Last year at this time, I was able to visit the VIP lounge at the former Wonders of Life pavilion in Epcot’s Future World. The pavilion has been closed for quite some time now but functions as a special event space for things like the International Flower and Garden Festival and International Food & Wine Festival, along with wedding receptions held in the VIP lounge. The Tables in Wonderland program has held a preview for the Food & Wine Festival for the last two years and I was lucky enough to attend both events for the Disney Food Blog. (As always, click to enlarge photos)
While I shared photos of the Wonders Lounge and circus-themed restroom here on the blog, I wondered all night long what lay behind the two red doors in the main lounge area. The original lounge was entirely circus themed, but the main area has since been repainted in more muted tones, with the exception of some bold color choices like the bright red doors. In speaking to cast member friends, I was informed that there definitely was something behind those doors…but never told what. I put it from my mind, thinking I’d probably never get the chance to solve this mystery first-hand. Then suddenly, it was July again and the Tables in Wonderland preview gave me hope that maybe I’d get to find out.
I tweeted that I was so excited to be in the Wonders Lounge again since it was my favorite of the VIP lounges I’d seen so far. A back and forth on twitter brought up the question of whether I liked it even more than the lounge at the Seas and I said that yes, while the Seas was a very close second, I just loved the (clown-free) circus theme up here. It was then that I discovered that the space behind the red doors was actually called the Carousel Room. I wondered if I could try to sneak a peek but thought I’d probably chicken out (I am shy in-person after all!). I was encouraged to just ask a cast member, since I was up there I had to see it. I agreed that it was silly to sit by and not try to get in to see it. So we asked, and a very nice cast member said yes. She said the couches and chairs that were usually out in the lounge area were stuffed in the room, so if we waited till the event had cleared out a bit, they would move them out so we could get around.
By now, my head was swimming with possibilities. I pictured this giant ballroom with a full-sized carousel inside, or at the very least, carousel horses filling the room. I had been told by my helpful twitter friend to prepare myself, so I knew it must be something breathtaking.
At the end of the event, we patiently stood by the door and waited for our kind cast member to give us the okay. In the meantime two guests from the event strolled by the doors and said casually, “Oh, I wonder what’s in this room here…” and then just opened the doors and went in! I did hear them gasp before the doors closed behind them so the anticipation was killing me, but I wanted to do things right and not cause problems for anyone by just storming in myself. My husband went over to ask the cast member again but she was deep in conversation with the event hosts and the two other people had come out by the time he got the okay to go in. As it turns out, this room was mentioned in the third book in the popular Kingdom Keepers series: Disney in Shadow and was referred to as the Mary Poppins Lounge. The two people that went into the room said they had booked the Tables in Wonderland dinner just because it was in this lounge and they wanted to see this because of the Ridley Pearson series. Now there was a bit of buzz around the door and when we were given the official all clear, two other couples went in with us too.
To say I was shocked is an understatement. It isn’t so much that what’s in there is scary or unbelievable…it’s more that the space itself is very small – it’s actually a meeting room, not the grand ballroom I was envisioning. There is a huge oval-shaped table which takes up all of the room, with purple chairs that definitely looked like they arrived in the late 80′s. The few couches and chairs from the lounge were still stacked in there, but it didn’t detract too much from the main focus of the room, which was, in a word, overwhelming. Without further ado:
The walls of the room are painted – in amazing detail – as if you are in the very center of a beautiful carousel. The colorful and lifelike horses surround you as does the painted wooden floor of the carousel and the landscape beyond the horses. As in a real carousel, each horse is uniquely themed. The ceiling continues the painted theme with stripes, so that you feel like you are inside a tent. Another surprising feature of the room was the amazing acoustics. I was speaking at one end of the room in a normal voice and another guest on the other side said it sounded like I was right next to her. Perfect for business meetings where everyone needs to be heard clearly. The main wall ahead of you as you walk in slides apart and there is a white board behind it, again, perfect for brainstorming about the wonders…of life! Here’s a slideshow with more Carousel Room goodness:
Another curious detail is that one of the horses has what appears to be a marble or small ball in its teeth. I tried doing some research on what this could signify, but came up blank. I’m pretty sure, given what I do know about Walt Disney Imagineers that each horse depicted has specific meanings or nods to something either artist or Disney-related. Even if I’m wrong and they are just historically-accurate carousel horses, I would love to know more and truly be able to solve this mystery.
While I never got to experience the GE or Kodak VIP lounges while they existed, and I still have not seen the lounges of Spaceship Earth, The Land, Universe of Energy or Test Track, I stand by the Wonders Lounge as being my favorite. It is definitely the most unique so far. Although the HP lounge has all sorts of cool technology inside and the Seas lounge is just fun to sit in and look at the water views, the level of theming in the original design is, well, a wonder. I still continue to hope I’ll see the remaining Future World lounges (and any others hiding in the World too!). If anyone has any insight to the design stories behind the Carousel Room, please feel free to share.
Please do not use any of the photos here without permission, all photos are copyright Suzannah DiMarzio. Thank you!