Saturday, December 12, 2015

The archive is already beginning to grow!

Only a few hours after posting my first entry, I was fortunate enough to receive stories from two very knowledgeable gentlemen, who I've had the distinct privilege of getting to know over the past few years, Ron Schneider and Josh Young.

Ron Schneider, the original Dreamfinder from EPCOT Center’s Journey into Imagination, was nearby just as cast previews were about the start.

According to Ron, the first person to ride Horizons was actually the Dreamfinder incogonito:

"Congratulations on the new page! I have an appropriate story to help you start it off... I was working across the park one day when a friend told me that the new Future World pavilion was about to open for its first preview run with employees. So I took off my beard and wig, stowed my dragon in our dressing room and threw a coat over my costume. I arrived just in time to see a side door - off to the left of what would later be the guests' entrance - open to admit us cast members... and I got to ride in the first car of the first preview of Horizons! Imagine that... "

As a bookend to Ron's story, his good friend Josh Young, tells about his opposite experience:

"I can't have Ron show me up, so I'll throw in my counter story to his. A fun fact we discovered about each other, but only fairly recently. Horizons was hands down my favorite attraction. When they announced it was closing, I was beyond devastated. Without question, it embodied the spirit of Epcot and more importantly, felt like the next logical step in what Walt envisioned for the future.

 If you find out a loved one is on life support and only has a few days to live, you spend as much time with them until their passing. So on January 9, 1999 I took the day off work to ride the attraction over and over until Epcot closed. I packed a bag of snacks, sandwiches and sodas and had mini picnics in the ride throughout the day. Only taking bathroom breaks.

 At 9 pm, I slowly walked up the ramp towards the sliding glass doors. A group of around 20 people were also taking their final rides. But I hung back and they never seemed to notice me. As I walked towards the load platform, the Cast Member behind me locked the front doors. The group ahead boarded and I jumped in about 5 cars later.

 As my ride vehicle came to unloaded, I felt a bit misty eyed. As you left the unload belt, there was a small space where you could see the ride vehicles make a 180 turn and head toward load. I looked over and I could see all the Horizons Cast Members with champagne flutes in their hand (learned it was sparkling cider later) and they took the final ride just after I exited.

 Indeed, I was the last guest to ever ride Horizons. And Ron was the first person to ride during previews. We've known each other nearly 20 years and only discovered this recently. Crazy how life intertwines."

Crazy how life intertwines, indeed! I never thought I would have the opportunity to interact with these gentlemen, let alone have the pleasure of them contributing stories to my blog! Thank you again!

Ron Schneider is the author of From Dreamer to Dreamfinder: A Life and Lessons Learned From 40 Years Behind a Name Tag.

Josh Young is the author of Theme Park University and the host of TPU Radio.


  1. Great stories and great site! After Imagination, Horizons was my favorite Epcot ride as a kid. My favorite part was the Imax style film where they showed the DNA and it felt like you were spinning around it, and the music was great there too. That part always blew my mind as a kid, and I always hoped to see it (since depending on the timing of things, it was possible to miss the DNA moment).

    One other thing that comes to mind is the room with the citrus smell. I'm a little strange in that I can't stand the taste or smell of citrus, but it never really bothered me on the ride, probably because I was having too much fun.

    When people ask me what my favorite Disney park is, I say "Epcot in the mid-80's." Future World in particular was full of soul and inspiration, and I can legitimately say that it helped shape me. Unfortunately for me most of the soul and inspiration is now gone from Future World, and so I'm always glad to see sites like this that help to preserve the memories.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here, Nicholas! "Epcot in the mid-80's" is my response as well! My first visit wasn't until 1991, but it still retained a lot of its original character then as well. I'm glad you enjoy the site. Thanks for stopping by!