by Josh Taylor

During a big announcement in January of 1990, Michael Eisner proclaimed the 1990s to be the Disney Decade. Large expansions of both Disneyland and Walt Disney World were announced with several inclusions in the parks we already knew and loved. A brash announcement by Eisner and what he will most likely be remembered by, the Disney Decade provided several new hotels, entertainment, restaurants, and theme park fun,  but some of the detailed announcements never made it off the drawing board. We have already hit on some of these forgotten treasures in the past, but one that I haven’t covered really sticks out. For years now, Epcot’s World Showcase has been a huge hit with adults and children alike, but the back of Epcot still has tons of land to offer new experiences from far off destinations. One pavilion announced during Eisner’s speech was Red Square and the Soviet Union.

If you looked at what World Showcase had to offer when it first opened with Epcot in 1991, the World according to the Mouse was made up of Western Europe, North America, and the parts of Asia where they make everything we own. All in all, not a perfect representation of the entire World. Expansion plans were put into place with additions like Morocco and Norway added in the coming years, but with the Disney Decade, there would be several new additions that included Soviet Russia.

This Russian expansion would include a replica of Moscow’s Red Square along with St. Basil’s Cathedral as its grand centerpiece. The area looked to be surrounded by large brick walls, with shops and restaurants lining the walls as well. Of course I’m sure you would be able to find some vodka around this area as well as a few pirogi and blini for snacks.

Much like the American Adventure pavilion, the centerpiece St. Basil would house an audio-animatronic show complete with film segments and even live actors. The show, titled Russia-The Bells of Change, would be largely focusing on the history of Russia as well as some of the important figures in Eastern European history. The show, much like the American Adventure, would run several times a day and would be this pavilion’s main attraction.

This area would also play host to a second attraction, playing less on history and more on folk stories. “Ivan and the Magic Pike” is a classic Eastern European story and a ride-through of the story was set to open with the pavilion. It is unclear if this attraction would be a boat ride like the others in World Showcase or if it was to be World Showcase’s first omni-mover attraction. Whatever the case may be, this was an attraction meant for and geared towards children who may not be into the historical background of the Bells of Change show, but would be enjoyed by all guests.

Like all of the other countries represented at Epcot, you would be sure to see some performances of Russian dances, Gypsy Music, egg decoration, and so much more on the streets of Red Square.

So what happened to the Soviet Union pavilion? Take a wild guess? The Union collapsed not long after Disney Imagineers had started drawing up illustrations and creating models for the future Epcot area. Along with the decline of the Soviet Union was the decline of Russia’s economy, which continued to take a blow throughout the 1990s, leading to little or no help in funding the Russian pavilion.

During the early 2000s Russia saw an increase in economic middle class and wealth coming back into the country. Disney, still with plans on the table, was interested in a Russian World Showcase pavilion.  If the Russian Government and Disney can reach an agreement, we may not see what was planned over 20 years ago come to life, but instead some new ideas with a more modern look at Red Square and Russian life.

Would you still like to see Russia come to World Showcase? Are you interested in seeing it change from the original concept? What other countries would you like to see at Epcot? Leave your thoughts and until next time, take care!

Be sure to follow Josh Taylor on Twitter at @kidredo. You can read more from Josh at www.disneyparkhistory.wordpress.com

One Response to "The Walt Disney World that Never Was: Soviet Russia"

  1. Looking at concept art we have in the DHI archives, it looks to have been a sled ride.

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