The Daredevil Superfans Who Snuck Inside An EPCOT Attraction To Explore & Document It Before It Was Destroyed

With time comes change, and there’s no greater example of this than at Disney parks. In fact, Walt Disney himself was said to say, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

Growth can sometimes be a whole new park, or a new land within a park. But sometimes that change is in the form of tearing one attraction down to make room for another. At Walt Disney World, attractions such as The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh replaced Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment replaced Journey Into Your Imagination (which replaced the original Journey Into Imagination – we wrote about that whole hot mess in this post), and an entire nightclub complex, Pleasure Island, was “reimagined” into the current Disney Springs shopping district (granted, work on Disney Springs didn’t even start in earnest until about half a decade after they closed Pleasure Island but let’s save that for another blog post).

Horizons was a dark ride attraction at Epcot that opened in 1983, closed in 1994, reopened in 1995 while Test Track was being built and Universe of Energy was under renovation, and closed again, this time for good, in 1999. It was demolished in mid-2000 to make way for the current Mission: SPACE attraction. Horizons had something of a cult following and to this day, there’s lament of the loss of what some think is the best attraction ever seen in the history of Epcot.

Horizons1
PC: Sam Howzit/Flickr

When Disney attractions close, there’s historically no official documentation, at least not that fans ever get to see. Two young adults in Florida who loved Horizons decided to change that…

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Remember being able to smell the orange groves in Horizons? PC: Sam Howzit/Flickr

Dave “Hoot Gibson” E. and Ed “Chief Thunder” B. Jr. were longtime Orlando residents who were total Horizons geeks, to the point where they had been on the ride a bajillion times since it opened and had amassed lots and lots of information about the attraction. The two best friends were devastated when the attraction suddenly closed in 1994 (this was years before the “Come see it one last time before it goes away forever” campaigns), but equally as thrilled when it temporarily reopened in 1995.

From DangerousMinds.net:

In a pre-9/11 Walt Disney World, security measures were basically implemented only when the park noticed significant and repeated incidents of park guests climbing out of their ride vehicles. Only then would they apply whatever security measures were necessary for that particular attraction: Universe of Energy was monitored on closed circuit television; The Living Seas and Haunted Mansion had intrusion mats (a security system that completely shuts down the ride when stepped on by someone who had exited their vehicle); and Spaceship Earth eventually got infrared sensors.

Horizons was one of the few, if not THE only Walt Disney World attraction with virtually no security inside. No hidden cameras, no intrusion pads, no sensors, no nothing. And with all the info they had gathered about the attraction, Chief and Hoot knew it. So the guys took the 1995 reopening as their chance to get as many pictures and as much video footage of the attraction as they could before it closed again forever. And to do this, they devised a plan to exit their seats during the ride, document as much of the attraction as they could, and then re-enter ride seats…all without being caught.

The plan worked!

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PC: Sam Howzit/Flickr

Fast forward a whole lot of years and in 2009, the guys started a blog called MesaVerdeTimes (raise your hand if you get the reference) about their 1990s adventures that included some of their photos and video footage. Although I don’t condone their actions, I have to admit that they did an amazing job of documenting the attraction for posterity (if you want to read the blog from the beginning to now, start on this page, from March 1, 2009). Heads up that the blog has more than its share of adult language.

The blog posts went on, with fewer each year, until they ended in 2013. There one more entry in the summer of 2014, when Hoot posted that, sadly, Chief had passed away at the age of 45, of cancer. Fast forward to early 2019, and there was suddenly one more post from Hoot:

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Months ago, a young film maker messaged me about doing a film about our adventures, as you see them here on this blog. He didn’t know whether or not I would like the idea and he did something extraordinary. He made the film almost complete to show how much he loved the story! I thought it was wonderful after watching it 16 times and told him he had my blessing 100%. Not only was he driven as an artist and film maker but he is naturally gifted in the fine art of story telling. The Film maker is Mathew Serrano.

Here’s the video. Heads that when you click on the link, it says that the video “may inappropriate for some users.” Hoot and Chief were no angels and there are lots and LOTS of F-bombs, S-bombs and other adult language that would make the video NSFW and NSFTWSE (not safe for those with sensitive ears). Assuming you can get past that, ENJOY! I think it’s a fascinating look at a long-lost beloved attraction.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know the REST of the story!” 😉

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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