Epcot UK Pavilion’s Lost “Jolly Wheeler”

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.

Dragon boats from EPCOT Center's Skyleidoscope
The dragons close in on an unsuspecting announcer, teeth bared, ready to devour him.

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.

The dock behind Rose & Crown Pub at the Epcot UK Pavilion
The dock of the Jolly Wheeler, as it still appears today.

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.

The Epcot UK Pavilion seen during the Grand Opening TV special
The dock is ready, the gates are set. But no boat.

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.

Concept art of the Epcot UK Pavilion
The Jolly Wheeler was a fine vessel, to be sure.

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.

Comments (7)

  1. This reminded me of the series one of you did about trying (successfully!) to find a place in each park where you had never been before. I think you could make that jump, with a running start. Getting back would be another story – maybe the friendship boats would take pity on you, all the way back to the detention center. Fine Parkeology sleuthing as usual!

    • Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.

  2. Class stuff Parkeology

    • Had this one in the idea bag for a long time.

  3. Now THIS is the kind of true parkeology content only you two can provide.

    • We were wondering if you were still out there checking on us!

  4. Maybe they were planning on using it to smuggle pirated VHS tapes out of the China pavilion.

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