Mission: Space has welcomed guests at Epcot since 2003. The attraction sits on the site that used to house Horizons, a beloved ride showing optimistic visions of “the future.” When Disney announced the closure of Horizons, fans felt a collective pang. (Horizons had been relegated to being open only during the busiest of times before it closed for good.) When Horizons began to be torn down, it seemed as though many Epcot visitors had lost a dear friend. The fact that the building was to be demolished made it especially hard for some, but WDI determined it would not try to retrofit a building like it did with World of Motion. Lessons were learned and applied.
With so many loyal enthusiasts upset at the demise of Horizons, WDI was under pressure to create a fitting replacement. No “C ticket” attraction would do. This was going to require a full-bore E ticket experience.
Outer space has long captured the imagination of people, and Disney has capitalized on that over the years. From the Moonliner during Disneyland’s earliest days, to Mission to Mars and Space Mountain, Disney theme park guests could get a taste of what they could only dream about.
Well, not really. None of these attractions really came close to simulated space flight. Indeed, only the infamous “Vomit Comet” jet used to create zero-G could come close–and there is no way that experience would find its way into a Disney theme park. The cost of fuel on a daily basis would require admission prices out of this world.
With Mission: Space, though, Disney Imagineers have given guests a sampling of one experience known to every astronaut: G forces. Using a large centrifuge, WDI allows us to feel the weight as we are “placed” on our backs for lift off. We feel the large G forces during liftoff and encounters with the Moon and Mars. And, some even claim to feel a bit of weightlessness at times during the ride.
For some, the attraction is just another thrill ride. On the other hand, WDI has brought its trademark storytelling to this show. As an astronaut trainee, you play a specific role in the mission, depending on which seat you end up in. No more passive I’m-just-an-audience-member experiences, WDI’s Imagineers are going to make you work. Okay, so your work is managing to reach up and press a button at the right time, but this still brings the kind of active engagement that we typically don’t see in attraction design. (In some instances, such as the new Spaceship Earth, it is better left out.)
Epcot’s original purpose, to inspire ideas about the future, was probably better represented by Horizons. Nevertheless, this hit from WDI is exciting enough to inspire kids of all ages to look more into space exploration.