Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things We Lost in the Lower-Casing



I’m going to admit something that may seem heresy to some and will likely seem to most to be completely out of synch with everything I’ve ever written about EPCOT Center:

I never really liked the World of Motion.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Journey Into Imagination, either.

Now, look, I know that both of these attractions have huge fan bases, and that many lament their passing. Strangely, so do I. A lot. Ironic, since I wasn't terribly enamored of them in the first place.

True, I didn’t find them to be completely realized attractions that represented the best creative display Disney could offer. However ... they did something that Disney seems to have given up on doing, something that represents the spirit that "EPCOT Center" lost when it became "Epcot."

They offered elaborate, immersive experiences filled with detail and creative inspiration. (Note that I didn’t say “creative success,” because I’d rather something try to be great and fail than simply aim to be mediocre and succeed.)

World of Motion and the original Journey Into Imagination – the entire original Imagination pavilion, for that matter – sought to deliver experiences that, up until that time, were quintessentially Disney. These were the sort of meticulously designed, remarkably engineered attractions that represented the pinnacle of Disney's capabilities: They took the basic ideas behind the storytelling, which Disney had perfected in moviemaking, and re-imagined them in three dimensions. Like Disney cartoons, they might not have told complete, linear stories, but they did impart a definite sense of plot and purpose.

Their forebears, of course, were the landmark Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean: attractions that were so groundbreaking, so revolutionary, that despite being 40 years old they still draw round-the-clock crowds and delighted response from guests. Like classic movies and books, they are quite literally timeless – not rooted to a particular place or time (except in the most oblique sense), not created to be fashionable or “relevant,” just incredible examples of a sort of artistic perfection.

The designers of EPCOT Center recognized that these attractions weren’t simply great experiences –- they were so wonderfully unlike anything that had ever been offered by a theme park before, they had quickly come to define the Disney difference; indeed, they became synonymous with "Disney" in the eyes of many theme-park guests. This is what it meant to be Disney.

It made perfect sense, then, that the foundation for EPCOT Center’s experiences would be rides and attractions that used the same medium: three-dimensional “living” sets and “actors” who told a compelling story as guests rode past and through the scenes.

Disney had no trademark on this concept – which, at its most rudimentary level, had been used in carnival funhouses for decades. Anyone could have created similar attractions, and for a while, some tried. When I lived in Texas in the early 1990s, Six Flags still offered an attraction called Spelunker’s Cave, populated with strange little characters. Knott’s Berry Farm’s Calico Mine Train and Log Ride followed similar models, all recognizing the brilliance of what Disney had created.

But Disney did it best, and after a while, other theme park operators realized that they couldn’t compete with perfection. Cheap thrill rides and basic midway offerings (usually dolled up with a haphazard “theme,” of course) became the norm.

Disney stood alone. EPCOT Center’s Universe of Energy became arguably the most elaborate ride-through attraction ever conceived. At least, that is, until Horizons came along, offering an experience so memorable and perfect in tone and execution that it maintains a loyal following even though every bit of it was demolished in 1999.

Spaceship Earth uses Audio-Animatronic figures, narration, music and smell (what a brilliant addition!) to impart an incredibly complex message that leaves a few scratching their heads and other so moved that they set a career path after riding.

Together with the (in my mind) less-successful World of Motion and Journey Into Imagination, these grand, intricate attractions formed the heart of Future World – itself, arguably, the heart of EPCOT Center.

And then came the lower-casing, brought about by upper-case MBAs.

These attractions were expensive to build and maintain. Focus groups and exit surveys showed that people wanted more thrills. And, so, a great deal of EPCOT Center’s heart was ripped out and, with it, an enormous amount of the creative edge and leadership that Disney had spent so many decades developing.

