Widen Your World – The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom
Featuring details of The Enchanted Forest,
an unbuilt United Kingdom Pavilion Expansion Concept

A WYW placeholder page (designed to expand, but let’s be serious)
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United Kingdom

Partially Developed Pavilion

World Showcase,

Opened: October 1, 1982

Original Lineup:
Rose & Crown Pub
Rose & Crown Dining Room
The Tea Caddy
Stratford House
(became Country Manor)
The Queen’s Table
Pringle of Scotland
His Lordship
The Toy Soldier

Thanks to
Jim Doherty
for his stellar
Ren & Stimpy knowledge!

All images copyright
The Walt Disney Company.
Text 2012 by Mike Lee

Last Update to this page: January 7, 2012 (page first posted)

The World Showcase’s United Kingdom Pavilion is like a tiny painting of Arthur Treacher in a gilded frame, flanked by large statues of Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen on one side and a row of Moulin Rouge showgirls on the other.  What’s there in that frame is perfectly fine, especially if you like fish and chips, but there’s hardly enough going on to make it stand out for anything ahead of its basic smallness.  In spite of the pavilion’s good looks it invited potential confusion for WDW visitors already familiar with the Magic Kingdom, as they had been led to believe that a Tudor facade should wrap around a ride involving ghosts or be called Toad Hall, not be used to hide restrooms.  The absence of a bona fide attraction isn’t the key issue, however, hounding the UK.  Germany and Japan are similar in that regard, still they have, at least, an enveloping Biergarten and/or elevational dynamics which allowed diversionary investments of time “getting lost” within or even just looking up at something tall.  But the UK’s representation at EC has always been a markedly slight congregation of pretty gardens and handsome two-story buildings.  Viewed across the World Showcase lagoon, the pavilion gets a little lost without a focal point like Italy’s Campanile tower or Mexico’s pyramid.  And while the location is certainly good for fifteen minutes of window shopping or an hour’s worth of dining, it has always fallen squarely to the pavilion’s stellar live entertainment to spark inspired moments.

WED knew this, of course, and the company never tried to make the pavilion out as anything more than what it was i.e., it’s where the pub and street performers are.  The space behind it to the west was marked on early EPCOT Center blueprints as “future expansion” with a dotted outline indicating that there was room for a ride or show.  One original attraction concept was referenced in this excerpt from a July 1975 edition of Eyes and Ears:

In this artist’s rendering of Great Britain’s pavilion, guests would board London double-decker busses which would be departing Piccadilly Circus every few minutes along cobblestone streets … bound for castles, cottages and other great traditions of England.

The company’s 1978 annual report predicted a more modest outcome, with a pub, themed shops, the “distinct beaux arts facade of Selfridges Department Store” and a 200-seat theater with a British travelogue film.

Those ride and film ideas never saw further promotional mention as EPCOT Center moved forward.  Once double-decker busses were implemented as a means for getting guests around World Showcase itself, it wasn’t likely WED would build an attraction around those vehicles.  The truth is that most people would have been happy to merely walk through a scaled-down replica of Stonehenge in the field out back (think of the photos!)  But for whatever reasons*, that field never saw anything possessed of intrigue.  And for all the trips my family and I made to EPCOT Center since 1982, and having lived just a few miles away since then, I’ve spent less time at the UK pavilion than at the real Tower of London.  The best reason for doing this page before others, then, was to create a spot for proof of something that actually MIGHT have gone into that space behind the UK street scene.  It’s something I didn’t know about until December 2011, when a trip to Theme Park Connection’s grand opening celebration (free hot dogs AND old WDW paper?  Thanks Scott and Amanda!) yielded three pages of concept renderings that – minus dates and contextual backup – give a concise look at a neat EPCOT Center concept that went nowhere.

