Hiding in plain site at the Epcot UK Pavilion in World Showcase is a massive canal along the water’s edge. It runs the full length of the Rose & Crown Pub. It appears to be a simple boat slip. A berth for a vessel of extraordinary proportions.
According to Parkeology legend, she’s a ghost ship. A long and narrow English pleasure boat known only as the Jolly Wheeler. Guests would board behind the Rose & Crown and step precariously into the sleek black vessel. There it would ferry them around the World Showcase lagoon to distant ports of call.
The Jolly Wheeler had limited capacity, which may account for why Disney scrubbed her before Opening Day at the Epcot UK pavilion. But she was a British gem through and through. We like to think of the Jolly Wheeler as a no-nonsense counterpart to the theatricality of El Rio del Tiempo at Mexico, or the high seas adventure of Maelstrom.
At the end of the day, the Wheeler was just a venture into a muggy Florida lake on a low-deck longboat. With maybe, just maybe, a chance to get swamped with waves from those weird dragon boats in the Skyleidoscope show.
Of course, we are making up 90% of this.
There is no record that any Epcot UK pavilion boat ride existed, even in the planning stages. We invented the name Jolly Wheeler because it sounded British (apparently there’s a Three Jolly Wheelers pub in Britain and we would love see their expressions when they find out their ties to original EPCOT). And those dragon boats weren’t weird at all. They were totally normal.
But yet, there is a canal with a boat dock.
You can still see it behind the Rose & Crown Pub, just as it looked in 1982. All that’s missing are the original wooden gates that could be used to keep a boat like the Jolly Wheeler from drifting out into the path of some reckless Epcot FriendShip.
You can actually see the canal in the EPCOT Center Grand Opening TV special (28:02 mark) as a helicopter flies over the Epcot UK pavilion. This provides a decent look at the wooden gates, but no Wheeler.
In fact the only evidence we can dig up that the Jolly Wheeler was even supposed to exist is some old concept art found in the definitive Abrams souvenir book. This art clearly shows that the Jolly Wheeler was more of a decorative piece similar to other boats along World Showcase Lagoon, and not an actual ride.
The Imagineers probably had good reasons for scrubbing the boat prior to opening. We can only assume budget cuts. But they still built the actual canal in the lagoon. There it stands to this day. Maybe one day, Disney will decide that the Jolly Wheeler needs to make a grand return and fulfill her destiny.