Lou Mongello / Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
- Even park guide maps from the 1980’s promised that “It’s Fun to be Free” as you took a ride through the evolution of transportation in Epcot’s “World of Motion” pavilion. The theme of this 15-minute (quite long by Disney standards) ride was obviously transportation, and was created in large part by classic Disney animator, Ward Kimball.
- It was narrated by legendary voice-over artist Gary Owens, and featured the classic theme song, “It’s Fun to be Free,” with lyrics written by Xavier Atencio, and music by Buddy Baker. There were several versions of this song played throughout the queue line and the attraction itself, with slightly different lyrics in each area.
- The TransCenter was a post-show display area in the World of Motion pavilion, which included two shows and exhibits. Besides the “Water Engine Show,” there was the popular “Bird and The Robot” show.
- Viewed by over 7 million guests per year, the comedy and music show was hosted by an Audio-Animatronics toucan called, “Bird.” He and the assembly-line robot called “Tiger” demonstrated the importance of robots in modern automobile assembly.
- “Tiger” performed a variety of tricks for guests, including “rolling over” and “playing dead,” and conducting a symphony orchestra. “Bird,” meanwhile, continued to entertain the audience with silly jokes.
- Did you know that “Tiger” the robot was the first Audio-Animatronic figure to actually pick up objects? He was able to retrieve certain items that were located in his bag.
- General Motors, who sponsored the World of Motion pavilion throughout its tenure in Epcot, was the first corporate sponsor to sign on with Disney for EPCOT, having signed a 10-yearÂ contract in December, 1977. (This is somewhat ironic, as GM had declined Disney’s requests to create an attraction for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Ford Motor Company later accepted Disney’s invitation, and created an attraction for the Fair).
- “World of Motion” centered on the history of transportation, and the post-show “TransCenter” showcased General Motors’ newest cars and technologies in interactive exhibits.
- General Motors’ initial contract with Disney expired in 1992. Due to a slumping economy, GM struggled with the decision to renew its corporate sponsorship of their current “World of Motion” attraction. After signing a one year contract, a new deal was reached which would keep World of Motion open while Disney Imagineers developed a new attraction to be sponsored by GM.
- As part of the agreement, GM insisted that the new ride focus on automobiles, rather than just the general concept of transportation. Clearly, GM wanted the new pavilion to be a marketing tool, as well as a thrill ride for guests. Imagineers recalled visiting GM’s “Proving Grounds” almost 20 years earlier and decided to use that as the starting point for their new attraction – Guests would become the “crash test dummies.”
- World of Motion’s building design was circular in shape, so as to resemble a wheel (more like a very short cylinder). The 60-foot tall building had a diameter of 318 feet, and its exterior was covered in stainless steel. The 15-minute ride portion of the attraction contained 22 scenes populated by about 150 Audio-Animatronics figures
- “It’s Fun to Be Free'” was written by Disney legends X. Atencio and Buddy Baker (the same two who wrote “Grim Grinning Ghosts” for the Haunted Mansion). The song was actually repeated
continuously throughout the ride, but was modified to reflect the style of the period being depicted in the scenes, from Egyptian to Renaissance to modern times. Because the loops were soÂ accurately synchronized, they sounded like one complete song.
- World of Motion closed for good on January 2, 1996, and the building was completely gutted to make way for a new attraction. While construction began on the new attraction, including assembly of a new, outdoor track, The GM Test Track Preview Center opened just a month later, in February 1996.