The backstory to Downtown Disney's infamous Pleasure island was conveyed through elusive plaques, erected by the diligent but unreliable "Pleasure island Histerical Society" and posted at the entrance to each building. Here they are, recreated in their entirety, read tales of sentient robots, physics-defying locomotives and even extraterrestrials!
Walt Disney World
I have a fascination with Disney parks, particularly extinct attractions. The Wonders of Life pavilion is especially interesting to me because it’s tantalisingly still there for the most part, albeit under buckets of white paint.
For me it was an oddball time capsule of the 1990s, with vibrant colours, oversized toy-block constructions and an overarching “Midway of Life” carnival aesthetic you could browse while Yanni music played in the background.
I wanted to create a design that celebrated all of the pavilion’s offerings, from the E-Ticket Body Wars ride, right down to the Wonder Cycles and the quirky exhibits of the Sensory Funhouse. Not only that, but do it in a style that fit the feel and time period it inhabited.
This led me to the placemat activity sheets I’d see at McDonalds birthday parties as a kid, so merging all these elements became a complete nostalgia kick. Plus it was a lot of fun coming up with a Cranium Command themed word jumble and a Body Wars maze.
The colour scheme was based on Sussman & Prejza’s early work for Euro Disney in 1992; Deborah Sussman’s work on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games had a huge impact on 90’s graphic design, and her iconic geometric confetti makes an appearance on the placemat also.
I started with a lot of research; old Disney park maps, 90’s food packaging, McDonald’s placemats as well as photos of the pavilion.
I then did some exploratory sketches of a Wonder Cycle, the oversized headphones of Audio Antics and a sketch of a young batter at Coach’s Corner. Then using a photo overlooking the whole pavilions, I started drawing up a rough map, working out where each exhibit, tree and lamppost stood.
From this rough sketch I did a more detailed drawing to get all of the elements in, which I then scanned and began tracing on Illustrator; tracing, especially on such a detailed design is extremely time consuming and fiddly. At this point I played around with the peripheral elements, and added a maze, word jumble and other details.
Finally, I had a black and white line drawing which was ready for colour; this was surprisingly hard to get right – too blocky and you lost the details, too elaborate and it looks messy. After about three iterations I was happy with the look.
I’m really happy with the finished piece, it accomplished what I set out to do: create a record of all of the pavilions offerings in a fun format, and designed to look like it was printed in 1993 for a lunch tray at the Pure & Simple snack bar.
Time travel is a vital part of the Disney Parks DNA; the magic comes from leaving today and being transported into the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.
While most rides are set in a different place and time, this list will cover attractions which take place in multiple time periods.
5. Carousel of Progress
Time travel was essential to the concept of Carousel of Progress, right from its roots as Edison Square; after all, how do you show progress without having another time period to compare it to? Here, our starting point is the late 1800s, in the pre-electrical age where it takes a week to travel across the country and only five hours to do the laundry! Moving to the 20’s, the family home is now a jungle of wiring with a host of labour-saving devices, when they’re not blowing fuses that is. By the fabulous 40’s there are dishwashers, televisions and the dawn of leisure time, and the final scene shows the home of the future, which nowadays looks less 2044 and more 1994…
Ironically, the World’s Fair version from 1964 would have aged better: as the show ended, an escalator appeared which would whisk the audience to a model of ‘Progress City’ – a sleek, glowing city that would be the perfect place to work, live and play. The show took guests from the tough old days of toil, to the hope for a future where technology had solved our problems and a “Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow” was just a dream away.
Trivia: A Red Ryder BB Gun is amongst the gifts in the Christmas scene in the 1994 version, a nod to the narrator, Jean Shepherd’s role in A Christmas Story.
Thanks to the invention of the Time Rover, you can go back to see live dinosaurs, rather than just their dusty bones. However, thanks to reckless palaeontologist Dr Seeker, what is supposed to be a relaxing tour of the early Cretacious period becomes a terrifying race through a prehistoric jungle, just as the earth-shattering asteroid is about to strike.
Time travel was inevitable in Dinoland USA; Imagineers needed an exciting way to teach guests about dinosaurs, and museum exhibits just weren’t going to cut it. By pairing a time travel story line with Enhanced Motion Vehicles, what could have been the dullest part of the Animal Kingdom, became it’s most thrilling E-Ticket attraction.