I may not have loved World of Motion, but I know this: I miss it. Because what replaced it, as technologically advanced as it is, feels, well, less. It doesn’t feel like something no other theme park could ever offer. Is it an enjoyable ride? You bet. Is it so uniquely, utterly, compellingly Disney that I could never imagine seeing anything like it anywhere else? Nope.

Remember the awesome spectacle (not the stentorian narration!) of the images in the original Universe of Energy movies? True, these weren’t Audio-Animatronics, but they still represented the best of what Disney could create. Now we’ve got a talk-show host, a retired actress, a forgotten kids’-show actor and a historically accurate representation of Alex Trebek and Jeopardy! as they existed 15 years ago. What was fresh for a moment is stale in a way that the elaborate ride-throughs never became.

Horizons allowed us to savor what we were seeing, to ride it over and over and find something new each time, to appreciate the craftsmanship and creativity that went into its design and creation – as well as simply to be entertained. Apart from getting people horribly sick, the ride that replaced it is, in the end, nothing more than a tricked-out centrifuge with a small video monitor in front of you. Have I come to enjoy Mission: Space? Actually, yes – but it doesn’t make me yearn any less for what it replaced.

That’s because its predecessor wasn’t simply a great ride – it was the very definition of Disney, the difference that set EPCOT Center apart from any theme park anywhere in the world. No one could even attempt such exquisite, fanciful, elaborate attractions. No one dared try. Disney was the master of this craft, and EPCOT Center was the perfect place for the evolution of these experiences.

When EPCOT Center became just Epcot, all that changed. I enjoy what’s there, I really do – but I long for a time when Disney tried harder and achieved more.

By the same token, I love staying in chain hotels – just last night, I was at a Marriott. It was comfortable, it was convenient, it offered me everything I could possibly need.

A few weeks earlier, I stayed at a Ritz-Carlton. It was luxurious and it offered more than I could possibly want.

The Disney that created EPCOT Center and its remarkable, multi-faceted attractions and pavilions was like the Ritz-Carlton. It gave me experiences I never knew I craved, it offered me opportunities to explore and be amazed that I never imagined I’d have.

Like those Marriott hotels, Epcot is fully serviceable. There’s little actually wrong with it, I'll admit that. Not technically.

But when you go to a hotel expecting the Ritz but you find a Marriott, well, you’re disappointed.

You remember that the uninspired-but-pleasant building you're in once offered so much more. You wander around, looking in nooks and crannies, wondering where all that fine detail and effort have gone and why they didn't want to maintain it in the first place.

The Marriott's fine. The Ritz was so much nicer.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

They offered elaborate, immersive experiences filled with detail and creative inspiration.

You absolutely hit the nail smack on the head! I also feel that way toward the original Journey. Not a favorite of mine, but the level of detail and immersion couldn't be beat. That's a big part of what's missing in today's Epcot. The visual clutter simply masks the lack of detailed attention that made EPCOT so unique.

By the way, welcome back!

George

Anonymous said...

I have to say that it has been a while since I checked in on the blog here. And today I did and what did I see three new posts!

Welcome back, it is great to read your stuff again.

St. Chris said...

(I started composing this in my head after reading just a few paragraphs of the article. Seeing George use the same language tells me I'm not alone.)

Epcot82, you nailed this.

I was never terribly fond of World of Motion or the original Journey Into Imagination -- they were classically-composed Disney rides, but I never came out saying "Let's go again!" Contrast those with Spaceship Earth (and yes, smell! Rome burning!) and Pirates of the Caribbean, which I have ridden over and over and over, shamelessly.

I feel strange admitting this, but I never rode Horizons. I'm a huge Epcot fan, but...I don't know, is this a stain on my record? Have I actually never experienced the true soul of EPCOT Center? I first visited Epcot in 1994 and returned once or twice before Horizons closed, and we just didn't go on it at all. "Horizons?...don't know what that is...let's ride something else." I never even knew what it was until I started reading Disney fan web sites in the past few years. Well, jeez, now I know. I can just hope that the Spaceship Earth update really does capture some of the Horizons spirit, as I've heard.

