February 19, 2010

Retro Lookback: CommuniCore

Its time to board our Looking Glass and Lookback at some of Disney’s famous used-to-bes. Today we take a look at CommuniCore. Sit back! Relax! And Enjoy This Journey on the Retro Lookback!

CommuniCore was located in was used to be called EPCOT Center, and opened with the park in October 1982. It was the Science and Technology pavilion that was housed in two semi-circular buildings behind Spaceship Earth at the heart of Future World. The two buildings were known as CommuniCore East and West and housed rotating exhibits. Closed in 1994, the buildings are now the home of Innoventions.



Communicore's name was a combination of "community" and "core," and reflects on Walt's original dreams of Epcot being an experimental community living in a carefully controlled idealistic environment, with Communicore being right at the very center of the area.

Technically the area consisted of two parts, Communicore East and Commun icore West. But each half was effectively divided into northern and southern sections, separated by exterior walkways. Over the years the northern quadrants were by far the busiest and most changed.

The pavilion served as EPCOT Center's version of Main Street, U.S.A., it brought together nearly all of the sponsors in the surrounding pavilions under one roof to serve as a supplemental experience to the overall visit to Future World. If, for example, one rode the Universe of Energy, sponsored by Exxon, and wanted to learn more about energy, one could travel right next door to CommuniCore East and interact at Exxon's Energy Exchange exhibit.



Having debuted at the dawn of the modern computer era, the emphasis throughout CommuniCore was primarily on educating the public about computers. The feature exhibit was a tour through EPCOT Computer Central, the computer hub of EPCOT Center that ran nearly everything throughout the park.

In the southern quadrant of CommuniCore East one could shop at the Centorium (now MouseGears), the largest merchandise location in EPCOT Center. The Stargate Restaurant (now the Electric Umbrella) in the northern quadrant of CommuniCore East and the Sunrise Terrace (now Fountain View Cafe) in the southern quadrant of CommuniCore West were open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


CommuniCore East housed exhibits like The Astuter Computer Revue, which took place on a second-floor terraced theater that overlooked a large room housing some of the computers used to operate the park. It was hosted by an irritating projected host who sang and danced his way across computer banks in the foreground of the room in an attempt to explain the role of computers at Walt Disney World. The relatively poor nature of the show was backed by even poorer attendance figures, and it was closed fairly quickly on 2nd January 1984. The Astuter Computer Revue was replaced in Feb 1984 by Backstage Magic, in which a holographic hostess complete with electronic sidekick I/O took guests on a virtual tour of some of the computer systems that were used to operate the park. Although an interesting show, it was standing room only which put people off a little. Backstage Magic finally closed in October 1993.   robotgyro

SMRT-1, a purple and chrome robot set on a rotating pedestal surrounded by telephones, was a much more popular attraction, splurging out an endless stream of trivia and guessing games for guests to compete against others via the phone handsets. The "Compute-A-Coaster" attraction enabled guests to design and construct their own virtual roller coaster on a video screen, coached by a lisping cartoon beaver who sounded just like the gopher from Winnie-the-Pooh. This was a precursor to the current much more up to date attraction at the Disney Quest.


Other displays in this area included the Great American Census Quiz, Get Set Jet Game and the Flag Game, all of which used touch-screen technology which was quite new and exciting back in 1982 when it all opened, but seemed very much outdated and commonplace by the time the attractions were being closed. communicorepop

Airbrush Robots spray-painted images onto T-Shirts for guests, whilst another exhibit allowed guests to design their own ideal roller-coaster on a computer. Once complete it was possible to watch a trial run of the completed coaster.

Travelport was located on the other side of the hall from the Astuter Computer Revue. Presented by American Express it featured a large red globe at the entrance with images of foreign sights projected onto its surface from inside the globe. Once into the attraction guests entered booths where they could access touch-screen based previews of travel destinations around the world. The American Express Travel Service desk was located close by, where guests could obtain more detailed information from live hosts and hostesses. Exxon's Energy Exchange, in the same building was a large room full of computerized and three-dimensional displays revolving around the Energy theme. Guests could pedal bicycles and see how much energy they had expended. Another exhibit allowed guests the chance to generate electricity to light a bulb via a hand turned generator. Other minor attractions included a large detailed model of an oil rig, and a touch screen video game where guests had to guide a car around a digitized city.

On the other side of the central plaza, the northwest part of CommuniCore was home to EPCOT Outreach and FutureCom.  EPCOT Outreach, later Ask EPCOT was an educational cul-area where guests could find more information about any of Epcot's major themes. Graphic displays lined the walls leading up to an information desk where a staff of researchers including a librarian would attempt to answer any queries from guests, irrespective of whether they were about the theme park, the Disney company, or any of the many films and TV shows produced by the company. If the answer couldn't be given immediately the staff would take a contact address, and send the answer later on by mail. The area also featured a "Teacher's Lounge" which was hidden away and allowed people to watch guests from behind darkened glass.


FutureCom, first sponsored by the Bell System and later by AT&T, was similar to EPCOT Computer Central and Energy Exchange in that it was a large room filled with interactive exhibits. The theme linking everything together was communications technologies. On the north wall of the room was a sprawling animated diorama called the "Age Of Information."  FutureCom was also home to the Fountain of Information, another kind of kinetic sculpture. Here objects culled from all fields of communication media were thrown together into a pileup of lights, color and motion. Nearby, a wall-sized electronic map of the U.S.A. illustrated the country's network of phone lines and demonstrated the concept of teleconferencing. A series of yet more touch-screen games gave guests some insight on the relationship between phones and computers.



Planned exhibits incorporated into the design of the buildings included a second floor, intended to house a PeopleMover system which would allow riders to preview the features and attractions within CommuniCore. The buildings were also designed so that they could easily be expanded outwards, facilitating easy additions to expand the exhibit capacity of the attraction as a whole.

In an effort to keep Epcot updated and vital, CommuniCore was closed in January 1994 to be redesigned into Innoventions, a more eclectic and wild take on a Science and Technology pavilion. Thus, in 1994, the Stargate became the Electric Umbrella, and the Sunrise Terrace was divided into the Pasta Piazza Ristorante and Fountain View Espresso and Bakery. In 2001, Pasta Piazza closed; the space sat vacant until 2006, when it was converted into the Epcot Character Connection (now Epcot Character Spot). The Expo robotics area became The Walt Disney Imagineering Labs (closed in October 1997). In June 1998, part of the former "lab" space became Ice Station Cool, which was recently redecorated and renamed Club Cool, a small Coca-Cola sponsored exhibit where one can try Coke products from around the world. In 1999, Centorium expanded and became MouseGear.

Even with the closure of CommuniCore, a few elements of the old attraction still remained untouched, with some remaining to this day. For example, Innoventions West had a large section of the building unchanged from its CommuniCore days up until 2007. In the glass-walled hallway behind Pasta Piazza, the original large circular ceiling light fixtures, and the original carpet patterned by the CommuniCore logo were in the shape of the two buildings it housed. However, in May 2007 the carpeting and light fixtures were changed. Additionally, you can still find the original EXIT signs scattered throughout Innoventions.

Pictures and Information from Solarius and LostEpcot

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