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Jim Hill: From the Archives
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Part Two: Out of this world effects derailed by high costs, short attention spans

OUR STORY SO FAR:  There's just no satisfying this Jim Hill guy.

Any other Disney dweeb would  have been thrilled to hear about the brand new attraction that Epcot's Future World was getting. Not Jim.

Even though the Compaq corporation is rumored to be spending $150 - $200 million on its "Mission: Space" pavilion, Hill still found a way to complain about the still- under- construction project.

And what was Jim's chief complaint? Readers should be fairly familiar with this refrain: The Imagineers had this great idea for an amazing attraction, but the cheapskates currently running the Mouse House wouldn't let them build the original version of the ride because it would have cost too much.

Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda.

To prove his point, Hill borrowed a transmorgrifer from Calvin and - after slipping through a lapse in the interdimensional continuum - took readers on a tour of Epcot's "Space " pavilion as WDI had originally envisioned the place.

The tour started with a brief look at the exterior of "Mission: Space," which was to have been housed inside of a significantly re-themed version of the original "Horizons" show building. After getting on line for this Future World pavilion, Jim and his guest caught the attraction's pre- show - which would have told WDW visitors about their upcoming trip aboard a space shuttle to a fantastic space station that had been built into the side of a massive asteroid.

Epcot guests would have then entered the shuttle cabin for their journey across the cosmos. Thanks to the clever use of a huge centrifuge, the "Mission: Space" ride vehicle would authentically recreated the stresses and sensations NASA astronauts experience as they blast off into space. WDW visitors would have been pressed back into their seats by the increased G forces the shuttle accumulated during blast off. They'd also briefly float up out of their seats once their ship supposedly slipped free of Earth's gravity.

Most Epcot visitors would have found this simulated shuttle trip stimulating enough all by itself. Ah, but this was just the start of our journey, my friends. Rounding the corner from the shuttle's exit, WDW guests would have been startled to find themselves standing  ...

... on the deck of an authentic looking recreation of a space station.

And we're not talking about one of those grim, tight, small outer space places like Mir, folks. The interior of "Mission: Space" would have been huge - three stories tall in some spots - with enormous windows on the floor, walls and ceiling that looked out on the cold vastness of space.

To sell the illusion that these windows really did allow WDW guests to peer outside of the station, WDI planned to have detailed images of star fields projected outside of all of "Mission: Space" 's windows. The best part of this illusion is that the projectors would have made use of computer controls to keep these images synched up. So if a constellation were to gradually slip out of view in one window, it would eventually re-appear in a window nearby - which would have given WDW visitors the eerie impression that they were really aboard a huge facility that was slowly revolving in space.

What would have also put across the feeling that these Epcot visitors really had left Earth would have been the other-worldly mix of elements that were to have used to decorate the inside of the "Mission: Space" pavilion. Part of the interior would have been that utilitarian mix of corridors and control panels WDW guests would have already seen on countless episodes of Star Trek. But the rest of the station would be rough hewn, as if it had been craved right out of the asteroid itself.

Visitors to "Mission: Space" would have been free to explore the facility, try their hand at any of many hands-on displays around the station. They could drop by the observatory and view imagery (generously donated by NASA) of authentic deep space phenomenon. Or they wander up to the station's cafeteria (which was inspired by the "10 Forward" lounge found on the Enterprise-E on Star Trek: The Next Generation) and have a fine meal with a fantastic view.

Or - if they were feeling really adventurous - WDW guests could have headed down to the space station's training room and suited up for a simulated space walk. This experience (which - at least for a few months - was seriously considered by WDI as a possible main attraction for this Future World pavilion) would have made use of real NASA technology, placing Epcot visitors in an EVA training suit. These guests would have then tried to keep their balance as they attempted to get from Point A to Point B in an artificial zero gravity environment.

This original version of "Mission: Space" sounds like a great place to spend a fun afternoon at Future World, right? But - after all the fun was done - how would these guests have gotten back to earth.

Simple. They'd have just followed the signs for the "Mission: Space" gift shop. A brief color and light show - similar to the Hydrolators that are used to transport guests down to Sea Base Alpha in Epcot's "Living Seas" pavilion - would have supposedly transported Epcot visitors directly from the deck of the space station to the back of the "Mission: Space" gift shop. Just as they have to do next door at "GM Test Track" or over Disney / MGM's "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster," guests would have had to run the souvenir gauntlet to get outside again.

And - no - we don't have time to shop for "Mission: Space" t-shirts, baseball caps and pins. I gotta get this cardboard box .. er .. transmorgrifier back to Calvin. So no dawdling, please. Just step inside and ...