September 19, 2014

Listen to the Land and Keep Frozen Out of It

"Just make believe..."

Any long time fan of the original EPCOT Center will be able to finish the song without even thinking twice. 

I loved the song "Listen to the Land", the Future World pavilion and all it contained. The revolving Land Grille Room was a favorite place for breakfast- a tradition for every trip to Epcot, back when guests didn't have to rush to Soarin' or choose to get a Fast Pass for Test Track over on the other side. 

Please don't misunderstand. Soarin' is a favorite (especially in California Adventure, where it fits perfectly). Test Track is also much loved. (Although I sorely miss World of Motion. It was always "Fun to Be Free"!) There was just something simpler and truly more special about a trip to the World back then. Epcot was a world of exploration and wonder not animated films.

Kitchen Kabaret was cute and informative in the midst of one bad premise. Animatronic Food? It's as bad an idea as fruits and vegetables teaching Bible Stories and bound to be just an unsuccessful.  ;)

Symbiosis was geeky cool, but the centerpiece was Listen to the Land. It still is- and it remains a strong reminder of what Epcot used to be, it's mission and it's purpose.

I wish the Disney suits would still listen to the land.  Frozen does not belong in Norway at World Showcase. The Three Caballeros have no business ruining El Rio del Tiempo. Nor does Martin Short belong in a film about Canada. The lovely once elegant World Showcase countries need to promote their culture not their reference to Disney animated films. In spite of how well the Imagineers can bring us to Arendelle, it is incongruent with the theme and purpose of the park to take us there. It may be a lovely ride with Elsa, Anna, Kristof and of course, Olaf, but the journey belongs at Disney's Hollywood Studios or at the Magic Kingdom.

Ellen Degeneres doesn't fit in Universe of Energy, but I can give her a pass. I can even somewhat forgive the inclusion of Nemo and friends in the Living Seas.  They can be used to entertain and educated if done well; if they do not dominate the pavilion or its purpose. 

Yet it's a whole different story when it comes to cultures of our world. This isn't It's a Small World. Nor should Epcot's World Showcase become that attraction on a larger scale. The nations have unique and interesting histories and mythologies all their own. Disney animated characters are not needed to tell their stories, nor are stars of television and film.

It's a cheap and easy route to go this direction, but it is a wrong move. C'mon Disney suits. Just Listen to the Land. Be Brave and reverse your direction. It's not too late. Don't worry, though. I'll ride the Maelstrom replacement. I may even love it. And, yes, I'll eventually quick arguing for the integrity of the greatest theme park and  Let It Go.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)


Jones said...

One perfect summer evening back in 1995, I was walking around the Lagoon with my then-girlfriend.

I did not have to check my Fastpass times (there were no Fastpasses back then), nor did I have to check my iPhone for upcomming reservations I had made 6 months earlier (there were no iPhones back then - no, really, I am not kidding you, kids - check it on Wikipedia if you don´t trust me) - all I had to do was immerse myself in the sights, sounds, smells of the place and keep thinking that life probably would not get much better than this.

Along comes a small family - mom, dad, 2 kids. The girl looking unhappy, the boy crying. I want my future biographer to take note that it was exactly at that moment that I let go of all hope for mankind in general and for the future of Epcot in particular, for the boy was not just crying, he was also shouting words that haunt my dreams to this very day. Thus cried the boy: "I hate this place! It´s like school!"

And this is why nothing can shock me anymore, not even a Frozen ride in the Norway pavilion...

"To know this land´s heart and soul... to discover its spirit. It´s a spirit that knows a quiet sense of timelessness." Sounds just like Olaf, the snowman, doesn´t it?

(pls pardon my English, i am not a native speaker)

Mark Taft said...

Nice post! Thanks for reading. (And your English is incredibly good!)

Harry said...

Nice blog post Mark. I can recall the early days of EPCOT CENTER, when you went into a different world. There were no Disney characters of any kind. You had to look hard at the manhole covers to see Mickey ears inside the D logo. That was it.

As I recall, in the troubled days of the Disney organization just before THE LITTLE MERMAID renaissance, they were actually considering selling EPCOT CENTER to another owner.

Now, it's certainly become more kid-friendly place, and I don't suppose that's really too terrible a thing. I don't mind Donald invading Mexico - he's my favorite character.

And I think the FROZEN ride will end up being a good thing for the Norway Pavilion. Their ride has always needed a bit of improvement.

I always hated the bright eye in the dark at the start of the ride as you're going up the ramp. The best part of the ride comes next as you encounter the trolls who force you back "over the falls".

Then you get dumped into a sea with oil derricks - not exactly a dream vacation...

Then the ride deposits you in this lovely little village where you have to wait around for the doors to open to let you into the movie.

By then half of the visitors are fed up and storm through the theater instead of watching a movie.

Bottom line is - as charming and non-Disney-centric as it was, it needed improvement, and I think that's where FROZEN will come to the rescue.

Also, thank you Jones for your 1995 perspective. I remember those times well - and your English is great.

Mark Taft said...

I agree, harry. It can be a great attraction if done right. Thanks for reading!