Tuesday, July 02, 2013

One Last FountainView

History is funny. Sometimes the things you think are worth preserving turn out not to be and the things you are convinced couldn't possibly be of value to future generations turn out to be coveted. Turns out we have more than enough information about the Gulf Coast Room to fill several blog posts, but I couldn't tell you, based on all of my vast amounts of reference material, where the various cafes on the Grand Canyon Concourse were situated from year to year.

Of course scarcity creates demand; we live in an on-demand world where nearly any piece of obscure information is obtainable, and so the gaps in that record loom ever larger. Perspective plays a role in all of this too: as a Disney historian, I saw little worth saving in the Main Street Bakery, which closed six months ago to howls of protest and reopened this month as the first of four Starbucks Coffee locations in Walt Disney World. Since the interior had already been gutted and reworked in the 90s following the end of the Sara Lee era, I saw little reason to document what was there. It turns out that maybe I should've, even if the Internet in general stepped up and did an admirable job anyway. The fact remains that the average minor event at Walt Disney World is better documented than the whole of the first twenty years put together.

I did, however, feel the need to make sure that FountainView Bakery, at Epcot but not really part of 2013, had a good send-off, and spent a few hours there in March recording what I could.

FountainView began life in 1982 as the evocatively named Sunrise Terrace restaurant, so named because its windows faced east, presumably in the off chance that diners would indeed catch sight of the sun peeking over the low beige roof of Communicore at some point in the future. Birnbaum's 1982 Walt Disney World guidebook describes it thusly:
"Fried fish and shrimp, cornbread muffins, and chef's salads are the order of the day at this good-sized fast-food eatery."
Sunrise Terrace seems to have stuck to this menu fairly consistently throughout the 80s, until it closed in 1993 as part of the Innoventions refurbishment to reopen as the a cutting-edge espresso shop, back in the days before espresso was available on every street corner in America. This is the form I remember it best as, until its Nestle sponsorship lapsed in the mid-2000s and FountainView went through several phases of on-again, off-again operation. By the late 2000s it was back open again as an Edy's ice cream parlor, before closing in 2013 for Starbucks conversion.

FountainView was never a very interesting space: a circular room with an al fresco patio overlooking the Fountain of Nations, it was nevertheless one of the few spaces at Epcot still open to the public but left unmolested by the prevailing winds of cultural change; from its suspicious stepped rows of silk potted plants to its stone grey tile, Sunrise Terrace/FountainView seemed better suited as a stage for an early-1990s RadioShack Christmas commercial or perhaps a Nintendo Entertainment System demonstration than it had any business serving suspect coffee and pastries; and since nothing lasts forever at Walt Disney World, a mostly-untouched original interior and unchanged 1989 Jack Wagner loop featuring the immortal "Behind the Waterfall" seemed absolutely essential to document.

After waiting several months, when it came time to edit my footage I was convinced I had been too clever in choosing my angles - the space was, on the main, narrow enough to feasibly spit across, forcing lots of detail work - and couldn't hope to capture the feeling of the place in any cumulative sense. After some careful attention to visual structure, composition and editing, I'm happy to report that this piece turned out vastly better than expected, and captures much of the flavor of FountainView as it exists in my memory. 

On the main Starbucks is a ready made fit for the old Sunrise Terrace - their brand identity mix of earth tones, new technology and old-fashioned idealism is just a stone's throw away from EPCOT Center, anyway. But of course Starbucks is expected to host vastly higher numbers of guests than FountainView could ever hope to pull in, and so the fate of that original interior remains uncertain. After all, much of the interior's charm can be chalked up to its intimate scale. Will the silk potted plants remain? The inexplicable corner areas filled with tiny patches of grass? Who will care for the ugly neon?

Suspect taste, reboot, or not, FountainView will live on online - a neat little donut of a room hopelessly behind the times where Yanni and David Lanz play on. Join me now for one last ice cream in the best little fried food counter/coffee shop/ice cream parlor on the West side of Future World.


Ashleigh said...

Almost 10 years ago, I was at Epcot with my high school chorus getting ready to perform, and I remember our choral instructor distinctly reminding us that we were forbidden to have any dairy prior to singing. Then myself and 5 of my friends beelined it to FountainView, ordered ice cream, and sat outside, scanning the crowd for our instructor and hoping not to get caught. I'm sad to see it go.

