I had the opportunity to ride Horizons during a family trip to Disney World back in 1998, one year before it closed, and two years before the building was demolished. So I was fortunate to have ridden the ride when I had the chance. It was truly a unique experience that has since been lost to the world.
Horizons was an attraction that was everything EPCOT Center was originally intended to be: an optimistic look into the future created through advancements in science and technology, showcasing how mankind could potentially expand its "horizons" into the desert, sea, and even space, and promising, through its motto, that "if we can dream it, we can do it."
One could very much argue that removing Horizons has led to EPCOT’s overall decline as a park. What was once a theme park dedicated to showcasing the wonders of science and technology has since become a shell of its former self, and is now nothing more than a glorified and larger Tomorrowland.
Not only is EPCOT a lesser place without Horizons, but the world at large is arguably lesser. Both Horizons and the original EPCOT offered inspiration for a world that very well could be if people embraced science and technology. Such inspiration is something that the world desperately needs, as Robert Niles wrote in Theme Park Insider:
That is why we need a non-fiction theme park. A society where science, education, and cultural diversity are under attack needs a place where people can fall back in love with the wonders of discovery. Museums can teach, but theme park entertain, and in doing so, have a wonderful opportunity to create emotional connections between people and ideas. (Update: I first decided that I liked history not because of any class in school, but because of Mr. Peabody and the Wayback machine. And my first thought of science being something cool was when the Mighty Microscope "shrunk" me in Disney's Adventures through Inner Space.)Of course, we can at least take solace in knowing that removing Horizions was the stupidest thing that Disney could do to EPCOT, second only to shutting down Wonders of Life and replacing it with nothing.
No company has done a more effective job of that over our lifetimes than Disney. Walt Disney knew that his creative team could make people fall in love with Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Mickey Mouse. But he knew that team could make people fall in love with space exploration, nature, chemistry, and other non-fiction topics, too. We could use a little bit more of that love in America today. A reinvigorated Epcot could help cultivate that love. And that is the opportunity cost of letting Epcot slide into just another cartoon-character theme park.
After all, it could be worse. They could replace one of the original rides like Universe of Energy with a pointless thrill ride based off of a popular franchise such as Guardians of the Galaxy. (Wait. They’re actually considering doing that? Son of a—)
If you never had the privilege to ride Horizons, or are one of those fans who misses the ride, I’d suggest checking out this tribute video, as it not only offers a history of the attraction, but also a full ride-through: