Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Epcot-city of Hope


Yes, it's a play on words, using the title of President Obama's book. But it's also what many Disney fans wish EPCOT Center had become -- that shining city in Central Florida with a massive spire at its heart, streets and businesses radiating outward from it in circular fashion.

There's a reason the notion of an EPCOT city has persisted for more than four decades. Though situated in the flatlands of Florida, as soon as it was introduced by Walt Disney himself, a few weeks before his death, it became the proverbial city upon a hill, with the eyes of all people watching.

EPCOT the city represented hope, an assurance that the ills of the civil-rights struggle, of violence and war, of poverty and disease could be put past us. Walt Disney, who just 38 years earlier was a struggling, near-destitute cartoonist, was the man who could make it so. If he could make us believe in our childhood dreams, allow us to experience adventure and fantasy ourselves, take us to the bottom of the ocean and bring life to a magical nanny, if he could make us forget our troubles on screen, he above others could make us forget them in real life, too.

When he introduced the concept of EPCOT as a city, Walt Disney promised hope.

He assured us that the turmoil that surrounded us on a daily basis could become distant memories if we applied enough innovation, creativity, dedication and vision.

When he died, the plans for the city mostly died with him ... but, Alexander Pope told us in the 18th century, hope springs eternal.

Hope for a better future. Hope for understanding and prosperity.

In 1982, we saw that the grand ambition may have died, but the hope it represented was still alive. EPCOT Center was not Walt Disney's promised land, but it embodied many of its ideals. It offered a glimpse into a future world in which we could actually solve our problems -- and gave us the seeds to take home and plant that could grow, one by one, into solutions. It presented a view of a world in which Mexico and Norway sat next to China, in which Italy and Japan, our enemy 40 years earlier, flanked the United States. The world, EPCOT Center promised, could live in harmony.

We are once again facing a time of uncertainty, unhappiness, fear and disillusionment. But where is the hope? Today's Epcot tells us that while there are things to discover, mostly life is about entertainment and thrills. Sit back, relax, enjoy the ride, forget about the real world, forget about your troubles, just have fun.

EPCOT the city and EPCOT Center the theme park reminded us that the future is in our hands. The only thing Epcot leaves in our hands is a Fastpass and an airsickness bag.

We need hope. We need Disney's incredible creative minds to show us again that the eternal flame of possibility hasn't died, no matter how meekly it may be flickering.

12 comments:

Sarah said...

Reading this post while listening to "Tomorrow's Child" kinda gave me goosebumps.

And I never realized how deliberate the placement of Japan and Italy was.

Adam said...

Does Disney still have incredible creative minds? I think they all left. Bureaucracy is anathema to creative people.

Anonymous said...

Tying EPCOT and Obama's bromides together have gotten old, extremely quickly. Enough already!

EPCOT has substance. Obama is a bunch of fluff.

Epcot82 said...

He's also our President and, whether you agree with him or not, someone to whom literally hundreds of millions of people are looking for guidance. It is entirely appropriate, given the cultural zeitgeist, to refer to President Obama, even if EPCOT Central doesn't agree with some of his policies. However, since we're not conservative Republicans, we don't have any deep DISLIKE for him and his presidency at the moment, and since he has clearly struck a chord within the American public, references to his new presidency may be seen in the future, as well. Fair warning.

As for the "Epcot-city of Hope," read the headline again. The inspiration came from Barack Obama's book, and EPCOT Central was giving credit where it was due.

Scott said...

>>EPCOT the city and EPCOT Center the theme park reminded us that the future is in our hands. The only thing Epcot leaves in our hands is a Fastpass and an airsickness bag.<<

I think it leaves more than this in your hands. Having just been there in January, I know my kids took away a curiosity about the countries represented there, especially Norway (for some reason), and were impressed by the history of communications in SSE. I never visited Epcot before 2003 or 2004 (don't remember when we first went), so I don't have anything to compare to, but I still think there is some quality to the information presented. Just my opinion.

