EPCOT's 'Horizons' peers into the future of the American home
The people at Disney have once again peered into their crystal ball, this time producing Horizons, a new pavilion at the EPCOT Center's Future World. It's sponsored by General Electric and deals, not surprisingly, with the future in the home.Skip to next paragraph
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It's a home most middle-class Americans would be comfortable in. The viewer is borne in smoothly running cars past dioramas of animated mannequins representing ''families'' so typical they could be selling detergents. The mother in her living room chats with a three-dimensional image of her daughter via holographic telephone. A family has just checked into their room at a spaceship hotel; their dog and luggage are floating merrily around the ceiling. Another mother prepares her family for a scuba lesson - the only kind of ''walk'' possible from their underwater home.
The idea of the pavilion was to present a future that seemed friendly to the average person. ''Almost all space movies are predicated on war,'' said Walt Disney World spokesman Charlie Ridgeway. ''Everyone has a laser gun on the hip. We just don't think the future has to be that way.''
The most exciting part of the ride is the Omnimax movie (a large film format adapted to a fisheye lens). It is shown on a concave screen 80 feet high and 240 feet long. You don't see all of it as your car trundles past, but I saw a rocket taking off, seemingly a few feet away, and a rotating view of a double helix that seemed to float in the air. And when the movie camera zoomed forward over the New York cityscape, our car vibrated so realistically that I was positive we were zooming forward with it. I was startled, and, as Disney ''imagineer'' Marty Sklar commented with a deprecating smile, ''It's not easy to startle people now.''
As you stumble back out into the brilliant Florida sunshine, you might ask yourself why bother with a house on the ocean, when a house under the ocean is just as comfortable and a lot more impressive.
But you may have to wait awhile - this is the future, after all. Except, alas, for the holographic telephone, most of the technology for all this - the underwater community, the spaceship hotel - is available, but the expense is ''prohibitive,'' according to GE's Manuel Aven and Charles Bean. ''People grumble over even ordinary costs, of telephone bills for instance,'' Dr. Aven pointed out.
The opening of Horizons was a spectacular event, complete with thousands of blue, white, and silver balloons; a band; dancers; and white pigeons by the score. Louis XIV would have been satisfied with it. It also marked a year - and a successful one - since EPCOT's debut.
Things seem to be hopping in the Disney conglomerate. Here at EPCOT, the seven pavilions of Future World will be joined in 1986 by the Living Seas, referred to as the world's largest saltwater aquarium. A Morocco pavilion will be added next year to the nine ''countries'' of World Showcase. The opening of the first overseas Disney park in Tokyo in April is almost overshadowed.
According to Disney chief executive Ron Miller, there may be another overseas Disney park in the future, probably in England, France, or Spain. The climate, rather than closeness to a large population, is the most important factor, said Mr. Miller, saying that the company might create a resort out of ''nothing,'' as in the successful project here in Orlando.
Mr. Miller had a few remarks to make about the Disney movie division, which has recently been marked by a contrasting lack of success at the box office. (''How often can you write off $10 million?'' he asked plaintively.) His comment on the movies: ''We were stuck in the early '60s, while rest of the country changed.''