same window of time (mid-to-late-1980s), the Studio was prepping a sequel to its 1964 hit, “Mary Poppins.” One where Michael Jackson was to have co-starred with Julie Andrews as Bert’s brother Bart. Seriously.

If you want to read more about this version of “Mary Poppins Returns,” check out the various articles that Brian Sibley has written about this project.

Jump ahead 30 years. Which is when Disney finally does get a “Mary Poppins” sequel out the door in December of 2018. Julie Andrews opts out of playing the practically perfect nanny again for Disney. Emily Blunt plays Mary in this Rob Marshall movie.

FYI: The Balloon Lady in the Park (played by Dame Angela Lansbury in “Mary Poppins Returns”) was actually written for Andrews to play. Similar to Dick Van Dyke’s brief cameo as Mr. Dawes Junior. Script featured one scene where Andrews & Blunt were to appear together (“One balloon left, Mary Poppins”). Julie seriously considered this part. In the end, didn’t think it would be fair to Emily if she appeared in the movie.

Disney thought that “Mary Poppins Returns” would be a sure thing. So much so that – even before this sequel was released to theaters – WDI was working an attraction for the UK pavilion based on this soon-to-be-released film.

EPCOT needed more character-based attractions (so said surveys). Cherry Tree Lane added to the back of the UK pavilion. Meet-n-greet with Mary & Jack (Lin Manuel Miranda’s character in “Mary Poppins Returns”). Doublton Bowl spinner ride.

Based on “The Royal Doulton Music Hall” scene in “Mary Poppins Returns” (IRONY: “The Cover is Not the Book” just as cheeky & bawdy as what the Imagineers wanted to do with their authentic English Music Hall in Epcot back in the mid-1980s). Entered 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Used same effect that transports Guests from Belle’s Dad’s cottage to the Beast Cottage. Enter the world of the Royal Doublton Bowl.

Indoor Spinner (tea cups). Exit through gift shop full of “Mary Poppins Returns” stuff.

“MPR” cost $130 million to make / earned $349 million worldwide. Rule of thumb in Hollywood need to earn three times production costs before you then start to earn a profit. “Returns” didn’t deliver sufficient returns.

Attraction feature in EPCOT Center preview center initially. Pulled from project as Disney Corporate reduced the scope of its Epcot redo (pandemic didn’t help here).

Real irony: Royal Doulton had actually been one of Epcot’s opening day sponsors. Had a shop in the UK pavilion. Bowls were featured in the China Shop / The Queen’s Table. Royal Doulton Bowl / Music Hall spinner ride would have been a call-back to that.

Will push this concept art for “the Christmas Carol” ride and the “Royal Doulton Bowl” spinner ride out via social media. Would love to see something back in this space at the UK pavilion at some point.



That’s going to do it for the show today.  You can help support our show by subscribing over at, where we’re posting exclusive shows every week.   Our latest is show has behind-the-scenes stories, photos, and video from Imagineer Jim Shull, who was there during the whole thing.  Check it out at

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ON NEXT WEEK’S SHOW:  Jim gives us the surprisingly deep history of Shrunken Ned’s Junior Jungle Boats in Aventureland.  There’s lore, kids.


You can find more of Jim at, and more of me, len at


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For Jim, this is Len, we’ll see you on the next show.