KJ @ PlustheMagic said...

What a sweet video tribute to FountainView. The music is perfect. I felt like I was there, in the very best way.

Marcus said...

When I worked at Epcot back in the spring of 1992, Sunshine Terrace was an Italian restaurant, specializing in freshly made pasta. You could watch the machines extruding & cutting the noodles behind a glass partition. I was in custodial, so I rotated all around the park, and I still remember the intense tomato sauce smell that would waft back up from the restaurant dumpsters, which were below the Communicore building in the small tunnel system that runs under part of Future World. Every time that I'm in the park, I still glance at the door out in the main breezeway that leads straight down to the tunnel system and consider going down to see if anything has changed in the cast member break room that is down there.

Mat Black said...

Excellent video! Very professional and evocative. It made me care about a space I never even knew existed before today.

C33 said...

I think an important piece of information has been left out here- the "bubble" in which FountainView is/was contained is not original to 1982 Future World. Originally that side of Communicore would have been a mirror image of this:


The restaurant Sunrise Terrace occupied the space that is currently the "Character Spot":


In 1993, the addition/annex we now know as FountainView opened as the FountainView Expresso & Bakery, an attempt at a 90s style coffe shop with a show bakery.




The former Sunrise Terrace (again, the current Character Spot) become the Pasta Piazza, which opened in 1994:



The two were designed to share the space such that guests in the Pasta Piazza could view the show bakery at FountainView Expresso & Bakery through the plexiglass window.

In 2001, the Pasta Piazza was closed and gutted to make way for the Character Spot. This resulted in an awkward layout, since the Pizza Piazza and FountainView were designed to share space and allow guest flow between them (and to the adjacent restrooms).

Furthermore, in 2007 FountainView lost the hip coffee shop aesthetic and show bakery and became an ice cream parlor instead, leaving some show bakery equipment and the plexiglass window even more redundant.

One of the major results of the recent redo of the Character Spot and the in-progress gutting and redoing of FountainView into a Starbucks is to further seperate the spaces and to remove the last vestiges of the original Pasta Piazza/FountainView Expresso and Bakery setup. It was possible as late as last year for one to stand in FountainView waiting for ice cream and be left staring awkwardly at the folks in line to see characters at the Character Spot. No longer- now a large wall has been build to seperate and never shall the two meet again.

I've pieced this all together from various sources online- never got to see it myself- but for some great photos and background on the FountainView Expresso & Bakery and the Pasta Piazza check out these two posts on DisBoards:



C33 said...

I realized on thinking back to my prior post I never really provided evidence for my theory that the FountainView Annex was an addition to the original Communicore building. It's a tough thing to prove without real clear photo evidence, but I'll do my best to defend the theory...

For one, looking at the FountainView "bubble" and the almost mirror image "bubble room" at MouseGear, the two visibly look like editions grafted on to the smooth curves of CommuniCore (looking at the first photo in my initial comment there is clearly no "bubble room" present.

One also can't see either editions in the flyover of the Epcot 1982 preview video:


And they are conspicuously absent in the 1982 wall map:


This paper map makes it graphically unclear but the circles connected to the Communicore buildings seem to represent grassy areas in the ground, not physical additions to the buildings:


Same for this 1993 map:


Also, I have been unable to find any photos of the FountainView space before it was FountainView- and I can't see what that bubble would have been used for as part of Sunrise Terrace. If that space existed, and was connected to the Sunrise Terrace/Pasta Piazza/Character Spot space, was it still raised at that time? The whole arrangement of the space seems to make sense only as two interconnected but technically seperate entities like FountainView and the Pasta Piazza.

So from all of this I draw the conclusion that on either side of the Future World fountain was nothing but sleek curves and smooth glass, and sometime in the 1990s "bubble" additions were made on either side to add retail space to MouseGear (which was losing a floor in its transformation from Centorium) and to make room for the new coffee shop/pasta piazza project in the former Sunrise Terrace space. Look at Epcot today and sattelite imagery and notice the odd assymetry of FountainView and the MouseGear "bubble room"? Would 1982 WDI have violated their gorgeous symmetrical Communicore design?

As ever, I may be dead wrong, but at least you know why I concluded what I did. Only time and more research will tell!

FoxxFur said...