Again: Well stated, Epcot82. Test Track and Mission: Space are good theme-park rides. (The last two generations of Journey Into [Your] Imagination really, really haven't been.) But Epcot, and Disney as a whole, commands a far higher standard than "good theme-park rides."

DeeJay said...

I wish I had something more profound to write right now, but I just wanted to let you know how much I missed your commentary the past few months. Even occasional entries would make my visits to the internet worthwhile.

Regards

DeeJay said...

To be clear, I'm not asking you to make occasional entries, but stating that even if you only made occasional entries, they would be worth the wait.

Take care

Anonymous said...

Exceptionaly true...I'm still shocked that you don't like Figment though...=p

MrTumnus said...

It is impossible for me to put into words how much I enjoyed (and agreed) with this post. I am thrilled to know you're writing again - so much so, I am posting for the first time... Just to say, Please keep it up!!

- Jack

Zach said...

Great article, but I have to disagree. I liked WoM and loved Imagination and Horizons. But saying Test Track and Mission: Space are just 'theme park rides' is just plain wrong. These rides are every bit as much "disney" as their predecessors. While these rides were more traditionally disney in the vein of classic attractions, what says disney to me is not simply omni-mover aa ride throughs with a good theme song. It means a memorable, unique experience that no one else could pull off and that takes you to another world. TT certainly isn't perfect but you have to admit it is one of a kind. Same goes for M:S. No other company has the r&d resources or imagination to create them.

So while I may find Test Track's theming bland, that doesn't make it un-disney. On the other hand Mission: Space has great theming, story, and technology. It is not all it was hyped up to be, but it is still a great attraction.

My final point is, different is good. When EPCOT opened, virtually every attraction was exactly the same style of omni-mover aa show with different content. A well rounded park needs variety. The MK has great omnimover / aa rides, but it also has roller coasters, flumes, shows, and more. As good as WoM and Horizons were, some of those rides simply had to go to diversify the park.

With that said, shuttering horizons when the dud UoE (which has never had anything good beyond its early preshow which was incredible) sat open was a crime. And what they did to Journey is almost unforgivable.

Epcot82 said...

Thanks, all, for such great comments. It is good to write about EPCOT again, and great to read your responses!

Test Track isn't a bad ride. But what does it tell the rider about the automotive experience -- that cars can get up to 65 mph and they go over bumpy tracks when being tested? The potential was enormous to create a massive, immersive experience that redefined what a Disney attraction could be. Disney settled for a fairly innovative ride system; a middling "story"; and an environment that looks like a giant Costco. Do I enjoy Test Track? Yes, every bit as much as I enjoy a "movie-themed" roller coaster at another theme park -- it's not a matter of whether the ride's good or not, it's the potential I look at. It's the Marriott vs. the Ritz.

Mission: Space is another story altogether. Those of you who have read EPCOT Central frequently know that I've changed my tune on this ride to a certain degree. When I first went on the ride, I hated it beyond measure. I've softened somewhat. It's fun. It's nauseating, frightening, claustrophobic and intimidating, but it actually is kind of fun.

But the reality is, they tore down a wonderful experience to build a flat-out gorgeous structure ... that's just a glorified queue area for a tiny little ride in the middle. The ride itself -- and I mean what I say here -- is no more than a hyped-up version of a "Round-Up" type carnival ride, albeit with TV screens in front of you. It spins you around and around really, really fast, and for most kids the pleasure is not in "going to Mars," it's in seeing if their friends get sick.

Everything leading up to the ride itself is unbelievably good. The queue area is beautiful, the building is magnificent, the sense of place is without peer. But the ride itself is this little tiny thing and it's an experience that most people I know have no interest in repeating once they've done it. Once you leave the ride, it's as if Disney designers said, "Aw, who cares anymore what we do?" It's like exiting through a backstage hallway of a movie theater.

