Monday, May 22, 2006

Mission: Replace

I’ve finally had the chance to experience Mission: Space for myself, and it’s an experience I’ve lived to regret.

Whether due to the immense publicity around the tragic deaths of two guests who rode it or due to the sheer intensity of the ride experience itself, my overriding sensation while on the attraction was one that I have never had at a Disney theme park – panic.

True, utter terror filled me as I tried to focus on the single goal of getting off of the ride and having it be over.

Mission: Space is not for the faint-of-heart, that’s for sure. No doubt there are many people who like the ride, but don’t count me among them. After the three turbulent, fearful minutes I spent inside the “space capsule,” I could only marvel at how far Disney has gotten away from the ideals and values upon which its theme parks are built.

This is not a ride for families to experience together. Putting a six-year-old child on this ride virtually qualifies as abuse. It is neither inspiring, educational, entertaining nor fun; none of the qualities that infuse the best Disney attractions are anywhere to be found within Mission: Space.

I’m convinced that, within a few years, Disney will accept that the only thing that can be done is to replace Mission: Space with an attraction that explores the awe-inspiring majesty and grandeur of space exploration – but this thing doesn’t even come close. (In fact, its basic premise isn’t even one of going to Mars, of taking part in the first Mars mission, but rather of training for such an experience – as if instilling a sense of wonder and excitement about space travel were beyond the capabilities of Imagineers.)

The day I visited, the wait time for Soarin’, across the way from Mission: Space, was 75 minutes, but the space-themed attraction was a virtual walk-on. It seems that guests are shunning even the modified, “less-intense” ride. Technologically, Disney has created something truly one-of-a-kind; on every other level, it’s a travesty.

Mission: Space is about as far away from the original concepts behind Epcot and behind the Disney theme parks as you could possibly get, and that’s a shame. The building that houses it is stunning and beautiful, inviting and graceful. Behind that façade is a shining example of everything that is wrong with Disney’s theme-park design these days.

It’s a ride that few people will want to experience, fewer still will truly enjoy and that comes replete with so many dire warnings and precautions – my favorite being, “You may experience motion sickness during and after this adventure” – that it would be comical … if it weren’t so downright, well, wrong.

If Disney absolutely had to close an attraction on Epcot’s east side, I think they chose the wrong one.


Scott said...

Funny how I just mentioned the new Orange/Green Team on my blog. Personally, I enjoyed Mission Space, but I have an interest in space travel. However, no, it's not a family ride by any means. Even I, who has a fairly strong stomach, felt odd for a while after riding. That was definitely the only time I rode it on my last trip.

The Green Team is a step in the right direction as far as family-oriented is concerned, but then it's hardly better than any other simulation ride like Star Tours.

For most people, I believe Mission Space will be a one-time ride, with few going back for seconds. Unfortunately, Future World East has undergone the most change, and not necessarily good change. In a perfect world, no pavillion would be closed without a slated replacement, but it doesn't seem to be the case with Wonders of Life (and Horizons before it).

Hopefully the new regime will start to put EPCOT back on the right track, especially since EPCOT's 25th anniversary is only 16 months or so away.

Anonymous said...

Mission Space is really half assed compared to what the original plans were for it to be a more full out pavillion. The originally planned postshow even featured a simulated Space Walk and all sorts of cool stuff, much better then a McDonald's Playplace and some generic looking computer games.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree more with a comment, especially the part about putting a six year old child on this ride qualifying as abuse.

My six year old son and I rode Mission: Space over and over again in early November 2005. We both loved it. And my son hates "thrill rides." (The fact that he could not see how it worked makes it not a thrill ride in his eyes.)

And as far as it being educational, I guess as it is presented, it's not too educational. However, I was able to explain to my son how the ride was a big centrifuge and how it spun and turned the capsule to simulate motion by fooling your inner ear. (Of course, I tried that on as much of a six-year old level as I could).

And as for me, I feel worse after riding Big Thunder Mountain than I do after M:S.

Epcot82 said...

The best part is, we can disagree! :-)

It has really been interesting for me to see the comments that are posted here and that I've received via e-mail. The responses have been running about 50/50 -- with those saying they didn't like it also vowing never to ride again. Not exactly what you expect from a Disney attraction!

Anonymous said...


I couldn't disagree more with your take on Mission: Space.

Does it have educational value? Sure, as you can explain to kids that this the centrifuge is remarkably similar to training actual astronauts receive. And when are you going to get to go on anything remotely close to that short of an expensive stay at Space Camp? What's not 'entertaining, inspiring and fun' about playing astronaut trainee for a day?

If you're looking for a ride that's a "travesty", might I suggest Test Track? A shrine to GM vehicles with a half-baked thrill ride tacked on during which you learn... well, mostly about GM.

Epcot82 said...

Explaining the concept of the ride's mechanism to children isn't really the educational value I think could be infused into a pavilion about space travel. Did you learn anything about Mars, about future space flight, or even about astronaut training while on Mission: Space?

Given how many ways they could have gone with an entire pavilion about space exploration and spaceflight, it's a shame that they chose the route that would turn off and alienate so much of Epcot's audience.

Besides, four days after my Mission: Space experience, I think I'm still woozy.

Anonymous said...

