Happy Birthday (and RIP) to Disney World's Best Ride Ever
On October 1, 1983 the greatest ride to ever appear at Walt Disney World opened to the public. They called it Horizons.
It wasn't a thrill-packed roller coaster like Space Mountain. And it didn't have the middle-brow gravitas of something educational like the Hall of Presidents. But it was the best ride that Disney has ever produced. Because Horizons not only gave visitors a peek at the world of tomorrow, it honored past visions of the future as well.
I was born in 1983, and when my family took vacations to Epcot in the late 1980s and early '90s, Horizons made me fall in love with the more shiny, tech-centric futures of the time. Everything from advanced telecommunications (multi-screen videophone chats, anyone?) to robot farms (I can still smell the oranges wafting from those smellitzers) were represented in the ride. And this flurry of techno-utopian sights and smells helped me think about the ways that technology can be a tool for good in the world.
Along with the tech-focused ideas of the early 1980s, Horizons exposed me to the history of the future at an early age. And in doing so made me appreciate the fact that innovation is often inspired by those who have come before us. The future is not built in a vacuum. The future is not predetermined. Horizons, better than anything at Epcot before or since, helped plant a seed of appreciation for the futures that never were. And, quite obviously, inspired me to start a blog that would one day become my full time job here at Gizmodo.
Sure, Horizons could be hokey and mildly irreverent in that safe Disney way, but it told a fun story (or more appropriately, a series of stories) about the possibilities for the cities, farms, undersea communities, and space colonies of tomorrow. Horizons was far from perfect, but sitting here in a thick haze of nostalgia with old Epcot books piled on my desk, there's little I wouldn't do to ride it one more time.
Horizons lost General Electric as its sponsor in 1994 and as a result spent the next half decade being open only intermittently. Sadly, Horizons was closed for good in 1999. But thanks to the wonders of online video, you can still get a taste of it from one of the dozens of videos fans of the attraction have created.
Someone has even created a 3D simulation walk-through of Horizons called Horizons: Resurrected. I was pretty shocked to learn that its creator had never even ridden the attraction when it was open.
It's pretty clear that I'm not the only weirdo who still feels strongly about some Disney attraction that doesn't even exist anymore. Fans of Horizons have taken to Twitter in the past couple of weeks to reflect on the ride and its influence. Their hashtag is #HORIZONS30.
How big of a Horizons nerd am I? I have blueprints from the attraction framed in our apartment. If anyone from Disney is reading this, just know that I'm available to help with a Horizons reboot that I'm sure you're currently working on. Futurama — the ride, not the TV show — got a sequel in 1964 after the 1939 New York World's Fair. So, why not Horizons!
R.I.P. Horizons. And happy birthday. You were a great symbol of the future. And perhaps just as important to a guy who's made writing about past visions of tomorrow his full-time job, you were a great monument to the futures that never were.