I would like to preface this post by saying that Horizons was my absolute favorite ride at Disney World as a child and I still haven’t found a suitable replacement since it’s closing…
Whichever Imagineers dreamt up Horizons should be immortalized with plaques and bags of money. They got it all right. From what I can remember and from watching YouTube videos they had every part needed for a perfect ride for 6-year-old James.
Lots of animatronics? Check.
Voice-over narration? Check.
Getting an inside look into the lives of imaginary families? Check ( I don’t know why I was so fascinated with this but it always caught my attention).
Futuristic? Check (Most important aspect).
For the same reason I loved so many of the rides in Tomorrowland, I loved Horizons because it tried to predict the future. All of the robots and weird building and neon lights amazed by little-boy eyes. Most of all it grabbed my imagination and plopped it down on a bar-stool in an all-you-can-eat buffet. (Side note: Have you noticed the all-you-can-eat buffets have morphed into all-you-care-to-eat-buffets?) It gave my ever-hungry imagination fuel, and lots of it.
As I’ve already noted in this blog before, I have an affinity for animatronics. The fact that a man-made machine can be controlled and molded into a life-like creature resembling a human being blew my mind as a child and still does as an adult. Granted, the animatronics of today are of a little higher quality than the ones of the 60s, 70s and 80s but I tend to filter that fact out of my memory.
And Horizons had a lot of them. My favorite was the vacuuming robot. I don’t know what made me choose him but the image of that family in the futuristic house, the robot vacuuming and another robot washing the dishes has haunted me for years. When I say haunted it isn’t because it was a bad memory. On the contrary, it was a splendid memory I couldn’t place; I could remember that part of the ride but had NO IDEA which ride it was.
It wasn’t until I started writing this blog that I actually discovered which ride that scene came from. Until a few months ago I always thought it was from an old attraction in Tomorrowland.
I can’t say enough about how the futuristic feel of the ride was what grabbed me as a kid. Every new representation of cool TVs or kitchens or cars or anything was a huge draw. I honestly wish I could remember more of the ride. Interestingly, while looking through pictures and videos I realized why the rocket-in-the-eye-of-the-man-in-the-moon imagery from the recent movie Hugo looked so familiar: a very similar image was used in Horizons.
Of course there was much more than a robot vacuuming that attracted visitors (If nothing else, it was a great ride to take a nap on). One of the biggest draws to the ride was the rider’s choice of ending: Sea, Space or Desert.
I don’t even remember which one I liked the best I just know I liked them all. Giving the rider some control was a brilliant idea on the part of Disney. Also, it made them want to ride it three times so they could see all the endings.
Some people may not know that Horizons was actually developed as a sequel-of-sorts to the Carousel of Progress attraction in Tomorrowland. In fact, Walt himself designed much of the ride, which has to be the primary reason it was outstanding – that and the fact that my love for Carousel of Progress is so great I was not deterred from riding it one time I was at Disney World, even while the rest of my party would not go on it. Horizons was intended to be the next chapter after the last phase of the COP.
Unfortunately, you know the rest of the story. The ride was either deemed outdated, too expensive to operate or not popular enough and was replaced by a new, fancier ride. While Mission: SPACE is a cool ride, it doesn’t come close to Horizons. Most importantly, it’s not a family ride. Three-quarters of the park guests can’t go on it without risking vomiting. Plus, it doesn’t have that Disney charm Horizons had.
I don’t know how to explain it but a lot of the older Disney rides just feel like Disney. Sure, they are dated, but that is what makes them great. Do the Disney executives honestly think people don’t want to go on all these beloved rides because they are outdated? It’s fascinating to look and what people thought the future would be in the 80s.
Going on a ride at Disney World leaves a mark on you. Not only do you have fond memories of that ride but you want to ride it again and again. Even as an adult you still go back to those same memories when you rode if for the first time as a 7-year-old.
I wouldn’t care if, going on Space Mountain 5o years from now, nothing was changed. I remember it like it was when I was a child; I don’t want that to change. I’m sure space-travel technology will improve vastly in the next 50 years (unless the constant reduction of funding continues) but I would still want Space Mountain from the past. Enough things change in our lives, can’t the nostalgic rides at Disney at least stay the same?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/57682775@N04/ – BRLLIANT photos from inside the ride. Excellent quality. Not mine, mind you.