Unrealized World Showcase Part 1: The Philippines

If you’re a fan of theme park history, you know that getting Epcot’s World Showcase created was a far more difficult process than Disney Imagineers had originally hoped for. Sure, getting nations of the world to come together and exist side-by-side sounded like a great idea on paper, but getting them to sign on the dotted line took months or even years of negotiations.


The reason being is these country pavilions were throwing down millions of dollars in order to be permanently represented in Walt Disney World. Naturally the hope would be that once Florida tourists got a literal taste of what the cuisine was like, combined with picking up authentic merchandise, a sampling of heritage-based entertainment along with chatting with actual natives, their next vacation might be to that country.

This week, we will focus on attractions that never quite came to be in World Showcase starting with the Philippines. These concept art images pre-date EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening and reflect ideas that were in the early stages. Here is the press release for the Philippines pavilion.

World Showcase Philippines Pavilion

A colorful outrigger loaded with shells and flowers and floating in a small body of clear blue water will welcome visitors to The Philippine Pavilion. 

Placed in a setting of tall palms and a sun-baked sandy beach, this peaceful introduction will lead guests further into the pavilion past six decorative 24-foot panels which are constructed from the beautifully woven patterns which are so symbolic of the country. 

Behind these panels visitors can view the contrasting architecture of the nation, represented by a native thatched hut on the left and a Spanish colonial-styled building on the right. 

Here, small merchandise items of the country may be purchased while just ahead guests can literally capture the flavor of the nation by enjoying a number of native delicacies while sitting in wicker chairs on the terrace of a spectacular colonial plantation house.

Epcot Philipines Pavilion

In front of the guests is a stage which can feature live entertainment from the Philippines. 

Above the stage, also facing the audience, is a huge 200 degree screen. From it unfolds a 15-minute motion picture highlighting the interesting history of the nation as well as many annual festivals which are a favorite of natives and visitors alike.

The screens will seem to “come to life” during this entertaining film as descending from the ceiling on cue will be the spectacular decorations featured in the festivals of the Philippines… a surprising compliment to the scenes shown on the screen.

Upon exiting this 560 seat show facility, guests will be able to visit the courtyard level of the pavilion where exhibits and merchandise offer guests an opportunity to purchase Philippine products of today as well as a chance to learn about the future potential of the country.  

In Service To The Mouse

There is a lot to be learned from this venture that never happened in a fantastic book “In Service to the Mouse” by the late Disney legend Jack Lindquist. The book is a treasure of great stories about behind-the-scenes antidotes from how Disney theme parks and attractions get built… or sometimes not. Here is a small excerpt from his tale about The Philippines.

“One of the primary reasons for selecting the Philippines first was the enthusiasm of their ambassador regarding the World Showcase concept. He felt confident that his government would participate in something like this.

“The presentation went well and they said that they were pleased with the concept. We informed them that the estimated conceptual cost of the pavilion was $9.6 million, and that we were looking for their permission to go ahead and finalize the concept and come up with a firm price. We were looking for the government of the Philippines or any divisions of the governments, such as Tourism, Economic Development, or the private sector (whatever that may be) such as Philippine Airlines to underwrite and commit to that cost, so we could build the pavilion and they would operate it. The total cost of the pavilion would be amortized over 10 years; 10 percent of the cost would be due annually. If they operated the pavilion, they would receive the profit from the merchandise and food. And they would obviously benefit from the tourism and any investments in the Philippines.”

However, it just wasn’t meant to be. Lindquist had to give a presentation to the Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos and after learning how much it would cost replied with the following, “Nine million dollars is an astronomical figure for us. If I had that much money, I would not spend it on a pavilion in Florida to try to attract more tourists to Manila. I would use it to build sanitation facilities and schools and such for my people.”

And with that? This World Showcase pavilion was put back into the vault and Lindquist and the Imagineers moved on. Come back next time and we will talk about another pavilion that never made the cut. And if you’re interested in Lindquist’s book “In Service to the Mouse” click on the link above!

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Images Copyright: Walt Disney Company – All Rights Reserved

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