Saturday, October 8, 2011

Battle of the Cortexes

This post has been edited due to more research found to supplement this article. If anyone has some clarifications, or just a few brainwaves to help, please comment. It would be of big help.

Welcome again, readers. A week after the birthday celebration season for the Magic Kingdom slows down to normal, it's also birthday season to the blogmaster (that's me!), so on behalf of the visitors entering or passing by this blog, thanks. And now to another 'bet you didn't know' post, centered on one of the Wonders' iconic attractions residing in the majority of visitor's hearts to this day...

Yes, Cranium Command had a great run since the brink of the 90's, and you might owe it all to the then-recognisable stars back in the era (yet come to think of it, the casting for each body part represented is spot-on appropriate, so a win-win situation). But of course, what's very interesting is that there is a considerable amount of history behind one of the attraction's main (yet obscure by today's standards) star of the show...

But for some reason, the poor rookie ALMOST did not end up into the pavilion's spotlight until today. But consider this. Just as plans for EPCOT Center were put together on the drawing board and the modelling floor, plans and patterns for each of the pavilions were also put together. The Wonders of Life pavilion (formerly to be dubbed Life and Health), was obviously no exception.

But there were such things as variations and second-takes, with regards to the state of the attractions. Now consider this: as part of the Life and Health pavilion, there was a show that simulates and dramatically demonstrates the brain's role in managing the body, and it was meant to be named the Head Trip. You heard right - Head Trip. Or so some of us thought...

According to a documentary, distributed on DVD by the recently killed off (due to legal issues) Extinct Attractions Club, and titled EPCOT: Wonders of Life Story,it was from there that some information with regards to Cranium Command's history was mentioned. From the MiceChat forum pertaining to Cranium Command's history, a user under the name Goldenstate5, and he quotes:

...Apparently it was an original planned attraction in the same spot, but there was a Star Trek theme (Trek had become really big in the early-to-mid 80's) and the original title was "Brain Command". It would have many, gnome-esque AAs controlling the brain of a man. 
You heard right, it was meant to follow into the footsteps of the Star Trek films (Jean Luc Picard anyone?), with three nominated pilots behind three qualities of the brain: Emotion, Intellect (equivalent of Right and Left Brains) and the Nervous System. Readers, this was back in the 80's, the alleged educational prime of EPCOT Center, and its first grip onto entertaining and educating the crowds at the same time.

For some reason, it was then that the story (although wading in its Star Trek roots) was also beginning to slightly develop a more military feel to it, and fortunately for this future reason:
The idea was pretty similar to what you saw in the Eddie Murphy flop "Meet Dave". In fact, the writers of that movie are lucky that "Brain Command" was re-imagined with a military theme, because there would be a lawsuit from Disney, the similarties were that uncanny. 
Also, with the cost of Audio Animatronics back then (given the amount of effort and time to plan, design, build, test and install them back then), the three roles were downplayed to a singular pilot...

The older pilot animatronic, whom was originally to be called Captain Cortex to be exact.
Goldenstate5 explains:
Because of the high cost of Audio Animatronics, the Trek theme was removed and the AAs downplayed to one. (two, if you count the Hypothalamus) Somewhere in this came out the idea of comparing piloting a brain to commanding a military operation. 
And so it was heard that Cranium Command was to feature a younger, more experienced, cockier and capable pilot by the name Captain Cortex. He was originally going to be a more experienced pilot, tons of experience, and knows how to get the job done quickly as possible.

But there was a common cause for consideration to the saying that had Captain Cortex been behind the wheel of the 12 yr old boy known as Bobby, then EPCOT would have a facepalm on their hands. According to some online radio playlists (for instance, Utilidors Audio Broadcasting, specialising in Disney Theme Park Audio for enthusiast's listening pleasure), the first version dramatisation of the show (and yes, a demonstration one, played by one voice actor) was also meant to have a theme song, and it was meant to go a little like this:
...We are the Cranium Command,
using our heads the best we can,
if it answers what we need,
we know how to succeed;
we'll solve any problem on demand.
Yes, we are the Cranium Command,
trying our best to understand,
there's no problem that we dread,
as we work inside your head,
yes we are the Cranium Command.

Of course, with regards to the theme song lyrics and Capt. Cortex's character, it was a little bit safe to assume: 'you know, Cortex, I don't think your demonstration of the brain is enough for the audience. And though your theme song is catchy... *sigh* You know, nobody wants to relate to someone who's a showoff all the time.' So this put Cranium Command back onto the drawing board, all these years... long after EPCOT Center opened in 1982, and it was during this time between then and the Wonders of Life pavilion's opening in 1989, that they switched Cortex to someone else we know today...

