You don’t have to travel the world in the literal sense to become a “Disney World” traveler. As fans of EPCOT’s World Showcase know well, Disney has made the idea of going on a grand world tour to 11 different nations in a single day an entirely doable endeavor.
And while we can take delight in all of EPCOT’s current World Showcase highlights, there’s far more to the story in regards to past considerations and future utilizations that still may be. We’re taking a look back to some of the countries and attractions that were once envisioned to become part of EPCOT’s World Showcase along with the fruitful future of possibilities that still may come about.
Planned Pavilions That Never Were:
Once upon a time, this pavilion was envisioned to be placed between the countries of Germany and Italy. And while negotiations between Disney and the Swiss government eventually fell apart in 1987, due to not being able to secure the needed funding from a commercial sponsor, very elaborate “coming soon” write-ups from 1984 and 1985 paint a pretty picture of what it would have been like.
The concept for the Switzerland Pavilion would have included a quaint Swiss village, complete with a candy shop, clock shop, woodshop, clothing store, tourism center, and even a restaurant. But the biggest attractor would have been its onsite bobsled-themed rollercoaster.
As a way to bring Disneyland’s popular Matterhorn Bobsleds to Walt Disney World, the new coaster would not be an identical carbon copy of the former, as it would combine elements of Disneyland’s (different from Disney World’s) Space Mountain as well. There were a couple of different storylines for the coaster’s theme that was never finalized, but it’s still fun to think about what it would have been like to have had such a coaster and, by an extension such a pavilion.
The fabled Australia Pavilion that never was still floats on rumors for its potential to someday join the Disney lineup. However, as many fans have speculated, the fact that Disney’s Animal Kingdom has never opened an Australian-themed land showcasing its collaborative critters, leads to such plans filling a tentative spot one day in this park if not earning its placement within EPCOT’s World Showcase.
But there has been mention in the past, confirming that Disney Imagineers have flirted with the idea before. Past ideas have suggested that an Australia Pavilion would include a recreation of Sydney’s world-renowned Opera House. While little else is officially concrete, it’s always fun to imagine what else would have or could still be included in such a pavilion. Perhaps some regional cuisine, original surfing apparel, and even Vegemite could all be considered?
United Arab Emirates
By 1978 there were plans in place to establish a pavilion to represent the United Arab Emirates. Concept art and records reveal plenty about what was in store, including many common staples you find being played out within other World Showcase pavilions, like merchandise and food. Other fun features would have included two Arabic Dhow ships, a Bedouin encampment in a desert, and more.
But it’s the would-be star attraction—a magic carpet ride, no less—we feel is worth highlighting most of all. Featured as a ride and show component combined, the attraction would have offered visitors an informative exploration into the Middle East, showcasing earlier developments in civilians and its many modern advances throughout time.
Disney announced plans to establish a Venezuela-themed pavilion in 1981, which would have included all the usual mainstays in the way of food offerings, merchandise imports, and other interests. But the highlight hit here would have been an aerial tram-like ride through the nation’s vivid, tropical rainforest. Another crowning attribute would have been the construction of an immense waterfall and high-rise on the side of a massive cliff. While one of the most eagerly anticipated pavilions of the time, plans were eventually scrapped following a negotiations fallout between Disney and the Venezuelan government.
Another once-planned addition to the World Showcase, Disney’s Denmark Pavilion, would have been a marvel to take note of indeed. It was slated to focus largely around Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens which, coincidentally enough, inspired Walt Disney in his cultivation of his idea for Disneyland. Recreating a miniature version of Tivoli Gardens would have been, quite literally, an amusement park within an amusement park.
Classic anchoring attractions would have been a carousel, Ferris wheel, and even a LEGO-theme boat ride through miniature landmarks. While we would have loved to have seen the potential behind all this along with what other inclusions would have been made in the way of food and shopping, the concept was dropped altogether when talks of sponsorship with LEGO fell through.
While the Denmark idea had been floated for some time for EPCOT’s World Showcase, there is a very interesting history behind Norway’s eventual development. Because inadequate sponsorship was a major factor behind Denmark’s eventual falling out, Disney conceptualized a possible reworking for the would-be pavilion location—a Scandinavian Pavilion that would represent a number of nations within the Scandinavian region. The hope was that by drawing in multiple nations they would draw in more sponsors in addition.
Shops and restaurants would serve as fillers, in accordance, depending on the resulting number of nations and sponsors that did (and didn’t) sign up. The proposed pavilion would have showcased regional architecture and natural wonders, unrestrained by actual national borders. And the starring attraction would be a dark ride water ride—The Maelstrom. In the end, Norway was singularly the most invested nation, both literally and figuratively. Plans were reworked, tailoring to a more Norwegian presence in particular. And that is how what could have been Denmark, then greater Scandinavia, eventually became EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion.
One of the earliest nations up for consideration in EPCOT’s World Showcase was the planned Costa Rica Pavilion, back in 1979. Had it come to fruition, the pavilion would have drawn on influences from San Juan, with an open-air market, quick service restaurant, and more in the way of shopping and other attributes. But the crowning jewel to the overall scene would have been a large, crystal greenhouse containing native tropical plants to the country, along with recreated waterfalls and an abundant habitat comprised of different exotic bird species.
Another one of the earliest conceived pavilions for EPCOT’s World Showcase would have featured Iran. Included in the plan would be restaurants and shops within an open, bazaar-like marketplace setting. There would have also been a unique dark ride taking visitors on a journey through Persian history. Plans for the pavilion were eventually diminished altogether, however, following the mounting political turmoil unfolding in Iran, and with the overthrowing of the Shah in 1979.
