Thursday, December 13, 2007
The Future, the Past and Constant Change
I'm back. I'll be honest about the fact that I've not been keeping up with the blog, and I'm sorry for those of you who come back here regularly looking for a new post. In part, it's because after the deconstruction of the wand and the passing of the 25th anniversary of EPCOT, there hasn't been a whole lot to talk about. But mostly, it's because, not living in Florida, I haven't been to EPCOT recently.
Yes, I've seen the pictures of those truly horrid, unnecessary and ugly "security" gates at EPCOT. (Honestly, while I realize WDW is an attractive target, in the past six years, has anything truly warranted this kind of person-to-person, put-borders-around-the-park security, or is this just our national paranoia and Disney's "risk management" group working hand in hand? Those gates just remind us that Disney wants to control our every move, and no longer in subtle, elegantly designed ways.
I'm as eager for you to experience the newly refurbished Spaceship Earth, and while I try to be optimistic, I can't help but already be disappointed by the Orlando Sentinel's report that the communication theme has been dropped for a generic "inspiration and innovation" concept. This means that, almost completely, the original design for EPCOT has been wiped away -- no longer do each of the pavilions represent a key aspect of human nature or our environment that we must learn and study to become responsible "passengers" on Spaceship Earth; now, all EPCOT is saying is we need to be inspired and have a lot of fun. That subtle distinction will be lost on nearly everyone who visits. But for those of us who grew up studying and admiring EPCOT Center, mesmerized by what it tried to do and how it worked, there's a massive disappointment that Imagineers and John Lasseter didn't try harder to make Spaceship Earth the first return to EPCOT's ideals, rather than the latest departure.
Many of you will once again send me notes and post comments that I'm simply a thick-skulled purist who doesn't want anything to change. That actually couldn't be further from the truth. Like many, I'm both fascinated by and skeptical of change. I want the world, my own life, and even theme parks to always be changing, growing and improving. But the latter word is the key. If change is simply made for its own sake, or to give up on a formidable challenge, then it's not laudable. It's just change. EPCOT is continuing, it appears, to just change.
So, who cares?
Well, click on the YouTube video at the top of this post. You may have seen it recently; I just discovered it, and it reminded me today of why yesterday's vision of the future was so compelling, so optimistic ... and so exciting.
This is the sort of opportunity that Walt Disney imagined "The Future" held for all of us. I was entranced by this video clip, which is absolutely genuine, produced by Philco and starring a young Wink Martindale. It shares the same clear-cut view of "The Future" that infused everything EPCOT did from 1982 to about 1997. Our lives were going to be better, we should rest assured that the world would be a fantastic place ... and it would just keep on getting more and more incredible, opening up to us new opportunities, new possibilties.
The most astounding part is how much this video got right. Likewise, EPCOT got a tremendous amount right, too, from fiber optics to touch screens; from globalization to our need to search for alternate energy sources to the potential of The Living Seas. It showed us that we needed to understand our bodies and minds, and even offered us glimpses of what new technology would do for us. Just like this educational film, EPCOT didn't proceed from a place of skepticism (as I acknowledge I do more and more as I age) or commercialism. Yes, of course, this film was produced by a corporation, I realize that. But it promised us wonderful things ... and it was right.
We believed we could do anything in the 1960s and 1970s. We believed there truly were possibilities, that technology, science and exploration would continue fueling our progress. And look what happened.
It makes me sad to contemplate where we'll be in 41 more years.
And it makes me sad to see EPCOT's grand vision and design fading away even further. I sure wish EPCOT Center could make a return. To quote That's Entertainment ...
Boy, do we need it now.