Journey BACK Into Imagination…

Journey BACK Into Imagination after the break…

Journey BACK Into Imagination…

Anyone who has read this blog for an extended period of time should know by now that I am a Classic EPCOT Center enthusiast. What does that mean? It means that I liked the theme and message of EPCOT Center when it first opened in 1982: The theme was that of a permanent World’s Fair – Half of it spent on showcasing the future and the other half showcasing the better side of some of the major countries in the world.

Presenting all of my arguments about why the present incarnation of “Epcot” (They’ve long since dropped both the capitalization and the “Center”) is inferior to it’s past versions would only yield the prospect of developing premature arthritis. Needless to write, Disney executives have made some fateful decisions about the theme park that has not bode well for it’s long-term future standing as an institution of higher entertainment. Yes, people can still be entertained at such pavilions like “Test Track” and “Mission: SPACE” but also amazed, enchanted and educated as well? Hardly. “Epcot” has been reduced to a watered-down amusement park, stripped of all of it’s carefully planned messages about how the careful use of future technologies can aid humanity through the darkness of our present progress.

One never wants to wish ill will upon anyone but short of a cataclysmic disaster that removes the entire Disney executive machine from further manhandling “Epcot,” fans of the Classic EPCOT Center are doomed to a future of thinly-veiled carnival rides slathered in a coat of decent-enough production values with a thin veneer of “edutainment” on top in an almost sarcastic attempt at maintaining the original vision that EPCOT Center embraced. No one is going to re-install the character of Dreamfinder back into the Journey Into Imagination pavilion. No one is going to bulldoze Mission: SPACE out of it’s misery and rebuild the Horizons pavilion. No one is going to rip out every reference of “Finding Nemo” from the daycare center now called “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” and place back into it the more mature, more adult-friendlier theme of the futuristic deep sea base.

Technology, though, always manages to find a way to even the odds. EPCOT Center may be dead and, let there be no mistake, it is quite a miserable demise that the throngs of people seemingly entertained by the moving park bench called “Soarin'” will never experience the true wonder of “Innovations” or the people thrilled with “Test Track” can never partake in the splendor of “Horizons.” Yet the death of EPCOT Center in the physical world has given rise to efforts to rebuild EPCOT Center anew in the virtual world.

Some time ago, I advertised the “Horizons: Resurrected” effort – A project using the Unity 3D engine to recreate the Horizons pavilion that once stood at EPCOT Center. Being a non-commercial, private project, progress has been understandably slower then fans would appreciate. The project is still a skeleton of what the actual pavilion once held; Many of the scenes have not been made, the one scene that does exist has not been animated, and most of the finishing touches have not been added. It may be two or three years (or even if at all) before the project is finished. Like many others who follow that project, I am extremely grateful for all the progress that has been made on that project thus far and I hope that further progress is made in the future.

Now, there has been another effort to recreate another of Classic EPCOT Center’s pavilions – Journey Into Imagination. Called “Journey BACK Into Imagination,” the project also uses the Unity 3D engine to recreate how the entire pavilion looked when it was finally completed in 1983 (with the exception of “Captain EO” playing instead of “Makin’ Memories” in the theater). Even though the Journey Into Imagination pavilion still exists at Epcot today, both the ride and it’s exhibits have completely changed since it’s original incarnation. Gone is the beloved character Dreamfinder as well as the ride’s first version; Gone is the first version of The Imageworks, an upstairs area devoted towards interactive exhibits that had gigantic pin tables, green-screen activities, computer painting programs, a touch-sensitive floor and the famous “rainbow tunnel.”

Like “Horizons: Resurrected,” there’s no guarantee that Journey BACK Into Imagination will be completed. Also, the two share the trait that they are both incomplete with several more revisions yet to be made before the pavilions begin to approach the level of detail they will need in order to be fully functional.

However, I wish to thank the creator of “Journey BACK Into Imagination” for starting and maintaining such a wonderful project. When people finally see what they’ve been missing all these years, the stark contrast with what exists now at the pavilion with what had been will be blatantly obvious. Perhaps the Powers That Be will be shamed into performing some degree of revision that restores that pavilion back to it’s former glory.

First, a project to resurrect the Horizons pavilion. Now, a project to Journey BACK Into Imagination. With Internet efforts such as these, who needs the real thing? Before Disney lawyers slap a cease-and-desist letter on either of those projects, they should ask themselves what prompted such efforts in the first place. Having them take a good look in the mirror would be a great place for them to start… If they have the humility to do so.

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