Epcot82 said...

There may very well be, Scott. Thanks for pointing this out. It may be like comparing the elementary school experience I had -- complete with "frivolous" play time, films, sharing and activities -- with the "No Child Left Behind," testing-based experience I hear about so often today. Kids still learn. Just differently, and perhaps -- perhaps -- not quite as well.

There used to be a wonderful tourism kiosk, staffed by a Norwegian, where people could ask all sorts of questions about that amazing country. Likewise, within Future World there was a Teacher's Center, where greater insight could be had about some of the ideas presented. It's not that EPCOT is useless ... it's that there's so much untapped potential within its borders.

It's delightful and hopeful to hear that your children found it inspirational!

Anonymous said...

Um, I am a Conservative Republican and I read this blog all the time. So speak for yourself. There are plenty of other leaders on both sides of the political spectrum, who have made inspirational speeches over the years, like Ronald Reagan or FDR for example, who can easily be quoted when discussing the optomistic fondness for EPCOT that we all feel. You're entitled to your political opinion, but having an unbiased agenda would probably have a stronger effect in making your point, than constantly pushing the leader of the left on us. You make great points without needing to get political, and part of why I enjoy this sight is because it's opened the doors for an unbiased discussion. But the constant shoving of Barrack Obama's agenda down our throats, makes this blog feel divisive and unwelcoming to those of us on the right who share your views on EPCOT but not on politics. This is why I've stopped watching award shows. Don't make me stop checking this sight now too.

Jack said...

Er..... I thought this was Epcot82's site. Hence, it should be his vision!

Are you really serious about this site being divisive and unwelcoming? Honestly??

No one here is forced to read this blog. If it doesn't suit your tastes, write your own!!

How about this: why not use this comment field to make an analogy from your point-of-view. We'd all read it, and I venture to guess it would be far more interesting than hearing about your hurt feelings.

And just because I've made myself part of this ridiculous argument; I am a conservative (though not Republican) and I would never have voted for President Obama. I just don't feel disenfranchised because Epcot82 stays true to his vision.

Epcot82 said...

My intent is not to be biased or left-leaning, whatever my own political views are (which might surprise some). I don't believe I am shoving Obama's agenda down anyone's throats. However, I am commenting on the times in which we live and how what I am hearing and seeing TODAY ties directly into the ambitions and designs of EPCOT. This is not, nor will it be, a political blog. But just as EPCOT was designed to reflect the world in which we live, so this blog may do from time to time.

Anonymous said...

I appologize for taking my comments as far as I have. I misunderstood the comment about "conservative republicans", and I'm a little sensitive because I'm a little over the constant negativity towards Conservatives or Republicans by the left even if it's subtle. EPCOT82 is more than within his/her rights to post anything he/she wishes about anyone or anything he/she wants. It is his/her blog. And it's a blog I frequently read because of EPCOT82's incredibly articulate insight on something I feel very passionate about myself. So if I've been offensive or over the top, I appologize. I was more or less trying to make a suggestion to stop the political arguments but became emotional and took it further than necessary. I agree that this shouldn't be a political blog. That's what my post was intended to say. Sorry if it angered anyone. It wasn't my initial intention.

Epcot82 said...

I think we should try, very hard, as a nation and individually, to get past the labels (even the ones we give ourselves) of "conservative Republican," "liberal Democrat," "evangelical," "left-wing," etc. We're people. We want a better future. We can acknowledge -- at least most of us -- that the people and ideas that scare us may have some merit. We need to work together, to accept that we are tied to this "Future World." It starts with each of us. Your reply is a very nice way of taking a step in that direction, and is appreciated!

Ed Rhodes said...

I can kinda give you this. I actually understood Disney leaning against the "THE FUTURE IS GONNA BE AWESOME!!" sell since no one right now thinks that. It's a sign of the times more than anything else. The masses don't want to think about the future and just want to escape. That's what Disney is appealing to right now