I love thrill rides. I also love classic Disney-style themed entertainment. I hated Mission: Space. I was excited to follow its construction -- even though Horizons was one of my favorites, the planned ride sounded promising and the exterior was indeed beautiful. But then it opens, and what do I get? A bland set-up by Lieutenant Dan and the closest approach to vomiting I've ever had at a Disney park (except when they put up the big sorceror hat). I swear, if the ride was just 1 minute longer I would have had to reach for the barf bag. And I NEVER have that feeling. I'm a huge roller-coaster nut. I can even handle the Mad Tea Party ;) But Mission: Space was a huge disappointment. I've never dreamed about being the first person to puke on Mars. When are they going to build something inspiring again?

Anonymous said...

Great question, Andy!

I just couldn't enjoy the rest of my day after Mission: Space.

Anonymous said...

Great blog for a formerly great park (R.I.P EPCOT Center.) But that's another argument all together... (OK - Epcot is still a decent park, just needs some more love and positive fine-tuning.)

Mission:Space seems to have strictly love/hate appeal. Although I'm not fond of the attraction in the slightest (felt like I was just about to vomit and/or pass out the entire ride), I can understand why it has a fanbase. Unlike Test Track, Mission succeeds in it's execution. Even though it's a far cry from the attractions of EPCOT yesteryear (e.g. Horizons), it actually has a place in Epcot, albeit not everyone's cup of tea. You couldn't pay me to get on it again (not even the new Mission-lite version), but I'm not going to sit here and chastise others for liking it. Like you said - agree to disagree. But for the fans of Test Track...heh-heh... well, I just don't get the appeal to the ride at all.

Viva El Rio Del Tiempo!

- Mike
Tampa, FL

Anonymous said...

Hurray! You have finnaly hit the nerve to get the comments rolling. Love the blog and hearing from all these Epcot fans.

I LOVED Horizons, but will admit to liking MS. I'm not dismissing anyone's complaints though, people don't drop $60+ for a day pass so they can get Vertigo and barf in the beautiful landscaping hours later.

The funny thing here is the "MBA suits" you villify should totally of figured this one out. Seriously, any statistical sampling would say you have a significant amount of riders who not only didn't enjoy the ride, but were so turned off by the physical effects of the experience that it wrecked their entire day or longer! It should of taken them a matter of days (not years) to come up with the new system. If I understand this correctly, there are 2 centrifuges and 1 will spin as is (extreme version) and one will be slowed to cause less G-Forces and hopefully less physical problems on the riders.

Heck I'll go so far as to say no one should get to ride the extreme version without first experiencing the toned down version.

Epcot82 said...

You're probably right, Cliffcot, but ... the ride's visual effects are only a notch above basic videogame stuff. Do you really want to sit in front of a small monitor to watch some mediocre computer graphics?

Anonymous said...

My wife and I rode MS twice during a visit two years ago. I remember being underwhelmed the first time, but tried again for kicks. I think what disappointed me is that it seemed little more than a carny ride with Lt. Dan. Although I don't remember much about the activities in the rest of ride (wanted to type pavilion), I do remember thinking that there was a real lost opportunity for a fun space stuff.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy Mission Space, but I also think it is in the wrong park. It would be far better suited for the Disney/MGM Studios. The experience is too gimmicky and not nearly as epic as the rest of the park. As is, I think the ride needs serious work to be considered the headliner Disney wanted. As cool as the Gary Sinese puppet is (notice how you never see his legs in the preshow video, even with it's 9x16 aspect ratio), it lacks the educational base, and even the storytelling, required for a completely satisfying ride. After over 15 rides in two months, I an still not sure if we are just training or actually supposed to be on Mars (Capcom's line about you not having training and the 'don't move a muscle' ending contradict the training story.)
The ride also has a serious lack of knowledge in astronomy. Hubble is higher up in space then the International Space Station, and a launching rocket would never pass that close unless it was attempting to dock. The asteroid sequence is completely unrealistic, and the 'interactive' parts are just corny.
That said, the ride remains very fun, and in the context of a different park would be close to a classic. I just wish the ride film was more realistic and that it had several different ride sequences (like Tower of Terror) picked randomly.
My opinion on the ride should be followed by the disclaimer that I like Test Track (Though I don't love it... I see it as a D ticket with an E ticket's line...) and think there are other problems more pressing at Epcot then these two rides.

Epcot82 said...

I was too busy fearing I was going to have some sort of crazed breakdown to notice most of the details. That's not really the experience I expect or want at a Disney theme park!

Anonymous said...

Did you sit on one of the middle two seats or the far left/right seats? I feel that the spinning motion is far less effective from the outside seats because they face the same direction as the center two seats instead of towards the center of the centrifuge. They are much more disorienting then the center seats. I am convinced that the majority of people made sick by this attraction sat in the poorly designed outer seats.

Epcot82 said...

Interesting. I actually did sit on the far left side. That said, I don't think I'll be experimenting with the center seats on my next trip -- I'll stay away from Mission: Space! I didn't like the "orange" experience at all, and I'm not interested in riding the "green" and basically sitting in front of a small monitor with so-so CG animation. No, I'll just skip Mission: Space this time around.

Anonymous said...

You're definitely right about not trying the green side. It is quite dull. The only two parts that come close to being memorable are at liftoff (when the car leans you back 90 degrees) and the part over mars where you lean forward like you're falling. The green side takes the ride's gimmicky setup and removes the gimmick.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but one could argue Mission:Space was always on the drawing board for EPCOT, just read David Koenig's book Realityland to find this out. The technology just never was right until recently.