(October 1, 1982 - January 30, 1994)
(September 29, 1994 - present)
History and photos of the Innoventions area in Future World in Epcot at Walt Disney World.
Located directly behind Spaceship Earth and in a pair of crescent-shaped buildings is Innoventions, a complex of shops, restaurants, a very large fountain that sprays jets of water in synchronization with music, and a variety of exhibits showcasing new concepts and inventions by some of today's most fascinating companies.
When EPCOT Center opened on October 1, 1982, this area of Future World was known as CommuniCore. Like its successor, CommuniCore was an area that housed exhibits for guests to learn more the changes and advances in technology at an individual level. These exhibits, often educational but always enjoyable, helped teach guests about concepts ranging from new sources of energy to the use of computers in everyday life to the latest advances in communication. Many of these exhibits used hands-on methods of getting the guests more involved with the topics.
The main attraction at CommuniCore was a guided tour called Backstage Magic. In Backstage Magic, small groups of guests were taken to a special backstage area where they could see part of the large computer system that helped run the shows and attractions at Epcot. The show was hosted by a cast member named Julie and I/O, her assistant that was a small ball of energy symbolizing the input and output of information within a computer.
Other exhibits included the TravelPort, the Electronic Forum, the Energy Exchange, and FutureCom. Some of the activities included a talking robot named SMRT-1 and the voice-activated (mainly answering "yes" and "no" to his questions) games you could play, and a Compute-A-Coaster game that was hosted by a cartoon beaver. After using the touch-screen to design a short roller coaster, a first-person video took you on a ride of your creation.
CommuniCore East also had the Centorium (the main store for Epcot) as well as the Stargate Restaurant, a counter-service restaurant. CommuniCore West is where you would have found services such as Epcot Outreach and the Teacher's Center, and also the Sunrise Terrace Restaurant, another counter-service restaurant.
In the early 1988, the Expo Robotics exhibit was added to CommuniCore West. At Expo Robotics you could watch a short show featuring several robots performing tricks with spinning tops, and you could have your portrait drawn by a robotic painter.
That's how CommuniCore was presented to the EPCOT Center guests until January 30, 1994, when the structure closed for a massive re-theming and refurbishment. It would officially open eight months later on September 29, 1994, as Innoventions.
The 1994 conversion into Innoventions brought with it a burst of new energy into this Future World pavilion. The buildings were given more of a retro-futuristic look with lots of neon lighting, the background music was more upbeat, the Fountain of Nations (at one point known as the World Fellowship Fountain) received an update, and all of the exhibits throughout Innoventions were given a high-tech upgrade. The Stargate Restaurant was changed to the Electric Umbrella Restaurant (still a counter-service restaurant), and the Sunrise Terrace Restaurant was changed to Pasta Piazza Ristorante. In 1999, the Centorium store was enlarged and changed into MouseGear.
Another change was the addition of the Walt Disney Imagineering Labs in the former location of the Expo Robotics. In the Walt Disney Imagineering Labs, small groups of guests were given a sneak peek at future technology that might work its way into a Disney theme park. For example, guests were shown an advanced form of virtual reality. In this example, guests would wear a headset and use a control stick to ride on a magic carpet and "fly" through the land of Agrabah from Disney's Aladdin. This technology and theme would be used a few years later in DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney.
The Walt Disney Imagineering Labs were removed in the late 1990s and replaced with Ice Station Cool, a Coca-Cola drink sampling area themed to an arctic expedition. The entrance to Ice Station Cool featured a "snow tunnel" that actually had *real* snow (yes, you could have made a small snowball and thrown it at a friend or family member ;-) ) and Refreshus maximus, a display showing a caveman frozen in a block of ice while trying to reach for a bottle of Coca-Cola. After passing through the snow tunnel, guests would enter the research station, a place to sample international drink flavors as well as shop for Coca-Cola memorabilia.
Ice Station Cool closed on June 6, 2005 and was replaced on November 14, 2005 with Club Cool, a slimmed down and more upbeat version of Ice Station Cool. All of the arctic theming was removed (including the snow tunnel) in the update.
Another major update to Innoventions occurred in late 1999 when the exhibits were transformed into a more fluid experience as part of the Millennium Celebration. The newer version of Innoventions became themed to The Road to Tomorrow, and the experience was hosted by Tom Morrow 2.0, a tiny robot that helped guide the guests through Innoventions. During this time an actual road was painted on the floor, and road signs helped navigate people through the complex. The Road to Tomorrow along with Tom Morrow 2.0 were removed as part of an Innoventions upgrade in 2007. During that upgrade Innoventions also changed its famous sign / logo with the hand holding the light bulb to a more generic look.
More recent additions to Innoventions include StormStruck, a 3-d experience that teaches you how to better prepare your home from severe weather (it's a pretty cool experience), and The Sum of All Thrills, a simulator that lets you design and ride your own roller coaster. What's interesting is that the giant arm that controls the ride in The Sum of All Thrills is the same type of control arm used in the ride vehicles for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park.
In a way, Innoventions became a miniature consumer-electronics expo with the exhibits themselves continually being replaced and upgraded with new innovations and concepts from some of today's companies. Depending on the popularity and the contract length of the exhibit, chances are likely that you'll be experiencing new exhibits every six to twelve months.
Between the two Innoventions buildings is an area known as Innoventions Plaza. At the end of 1999 this area received the futuristic awning as part of the Millennium Celebration. Although that celebration ended a long time ago, the awning itself still remains today. It's also in Innoventions Plaza where you'll find the always impressive Fountain of Nations water fountain (with music-choreographed water performances every fifteen minutes) as well as additional futuristic artwork and theming. If you walk in the right areas of the path at night, you'll discover the sections of path with fiber-optic light displays.
Throughout the years, Innoventions has always been an interesting place to spend some time, normally during the heat of the day. The dark and air-conditioned buildings were a great way to cool off from the intense summer heat as well as to examine some of the exhibits.
These days, my favorite part of Innoventions is walking through Innoventions Plaza at night, especially during the summer. The lights look fantastic, the scenery is just as futuristic, and the water at the Fountain of Nations changes through a variety of colors. It's a calming as well as a mesmerizing and inspiring experience. Or maybe it's just me. Nevertheless, Innoventions Plaza seems to look better at night than it does during the day.
The crowds in Innoventions tend to reach their peak in the early afternoon. First thing in the mornings and later in the evenings the exhibits tend to be extremely quiet. Take note that the exhibits in Innoventions tend to have different operating hours than the rest of Epcot. Make sure to check the operating hours for Innoventions as soon as you enter Epcot.
In the end, Innoventions is a great place to spend a little bit of time and check out the various exhibits. Keep in mind that most of the exhibits are geared towards teenagers and young adults, and not so much for the younger children. No tip to Epcot is complete without spending at least a little bit of time inside of Innoventions, even if you're just taking a shortcut through the buildings to reach other parts of Future World.
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