Saturday, June 17, 2006
A Convenient Theme?
Anyone who has seen the documentary An Inconvenient Truth knows that, no matter your political leanings, Al Gore makes a persuasive and insightful case for learning more about the future of our all-too-real and fragile Spaceship Earth.
As I watched Gore talk about transportation, energy, farming, the world’s oceans and the use of satellite imagery and the Internet, it dawned on me that he was talking about all of the basic concepts inherent in EPCOT Center. Not the hyper-commercialized, overly thrillivized Epcot that exists now, but the EPCOT Center that was originally conceived by Disney.
After all, Gore argues eloquently that it’s our lack of understanding of the impact of our choices in transportation and energy that are impacting Earth in ways very few of us truly comprehend. Though it could be argued that Gore’s elaborate PowerPoint presentation, which forms the backbone of An Inconvenient Truth is a bit left-leaning, it’s also illuminating and captivating. It makes you want to learn more about the topic, to gain a better, more personal understanding of the issues and our future.
In short, it accomplishes what EPCOT Center originally set out to do.
It would be fascinating to see Disney Imagineers (led by the rather left-leaning John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Ed Catmull) use Gore’s basic outline to rethink and re-imagine Epcot.
Think about what such a re-thought Epcot might contain, starting (as so many guests do) with Spaceship Earth.
The ride inside the geosphere could be redesigned to offer a basic introduction to, well, Spaceship Earth. Instead of focusing solely on communication, it could use the ride as a way to discuss the fragile nature of our planet and our own role in ensuring its health and vitality. The communication aspect would still play a major role, explaining how man can reach out beyond borders to share information and ideas.
Once you’ve exited the ride, the interactive pavilion at its base could be used to learn more about the various climates, geographies and people who live on our planet – a nice way to tie World Showcase and Future World together: we all share responsibility for Spaceship Earth, so we should all learn more about each other.
The Universe of Energy pavilion could lose its Big Oil sponsorship and instead become an “independent” pavilion that seeks to introduce guests to the newest and most promising non-fossil-fuel based energy sources. In the update pavilion, guests would ride through time and learn how different energy sources have been used throughout the world and over time – and how the development of new sources can lead to a better environment.
Instead of GM’s Test Track, Toyota could sponsor a new attraction at the old World of Motion pavilion that retains the basic ride system but takes guests on an adventure through alternative types of transportation. Instead of a gas-powered car, Toyota can showcase how hybrid technology (or even hydrogen technology) can provide a ride that’s as fast and exciting as any you can get by burning gasoline.
The Land would retain its basic structure, but more closely focus on how the Earth’s resources are slowly being depleted, and how new research is developing new technologies for farming that don’t harm our environment. Soarin’ can be used to take a dramatic tour of Antarctica, the Amazon, Africa and other the other places that have been ravaged by global warming, delivering a fun ride while raising a bit of awareness – and ending with a hypothetical view of a future world that has been saved from disaster.
The Living Seas already showcases the beauty of the oceans, but could add more of a focus on how global warming is raising ocean temperatures, and what that is doing to life above and below the surface. Turtle Talk With Crush can deliver the message in a fun and compelling way.
No doubt there are more ideas; I haven’t even touched on Imagination!, the now-defunct Wonders of Life or Mission: Space, all of which could be subtly or completely overhauled to match the theme.
Suddenly, the Epcot experience would seem cohesive and would have a story that stretches throughout the day. It would inspire people to learn more about their planet and their place on Earth; it would encourage them to think about the future and the things they can do to ensure that it is a happy one.
Epcot could truly be inspirational, educational and fun – and, possibly, even help save the planet.