- The ride was originally called “Countdown To Extinction” but was changed in 2000 to tie-in with the Disney animated film.
- Effects which have since been deactivated include: a mother Cearadactylus swooping at your car, Compsognathus leaping across the ride track and laser net “capturing” the Iguanadon.
- The alarm before you travel back in time is Security detecting the fact that Seeker has altered your time travel coordinates.
3. Ellen's Energy Adventure
Ellen’s Energy Adventure opened in 1996 as an update of it’s predecessor “The Universe of Energy” which had suffered from a reputation for being dry and uninteresting to children. The revamped ride follows Ellen DeGeneres as she dreams about competing with her college-rival-turned-energy-scientist on Jeopardy. With all the questions about energy, Ellen turns to her neighbour Bill Nye the Science Guy for help; he takes her back to the birth of the universe, through the age of the dinosaurs, all the way up to the present, showing where energy comes from, where it will come from and how we can use it more wisely.
Besides the hilarious script, which is a given for a ride helmed by Ellen DeGeneres, this is one hell of a multimedia presentation: from the 5-screened preshow you move into an auditorium where the floor spins to face an enormous screen showing the birth of the universe, before the theatre splits into self-driving cars. You drive through dioramas filled with animatronics, witnessing the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, before a radio broadcast covers the ice age and the rise of humans. On a massive 210ft screen, a comic montage swiftly tracks humans from discovering fire, to agriculture, to the growth of cities, to the present. Ellen and Bill reappear to look at fossil fuels, solar, hydroelectric and even atomic power, before returning to the first theatre, where Ellen uses her newly-acquired knowledge to win Jeopardy.
This attraction has always stood out to me for its humour, visuals, the surprises around every turn, not to mention, dinosaurs!
- This is the longest ride at Walt Disney World!
- Sadly www.energynightmare.game is not a real website
- The attraction was called “Ellen’s Energy Crisis” but was quickly altered to sound less threatening.
2. The Timekeeper
The Timekeeper started life in Disneyland Paris before being replicated in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, taking up residence in the “Tomorrowland Metropolis Science Center” where Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor now stands.
The film revolved around two robots, the brilliant scientist The Timekeeper (voiced by Robin Williams) and his assistant Nine-Eye (Rhea Pearlman). Nine-Eye would be sent back in time, and thanks to her cameras, we could see her travels on the Circlevision screen.
After a disastrous start encountering dinosaurs and medieval warriors, then crashing Mona Lisa sitting for her portrait and a Mozart recital, Nine-Eye finally emerges at the 1900 Exposition in Paris where she witnesses a meeting between Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
Trying to bring Nine-Eye to the present, Timekeeper inadvertently brings Verne as well, who marvels at the possibility of time travel and begs to see the future, to which Timekeeper agrees. The author is sent across Europe, races a Formula 1 car, rides a hot air balloon and a bobsled, ventures into space and deep undersea before being returned to his present. As a finale, Timekeeper transports Nine-Eye to the year 2189, where Verne and Wells appear in their own time machine explaining “In the future, anything is possible”.
This attraction was the first to use the Circlevision format to tell a story, rather than simply show landscape footage, and the 360 screens created an uncannily immersive experience, leaving you holding onto the lean rails for dear life. Not to mention the hilarious, and often improvised dialogue of Robin Williams. Out of all the time-travel rides, this was hands-down the most breathtaking.
Trivia: The film features a flyover of Neuschwanstein Castle which was the inspiration for both Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Cinderella Castle.
1. Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth has always been the cornerstone of Epcot; originally showing the past, present and future of human communication, the same scenes now show how each generation has invented the future for the next. What makes Spaceship Earth the ultimate time travel ride is firstly its expansiveness; from our caveman ancestors learning to hunt as a team on cave walls, to Guttenburg inventing the printing press, ending in a future of flying cars and green technology, the ride covers the entirety of mankind’s time on earth. These scenes are brought to life not only by amazing sets and audio-animatronics, but a breathtaking score, cave paintings that spring to life, and most famously, the burning smell of the sacking of Rome, every sense is captivated and draws you into the story.
Trivia: The graffiti seen in the Burning Rome scene is an exact replica of graffiti that was found in the ruins in Pompeii.