Thursday, May 4, 2017

Back to the Drawing Board: A Look at EPCOT’s Never-Built Switzerland Pavilion

By Stokes Laird

For decades, Disney’s Imagineers have invested countless hours thinking up and planning hundreds of attractions, shows, restaurants, hotels, and shops for the Walt Disney World Resort and other various Disney destinations. Many of these ideas have been fully realized and have been actually constructed so that guests in Disney Parks all around the world can enjoy them. However, there are many ideas that never quite make it off the drawing board, or through the so called “blue sky” phase. This does not mean that these ideas or plans are not substantial or worthy of being constructed. In fact, some of Disney’s most intriguing concepts can be found in this sort of Imagineering graveyard and many of these ideas had the potential to be as magnificent as the biggest headliner attractions we all know and love today. One of the more impressive ideas that has never made it to fruition is the proposed Switzerland pavilion that was to be included in EPCOT’s World Showcase. Let's take a inside look at this incredible, never-built attraction in today's new article...

According to the May 4, 1989 edition of the Orlando Sentinel, talks between Disney and Swiss officials about a possible pavilion had begun in 1982 when EPCOT first opened. The pavilion would have been themed as a quaint Alpine town and it was set to be located in World Showcase between the Italy and Germany pavilions. The Swiss pavilion would have been anchored by a visually impressive recreation of Matterhorn Mountain that would contain a ride experience similar to what can be found at Disneyland’s version of the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

The EPCOT Model showing what the World Showcase's landscape would have looked like had the Switzerland Pavilion's Matterhorn (left) and the Japan Pavilion's never-built Mount Fiji attraction (right) would have looked like.

Imagineer Randy Bright and an unknown second Imagineer examine the American Adventure Pavilion while flanked by models of the Switerland Pavilion's Matterhorn (left) and Mount Fuji attraction (right).

In addition to the attraction, the Swiss pavilion would also include a variety of shops and a restaurant that would offer breathtaking views across all of World Showcase...

As guests entered into the Switzerland pavilion they would be greeted by a romanticized Alpine village that is home to four themed shopping experiences. These would include: a clock and music box shop, a gourmet candy shop, a wood carving and craft shop, and finally a clothing and accessories store. Each of these shops would contain intricate details and the items that would be sold there would be true to the romanticized Swiss culture that is prevalent in the country’s history. A lot of these ideas do sound familiar to what would be right next door in the Germany pavilion, but there is no doubt that the Swiss shops would be able to offer their own unique items to the guests of World Showcase...

The restaurant of the Switzerland pavilion would be located behind a facade that would resemble a cluster of houses located within the Alpine village. The 230 person seating area would be located on the second floor of the pavilion and would contain a clever design. The entire dining area was to be arranged so that each table was offered a magnificent view of either the Matterhorn Mountain, the Swiss village, or the World Showcase Promenade. Located just next door would be a tourism building and a Swiss VIP building that would offer a comfortable lounge to Swiss international officials.

Restaurant interior concept

The recreation of the Matterhorn Mountain that would be home to the pavilion’s headlining attraction would stand 192 feet tall and the entire ride system would be located inside. The attraction itself would be an indoor roller coaster once again similar in form to the Matterhorn Bobsleds or Space Mountain located at Disneyland. There were two very different storylines that were created for the attraction, but each would have provided a thrilling experience that would be suitable for the whole family.

Attraction layout

The first suggested storyline was a little bit more traditional and would focus around a Swiss bobsled training camp and competition. Guests would enter the Matterhorn mountain and find themselves deep in an icy cavern that also serves as a command center for the bobsled training camp. Here, guests would board their bobsled cars and depart on their journey. The story would have guests start off on a tame path through the bobsled camp that, in typical Disney fashion, would eventually include the bobsled veering off course to a more dangerous and thrilling pathway. The ride experience would contain beautiful spectacles as well as lighting effects within the mountain and would end with the guests arriving safely back on course to a cheering crowd at the training command center.

The second suggested storyline would start in a similar fashion to the first one, but would quickly make a turn in a rather unexpected direction. Guests will still enter into a bobsled training camp to board the ride vehicle. However, this time instead of careening through a wild bobsled course, guests will find themselves inside of a deep dark cavern that is filled with swarming bats and high tech outer space-type lighting effects that could really make one wonder what connection the story really has to Swiss culture. Guests would eventually return to the training camp control center where they would unload from the vehicle and exit back out into the Swiss pavilion.

Unfortunately, for various reasons Disney’s negotiations with the Swiss government fell apart and the pavilion was never realized. It is an old adage at Disney to say that no good idea ever really dies. It is always fun to sit back and play “armchair Imagineer” and dream up different ways to improve the already existing Disney Parks. The Switzerland pavilion is without a doubt an addition that, while unlikely to ever reappear, would make a welcome sight to EPCOT’s World Showcase. After all, there is plenty of room still left to dream big...

World Showcase still has plenty of room for expansion.


Stokes Laird comes to us from Charlotte, NC where he is currently teaching social studies at the high school level. He earned a BA in History from Point University and a Master of Education degree from the University of Montevallo in Alabama. His interest in Disney, like many others, sparks from the numerous trips taken with his family as a child and has turned into a passion that goes beyond the Parks themselves to the people, events, and motivations that made them possible. The Disney Parks will always hold a special place in Stokes’ life, he did propose to his wife at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, and he hopes to one day visit every Disney Park worldwide. Some of his favorite attractions include: The Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, The Great Movie Ride, and Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland.

You can find all of Stokes' articles here.


  1. Amazing post! I think Spain and Brazil also can have a pavilion

  2. This looks really cool, but I'm glad they didn't build it. There's plenty of European influence in the World Showcase as it is.