It was 1987. As part of the Walt Disney World 15th Anniversary, Epcot put on one of the strangest shows in its history: the Daredevil Circus Spectacular.
Walt Disney always loved the circus. But putting a circus into a Theme Park was quite a different story. Known as a “cosmic thrill show, like no circus in the universe,” this bizarre show included acrobats, elephants, and the infamous Wheel of Destiny. The stage was set over the Communicore fountain and had the Wheel of Destiny affixed to the roof of Communicore West. It also had its own live band (this was eventually scrapped).
Here is one of Walt Disney World’s Marketing Spiels for the show:
“The four-times-daily, eight ring spectacle transforms CommuniCore into a ‘space arena’ for an interstellar cast of spine-tingling acts — some of the world’s most famous acrobats and thrill performers plus troupe of elephant-like Martian Mastodons performing on Future World’s fountain stage.”
“With Mickey Mouse as a guest ringmaster, the 25-minute cosmic thrill show features high-riders balancing their Space Cycles on thin wires zooming up to the 100-foot-high midpoint of Spaceship Earth, a fet-speed trapeze act, an ‘astrobat’ atop a swaying space needle, and an equally brave ‘interplanetary mechanic’ who ‘repairs’ a wildly orbiting space station by fearlessly climbing about it as it hurtles through the atmosphere.”
“…Stars include the Wynn Family Troupe, led by Space Cyclist Hans, son Jay, and Carl, the intrepid space-station repairman; the Flying Rodriquez Family whose double-trapeze performance is one of the few free-world acts ever featured in the Moscow State Circus; daring sway pole performer Gary Sladick, and the Cristiani Elephants, four amazing pachyderms which have performed their ‘bullheaded’ and ‘light footed’ balancing act in world-class circuses.”
Although marketing it as a spectacular circus, it was everything but that. The storyline was bizarre and confusing. The ringmaster was a muscle man that sounded liked a barbaric alien caveman. The Disney characters were completely out of place. No one knew what was going on. It was a complete mess of a show and a waste of talent.
In researching the show, it had a run of problems, one of them being visibility from certain sides of stage area. It was just an awkward stage design and guests could never see what was going on. It also was quite an eyesore and blocked views of World Showcase.
In addition, since the fountain was covered for the run of the show, it caused internal damage to the fountain and pumps. Imagine the wear and tear from having elephants on stage multiple times a day! I heard they needed to actually reconstruct parts of the stage after the run of the show.
And speaking of elephants, the show had a hard time keeping the costumes on them! They would constantly try to get out of the costumes, often damaging them! The show eventually just scrapped the costumes all together. I have yet to see a video with them wearing the full attire.
As far the the high class performers, they were very hard to work with. Disney even had to construct a gym for them as part of some of the contracts. Disney also made them wear elaborate costumes that somehow limited their sight and became a safety issue. Some just refused to wear them altogether!
According to my research, the show had no real dress rehearsal before opening day. It caused the 20-25 minute show to last an hour! Disney had to make changes to the show all the time. It was just a disaster.
The video you are about to see is after Disney made some of the initial changes to the show.
The show was cancelled in March of 1988. It was not missed.