You're very close. A lot of the 1981 and 1982 material on Communicore West in particular is very sketchy. West started going up after East was basically done, and it went through many last minute changes, including failing to put anything into an entire quadrant (Southwest, where Club Cool is now was supposed to be the TRON Arcade). However, I'm pretty that all three "pods" are original. Based on the evidence of the model, I think that the Sunrise Terrace "pod" was a late addition, and obviously the souvenir map is based on the model.

Stargate - what eventually became Electric Umbrella - has always had its pod and it isn't hard to find photos of it; originally, it was surrounded by a "moat" and some landscape. Sunrise Terrace was laid out almost identically to the way Stargate / Umbrella still is. The area that became FountainView originally also had a moat and was accessed from the interior of Stargate essentially identically to the way you can sit inside Electric Umbrella's "pod" today. Electric Umbrella's elevated "pod" seating area even has very similar ramps to the ones I photographed inside FountainView.

You can see the Sunrise Terrace seating area going in in this 1982 photo from Orlando Magazine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39181397@N03/9205283467/

My strongest memory of Sunrise Terrace is of seeing it from the Expo Robotics show that went into Communicore in the late 80s; the two were divided by a small wall and walkway. The Expo Robotics space was originally all open; it was walled in (and outdoor access doors added) when it switched over to Innoventions and the WDI "flying carpet" VR simulator that eventually ended up in DisneyQuest was installed. The Carpet attraction closed and Club Cool swallowed up over half of its floor space in the late 90s.

Obviously once Innoventions happened in 1993/4, Sunrise Terrace's moat and landscape was destroyed, steps leading directly up into its old "pod" seating area were added, and the pod "became" FountainView.

The MouseGear "pod" was either original or darn close to it because it was THE main entrance to the Centorium shop; it isn't hard to find photos of this. When Centorium expanded and became MouseGear it absorbed the old FutureChoice theater space and that became the new main entrance that we're most familiar with.

C33 said...

Very interesting! Thanks for the clarification. So what was going on in the FountainView "bubble" originally used for? Was it just seating for Sunrise Terrace? Without a specific purpose unto its own it's certainly an odd architectural feature. Although I suppose the same could be said about Electric Umbrella.

CommuniCore probably gets the record (or darn close) for being reconfigured the most number of times- seemingly every wall that isn't load bearing has been knocked down at least once. Plus we have areas switching between 1/2 stories, or going from active use to disuse and sometimes back again (like the "closet" that was used for the Epcot 25th exhibit and later the Character Spot, and is back to being storage again, or the awkward entrance of MouseGear next to the tech booth for the fountain stage that I believe is now a stockroom).

A year or two ago I bought some photocopies of the ComminiCore attractions operating manuals off eBay; I never got around to actually reading them (such is the life of the Disney fan). In theory I suppose the plans and permits for the buildings (and the many later changes to them) should be on file in a public office somewhere.

Having peeked over the walls at the ongoing Starbucks construction I can tell you for certain that they have gutted FountainView down to the rafters, so the space will likely be unrecognizable (again) when it re-opens.

ryan1 said...

In the early to mid 90's did the Pasta Piazza serve square/rectangle pizza slices? The same pizza was served at the now Tomorrowland Terrace restaurant during the same time frame.

If so, then that was the last time I stepped foot in this part of the park. If not, then I don't think on the hundreds of times I've been to Epcot I have ever stepped foot in this shop. I'm a little bummed to have not forced myself to at least go in but I had no desire for the coffee or ice cream that has been served the last 17 years. I use to love that wall carpet that Epcot had with the vertical ridges.

Sherri said...

I'm attempting to help my Aunt figure something out. She remembers a visit to Disneyworld that involved dinner on a boat. She says it wasn't a cruise and she doesn't believe the boat moved. She also believes it was somewhere near Main Street. Though I do not have an exact date, I would say this was probably in the 70's or early 80's. Does anyone have any ideas? Thank you for any info.

deb said...

I have walked past this space many times but never went in. It seems Iwas following the walkway past it but never really saw what was there. I wonder why?

bigbrian-nc.com said...

Ryan asked about the Pasta Piazza Ristorantes Pizzaas, the ones I remember (late 1990's) were Mickey shaped, which to me was fantastic, I must admit I'm a "never met a pizza I did not like" kinda guy.

rorosen said...

video was a little tutorial on how to see beauty where you usually see ugly