How to Save Epcot, Epcot Past, Epcot at 30, etc. There are so many posts on the Insights blog that focus on this once glorious theme park. Why?
It's creation was cutting edge, coming from the best that the world of entertainment, education, international business, and even corporate America had to offer. There was a sweet, some would say naive, optimism that grounded the park, bringing together the World in such a way that caused us to embrace the very goodness that the Creator of the Universe put into Man but was lost in his fall. The Imagineers stuffed the park with one of a kind shows, filled with a variety of art, music, and experiences.
The concept which opened to the public in 1982 was not what Walt Disney envisioned, but it did contain some of the elements and much of its spirit. Guests would be intrigued and pleased by the variety of experiences available in both World Showcase and its neighbor Future World. Not everything would be exactly the same from one location to another. The merchandise would be unique, and the food would be deliciously different in each country.
Attractions in World Showcase would vary from film presentations to boat cruises to a ride on a high speed train, a bobsled, a walking path, an Audio-Animatronics experience and more. Folktales and legends could be told without having to squeeze in synergy with current Disney product. Guests would enjoy the very different feeling from visiting this park and visiting the Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT Center was a success, no doubt, but a small number of folks that required foam head characters for a complete vacation experience complained just loud and clear enough to force change to the park and begin the character invasion.
Somewhere along the way in the effort for increased popularity, the suits lost faith in this product. Perhaps they let greed or public opinion sway them. Regardless of the reason, the original vision for this grand park died, and many unbuilt projects were left by the wayside.
Such was the unfortunate fate of the Costa Rica pavilion (image above) once beautifully designed by the Imagineers for World Showcase. Even though the area was to include this beautiful conservatory, it just wasn't meant to be. And it was more than just not finding the right corporate sponsor.
Somewhere along the journey, it wasn't just the Walt Disney Company that had changed. Sadly, guests to the park lost their innocence and with it a desire for a richly authentic cultural experience, making it easier for the suits to continue this slide downward from the higher plans it once had. Maybe it was all the wars and political strife that killed the innocence. Perhaps the focus on consumerism versus relationship. Could it be the success of the Food and Wine Festival and the drinking around World Showcase games that have become popular? Maybe it was the doting parent who needed to overindulge little Johnny and Susie with every whim. Pleasing the children at all costs instead of teaching them about the world and what made each of us different became the focus. I guess none of it really matters. The park as it was at opening was past its time.
(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)