Opened: October 1, 1982
Location Later Became:
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Last Update to this page: December 30, 2011 (additional video and images added)
PART I – World Of Motion Overview
A Transportation Pavilion was one of the earliest original planned elements of EPCOT Center, going back to 1975 when the concept for a “Future World Theme Center” was first floated out by WED Enterprises (Walt Disney Productions’ design & engineering arm, later known as WDI) as a complement to the just-slightly-older plans for a “World Showcase.” By that time, the 1966 plans for EPCOT as an actual city had been definitively tabled by Card Walker, president of WDP, in favor of what was quickly becoming a two-parks-in-one approach. The proliferation of the term pavilions in the company’s descriptions of EPCOT was a solid indicator that this new development would be kickin’ it World’s Fair-style, as were the concept renderings and models being produced at WED. After the work Disney had done for the Ford Motor Company, Pepsi-Cola, General Electric and the State of Illinois at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the men and women of WED were clearly familiar with what it took to make entertaining landmark attractions tailored to the needs of well-heeled sponsors.
This time they were going to make one for General Motors. GM’s involvement came about largely because of a chance meeting between WED’s Bob Gurr and GM’s head of design, Bill Mitchell, at a 1976 art school dedication in Los Angeles. The “Big Three” automaker entered into discussions with Disney that year and signed a sponsorship agreement on the last business day of 1977, making GM the first official EPCOT Center participant. At the 1964 World’s Fair, GM had sponsored Futurama, the Fair’s most popular exhibit. This fact was not lost on WED Enterprises, whose four shows had been close runners-up, and they intended to deliver an even more compelling presentation for GM in Florida. But whereas Futurama had focused on futuristic habitats on the moon, under the sea and in the jungle**, GM’s EPCOT Center pavilion would be more squarely focused on the evolution of transportation and, before the experience was completed, tie that in directly with modern-day GM cars and prototypes.
Claude Coats – a veteran Disney Studios artist and one of WYW’s favorite WED heavyweights – did a large amount of design work on early versions of the Transportation Pavilion. Former WED employee Kelly Norris said that Coats’ work was accomplished but somewhat stoic, with GM reportedly wanting something a little more Disney i.e., a little more fun. And this is where World of Motion’s history hits a fork in the road. If you would have spoken to anyone from Disney at the time of EPCOT Center’s opening, they’d have told you that their longtime animator Ward Kimball was the loony genius who infused World of Motion with its requisite humor. And if you had read any of the newspaper or magazine articles published about the park back then, you’d have come away with that same impression. The only problem with that story – one I’d read and believed for seventeen years – is that it wasn’t exactly true. Kimball DID work on World of Motion, but he was not a one-stop-shopping maverick that brought the attraction around from its c. 1978 presentational origins to the gag-laden, dioramic banquet that opened to the public in 1982. That credit belongs largely to Marc Davis.
Like Kimball, Davis was a key Disney animator with many iconic character designs (including Tinker Bell and Maleficent) under his belt. He had joined WED in 1963 and in the ensuing ten years would be, along with Coats, one of the two artists most responsible for defining what constitutes a “classic” Disney attraction, namely the signature blend of humor, staging and animatronics found in Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Davis had retired from WED in 1978, but was approached by the company almost immediately afterward to provide material for the General Motors pavilion. His notoriously prolific work ethic led to dozens of renderings for GM, among them were the above rendering of an octopus wrapped around a shipwreck, a vintage plane flying low over a farmer milking a cow (causing the cow to run away), a caveman carrying a bear on his back, an overcrowded streetcar and a man in a hot air balloon with birds swarming toward him.
That Davis would have come up with a lot of material is no surprise. What’s noteworthy is that much of his art was translated almost verbatim into an attraction for which Kimball was brought in to do further work, and for which Kimball received press coverage. WOM’s crocodiles ready to nip the toes of the man on the raft, the paintings of watercraft projected behind that scene, the Chinese man being pulled in a rickshaw, the bull holding up a steam coach … all of these and many more find their genesis in Davis’s work; some were used without revision. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of this art during a 1999 interview with Davis, his wife Alice and Ross Plesset, which is how I learned of Davis’s involvement with the ride. Although not present in his notebook at the time, Davis said he had also conceived of the pavilion’s showpiece scene, “the first traffic jam” – in which a motorist has shattered a horsedrawn produce cart on a busy city street and caused backups in all directions. It’s a piece that Marty Sklar, former vice-president of WDI, attributed to Ward Kimball according to Jeff Kurtti’s 2008 book Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends.
Below is a poor reproduction of a piece of WOM concept art that was briefly on display at EPCOT’s Innoventions in 2007. It’s definitely Marc Davis and anyone can see that it’s a precursor to the final traffic jam scene that appeared in the ride (pictured to the right) with the key elements in place. Having only seen some of Davis’s work on WOM and none of Kimball’s, for me the record suggests a possible Ken Anderson/Sam McKim/Haunted Mansion-style chicken or the egg situation** surrounding two very talented and extremely deceased individuals. Davis’s work on WOM did start coming to light publicly c. 2005 in some books and articles, while more recent accounts of Kimball’s role have characterized him as a “consultant.”*** As such, did he suggest the traffic jam scene’s final configuration that moved the panicked horse to the foreground? Were some of the ride’s scenes entirely of Kimball’s own doing? And where is his WOM artwork hiding if we’ve seen that of Davis and other WED personnel such as Ken O’Connor? I can’t figure it out, but somebody else will; a 2010 blog post by Didier Ghez stated that someone had bought a box of Kimball’s WOM artwork on ebay and might build a website around it. That would certainly help answer some questions.
** This Futurama subject matter became the springboard for everything WED was to do with General Electric’s EPCOT Center attraction, Horizons, with its colonies in space, underwater cities and desert farms. Horizons ended up sitting right next to World of Motion in Future World East. It’s tempting to characterize that as irony, but it seems almost deliberate.
*** Kimball may have simply found himself in the strange position of being “trotted out” by WDP management looking to reinforce EPCOT Center’s ties to the time of Walt and, by inference, lending the project additional credibility. John Hench served a similar purpose at the time by virtue of not just having worked directly with, but also by resembling Walt Disney to a certain extent. And if there’s any one result WDP management was seeking from EPCOT Center in 1982, apart from people coming to see it, that was to convince the world that Walt’s last/greatest dream was realized.
IMAGES – click on any of the thumbnails below for larger images
|AUDIO – click on the LP icons or track names below to hear or download audio files
|VIDEO – the selections below can also be found on WYW’s YouTube Channel (click here to visit)
|Part III – Links to other World of Motion Sites & Resources
|World of Motion Memorial Website
World of Motion Illustrated Essay By Steve Burns
Lost EPCOT’s World of Motion Page