Much of what I loved at Florida's second Disney park no longer exists. Reflections of Earth is gone. The epic but long gone adventures of Journey into Imagination, Horizons, and World of Motion now only exist in my imagination, and their replacements are a mere shadow of what originally was purposely and beautifully designed. Those days are gone as is the promised future of many more World Showcase pavilions.
Is help on its way or more pain as the revisioning of the park continues? Love it or not, Imagineer Zach Riddley is certainly keeping us up to date with the tiniest of details. He wants to convince us it's more than his job to bring this park back to a pristine and refreshed state, that it's a personal passion for him. So far, the results are mixed. Yet, the biggest wins are in areas where the park is returning to elements from the past, so maybe we can begin to believe him. We've yet to see the coming future, but I'm trying to be open-minded. I've already said this, and I'll say it again: We are the reason Epcot is changing.
With so much gone, what's left to love? Plenty! Wide open expanses of gardens filled with blooms. Large bodies of water that reflect the morning sun and the evening sunset. The classic and still inspiring Spaceship Earth, the retro--cool Living with the Land boat ride, and a little figment of my imagination. He certainly needs a better attraction, but his sheer presence harkens to what could be.
That's it- potential! I find it in the optimism that abounds in the faces of the hopefully soon to return international citizens that populated the mini-nations of World Showcase. The beauty of the films of France, of China, and yes, even of Canada. The live music, the cultural exhibits, the stunning American Adventure production- one of Disney's most incredible attractions. I find sweetness and humor in the Gran Fiesta Tour, in Frozen Ever After- and soon in Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. These are far from perfect and could be much better, but they counterbalance the tones of the more serious aspects of the park.
It's when the sun begins to set for the day when Epcot comes alive and my appreciation and love for the park truly grows. How can any guest not look at the pavilions of World Showcase lit up against an evening sky and the calming lagoon and not get that sense of elegance and sophistication all around that brings a smile? That leisurely evening stroll with a treat in hand (liquid or otherwise) as the local music plays, the pace relaxes, and the rush to run from attraction to attraction turns into an embrace of the time to take in all the exquisite views that abound. Maybe an attraction, an exhibit or two. Then it's dinner! Choosing a favorite place to sit still, have some warm conversation about the day's events, and some fairly good food (if you choose wisely) is the perfect way to begin the night time touring. For me, the later the dinner the better, as we can walk out through the park and take in all the countries with most all the guests departed for the day. It's quiet and almost sacred in its serenity. I'd choose it over an exhausting day at any other park.
Can you sense why I love Epcot? Hopefully that continues with all the changes to come. The big blue box annoys me, and the giant metal tacos ruin a once gorgeous view. Shuttered Future World pavilions remain, and construction seems to be everywhere. Yet, I'm not giving up! I'm optimistic that more good changes are coming than bad ones. The optimism is in me- and I remain cautiously open to the park's future. Do you?
(Photograph copyright Zach Riddley and The Walt Disney Company.)