Maybe I overstated the case when I called them "cheap thrill rides" and referred directly to EPCOT (that's an epithet more directed at The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and California Adventure). And you're right -- should every ride be "the same," an Omni-Mover attraction? You raised a good point I hadn't considered.

But in the end, those types of experiential attractions are what used to set Disney apart from everyone else. Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens, Six Flags -- none of them can create those extraordinary experiences that take 20 minutes to savor and transport you briefly into a different world or plane of thought.

I want Disney to take me on adventures I've never imagined, to open my eyes to ways of thinking I've never considered, even if momentarily. I don't just want a thrill. That's not what EPCOT Center was designed to be, and now that it's what Epcot has tried to become, it's clear how discomfiting that transition has been.

Zach said...

I definitely agree on Test Track's wasted potential. It is an innovative ride system wasted on a just passable ride design and story. I think the queue is themed wonderfully but the actual ride is a missed opportunity.

As for mission:space, I think you're missing something else that makes disney disney. Sure M:Space is a centrifuge ride and there are plenty of those around. However, there are no centrifuge rides where the motion is done to serve a fairly engaging story and the environment is themed incredibly well. This compares well with Splash Mountain. There are many, many flume rides in the world but none that can match Splash Mountain for many of the same reasons: theming, story, etc. Basic concept, Disneyfied. Just like Mission: Space.

Briefly on other points: I think you'd be hard pressed to say the M:S experience doesn't take you to another world, and not just the film. The exit queue is a gaff, but a minor complaint. The bottom line is that M:S and Test Track to a degree are both still experiential attractions that Disney is known for, they are just different type of ride systems to the classic omnimover. They don't take 20 minutes to savor because of the nature of thrill rides being shorter experiences, but they (at least M:S) are no less of enveloping experiences.

As for Disney taking you on adventures you never imagined - I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. For me the point of Disney is making the imaginary real. Pirates and haunted houses are nothing original, but their execution is unbeatable.

EPCOT is growing and diversifying. It could not survive as an omni-mover only park. These new attractions don't just offer a thrill, they offer a thrill in addition to the experiential entertainment that makes Disney so special. EPCOT has drifted away from its original goals of education which saddens me, but WoM never really did that anyway. The real travesty of WoM is the cheapening of the exit area which used to inspire w/ the future and now is just a showroom. Horizons is dearly missed and I hope some of its idealistic futurism spreads to other attractions as they go under rehabs.

Thanks for the response, it is a pleasure to discuss all of this. I miss old EPCOT as much as the next disneyphile, but I think there is a real tendency to denigrate the new attractions out of spite for replacing our nostalgic favorites instead of seeing them for what they are. They aren't omnimovers with Marc Davis gags or Sherman Bros. themes, but they are fantastic in their own ways and should not be shouldered with the burden of not being their ancestors.

Chastise Disney for cheaping out on things like Chester and Hester's or California Adventure, but give things that imagineers were actually allowed to put their hearts into with a relatively loose pocket book a fair chance.

dean..,. said...

I agree that a variety of attractions is essential to the vitality of a theme park. But there are two aspects of the early roster of EPCOT Center attractions that I think are important to note.

The first aspect is that high capacity attractions were considered essential to handle the large crowds the park was expected to generate. Disney had discovered that Omnimovers and Small World type bateau were extremely efficient at the other parks. The Travelling Theaters in Energy are exceptionally high capacity. The current "thrill rides" struggle to maintain any sort of capacity.

The second aspect is that EPCOT Center was designed as a fairly cohesive experience. I feel that the ride experiences were intentionally designed to be similar to each other to tie them together, (with Future World having experiences slightly different from World Showcase). The pavilions would be almost like reading chapters of a book: the content is different in each chapter, but the presentation is similar. It wasn't until Disney started changing out the original rides that people started noting that the park felt "disjointed" to them.

