Happy Halloween everyone! When choosing my costume this year, I wanted to honor one of my favorite infamous Disney legends. In my head, everyone had heard the stories of the animatronic that went missing from EPCOT just a few years ago. As I planned my costume, I realized many friends, even ones that were huge theme park fans, had never heard the mystery of Cranium Command. This Halloween, I felt we should unravel the tale of Buzzy together.
On October 19, 1989, the Wonders of Life pavilion opened at EPCOT Center. The pavilion was sponsored by MetLife and focused on all aspects of health care. In recent years, the attraction focusing on the human brain called Cranium Command been brought back into the spotlight. In December of 2018, the star of the attraction named “Buzzy” went missing and has not resurfaced in the nearly two years since. Join us as we tell the story of this animatronic and speculate on where he could be.
Cranium Command was a sweet show at EPCOT Center that took guests into the mind of a 12-year-old boy. Buzzy was a fresh recruit taking on his first assignment and piloting the brain through an average day. While General Knowledge was not expecting much out of this young boy, by the end of the show, our hero has learned how to manage stressful situations and use the parts of the human body effectively. Pete Docter has said that this show was the inspiration for what would become Inside Out, as it was a peek into the human brain and what makes us us. Cranium Command also inspired the short Inner Workings which played in movie theaters before Moana.
For 15 years, this attraction operated daily at Walt Disney World Resort. In 2004, it became a seasonal attraction and remained such until the pavilion officially closed to the public on January 1, 2007. This pavilion would seasonally become the Festival Center during EPCOT’S many festivals throughout the year. While access to the attractions was closed off, guests could still walk through the main dome and explore.
This is where the mystery begins. In the mid-2010s, some videos began to surface of the pavilion looking abandoned. “Urban Exploring” had become a huge trend, one where adventurers would take trips through areas that were once open to the public and explore. At Disney, specifically Walt Disney World, this meant gaining access to extinct attractions and seeing what was left.
Walt Disney World has the blessing of space. This means that even though an area or attraction closes, the building may remain completely untouched. This was exactly the case for Cranium Command and videos began to surface of the attraction. Everything inside looked exactly the same. There are videos (that I will not be linking to due to the aforementioned legality) that feature Buzzy smiling down on an empty audience with blank screens behind him. In 2013, our sweet audio-animatronic boy was seen with scaffolding around him and it was later noted that some of his physical wear had been repaired. This was shortly after Walt Disney Imagineering expressed intention of “selective demolition” of the pavilion in 2012.
In early 2018, urban exploring videos showed that both Buzzy and the monotone Hypothalamus had been tagged to be taken to The Walt Disney Archives in Burbank, California. The Archives preserves many pieces of Disney history, from film to theme parks. Recently, the Redhead from Pirates of the Caribbean has found her home in the Walt Disney Archives.
In December 2018, the animatronic boy was gone. Many fans speculated that he was finally taken to California, though something seemed off. The hydraulic wires that led to the animatronic were cut sloppily and there was hydraulic fluid on the floor. It didn’t seem to be the work of a professional but someone who was in a hurry and couldn’t afford to be caught.
Though Buzzy looked like a young boy, he was certainly harder to transport than that. While the exact weight of Buzzy is not documented, he could have been anywhere between 200 and 500 pounds. This isn’t something that any person would be able to bring off his seat alone. The other issue is how they escaped with no one noticing. If they escaped through the park, you would imagine someone would notice a nervous-looking guest with a giant animatronic, no matter how well they tried to hide it. Cast member exits would have security and they would have been easily caught that way as well.
In October 2019, fans thought that the mystery had finally been solved. NBA player Robin Lopez, who is an avid collector of rare items, alerted authorities that he owned pieces of the animatronic. Lopez had bought Buzzy’s jacket, headphones, and hat from someone he believed to be honest. He was unaware of the Buzzy situation and worked with authorities so they could better understand the situation.
The individual that sold the items was the creator of an account that posted urban exploring photos and videos from Disney Parks. This man had been charged with the theft of other Disney park items but police were not able to connect him to the disappearance of the animatronic as a whole, simply the clothing items. While this seemed like we had the answer, we were left empty-handed again.
Fans have speculated over and over again about the fate of this animatronic. It has been nearly two years since the disappearance and Disney has remained completely quiet on the situation. Surely, if they had the animatronic, they would have said something by now. I would imagine that they would quickly want to squash the rumor of someone succeeding in an animatronic heist if that was not the case. The closest thing we got to news was at D23 Expo 2019 when they announced the Wonders of Life Pavilion would be turning into the Play! Pavilion. We can assume this means that whatever is still left of Cranium Command will be demolished and taken over by this new space.
Where do I think Buzzy is? I think that the people involved with his kidnapping are keeping him very safe, somewhere where he can’t be traced. I do have hope that the right person will be told about his whereabouts so he can be restored and sent to the Walt Disney Archives. The one thing I know for sure is that this little animatronic has certainly gained a lot more fame since his disappearance and will remain an incredible piece of Disney history, no matter where he is.
Be sure to watch this video below of Buzzy at his happiest, just one year before the attraction closed. While we may not get to see his smiling face inside EPCOT anymore, his memory lives on in the hearts of Disney fans or of anyone who enjoys a good mystery. He has been immortalized in art, videos, and cosplays. Heck, even my Halloween costume this year is of that sweet little Cranium Command recruit!
I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween! If you have any thoughts or theories on Buzzy’s disappearance, be sure to share them in the comments or with us over on Twitter and Facebook! I love to talk about this attraction and this mystery and would love to hear your input!