Buzzy's the one on the right, to get a much better idea of him.

 ...but who would allow a bumbling rookie klutz to join the ranks? Interestingly, Goldenstate5 explains that hiring someone less experienced is not necessarily new:
The transition from a smart-alecky young captain to a naive and bumbling one mirrors the creative process of Star Tours, in which Rex underwent the same transition during the creative process.
But apart from more creative opportunities to try out the impossible, hiring Buzzy was apparently an advantage. If you compare Captain Cortex with Buzzy, side by side, the comparison is far more eye-widening. While Captain Cortex is seen as the 'Han-Solo' of the brain piloting operation (think Mr. Showoff) with tons of experience from other brains in the field, there was someting notable about Buzzy.

Although Buzzy lacked the experience to consider being a valuable recruit in the ranks, he makes up for it with a quality that gets tha audience to relate to him in some way or another... his naïvety, for instance ("...that's Buzzy sir. Oh yes, you just let me in the controls room..." before being interrupted by the General). Also, in comparisson, Buzzy could fit into the category of people whom we might know in real life. Add to that, he's innocent, and he cannot help ending up in the slip of mistakes (hence adding a little meaning to 'what? nobody's perfect.').

And that's why Buzzy ended up in the spotlight. However, there was one missing element that, if it were utilised (yes, utilised) in the next-generation take on the pavilion... Buzzy would have had different, yes, different jobs in different host bodies, as mentioned by Goldenstate5 once more:
The most interesting thing about this version was that there was to be interchangable shows. For example, one month the team would commandeneer:
  • the brain of a teenager on a school day (the final result), 
  • the brain of a grown adult on his wedding day, 
  • the brain of a man going through a mid-life crisis 
  • the brain of an old man, withering away to death. (rather morbid for a Disney attraction, don't you think?)

This may have been the plan all throughout, but the eventual unpopularity of the Wonders of Life pavillion may of had something to do with the idea getting tossed aside. (as well as Met Life pulling out earlier than planned)
Unortunately, not so much as time went by. As the Wonders of Life pavilion entered obscurity, Buzzy faced it as well. When the pavilion closed down in 2007, Buzzy was shut away into darkness, and the rest of him, they say, is history. Well, at least for now...

EDIT: From a comment that I accidentally deleted recently, but I'll put it here:
"I remember seeing a picture of "Captain Cortex" online. A couple of months later I couldn't find it anywhere and I'm starting to think it was a dream. I am going to give a description of him so if you find it anywhere you can tell me. Bacicly the same design as Buzzy except he wears no jacket, wears a helmet instead of a hat, and has half eyes instead of dots[the other half is blocked by his helmet]. " hannah teare
Here's my reply:
"Thanks for commenting, and apparently you do mean this image right here that you were talking about?? More info from this site from where I just found it. Cheers!"

So with regards to how Buzzy was chosen as the most likable candidate for being behind the nerve centers of Bobby, as well as a bumpy history of how and when his star attraction was, and never had been, there is one last little adage that would've summed up Buzzy's initial story in a short line:
Cortex applied first; Buzzy tripped him up and got him fired much later!

PS: To date, 9 people have taken the 'What's Next for WOL' survey. If you can invite as many poeple to the survey as humanly possible, it would be gratefully appreciated. Also, another news article on the Wonders of Life pavilion has been found, and you are invited to have a read at the link below. Happy reading!
Also, as available on our media page:


  1. so if cortex was used for the test audience, because I’ve seen shots with an audience, did they change him because every one disagree with him, and I wonder if there was a pre-show for cortex, that would be interesting. Very informative too! I do believe that the hypothalamus is not an AA, because he only moves up and down, his eyes also raise and lower, which are simple movements so, I think that’s why. Also Buzzy didn't have the usual outer layer of most AA's, I believe it was more like plastic with rubbery bits at the joints. Buzzy was probably also only 100 psi, to 150.but still it’s a cool article- lulu

  2. Thanks again, Anon. With regards to the first pitch, there was a preshow on Captain Cortex, but in which case, it was covered by the early incarnation of General Knowledge. Some websites have the full track version of the first pitch (or demo) of the attraction, as easily heard online in Utilidors Audio Broadcasting for comparison purposes. Also, your explanation of why the Hypothalamus is easily overlooked kind of fits in very well. And thankyou for the provision on the Buzzy AA information at a glance.

  3. It's quite surprising how mush Buzzy changed


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