I do see it possible to present a cohesive Future World with a variety of attractions though it is going to require a special effort to pull it off. Test Track needs to have it's theming overhauled to make it a complete and futuristic experience, (cost-cutting industrial is not a theme). It could even be an offshoot of the Super Driver exhibit persented in Project Tomorrow show. And I agree that Mission Space disappoints on certain levels though I enjoy it's forward-looking tone. It's unfortunate that it couldn't have been a related post-show to Horizons.

I'm glad we can have these discussions here again.!

dean said...

As for the "Disney experience", I have found attractions such as Knott's Calico Mine Tain, and their Log Ride to be every bit as "Disney" as Disney was at the time they were built. To me they are a bit of nostalgia I can no longer experience at Disneyland. Knott's even had their Beary Tales attraction designed by Rolly Crump. I have also discovered the Chocolate Tour ride at Hershey which has a complete Arrow-built Omnimover that passes through a very enjoyable and immersive experience. So there truly are endeavors that approach the Disney experience, but just not as consistently.

Zach said...

Good points Dean, it is certainly possible to get the Disney feel without being Disney. See the comparisons to the Dueling Dragons queue and the Indy Queue. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the Disney touch was a collaborative effort of individuals who may or may not have been strictly associated with the company.

Re: capacity, I don't buy this. They hard learned this lesson in 15 or so years of operating Disneyland yet you don't see major changes at the MK. I can see the counter argument to this but I'm still not convinced. Capacity is extremely important, but still only one ingredient in the recipe.

I agree EPCOT feels disjointed compared to it's opening. Part of this is that originally most of the attractions told the same story through a different corporate rubric (GM, Exxon, AT&T, etc). This did create continuity but also created redundancy.

This wasn't all bad, they all tried to portray the optimistic futurism of the park, but to me it felt like they ran out of creative gas and recycled things throughout the park on some of those original rides.

Don't take this as a knock on the whole park, it had and has some of the finest elements of any Disney park, but couldn't they come up with something other than an omnimover trip through a wacky past followed by a utopian future?

On to the present/future, I think it is entirely possible to reclaim the unified feeling and the message of futurism in the park. Test Track could use a complete re-theme ala Superstar Limo. The investment in the ride system and track could be saved and re-deemed while still changing it up and making it fit the rest of Epcot better. IMO Test Track is probably the most incongruous thing in the park and re-theming it would do a LOT to help out the entire park.

Thanks for the lively discussion!

Anonymous said...

Zach wrote: "but couldn't they come up with something other than an omnimover trip through a wacky past followed by a utopian future?"

Couldn't they come up with something other than a thrill ride in which you're recruited to go on a mission via a B-list celebrity's video message, and then ... something goes horribly wrong?

Couldn't they come up with something better than slapping Disney character overlays on to existing attractions instead of completely rethinking or redeveloping them in a creative, exciting way?

Couldn't they come up with something better than another wacky comedian -- whose "popularity" peaked 20 years ago -- against a dark background on multiple screens, trying desperately to say something funny in a show that doesn't need something funny?

Couldn't they come up with something better than taking a popular -- and very good! -- ride from California Adventure and plopping it into Epcot for no apparent thematic reason?

Given all of these "couldn't theys," of which there are no doubt plenty more, I'll take a wacky glimpse at the past followed by a look at Utopian futures any day. At least a rose-colored, Utopian vision inspired me to imagine living in a world where something even remotely similar was possible. I left Horizons feeling elated, I left Spaceship Earth feeling dazzled, I left The Living Seas a little more aware.

Not just slightly dizzy, queasy and ready to move on to the next thing.

Zach said...

You misunderstood what I was saying. I had no problem with that ride setup. I have a problem with them using the same basic ride story and ride system for 3 out of the 7 major early attractions and keeping the same ride system/style for 4 out of the 7. This is disproportionate and made for an unbalanced park.

