Friday, September 15, 2006

35 Random Thoughts

I'm heading off on a long-planned vacation today, including a lengthy stop at Walt Disney World and Epcot. I'm almost hesitant to go to Epcot after all I've been writing; will it be better or worse than I remember? What kind of changes will I see first-hand?

Meanwhile, some random thoughts on the past, present and future of EPCOT Center and Epcot that are running through my mind.

1. Do something about the wand … please!

2. Traveling the world is something that no one should miss the opportunity to do, but so is seeing Epcot.

3. Disney’s upcoming “celebration” products use a generic “Disney Theme Parks” logo that looks terrible; is Disney intentionally trying to ruin its Theme Parks business by making all of its parks seem alike, much like Six Flags?

4. I really miss Horizons – or, more to the point, I really intensely dislike Mission: Space.

5. Clam-mobiles?!

6. I’m almost going to miss seeing 1970s cars in the Canada movie.

7. Epcot has the coolest, most unique landscaping of any theme park in the world.

8. Love the Fountain of Nations; who doesn’t?!

9. Why don’t they make more Epcot-specific merchandise?

10. Given how large the Mission: Space pavilion is, it’s too bad they didn’t put in a cool space-themed restaurant.

11. Rio del Tiempo aside, the Mexico pavilion is pretty extraordinary and deserves more than a casual glance.

12. The museum-style exhibits in World Showcase deserve more attention from guests and from the park’s marketing “managers.”

13. Those marketing “managers” seem to know less and less about marketing every day.

14. Is piranha still on the menu at the Coral Reef Room?

15. It’s too bad they don’t still create unique matchbooks all around Epcot; matches are for much more than lighting cigarettes!

16. How did Epcot move from getting us jazzed about “Corporate America” to making us so cynical?

17. Who won the Person of the Century poll?

18. Is it really that hard to find a sponsor for Wonders of Life, and if it is, couldn’t Disney fund it on its own?

19. What purpose do those awnings in Innoventions Plaza serve?

20. The woman who used to narrate the opening film in The Living Seas had the coolest voice.

21. I miss the giant IMAX-sized DNA strand … they should add that to Soarin’ and really freak people out!

22. Is it really that hard for Disney “managers” to understand the concept of “family entertainment”?

23. Take down the wand!

24. Epcot’s entry plaza looks like a giant war memorial.

25. If the France pavilion’s Eiffel Tower is based on “original blueprints,” as tour guides allege, how comes it looks so … odd?

26. Aerial shots of Epcot show what an amazing amount of land is still open for development in both World Showcase and Future World.

27. Norway is the most charming of the World Showcase pavilions.

28. I miss the “authentic,” non-princess version of Akershus.

29. It seems a woefully low percentage of guests really take the time to explore the China pavilion.

30. Illuminations: Reflections of Earth may be the best show Disney has ever created.

31. The Simpsons notwithstanding, Epcot simply isn’t “boring.”

32. Why does Disney care so little about what its biggest fans have to say?

33. Has there ever been a more pointless piece of real estate than Odyssey Restaurant?

34. Please. The wand. Do something.

35. Epcot has moved from being opimistic and hopeful to being crass and cynical (represented so well by the sideshow-style hawking kiosks where they try to sell you on the Disney Vacation Club and Leave a Legacy). I hope one day someone at Disney will re-discover Epcot's true voice.


Brian said...

Yep, I agree. Especially with the wand. :)

We went to Akershus thinking _maybe_ we could have a normal meal, but they really have chopped up and simplified the menu and shortened the salad bar. I remember having some of the best damned Norwegian food ever at that restaurant, but 60% of the menu is now missing.

And it was creepy when Cinderella came over to say "hi" to my Dad & I.

So we left and went to China, which was surprisingly good - and I say this as a Seattle resident who has access to lots of great Asian food...

The wand though... ugh.

Anonymous said...

Oh goodness...with a laundry-list entry like this, you've inviting seven tons of randomness, aren't you. Well, three thoughts:

1. I thought you were stopping at 82?

2. When I last visited in 2001, the wall map in the China pavilion didn't even nominally acknowledge the existence of Tibet. I was infuriated. I thought World Showcase was about people living in community -- well, I guess the communities are gated by the people with the guns. Funny, they don't show the guns at Epcot.

3. Is Odyssey even open anymore? The building's a little out-of-the-way, but it does house a busy and convenient restroom, which is all I've ever seen of it. But what would one do with the restaurant? How to theme it? What was it like when it opened?

