Hawaii Sand Castles003


Nearly twenty years ago I found myself on a quiet, protected section of Polo Beach in Maui trying to entertain my, then 18 month old daughter Virginia, so my wife could get some well deserved rest. We decided to make a sandcastle and the dribble skills of my youth rapidly recovered.  My daughter enjoyed my company and played quietly on her own while I dribbled away. When, however, the castle became taller than my daughter she smacked the top off (as shown above) with an authority reserved for kings. After several attempts I felt the slow cinch of cynicism compress around my heart. I’d been here before. It felt a lot like work. You see we were on a long weekend trip from L.A. and I was trying to recover from a professional setback.

Back Story…

A year earlier I was tasked with trying to fit a new “Space” ride in the Horizons Pavilion at EPCOT. Within a week of starting it was clear that the existing building needed to be torn down as it was custom structured for the ‘people mover’ and sets it was originally designed to accommodate. It was a nest of concrete and steel hidden within a deceptively simple exterior. “We don’t do that- Be creative!” was the response from everyone at WDI. At the time the insurance company demanded a new roof for ‘Horizons’ to the tune of $6 million. On a chance (unauthorized) conversation with the project director I asked if they had ever bid demolition. A week later we were informed to pursue a clean site. It turned out that a complete demolition was $800k owing to the salvage value of the steel in the building.


Until… A gentleman in corporate accounting, we’ll call Byron, interrupted claiming there was too much depreciation left on the building to tear it down. So get this straight: the least remembered attraction of all Disney properties world wide and the only attraction pitched by its cast members as “Horizons, It’s Air Conditioned!” was still valuable as a write off.

Back to Polo Beach…

…the slow cinch of cynicism compressed around my heart while my daughter gleefully played in the sand and my wonderful wife napped in the shade. If we’re lucky we may have hundreds of thousand of moments in a single life. How many are we present for? It wasn’t about me. Not the dribble mound or the Horizons’ remodel. Both were (are) about open minds and young hearts.

So, back to work.


Well, after a bizarre series of silly “Hybrid” designs, a bad beat down at the corporate level that paved the way for a complete write off of the Horizons building and several executive changes at the project level, Mission: SPACE is engaging hearts and minds about the future. And, thankfully my daughter (now 19 and at MICA) stopped growing so the sandcastles now top out at a little less than six feet. Thank you Virginia!

Pan-Day-5AMission: SPACE, EPCOT

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