Erasing Wonders of Life
2014 Edition
Yestercot at Yesterland.com
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
Think of this Yesterland article as a “then and then and then and now” photo essay. Although Wonders of Life at Epcot closed forever on New Years Day 2007—over seven years ago—the golden domed pavilion has had a new life since then as the Festival Center. In this new edition of an article published in 2009 and updated 2011, we’ll look at how the facility has changed over the years.
Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, January 31, 2014    
 

Wonders of Life opened in October 1989 in the Future World section of Epcot Center (now Epcot). Originally sponsored by Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. (MetLife), Wonders of Life included a collection of attractions, interactive exhibits, a restaurant, and a shop:

  • Body Wars — a simulator like Star Tours, but with a higher queasiness factor
  • Cranium Command — a very clever show about the functions of the human brain
  • Sensory Funhouse — interactive kiosks about touch, sight, and sound
  • The Making of Me — a film that answered the age-old question, “Where do babies come from?” honestly, yet in a way that was suitable for all ages
  • Goofy About Health — a multi-screen presentation, promoting health using clips from old Goofy cartoons
  • AnaComical Players Theater — live improvisational comedy show
  • Other interactive exhibits
  • Pure & Simple — a healthy counter service restaurant
  • Well and Goods Limited — the pavilion’s shop

MetLife dropped its sponsorship of Wonders of Life by June 2001, but the pavilion remained open daily. That changed in 2004 when the pavilion became seasonal, opening only during busy times of the year when Epcot needed additional guest capacity.

After the 2006 Christmas season ended, Wonders of Life once again locked its doors on January 1, 2007. But this time, the pavilion would never again reopen as Wonders of Life.

The golden domed pavilion welcomed guests in Fall 2007 for the wine seminars of the 2007 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival as the Festival Center. There was still plenty of evidence of the pavilion’s former use. Over the years, that evidence has been largely erased.

Let’s take a look at several parts of Wonders of Life, how they have evolved. Notice how the color palette changed over the years.


The Pavilion
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2004 Photo: Wonders of Life double-helix and sign
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Temporary sign for the 2011 Food & Wine Festival
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Temporary sign for the 2013 Food & Wine Festival

The double-helix sculpture drew attention to the Wonders of Life, a structure that, despite its golden roof, never had the physical presence of other Future World pavilions.

The sculpture would have made no sense in front of the Festival Center, so it disappeared.


Entrance to the Pavilion
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2004 Photo: Entrance to Wonders of Life
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Entrance to Festival Center
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Entrance to Festival Center

All references to Wonders of Life have been removed or covered up.

Walt Disney World’s artists come up with fresh graphics for each festival, so the entrance sign keeps changing.


Body Wars
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2002 photo: Body Wars entrance
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2007 photo: Bookshop and wine seminar queue—with the old Body Wars sign
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2009 photo: Wine shop and wine seminar queue—with no Body Wars sign
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Wine seminar queue, 2011 edition
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Wine seminar queue, 2013 edition

Before the 2007 Food & Wine Festival opened, Disney painted over the old Body Wars mural—but guests waited for wine seminars below the prominent Body Wars sign. It was the same way in 2008 (not shown).

For 2009, the sign came down. All traces of it have disappeared.

But even in 2013, the flooring still looks familiar.


Cranium Command
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2002 photo: Cranium Command entrance marquee
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2007 photo: Old marquee as part of a wine seminar stage
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2008 photo: Old marquee in culinary demonstration area
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2009 photo: New colors and no more marquee
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Designers’ Stage at 2011 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Culinary demo area at 2011 Epcot Food & Wine Festival
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Culinary demo area at 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival

In 2007, the former Cranium Command marquee became part of the stage for one of two wine seminar spaces in the Festival Center. Guests who didn’t know that it had once been an attraction marquee might even have thought it was designed to draw attention to the wine speaker at the front of the space.

In 2008, culinary demos moved into the space, with the audience oriented differently, making it obvious that the marquee was an odd remnant of the past.

For 2009, the space was again used for culinary demos. With the marquee gone and a new demonstration kitchen, the space looked better than before.

By 2011, the eradication of Cranium Command was complete. The squares on the wall were used for festival-specific graphics, and a new wooden framework served to define the space and to support lighting and video cameras.


Sensory Funhouse
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2002 photo: Sensory Funhouse
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2009 photo: Former Sensory Funhouse area as retail space
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Former Sensory Funhouse area as retail space
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Former Sensory Funhouse area as seating and retail space

The Sensory Funhouse was one of several interactive areas meant to educate guests about health. (Did you notice the “Wondercycles” in the Body Wars photo from 2002?) During the 2007 Festival, there were still remnants of some interactive exhibits.

For 2009, all evidence of interactive devices was gone, but the wall still had the old circus-like graphics. By 2011, the wall became a simple beige wall.


The Making of Me
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2002 photo: The Making of Me marquee
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2007 photo: The hidden The Making of Me marquee
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2008 photo: Return of The Making of Me marquee, but not the movie
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2009 photo: New colors and Seasons of the Vine
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Seasons of the Vine and Start the Party with HGTV
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Seasons of the Vine

The Making of Me, starring Martin Short, ran in a small theater near the back of the Wonders of Life pavilion.

In 2007, an awkward curtain hid the marquee. In fact, it hid the entire front entrance to the theater. Guests could enter the theater through the exit doors to see a promotional film about Disney Vacation Club.

In 2008, there was no effort hide the original movie, even though the theater was showing films about food.

During Food & Wine Festivals since 2009, the theater has been showing Seasons of the Vine, with music by Bruce Broughton and narration by Jeremy Irons. Yes, it’s the same movie that was an attraction at Disney’s California Adventure until March 2008. In 2011, an HGTV video alternated with Seasons of the Vine. Notice how the paint schemes on the theater have changed.


Some Disney fans on web forums complain that the old Wonders of Life pavilion now sits unused, a sign that Epcot isn’t what it used to be. It’s true that the closing of Wonders of Life meant the loss of two fairly major attractions and several minor ones. But the pavilion is hardly unused!

With the 75-day Flower & Garden Festival and the 45-day Food & Wine Festival each year, the Festival Center is open to the public 120 days—almost one third of the year. And if you’re interested in holding a large corporate event inside a theme park, you might want to call Disney Meetings and ask them for a price.

Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Greenhouse stage at 2011 Flower & Garden Festival
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: Beverage seminar area at the 2013 Food & Wine Festival

Each year since the closing of Wonders of Life, the Festival Center has looked a little less like a defunct attraction pavilion and more like a real event space. By removing many remnants of the past, repainting everything, and installing event-appropriate graphics, Disney has made the Festival Center look quite good.

In the two photos above, take a look at how the photos behind the stage were sunflowers for the Flower & Garden Festival and vineyards for the Food & Wine Festival.

Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2011 photo: Circus-striped roof of the old Goofy about Health
 
Erasing Wonders of Life at Epcot
2013 photo: No stripes on the former Goofy about Health.

Despite the revised paint, the three theaters in the center of the pavilion still look like remnants of the pavilion’s original use. Perhaps the transformation of the pavilion will continue in future years.

All these changes make it clear that Wonders of Life is gone forever.


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© 2007-2014 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated January 31, 2014.

Photos of “Wonders of Life is Closed” sign: 2007 by Werner Weiss.
All other photos of Wonders of Life and Festival Center: Werner Weiss (year shown under each photo).