Anonymous said...

The odyssey resturant is far away, because of a sinkhole they didnt find until construction

Mr Banks said...

36. Do something about that god forsaken WAND!!! WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

The music seems to have taken a negative turn, as well. Remember John Denver's "The Land"? Even the crap with Figment and that damn "Imagination" song were at least unique to EPCOT, not generic Disney-ish sounding music throughout the park.

By the way, I think the Rio del Tiempo is about the best place in EPCOT to grab a nice nap :)

Anonymous said...

Agree about the music, even the old synthesizer music from when Epcot first opened seems better than what they're playing now in the front of the park.

BTW, Its scary that Im familiar with all of those comments posted. I want to know who won the Person of the Century poll too!

Ivonne R. said...

First of all just wanted to say that I hope you enjoy your vacation. You picked the perfect time to come since the crowds have really died down. My friend and I are probably going this weekend because of that reason. :)

Also I agree with you on...well...all of them! Especially #20. I always wanted to find a recording of the narration from that movie because her voice was awesome. Especially when she says "The Deluge".

And yes Mr. Iger. Tear...this...wand...down!

Anonymous said...

I am infuriated by this statement:

“2. When I last visited in 2001, the wall map in the China pavilion didn't even nominally acknowledge the existence of Tibet. I was infuriated. I thought World Showcase was about people living in community -- well, I guess the communities are gated by the people with the guns. Funny, they don't show the guns at Epcot.”

TIBET IS NOT A PART OF CHINA!!! Tibet is a sovereign nation according to everyone on earth except the PROC and apperently this poster.

Why would Tibet be included in a map of China? People get upset when they think Ireland is being represented in the UK pavilion. Millions of people around the world would be up in arms if Disney suggested Tibet were a part of the Peoples Republic of China.

And, no they don't show the guns at Epcot because World Showase is about people living in a community.

“The government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Tibet in Exile, however, disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether this incorporation into China was legitimate.” - from Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

And, no they don't show the guns at Epcot because World Showase is about people living in a community.

An armed community is a polite community! ;^)

Anonymous said...

6) I'm going to miss the entire Canada movie (assuming it is going to be compleatly redone). It's definately the best film in the World Showcase. I love the cool horses-walk-in-a-circle opening and the hokey song at the end.
12) I love the museum in Morocco. It feels like one is somplace they aren't supposed to be because it is so quite and out-of-the-way.
17) has an article about why the polls were closed.
19) A little bit of shade. I have spent a lot of time in the plaza there, and the areas covered are definately cooler then the areas not blocked. The idea is that if you move, it is cooler then nothing, without sacraficing the view of the tall stuff. You can say it looks tacky and cluttered all you want, but I think it is cool. You are right about it not quite meshing in style with the communicore buildings, but I think it succeds on it's own merrits. It looks very cool when looking back in front of the ferry docks, and it is definately better in person then in pictures.
24) I agree. The designers got the shape of the monument right, but it looks ugly. The plaza is too hot and unshaded, and I think the whole thing is too obtrusive.
30) I've seen the current Illuminations show twice and both times was dissapointed. I remember the old show's pavillion interaction being a lot cooler. Does the problem have something to do with the fact that I saw the show both times from the france area? Is there a better place to see the show? Any suggestions?

Epcot82 said...

Oops. I originally tried 82, but I was pressed for time. Forgot to delete that line!

I don't personally miss the interaction with the pavilions during Illuminations because the show itself is so compelling. I'm sure there are hundreds of different opinions on where to watch it, but I actually do like the France area ... maybe you can give it yet another chance. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think next time I try to see the show will be around christmas (where I hear it has a cool ending about "let there be peace on earth: WITH LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS").

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" (one of them) replied:

"Why would Tibet be included in a map of China? [...] Millions of people around the world would be up in arms if Disney suggested Tibet were a part of the Peoples Republic of China."

I know where Tibet is, and I'm guessing you haven't seen the map I'm talking about. The wall map in the China pavilion (as of my last visit) showed China in its larger geographical context. In the map, Tibet is encompassed by China's border without any marking to indicate that it is or ever was "Tibet."

Your fury and mine are one and the same.

Scott said...

"let there be peace on earth: WITH LOTS OF EXPLOSIONS"

LOL!!! Funniest thing I've seen today.

Even I, a staunch wand tear-down supporter, got a little tired of reading "tear down the wand" in so many words, though. We got it the first time (but maybe Disney didn't).