* My working theory as to why the UK pavilion was minimal is that, concurrent with EPCOT Center’s construction (1979-1982), British businessman Lewis Cartier was also developing a United Kingdom-themed park in Kissimmee called Little England.  Cartier actually got a small number of buildings put together in the middle of a field … about as many as you see in Epcot’s UK pavilion … but the project hit dire financial straits and never opened.  It would make sense that WED would wait to see what Little England became before expanding the UK pavilion and, presumably, doing something more impressive than whatever Cartier did a few miles down the road.  By the way, my working theories are usually wrong.

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The proposal was called The Enchanted Forest and it was essentially a multi-zoned, interactive play experience built around three UK literary works, and one English legend, that led to Disney film treatments: Alice In Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Winnie-the-Pooh and Robin Hood.  It would have relied heavily and landscaping and topiary sculptures, along with character greeting areas and a few fully-realized architectural works to make the worlds of those characters come to life in a walk-through environment.  At the end of the trail was an open-air tent entitled Mouseterpiece Theater, with a stage for live entertainment and (at least in the rendering above) a Mickey Mouse Revue-style Mickey-as-conductor topiary.  The Enchanted Forest also would have brought the United Kingdom a badly-needed vertical feature in the form of a scaled-down Big Ben, which on its flip side would have held a “rooftop stage” where petulant chimney sweeps could dance around to the probable consternation of an unseen Admiral Boom.

Scans of the three concept pages are available in their entirety above.  Although not dated, there are a couple clues as to the time period during which this would most likely have been up for consideration.  The first clue is the Cheshire Cat hedge maze, which is a spot-on variation (minus the Queen of Hearts’ castle) of the maze found in Euro Disney’s Fantasyland, which opened in 1992.  The second clue is that the proposal references “EPCOT CENTER” in the same font as the park’s original (1982) logo vs. “Epcot ’94” or “Epcot” (1995-present).  I figure it’s from 1992, when WED was most likely finished with the heavy lifting of Euro Disney’s design work and looking for ways to transpose some of those recent undertakings stateside, much as some background music loops for WDW’s Magic Kingdom were updated in late 1991 with tracks bound for Paris.

The attraction looks like it could have been approached from two different directions but had its main entrance in the space between Canada and the United Kingdom’s northernmost boundary … the Hampton Court restrooms and, originally, toy shop.  That entrance is where a Mary Poppins setting, including Big Ben and a topiary of the nanny herself (just like versions that once appeared near and within the Magic Kingdom), would flank a stone and iron gateway.  Beyond this a gardened path led into the first of the four themed zones.

Five minutes looking over the above scans will better enable you to grasp the various elements, which are simple, charming and diverse, that might have been found between that gate and the Enchanted Forest’s tunnel exit on the Alice In Wonderland / south side, than my further written account which is both nonexistent and not needed.  Do any of these ideas hold more intrigue than Tony Baxter’s concept for a Mary Poppins ride, which he envisioned for WDW’s Magic Kingdom prior to that park’s opening, and which could have fit into the space behing the UK Pavilion?  Do they seem more fun than Disneyland’s split-level Alice in Wonderland ride?  Not to me, but they would have made for a fun and respectable addition to World Showcase as a whole.

At present it looks like the UK pavilion is going to stay the same for a while, since satellite photos show a kind of pupa-shaped building (I have no idea what it is … haven’t been out there in a while!) behind it and there is of course the park’s second entrance, the International Gateway, in what was once open space to the south.  There may be room for a mid-sized ride back there, however, and they could still go upward if they wanted to.  We’ll see about that.  Expansion or no, Alice and Mary Poppins can often be found at the UK greeting guests and smiling for the cameras.  For some people that’s enough, then they move on to Canada or France.

Additional UK Pavilion Images – click on any of the thumbnails below for larger images

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Links to United Kingdom Pavilion Videos


Links to other United Kingdom Pavilion Sites & Resources
Allears.net’s UK Pavilion Walking Tour by Mike BachandWikipedia’s United Kingdom Pavilion Page 

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