October 3, 2012

Epcot at 30: Just Imagine

Half way through our look back and forward at Epcot at 30 years, let's take a short break and look at what could have been. All is takes is some imagination and money.

You could almost subtitle this post as "Dream EPCOT Center" because there is so much that could have been done to refresh the park instead of trying to re-energize it by adding thrills at the cost of theme integrity. But we armchair Imagineers don't really have to live in the real world and balance the financial risks with the practicalities of life. Still, let me dream a bit...

A quick look at Future World shows the company understood there needed to be some alteration to keep the audience interested. In contrast to the choices made, it should have been possible to add to the pavilions instead of just replace old favorites. Add the thrills for a younger crowd mix, but respect the origins. Epcot could have become a three day park! And it is a park in which my guess is it holds the highest revenue earnings in shopping and in the restaurants. Win-win.

Like many of the older original Audio-Animatronic attractions, the signature Spaceship Earth would have seen benefit from a few well placed A-100 figures new to the ride. The dazzling effect of perhaps a new A-100 Da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa would have made guests do a double take. Especially those who made the journey a must do every visit. Throw in just a couple more, and the attraction feels frsh and first class once more. The truth is, without any constant changes to this attraction, it runs the risk of becoming the Adventure Thru Inner Space of Epcot, ie the make out spot.

In my dream EPCOT Center, Horizons would still be around but also freshly updated. There was no need to tear it down to build Mission: Space. Why couldn't the updated older attraction dump guests into a waiting area with real live options like space travel (door one to a separate entrance to Mission:Space), desert excursions (door two to something like a Test Track), a third door to another destination, and the last to exit the pavilion. Of course, Test Track and Mission:Space could also have been accessible from their own entries as well. It would just tie everything together while allowing Horizons to really take you somewhere. 

There's no excuse for the other Future World spaces to become "tooned" in order to be relevant, specifically the Land, the Living Seas, and Universe of Energy. These themes should be able to successfully encompass new thoughts and discoveries. Nor was there any need to tear down old attractions instead of adding new ones to the mix. This would please old school purists and also bring in new fans. 

The same could be said for Imagination. To an EPCOT fan, deconstructing it into what it is today by removing Dreamfinder and turning Figment into a small little pest is akin to removing one entire act from Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, removing the Auctioneer, and inserting screens to simulate fire and other effects. It just shouldn't be.

In contrast to what the suits understood about Future World needing change, they seemed to think it was alright to let World Showcase stagnate, resting on the Old World charm. There seems to be one inherent problem with this section of the park besides so little attractions being added: transportation. It could be fairly easily solved with some money and creativity. Why not create a pseudo but functional version of the Metro from Paris? Allow guests to enter stations which lead them to trains to move around the park more easily. Imagine being able to depart from a station hidden toward the back of Germany or Japan and find yourself moments later in the backstreets of China or the United Kingdom pavilions. Guests could be dumped into the shopping districts while the actual tunnels the trains travel through could also offer above or below ground visual delights. It's as if the Walt Disney World Railroad was launched into the future.

And about those never built countries- really? No excuse except for wanting to make a buck by not spending. In my dream EPCOT Center, we'd find the Netherlands, Russia, Egypt, Peru, India, and more. And yes, guests would find hotel rooms above the shops and restaurants a la Westcot. The gondolas of Italy would be put to use. That Rhine River Cruise would be built, and we would be able to Meet the World in Japan. You would find a family friendly version of Moulin Rouge in France, tea ceremonies in China and Japan, and a small Harrod's in the U.K. Add an elegant American restaurant instead of just a fast food location, by the way.

The possibilities are endless, but the stories continue. Next two days: Why Epcot can never be what it once was and why it can. Come back as we conclude our week long look at the most forward looking of Disney theme parks.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Shelly said...

The real tragedy is that the ruination of Future World was the work of Imagineers, not accountants, as many believe. People who wanted to tear down the classic creations of the masters that preceded them, to show that they, talentless, were somehow better. Twas politics that killed the future. To see what else these geniuses dreamed up, one has to go no further than California Adventure 1.0.

Angela said...

I'd really like to see some new countries added to World Showcase. I don't want to see any of the leave, but make use of the empty space.

Mark Taft said...

I'm not sure I 100% agree, Shelly, but you raise an interesting thought. Who were the Imagineers involved in Imagination 2.0 & 3.0 for example? And were they just told to take on a project or did they initiate it? My Kodak contacts tell me they had something to do with demanding the changes.

Mark Taft said...

Angela, what would you put in World Showcase?