I really need to get back to my blog and update, but school has been crashing down upon me. I'll get around to it soon


Anonymous said...

35 POSITIVE Random Thoughts (don't know about you but I am sick of all the negativity and complaining within blogs - especially disney related ones)

(fyi - I am not saying that this blog owner is always negative - but does tend to complain a lot about the negatives instead of the positives )

1. At least Epcot is updating things year-to-year for better or worse - its still something new to look at
2. The fact that any country is represented in any theme park is cool to me
3. I still love Spaceship Earth to this day!
4. I think Mission Space is a very fun ride for those that can handle it because it is the only ride I have ever been on that gives kids (mostly teens) the chance to actually feel (realistically) what it is like to take off in a space-shuttle ( they use centrifuges in real life training ). To me it is a VERY welcome addition to EPCOT because it still focuses on the learning aspect of EPCOT.
5. Illuminations ROE timed fireworks are sweet!
6. Illuminations ROE timed music to the fireworks is even sweeter!
7. Illuminations ROE fire barge is hot! literally!
8. hmm ... Illuminations is just ... awesome! and worth the trip to Epcot all by itself imho.
9. To me, EPCOT is the only park I know in existence that you could actually enjoy the day at without riding a single ride. There is SO much to see visually that most people don't even notice and are missing out on that I highly recommend to anyone that has not tried it to just go to EPCOT for a day and explore without riding a single ride (by that I mean anything with a line)
10. I dated someone that I cared very much about back in 1999 that the two of us did the "leave-a-legacy" and it brings back good memories everytime I see it when I visit (we don't date anymore - and no I am not a stalker :) )
11. The park is always less crowded then the other parks because its so big and there is so much to see and do
12. I believe the best Ice Cream you can get in all of the disney parks is in The Land Pavillion in EPCOT - dam its good!
13. Even though its a bit pricey - the fact that you can do a liquor shot unique to every country and "drink around-the-world" is something you will never see anywhere else! Thats SWEET! (for those of drinking age of course hehe)
14. Do you know anywhere else in the world that you can sit next to a huge fish tank with exotic fish (and sometimes has scuba people swimming in it )to watch while eating dinner? I sure don't
15. EPCOT is a great place to be even when it rains because there are so many in-door activities unlike all the other disney parks where they get crowded and you almost always get wet
16. The frozen flavored daquri stand in Mexico is awesome since it gets so hot in Florida most days.
17. Is it not cool that Disney hires people from other countries to be the hosts in each of their respective countries within EPCOT? (especially the hot German girls)
18. If rides were around forever (no matter how nostalgic they might be) wouldn't EPCOT be more of a museum instead of a theme park?
19. The only park that you can see the inside from overhead because the monorail goes through it is pretty sweet
20. The fact that EPCOT and MGM are so close so you can time watching both Fantasmic AND Illuminations ROE in one night is nice.
21. EPCOT's Norway display is the best country hands down ... trolls rule!
22. For all the complaining about Test Drive being "garish, overloaded exterior clutter and been-there-done-that ride system" just think .. in a few years it will probably be replaced with something new again just like horizons and world of motion!
23. Free unlimited cold coke products in the freeze station building!!!
24. The jumping water has remained in-tact ever since its first creation and is still fun to watch kids try to jump in front of it
25. The fact that you can watch the night-time show from almost anywhere in the park is sweet since every other park you have to be looking a certain direction or you will miss half the show
26. Hibachi grills in Japan are a lot of fun to eat at!
27. Most of the people working in EPCOT are actually well educated and you can have friendly, intelligent discussions with them about whatever the related subject matter is in their pavillion.
28. Mexican It's a small world! Who would have thought! they should make It's a small world from every countries perspective!
29. The boats are a nice relaxing way to get around EPCOT when you are tired of walking around that giant circle
30. Yes, there may be video games in the park that you could play at home ... however, I miss the days of the arcade and I welcome more games as to make more of a fun environment that you can compete against others
31. Did I mention you can get drunk at EPCOT?
32. No matter what you are in the mood for food wise - you can find it all in EPCOT - every other parks food is themed to the park itself in most cases)
33. I think EPCOT is the one truley romantic park to walk through out of all 4 since it focuses more on its layout with fountains and gardens then any of the other parks..
34. Less screaming kids in EPCOT (yea a little negative but I looks at that as a positive :) )
35. Still the best way to cool off for 20 minutes in ALL the disney parks without having to stand and wait much at all is riding Spaceship Earth!

ok - so most of those aren't random thoughts versus random points .. but I could have just turned them all into questions to make them look more like a thought :) haha ... anyways .. enjoy and let me know what you think .. and I do tend to agree a lot with the person who writes this blog. I just wish they (he/she) would try to take a positive side to things more often then not

Anonymous said...

