Siemens and Disney have announced that Spaceship Earth will be getting a major overhaul soon. That should be good news. Why do I feel it’s not?
With this renovation of Spaceship Earth, it appears Imagineering is putting the final nail in the coffin of EPCOT’s once-grand theme – exploring our world and our place in it by examining overarching subjects.
No one reading this needs a history lesson, but to put it in context, EPCOT Center was designed to take guests on journeys through subjects that are critical to our understanding of our world: energy, health, transportation, imagination, the land and the seas. When the much-missed Horizons was added, it served to bring all of these concepts together – we could see how all of these coalesced into a whole, and what they might mean to our future.
Central to all of it was the idea that communication – both in concept and application – was vital to our lives. Spaceship Earth was the literal and figurative centerpiece of EPCOT Center. It reminded us that as much as man strives to better himself and his world, nothing can be accomplished without effective communication systems.
EPCOT Center took the idea of a “theme park” to new heights. The theme was the whole reason for the park. Even if World Showcase seemed like a separate concept, it wasn’t – after we learned about the ideas of the world we live in, we had a chance to meet the people with whom we share our planet and our hopes.
Over the years, EPCOT’s theme has eroded, and the description of the “new” Spaceship Earth degrades it further. At this point, EPCOT Center is truly gone; Epcot is all that’s left. Here’s the description:
On a trip through time inside the Spaceship Earth attraction, guests discover how each generation of mankind has invented the future for the next generation, and how the spirit of innovation has moved people from the caves to the cosmos.
So much for communication. So much for helping us understand how everything at EPCOT fits together. So much for the dream (no matter how wild) that the brilliant theme of EPCOT Center might ever make a comeback.
“Innovation” is the new theme, and it feels wholly generic, as if there is no passion left anywhere for EPCOT, as if Disney and Siemens are simply struggling to find something interesting to put in the attraction – an attraction that, even as it is now, is something of a classic. (Remember what Dear Abby used to say, “If it ain’t broke ...”)
They seem to have seized on the idea of “time machines” (which is, funnily enough, what the vehicles have always been called) and the oh-so-trendy idea of allowing riders a level of interactivity.
There’s not a lot to go on from the reports, very little that’s concrete, other than the loss of the “communication” concept and, by extension, the effective end of the ideas, concepts and vision that originally brought EPCOT Center to life.
This was an opportunity for Imagineers to look deeply at EPCOT and say, “How can we revive some of what made it so special, some of that theme that was such an intrinsic part of the park’s creation?” They did have that opportunity, and it appears they didn’t take it, that they opted instead for something that can be easily marketed (“travel into the past – and into your future!” – wait, didn’t they shut down a ride like that, called Horizons?) and easily sold as an “adventure.”
I guess I can’t fault anyone for taking the easy way out, because, hey, it’s the easy way. But they had an opportunity here. And they missed it.
(P.S. Guess what? Disney appears to say the wand's not coming down, either.)