Monday, May 08, 2006
The Real Wonder
What went through their minds?
When the decision was made to shut down the Wonders of Life pavilion, what could Disney theme park managers have been thinking?
Was it too expensive to operate? Guess what, guys? Running a theme park is expensive – if you don’t think it should be, you’re probably in the wrong business.
Were the attractions too old? Old, perhaps, but also timeless. Outdated? Absolutely. But that’s nothing that five or six million dollars (chump change in this business) couldn’t have fixed. Create new film elements for the Cranium Command attraction; you’re taking kid stars and a small crew here, not particularly expensive. Heck, you could have even gotten away with keeping Charles Grodin and Bobcat Goldthwait; yeah, maybe Hanz ‘n’ Franz needed to go, but you could have found a stable of relatively inexpensive talent in your Disney Channel lineup.
Granted, that Making of Me attraction was getting a little embarrassing, but it could have been redone for another few million bucks. Spend another five million upgrading the movie in Body Wars and another on giving the place an upgraded paint scheme and redoing some of the bicycling-through-the-U.S. movies (some shots just screamed 1980s) and you’d be done.
For thirty or forty million bucks, tops, you could have had an entirely upgraded pavilion.
Instead, you shut it down.
And spent five times that amount on Mission: Space. (Not to mention the fact that your parent company is spending about five or six times that on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest this summer.)
I don’t get it. I really don’t. Once again, you’ve taken an attraction that was wholly unique in the Florida market, and a rarity in the entire world, and you’ve trashed it. Literally, this time around.
It just makes no sense to me that someone thought it would be better to have a massive golden dome that sits empty and barren, prompting puzzled questions from guests, than inject some money into revising and updating it … and, in the process, losing what more than one travel writer thought was the best attraction at Epcot (the aforementioned Cranium Command).
Did it not enter your minds that a ghost-town attraction would speak unintentional volumes about the level of commitment Disney has to its theme parks? That guests might be put off by realizing they spent 50 bucks to get into the park, but their money isn’t actually going to maintaining the park?
The real wonder is how these people keep their jobs.
Wonders of Life was a great experience. For those only interested in seeing big-ticket attractions, it offered two (one of them complete with a terrific Audio-Animatronics figure). For those interested in exploring more, it offered a myriad of opportunities – all of them in air-conditioned splendor. It was a respite from the Florida heat, a way to learn a little and laugh while doing it, a place where parents and kids could spend time together, an experience that left you even just a little more aware of your own body.
Yet, without a corporate sponsor, it was left to be neglected and, ultimately, abandoned.
The Wonders of Life once perfectly embodied what EPCOT Center was all about. Today, it perfectly embodies the level of interest and support that Disney gives to Epcot. Unintentionally, perhaps, Disney created its newest symbol in that golden dome.