Story of The Seas
While the final plans for The Living Seas relied on the scientific environment of SeaBase Alpha to convey it’s forward thinking message, the original plans focused more on the fantastic and the abstract. The main idea of the pavilion was still centered on underwater discovery and culminated in the futuristic seabase, but the pavilion’s drive toward that end was rooted in mythology, the past, and adventure.
From as early as 1975, ideas for The Living Seas followed the mode of other Future World attractions: Exposition of the past in which the culmination of history would lead to a understanding of the present issues faced and and a glimpse of a fantastic future in which challenge and promise were being met. The Seas pavilion planned to execute this idea by giving credence to the mythology and cultural wellspring that the oceans provide.
Instead of boarding SeaCabs, guests would have stepped foot into massive glass bubbles to begin their journey into the depths. The ride would have been prefaced by a introduction from Poseidon, Greek God of the Sea, and showcased “The Cradle of Life”, a abstract sequence detailing the biological origins derived from the world’s oceans. In retrospect, this tableaux might have had many similarities to “Symphony of the Seed”, iver in The Land, and designed by Walter Peregoy. Peregoy worked on many of the early EPCOT pavilions, and it would come as no surprise if he collaborated on The Living Seas.
From there on in, the ride would have been, as described by WED, “a journey through the perils and triumphs of sea exploration and the sea itself”. Guests would have seen the first sailing ships, escaped shark attacks, seen the wonders of the coral reefs, and finally, been deposited in the SeaBase. While similar, in intent, to SeaBase Alpha, the original design was crystalline, (So as to match the glass bubble cars, perhaps) and much larger. The same modules would have existed, with exhibits and shows, but instead of the lobby that was built, the focal point of the first Seabase would have been a massive dome, overlooking the ride scenes and the tanks, blending the two into one immersive environment.
Despite the quelling of these plans in the early 80s, the final version of The Living Seas still retained its adherence to place-making and realistic illusion. Decidedly hinging toward a more scientific approach in 1980, and with an opening date pushed back from 1984 to 1986, the bubble cars became SeaCabs, and the show scenes lost for a scenic trip through the coral reef tanks. Hydrolators were added to simulate a descent into the depths, and the backstory for the SeaBase expanded into the SeaBase Alpha-the first outpost of it’s kind to exhibit the future technology of oceanography and marine biology. These changes were executed in part by the sponsor of the pavilion, United Technologies.
In the end, the evolution of The Living Seas shows a dynamic shift away from the classic mode of EPCOT Center exhibition to a more principled approach. While exhibition was the real hearthstone that EPCOT worked by, melding that with real experience and real environment was an inspired choice. Even in a truncated form, it succeeded brilliantly and created a illusion of realism and believable fantasy.
Hopefully, in the future, the same measures can be applied to The Living Seas, and the rest of Future World for a more intelligent glimpse at our past, present, and the challenge and promise of the future. EPCOT was so admired for its relatability and warmth. By putting us in the center of the concepts and environments we want to see, EPCOT can easily attain this thematic goal again.
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