Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Tribute to George McGinnis Part Two : Epcot Horizons Attraction

Here is the second part of my tribute to Legendary Imagineer George McGinnis, and a grand tribute to one of George's favorite creation, Epcot beloved extinct attraction Horizons. And this is a really big tribute with lot of pictures, plenty of artwork, and a great video of the whole ride at the end of the article.

On the picture above, George McGinnis and his family at the entrance of Horizons. 

Horizons, designed by imagineer George McGinnis and Colin Campbell opened on October 1, 1983 and was about the future!...and more specifically, Horizons was dedicated to "humanity's future" with this principle "If we can dream it, we can do it!".

Not only the building was huge, but the 14.45 minutes ride was one of the longest one ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering. Lot of audio-animatronics - 54, exactly , and 770 props all along the ride, not to mention the 12 film projectors, the two Omnisphere screenshow, and a huge capacity of 2784 guests per hour.Everything was great: the story line, the theming, the music, everything!

During 10 years - from 1983 to 1993 - the attraction sponsor was General Electric, as we can see on this picture of the entrance.

Right after the entrance, the Futureport announced the "destinations"

It's time to board in one of the Horizons vehicles.

Here is a sketch of George McGinnis for Horizons Omnimover.

First, we had a look back to some of the great visionaries like Jules Verne, then to how the future was dreamed in the 30's.
Here is a picture of the model of that scene.

And here are pictures of the real thing.

The next scene was a vision of the future from the 50's.

After these opening scenes the Horizons vehicle moved to the Omnimax film sequence with images of the DNA chain, or the space shuttle lift off. Here is a sketch of George McGinnis showing his original concept for three Omnimax screens which was later cut to two Omnimax screens only in order to meet the attraction's budget.

The next scene was the 21st century Habitat sequence , also called the Nova City living room.

A huge backdrop painting was done for that scene, here is three close shots of this artwork.

The next scene brings the guests at Mesa Verde, a desert farm of the future...

And then to a submarine habitat...

The two sketches below by George McGinnis shows how he double-sided the scenes of the Sea Castle scene, Combining two "bays" into one reduced the track length without losing any show.

The next scene was showing the inside of a space colony and the "crystal lab"...

The Holographic "happy bithday" party line was the next scene, and the special effects were at that time really impressive.

Here is a sketch of George McGinnis for the Finale scene of Horizons.

The guests had then the possibility to "choose their tomorrow" with a choice of three destinations: Space , Desert, and Undersea. A screen came in front of the vehicle and a short movie was played. A good idea, but the image definition was not as good as it would be today.

Before we arrive to the videos below, i have more rare pictures for you. First, a model of the building.

Then some artwork for the "Main Shuttle port"

Here is a fantastic painting showing a city of the future.

But one of the biggest backdrop painting was the "Looking back at tomorrow". Here are some very rare photos showing the painter at work - Robert McCall, a famous artist who worked mostly for NASA - and details of the painting.

And now it's time for you to board inside a Horizon vehicle and enjoy this fantastic ride, thanks to  great restored footage video posted on Vimeo by RetroWDW, whom i thank a lot, and congratulate for the high quality of the restoration.

Just like everybody who did the ride at Epcot, you will love Horizons instantly, it was Imagineering at its best! And don't forget: If we can dream it, we can do it!

Horizons POV Ride Through Restored Video - EPCOT Center - 1990 from RetroWDW on Vimeo.

You can learn more about Horizons, read the original script and listen the great music theme on the excellent Horizons web site HERE. Do not miss too George McGinnis articles about Horizon that he did in 2004 for Mouse Planet in three parts and which include George sketches HERE.

You can find previous articles about Epcot's original attractions artwork: for Spaceship Earth HERE, for The Living Seas HERE, for Communicore HERE
, for The Land HERE, for Journey into Imagination HERE, and for Universe of Energy HERE 

Photos and artwork: copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

Youtube video: many thanks to RetroWDW !

Friday, April 7, 2017

Legendary Imagineer George McGinnis, Creator of Beloved Epcot Attraction "Horizons", Dies at 87

Today is a very sad day as legendary Imagineer George McGinnis passed away at 87. George was the kindest man you can imagined, and very humble too. George McGinnis who was the last Imagineer personally hired by Walt Disney in 1966, found himself right away in design meetings with Walt and for the next three decades, George contributed to such high-profile projects as the new monorails, Epcot's Horizons - the most beloved of all extinct attractions - and two Space Mountains.

On the picture above, Glenn Durflinger (left), who led the team of architects producing construction drawings, and George McGinnis, Space Mountain concept designer, review the final Space Port concept model. 

Working alongside Disney luminaries like Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, and John Hench, George brought his unique background as an industrial designer to the creation of the Mark V and Mark VI monorails, and much of Disneyland and Walt Disney World's Space Mountains. His concept art, often begun on the back of napkins, influenced the final look of many theme park attractions.

This Space Mountain sketch by George McGinnis was apparently a design effort when it was still believed there could be exposed track on the exterior.

But George's heart and soul went into one of the most beloved attraction unfortunately no longer in existence: Epcot Horizons. As the manager of Disney's Industrial Design Department, responsible not just for Horizons but for other Epcot attractions, Horizons has always been for George one of his favorite creations and Disney fans consider it as Epcot's golden age. Here is a great video of Horizons full ride with a restored footage.

Horizons POV Ride Through Restored Video - EPCOT Center - 1990 from RetroWDW on Vimeo.