Another interesting development we would have loved to have seen come together would have been the Russian-themed pavilion. While conceptualized during the Cold War era, highlights would have included many nationally centered features, including St. Basil’s Cathedral and even the Kremlin in Moscow. Initial plans were scrapped when the 1990s rolled around, bringing with it the breakup of the Soviet Union. It goes without saying that there were more important national developments taking the forefront than establishing a pavilion at Disney World.
The development of an Israel Pavilion was at one time an eagerly expected concept, set to open between Morocco and Japan in the early 1980s. The original intent would have been to feature a recreated scene of ancient Jerusalem. An open-air restaurant, as well as myriad market-like shops and other attributes, would have been highlighted, along with the ruins of a minaret serving as an information center of sorts. Many officials were on board to help out, including museums and other professional, internal sources direct from Israel. Due to ongoing national security issues, however, plans for the hoped-for pavilion eventually folded altogether.
Once slated for a 1983 opening, the intended placement for this pavilion was to be designated between Germany and China. Applying the same logic at play when conceptualizing the Scandinavia Pavilion, Disney hoped to get more sponsorship by going a route that utilized more than one nation. Although the pavilion never did officially come about, Guests today will find the respite-like African-inspired outpost area located in this area instead. As it would have played out, the Equatorial Africa Pavilion would have boasted two show features—a live stage performance in an outdoor amphitheater and an insightful showcase film.
Author of Roots, Alex Haley, was set to narrate. Another expected feature would have been an elaborate 60-foot treehouse, which Guests would be permitted to climb and look down on an illuminated image of animals around a watering hole from. Despite regional, political turmoil throughout the continent, Disney did have the promise of obtaining the needed funding but ending up foregoing offers as to avoid being associated with the promotion of the apartheid practices that were going on.
A more recent laid-to-rest concept would have been the establishment of a Spain Pavilion. And while the proposed would have featured a dark ride attraction as well as a culturally-centered video about the nation’s past and progression through modern times, one of its most popular highlights would have centered around its food scene–particularly a restaurant serving tapas and sangria. Adequate funding was not secured, resulting in a halt moving forward with its establishment. On and off again rumors about the pavilion continued throughout the years though and even still come up as a future possibility to this day.
Another early concept that was never formally teased was a tentative pavilion highlighting the Philippines. While not a whole lot is known about it aside from the obvious mainstay features would be included here as well, Disney historians who are familiar with the pre-EPCOT envisioning from back in the day have confirmed it would have been a blended focus on both the nature-based and anthropological aspects of the country as represented by its people and natural land elements.
Millennium Village was a short-term, limited-time exhibit that opened on the EPCOT World Showcase scene back in the year 2000, rightfully in time of the new millennium. Within were featured a range of collective displays and smaller exhibits, paying homage to some of the tentative national pavilion ideas that had at one time been considered for World Showcase additions but did not move forward. Nations on display included Chile, Easter Island, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Sweden, and Brazil with ambassadors from such countries as Ethiopia, Namibia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, India, Kenya, and others. Artisans from around the world also came out to be a part of the celebration, leading live demonstrations of their crafts and talents on-location.
They hailed from such nations as Lebanon, Greece, Thailand, Peru, Egypt, Ecuador, Korea, and Venezuela. The honorary “pavilion” also played host to a unique collaboration of onsite activities and endeavors for Guests to take part in, like trying out international cuisine via a fusion food court setup, taking part in a “World Culture Game” show, enjoying a traditional Ethiopian Eritrea coffee ceremony, and exploring the “green” side of things via a Village Green section focusing on planting, recycling, and so forth. A host of other entertainments and attributes were also included as part as the overall celebration. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Millennium Village’s end came in January 2001 when the new year rolled in. But we would love to find a way to get the pavilion reprised or even reinstated back into being on a permanent basis.
Rumors and Room for More
A more permanent Millennium Village Pavilion would be an awesome addition to EPCOT’s World Showcase, but there are a number of other ideas that would work well in making the lineup as well. Disney has considered the idea for creating a Brazil-based pavilion in the past, and some believe that it can still happen in the near future. It could work nicely in tandem with the fact that Brazil’s Iguazu Falls is included as one of the flybys in the Soarin’ Around the World attraction. Then we bring up the matter of a Spain Pavilion once again.
A couple of years ago, when a new movie Gigantic was in the works—a retelling of the Jack and the Bean Stalk story set in Spain, this was almost certain to be one of two new pavilions being teased for a future opening at EPCOT. But when the movie was canceled, word of a Spain Pavilion halted as well. But that doesn’t mean the prospect has altogether been scrapped. Recently, actor Josh Gad also shared his interest in seeing the development of a Columbia Pavilion emerge on the EPCOT scene.
And with Disney’s recent release of the film Encanto, we can definitely agree to the potential here. From revisiting concepts like Australia or others from the aforementioned to perhaps even a brand-new nation never before considered, there are still rumors flying about on which of new countries could be or should be added. And word has it, there are at least two new pavilions slated to premiere in the not-so-distant future. But truth be told, given the space remaining for development at present time, there is actually room for six more pavilions to eventually spring into being, and we truly hope that it is the case that eventually all six wild card spots will be filled.
Which countries would you like to see added to EPCOT’s World Showcase? The possibilities are far-reaching and fun to think about. And it is almost a certainty that we can expect more in the coming future. And when it does finally happen it will be a Disney World traveler’s dream come true—having new nations to explore in the lineup of Disney designated endeavors to make magical memories with.