The thing with all of your complaints is that none of those things are happening more than once at the current Epcot.

Now let me briefly reply to your comments:

1)M:S- what does it matter how big of a celebrity stars in a pre-show? Does that really lessen an experience for you? Sure the something goes wrong bit is overdone, but what story would you prefer? we get on a ship, fly to mars and land safely without any incident? sounds like a blast.

2) Rio del Tiempo needed help. It was extremely dated and needed updating. I'm not a big fan of throwing characters on everything but I thought they did a decent job of trying to breathe some life into the ride without perverting it. Although I miss the cheezy films.

3) I have no idea what ride you're talking about. Sounds like Ellen, but how could she have peaked in 1987? Unless you're talking about the new Canada film which I haven't seen so I won't comment on.

4) Soarin' fits the land thematically. The land is being slightly re-tooled to be more broadly about 'the land' and not just agriculture. Soarin' is a film showcasing primarily natural settings. The film isn't a perfect fit but I'm hopeful that the current film is temporary until they get the budget to shoot a more appropriate film for the pavilion. The set up in the queue seems to suggest this.

Your line about how you felt leaving these attractions helps prove my point. The Seas is no less informative (though I miss the Alpha theme and original film dearly), and SSE is no less dazzling and set to be even more so. Horizons is gone yes, and you don't like the replacement as much, but your opinion is obviously based on nostalgic emotional attachment to how you felt when you used to ride them. But Disney can not pander to nostalgia alone or they will die. They need to create new experiences for new generations and continue to plus the parks. M:S may leave you dizzy and ready to move on, but I can't count the number of kids I've seen throughout the park going on and on about their role as pilot and how they saved the day. These kids are touched by the experience, the ride is so immersive they really believe in it. That is Disney magic.

It may not be what you grew up with, or what you like better, but that does not mean it is without merit. That doesn't mean these things are perfect or that there are not many ways that Disney can improve EPCOT and all of WDW, but that is the way they always have been. Step outside yourself and your emotional attachments and try to see things as they are.

Anonymous said...

"Disneyland would be a world of Americans, past and present, seen through the eyes of my imagination--a place of warmth and nostalgia, of illusion and color and delight."

Anonymous said...

That was a quote from Walt Disney. Forgot to add the attribution.

dean said...

Those are all really good points. My comments were really only to propose some possibilities why the original attractions shared certain similarities, and how they contributed to more cohesiveness throughout the park. It's a very valid observation that applying a similar approach to each attraction, (whether intentional or not), produced a certain amount of "sameness" in some guests' opinions.

Interesting enough, if things had gone a bit differently The Living Seas, Wonders of Life, and The American Experience would all have had extensive Omnimover style shows as well. After all, Epcot82 is correct that at the time of EPCOT Center's design, the pinnacle of Disney showmanship was the passive ride through these immersive experiences -- and unfortunately, it's true that some of those experiences realized at Epcot Center were less successful than others.

I think a lot has been stated in these comments to support that a formulatic approach is not always going to produce top notch results. Each attraction has to be evaluated on it's own merits while adhering to a few guiding principals that support the theme of the park. Whereas I feel that the Nemo ride is a quality production and can be enjoyed in it's own right, it fails in adhering to the fundamental principals of Future World. It should have been a futuristic exploration of the Seas first, with the supporting characters coming second.

I think what many have come to expect of Epcot is a certain earnestness and dedication towards the ideals of the company's founder. It's what produced that special "feeling" that many felt after visiting early EPCOT Center shows. I feel that "anonymous" honestly expresses the frustration that people currently feel towards Disney's recent approach that sacrifices these ideas for formulatic entertainment.

Zach said...

Anonymous- that quote is completely inappropriate. Walt was referring to UNIVERSAL nostalgia for 'mythic' times - Main Street USA, Frontierland, Liberty Square - these are universal whether or not you have lived in these times.