Here is more about George career at WDI: Industrial designer, George McGinnis began his career at Walt Disney Imagineering in 1966. His senior project at the Art Center College of Design, a working model of a futuristic high-speed train, attracted the attention of Walt Disney. George was invited to Imagineering by Walt, who showed him the WEDway PeopleMover system in development. Walt proceeded to introduce George to Dick Irvine, President of Imagineering, who invited George to become an Imagineer.

George’s first assignment was to design miniature transportation models for the Progress City display for the Carousel of Progress attraction that opened at Disneyland in July 1967. He was also responsible for concept design of both the Mighty Microscope for the Disneyland attraction Adventure Through Inner Space and the Saturn-style “winged rocket with boosters” for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Rocket Jets (1967).

 George McGinnis' sketch based on a rendering of the first concept for the Space Port shows a delta-wing shuttle preparing to launch. The concept changed due to track revisions.

Upside-down astronauts work on the Interplanetary Explorer ship in the Space Port of Walt Disney World's Space Mountain. Note the Krylon-cap shaped nozzles on the ship's ion engines. Sketch by George McGinnis.

From 1967 to 1971, George designed WEDway PeopleMover trains and parking lot shuttle vehicles for Walt Disney World. In 1971, he became a show designer, involved with such major projects as Space Mountain for both Walt Disney World (1975) and Disneyland (1977). A year later, in 1978, he worked on the concept designs for the robots in Disney’s The Black Hole motion picture.

Above: An Horizons elevation sketch by George McGinnis' showing the design for placing scenes from Mesa Verde and Sea Castle back-to-back within the Horizons building.

In 1979, George became manager of Industrial Design for Epcot and later project show designer for the Horizons Pavilion. In addition, he also designed SMRT-1 and the Astuter Computer Revue for the Communicore Pavilion. From 1983 to 1987, George designed the Mark V monorail train for Disneyland, which debuted in 1987. Following that, George contributed design ideas for the Magic Kingdom attraction Delta Dreamflight/Take Flight, designed the Walt Disney World Mark VI monorail, and designed tram vehicles for the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour.

Above: Another elevation drawing by George McGinnis. The final concept package delivered to Architecture in October 1975 included this Space Mountain Space Port elevation. Note the Control Room near the entrance and the projection room and projection surface on the right.

Between 1990 and 1995, George brought his skills as a show designer to several projects for Disney theme parks around the world: boat vehicles for Splash Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, Indiana Jones Adventure ride vehicles for Disneyland, the Space Mountain ride vehicle concept for Disneyland Paris, river boats, safari vehicles, and a “steam” locomotive and cars for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Since retiring from Imagineering in 1995, George has continued to work for Disney as a consultant on the Rocket Rod concept vehicle for Tomorrowland, river rafts for Animal Kingdom, and California Adventure.

In addition to his post-retirement work for Disney, George designed trolley cars for real estate developer Rick Caruso. Both trolleys are popular attractions at The Grove and the Americana, two of Caruso’s upscale residential/shopping communities in California.

Last year, George McGinnis memories was released by Theme Park Press. Titled "From Horizons to Space Mountain: The Life of a Disney Imagineer", it is George McGinnis autobiography, and i strongly recommend it to you, this book will be a joy to everyone who values authentic design. George shares tales and details—all in the most thorough manner—through his revealing text and illustrations. And to those who wish to pursue Imagineering, in fact, any significant creative career, this will be your guiding treasure.

The book is published by Theme Park Press and you can find it on Amazon in printed edition for $19.95 or in Kindle ebook format for $6.94 only!

In this book George writes in detail of his Imagineering work, his interactions with Walt and many of the company's Imagineers, engineers, and artists, and his career after Disney, which included the design of trolleys for billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso's upscale California communities. Disney Legend Bob Gurr also did the Preface of the book that you can read below:

"George McGinnis. Let me tell you about George. I never met a designer that exasperated me as much as George. What I did not realize until decades later was that what set my hair on fire at the time was the very characteristic George had that made him probably Walt Disney Imagineering’s finest industrial designer of all time.

No person I ever worked with stuck to his guns over getting every last detail completely correct, staying true to the design requests given to him. He’d show me every single detail and explain why it was so important. As the manufacturing design guy for his projects, I was ready to roll forward while he was continuing to refine his designs. His main boss, Dick Irvine, would exclaim,”George, you’re glossing the goose!”

An example. The WDW 20,000 Leagues submarine was patterned after the dramatic and fantastical Jules Verne-style submarine. George was going to make sure “his” submarine would truly reflect the Verne concept. It’s just a ride vehicle to me, but not to George! He added a most elegant brass helm and fancy wheel, totally unneeded on a ride. Irvine said no, and I grabbed the parts and confiscated them to my home. I still have them today … my personal monument to George’s unyielding honor to “just do it right”.

And doing it right is what George unfailingly pursued during his entire career with Disney, his work on Rick Caruso’s trolleys and beyond. When I visit Glendale’s Americana today, I still stop to admire George’s fantastical, beautiful (and correct) trolley, another wonderful monument to his superb design integrity."

In tribute to George McGinnis I will post this week-end a great article about Epcot Horizons,  and in the meantime do not miss too George McGinnis articles about DL and WDW Space Mountain posted on Mouse Planet in 2005 HERE, and HERE and from where some of the sketches posted above are coming.

Pictures: copyright George McGinnis, Disney

Text: copyright Theme Park Press