I listened to the full audio version of Horizons today. I have to admit, that is hands down my all-time favorite Walt Disney World attraction. I have a feeling I have painted it better in my memories than it actually was, but that’s okay. We all have an attraction that is or was near and dear to our hearts and this one is mine. I can honestly say I rode Horizons over 100 times and was horribly sad and disappointed when it closed in 1999 to be replaced by Mission: Space.
The attraction opened on October 1, 1983 and was sponsored by GE. The premise of the ride was to show what 21st century living would be like on land, at sea and even out in space. As you entered the diamond-shaped building you immediately smelled oranges (first time visitors weren’t sure what that was about, but us pros knew). As you walked through the queue, you saw and heard advertisements for Sea Castle (a floating city in the Pacific), Mesa Verde (a desert reclamation complex) and Brava Centari (a colony in space).
Visitors boarded Horizons 1, which were suspended four-passenger vehicles and traveled through Audio-Animatronics tableaux. Our hosts are a Grandfather and Grandmother. Our first stop was a “look back at tomorrow” – seeing the future through the eyes of yesterday. Jules Verne, the future from the early 20th century and then from the 1950s (I remember lots of green and neon from this scene) were just some of the stops on this section of the journey.
Once the journey of looking back at tomorrow is complete, we entered the first Omnimax Film Sequence. Here the Grandfather explains how we’re decoding the DNA chain; how we’re learning to harness the sun’s limitless energy; how Landsat photography is helping improve lives; the cityscape – a living tribute to our richest resource – people; and the new cityscape – a microprocessor – an entire computer is on a tiny silicon chip. We then enter the hosts’ home where the Grandfather is playing on an instrument that looks similar to a keyboard, but uses lights. Grandmother is video chatting with a hologram of their daughter who lives in the desert.
Our vehicles then entered the Mesa Verde tableaux. Here the desert is transformed into thriving citrus orchards. You could actually smell the oranges! We visited the kitchen and communications room at Mesa Verde. It’s in the communications room that you see the granddaughter video chatting with her boyfriend. This leads us to the next tableaux, Sea Castle. The boy the granddaughter is chatting with is now an audio-animatronic working on repairing a sub. We move on to the undersea classroom where a group of kids is learning about diving with their pet seal, Rover. We move on to the undersea resort and next is the diving film where we see the kids swimming with their instructor.
Now we enter the second of the Ominmax Films. The music is dramatic and to this day when I hear it I can visualize this section of the ride. I can see the astronauts in their jet packs working on a piece of the space station and hear the hiss of the steam coming from the packs.
We take a quick look around the space station and see just how it would feel to ride a stationary bike in space. We meet Tommy who can fly and tries to talk his mom into joining him. Mom admonishes, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. Don’t let go of Napoleon, we don’t want to lose him”.
Tommy – “Hey mom, what if he just floats away?”
Mom – “He won’t.”
Tommy – “Hey mom, what if I just float away?”
Mom – “Then your father will get you just as soon as he manages to get your shoe”.
Our visit to the space station is cut short by our hosts’ grandson’s party. The next scene shows the holographic family gathered around a little boy, Davey, celebrating his birthday.
Sadly, we have to return from the future, but not before we get to choose our own ending. We got to choose one of three ride endings – space, desert or undersea. Everyone could choose, majority ruled. Flimsy dividers popped out of the wall to immerse us in our ending. I remember the desert and space scenes best. We flew over the orange grove or through space to dock back at the future port. It was all music and visuals for this ending.
Grandfather – “Well, we’re almost back from the future”.
Grandmother – “Oh, it went by so quickly”.
Grandfather – “If we can dream it we really can do it and that’s the most exciting part”.
For me, it’s kind of fun reminiscing about Horizons and seeing how accurate or inaccurate some of their predictions for 21st century living were. As the song says – “If we can dream it, then we can do it. Yes we can. Yes we can.”