I think most of those reasons are why we are at this web site in the first place. I would add Epcot's amazing architecture and layout to the list of reasons to love it as well.

Anonymous said...

"EPCOT...will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."

Anonymous said...

1. Anonymous's quote above is from Walt's Florida Project presentation, regarding the original concepts for the city and industrial centers -- it's only tangentially applicable to the EPCOT Center that was built. Still, good god, I wish it were so.

2. jeffsheiman, you rock. I respect and enjoy this blog, but after months of reading this, Re-Imagineering, and other complainathons (go ahead, tell me with a straight face that Epcot webfandom these days isn't a complainathon, including my own comments), I've been literally dreading my trip to WDW coming up in December. You have put it back in perspective. Now I'm as stoked as ever. I owe you one.

I'll see your point #14 and raise: Where else in the world can you dive in a huge tank with exotic fish and watch people eating dinner? All it takes is a current scuba-diving certification and a surprisingly reasonable fee. My housemate did that during our trip in 2001, and will be doing it again on Saturday, December 9.

But point #9 is the best: "To me, EPCOT is the only park I know in existence that you could actually enjoy the day at without riding a single ride."

This is hugely important. Epcot is a park, not just an amusement. It's my favorite park at WDW -- hell, it's my favorite place in the world. I can enjoy a whole day at Epcot without getting in line for anything. Well, except for the bus, but hey.

Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Epcot is a park, not just an amusement.

You guys are GREAT! Like a slap in the face -- I needed that! There ARE so many great things about Epcot.

It's really the world's uber-park. You hit it on the head. International Showcase is a winner.

The Futureworld concept can work because it does work. It's not working now particularly well, but that doesn't mean it can't get there. I just can't understand why sponsorshops can't be rustled up. Isn't the Seas sponsorless right now? That place is stunning, gorgeous, a really well-designed seas pavilion. I just don't buy that sponsorships aren't out there. The problem is elsewhere.

Such great reads on this site! And to hit a major point: Epcot is a park, not just an amusement ride exposition.

Anonymous said...

Expressing disappointment with the current state of Epcot is not so much a "complainathon" as it is a celebration of everything that made the park worth obsessing over in the first place.

Unlike a terrible sequel to a classic movie, we can't continue to enjoy the original Epcot feeling after it's been bulldozed. We can always go back and watch the original Jaws or Rocky movies, but Horizons (or a suitable substitute) is no longer accessible to us.

I trust most of us are here because Epcot's original concept and execution tickled our neurons in a way we'd never felt before. Epcot was something very, very special and while a Pixar-themed fish shack can be cute and fun and interesting, it's not at all the same thing as an optimistic vision of the future that one would expect to find in Future World. I don't think it's unreasonable to be disappointed in a future featuring the imagery of fossil fuel-powered cars burning rubber on asphault roads.

All of the "complaints" are based on comparisons to things we all found wonderful, and so each is actually implicit praise of what was done right in the past.

Epcot82 said...

Wonderfully put, Captain Schnemo!

Anonymous said...

Going soon with a 2 year old. Can't remember where Odyssey was and I can't find it easily on a map. Can someone please let me know? Thank you

Anonymous said...

Odyssey is between Test Track/World of Motion and the Mexico Pavilion; it was designed to be a visual bridge between Future World and World Showcase. If you head toward the Mexico Pavilion from Future World, you'll see Odyssey on your left just before you head over the first World Showcase bridge. There is a walkway by which you can access it. If you can't find "Odyssey" on a map, you can instead look for the First Aid stations, as there is a large First Aid center in the Odyssey building. (And if you do go there, be sure to ask them what kind of "response" guests who visit them have to Mission: Space!)

Anonymous said...

I'm not really old enough to remember there actually ever being anything in the Odyssey, but when I was in fifth grade (95 or 96) i did semifinals for a kids gameshow in there. it was pretty cool....i was thrid runner up and i won a calculator that says the numbers in 12 different befitting of EPCOT:) do they actually use the odyssey for anything anymore tho? (besides first aid and restrooms).....i also remember there used to be a whole bunch of flamingos in the water outside of it...