Nostalgia for a certain ride is nowhere near this level. It appeals to a very small percentage of the population of people who visited EPCOT in its early years (mostly those who were children at the time). You cannot run a billion dollar theme park catered to a niche market. If you want to seriously discuss the merits of the older and newer rides do it with logic and fact. Try to be a constructive, objective critic instead of just throwing a tantrum about how things aren't as good as they were 'in the good old days'.

Dean - I 100% agree with you on Nemo. I appreciate the changes they made to keep enough educational things and realize they need to stay fresh, but I sorely miss the futurism of sea base alpha.

I also agree Epcot has in places lost the central theme of future world (nemo, and test track specifically). I'm really torn, I see the unifying theme of Epcot slightly slipping but I am glad WDI is venturing beyond the omnimover to create a more diverse park. I think under new management it is entirely possible to reverse the negative part of this trend while still keeping the positive.

I don't agree at all about the new changes being any more formulaic than the originals. In fact I feel they are much less so. Go back to '86 epcot and break down the formula of each ride, then do the same now and you'll see what I mean. Not only were these early rides formulaic and repetitive, but they weren't even original to EPCOT and were just new versions of what had been done before it at MK/DL.

I think Anonymous and many EPCOT fans get lost in their own vision and can't see things objectively. They expect the parks to be designed for them, to preserve their memories. Miss them all you want, but don't be so self centered to think the parks should cater to you.

I miss Mr. Toad, greatly, but I understand that it was underperforming and that the Pooh ride has it's own merits and brings joy to many. I don't like it as much, but obviously many many people do as the lines for Pooh are far greater than Toad's ever were.

I miss Horizons but I realize that the structure was unsound and had to be razed. I'm glad WDI took a chance on dreaming big for a potentially revolutionary attraction not seen anywhere else instead of just replicating what had been done before.

And so on and so forth. Fight to makes things better, don't just complain that things are gone without giving a fair shake to what has replaced them.

Captain Schnemo said...

I don't buy the notion that there was anything wrong with the number of original Omnimover attractions. The dark ride has always been the "classic" Disney attraction, in that Disney produced the gold standards (Pirates, the Mansion) that no one ever came even slightly close to. The fact that Islands of Adventure has had the best dark ride on the planet for almost a decade should embarrass Disney.

To complain about uniformity in the original EPCOT ride systems misses the point. It reminds me of people who say they "don't like anime". There is such diversity in the medium, that's akin to saying that you don't like books or movies or music.

There's nothing wrong with the medium, which can support infinite diversity. There was perhaps too much overlap in content between Spaceship Earth, World of Motion, and Horizons. They all used the same past-present-future scheme, but Spaceship Earth and Horizons were beloved because they were top-quality. World of Motion would have gotten more respect if it had been meatier. I doubt many people would complain about a park full of masterpieces, even if they all had similar propulsion systems.

The lesson to learn from the response to World of Motion was not "need go fast!", but "need better show!", and the dissatisfaction with Test Track doesn't stem from the ride system, it's the unbelievably lame theme.

I'd say the unhappiness with most of the new attractions is more directly related to the blown possibilities (as Epcot82 has explained) and the depressingly small aspirations than nostalgia for boxes moving past robots.

Boxes moving past robots can be a transcendant experience or an exercise in boredom, just like any other art form. If there were a park full of Horizons-quality dark rides, I wouldn't even care if the thing had bathrooms. (Well, maybe I'd care a little.)

I don't actually object to diversity in ride systems, or thrill rides in general (Splash Mountain being a classic template for giving the audience both thrill and show). Nothing wrong with getting the blood flowing. I just don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with a park full of Omnimovers, as long as the experiences are significantly different, and each individual attraction is outstanding.

I suppose in the case of Horizons, there's an element of "OK, you tore down one of the greatest attractions in history...whatever you put in place better friggin' be amazing!", but I don't think that's the explanation for the vast majority of complaints.