Sometimes areas and buildings at WDW may be closed and go unused for a long period of time, but still be fully visible to guests. Many guests have no idea what function those areas served. Here are a few of them.
At one end of Fantasyland, past Peter Pan and It’s A Small World, there is Stroller Parking. This particular Stroller Parking, unlike others which are little more than roped-off areas, is more decorated – a wooden archway, a brown Swiss-style house sitting above. It speaks of a hidden past.
Some distance away, in Tomorrowland near Space Mountain, another building sits, with a waterfall at one end and a canopied balcony above. Below it only houses bathrooms. Remnants of a space port perhaps? Some futuristic shuttle docking port for the Endor Express?
Both were the endpoints of the Magic Kingdom Skyway ride – a somewhat typical gondola ride traveling between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Each gondola could hold a few people and gave a spectacular view of the Magic Kingdom. The Skyway would roughly follow the pathway through Fantasyland all the way to the Indy Speedway, and would turn at a tower in the middle of the speedway down to the Tommorrowland terminal.
Disneyland had a very similar ride, which actually passed through the Matterhorn. Both rides closed – Disneyland’s in 1994, and the Magic Kingdom’s in 1999 (it was open in April of that year, but closed sometime later). These two buildings were all that remained, and for almost 10 years sat unused and unchanged.
That changed at the end of 2009, when the Tomorrowland Skyway station was partially demolished to improve sightlines. The bathroom section was retained, however. No word on what future plans there may be.
In 2012, as part of the Fantasyland Expansion construction, the Fantasyland end is also being demolished. So both of these odd buildings will no longer been seen…
That building is the Odyssey Restaurant, which closed for regular service in 1994. In the early years it was a counter service dining location and I understand it did have character meals – probably the only ones in EPCOT Center at the time. Nowadays it is mostly closed, opening only for special occasions like the Food and Wine Festival, where they have demonstrations, and business functions. I’ve also heard that Magical Gatherings meet there. In the back, unseen by guests, is a Cast Member only break area and food service.
You can access bathrooms on the left side and a first aid center and more bathrooms on the right side. I have to say, the bathrooms on the left are probably the nicest bathrooms inside a park at Disney.
Wonders of Life
Not so recently out of our memories is the golden dome between the Universe of Energy and Mission: Space, called the Wonders of Life. This pavilion was centered around the human body and health, with a variety of exhibits and two attractions: Body Wars, a simulator ride similar to Star Tours (although I vaguely recall liking Body Wars better) in the vein of Fantastic Voyage; Cranium Command, combining movie elements and audio-animatronics that deal with how the brain interacts with the body; and The Making of Me, a short movie starring Martin Short about birth and life.
Body Wars was in fact directed by Leonard Nimoy, and included actors Tim Matheson and Elizabeth Shue.
Originally planned to open with EPCOT Center, they were unable to sign a sponsor until MetLife did several years later, and it opened in 1989. MetLife eventually ended its sponsorship, and officially in 2004 Wonders of Life was placed in the dreaded “seasonal” category, which means it is only open in rare circumstances1. It was most recently opened for a few weeks in December 2006 with limited attractions in operation.
The pavilion sign and the double helix were removed in August 2007, and it was announced that the pavilion would be used for part of the Food and Wine Festival in the Fall of 2007. How extensive any sort of renovations will be is unknown, but word is that Cranium Command and Body Wars are to be preserved somehow.
Trivia time. The original name name for Epcot was EPCOT Center – but do you know why? What was it the center of exactly?
It all goes back to Walt Disney. His plan was not to build “Walt Disney World”, his plan was to build “EPCOT”, which as most know stands for the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (sometimes City is substituted for Community). The Magic Kingdom was a part of the plan in the north of the property, with EPCOT Center in the center, and an airport to the south, connected by monorail. EPCOT Center would be an actual planned city, where Disney employees would live (rent only, no ownership), and hotels and other attractions. Visitors would pass through EPCOT Center on the way to the Magic Kingdom. The whole area would be called EPCOT.
There is a lot more to the story than I can say here, but in short with Walt’s passing plans changed. EPCOT Center instead became a showcase of technology combined with a permanent “world’s fair”, and the property was more formally called “Walt Disney World”. Even during the Wonderful World of Disney special on the opening of EPCOT Center, Danny Kaye attempted to explain that EPCOT and Walt Disney World were the same thing.