Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Living Seas Imagining

I earlier posted this as "comment" to the previous post about The Seas With Nemo and Friends. Then I thought, "Hey, why am I posting this as a comment? It's my blog! I can make it a real post!"

Your comments made me think about whether there could have been a way to both appeal to the Nemo set but still uphold the integrity of the EPCOT Center ideals. Of course, it's just an imagining (and one written in 15 minutes!), but still ... it might open up some other ideas, or at least a discussion! I'd love to know your thoughts:


Guests enter the pavilion through a queue area that reminds us how little we know about the seas.

We see images of (perhaps fossils or even small AA figures) some of the most bizarre creatures imaginable -- and learn that they actually live just a few miles away from us ... down.

As we journey through the queue area, we move from happy, light imagery (representing the top surface of the ocean, which we think we know so well) into darker, more ominous motifs. It never gets too scary, just inky and murky enough to make us remember that the bottom of the sea is only a short distance away but might as well be on another world.

A series of signs informs us we are about to enter the training room for Seabase Alpha, where we have been invited as the first civilian visitors.

The doors open and we are taken into a seating area that will give us important information we should know before entering Seabase Alpha. We are told that centuries of exploration have left us knowing little more about the seas than we did years ago, how mysterious they are, how much we can learn from them, how they may hold the answers to problems of disease, pollution and famine that plague the top of the earth. We are told that we are about to embark on a grand adventure that many have dreamed of but few have taken -- a voyage to a working seabase that in many ways is an even more remarkable feat than a space station.

The doors open and we board the vessel that will take us down into the ocean's depths. We ride past scenes that show us descending further and further. Odd, luminscent creatures poke out at us; shipwrecks fill our view. We receive data and information about this trip, then ride past scenes that show us how this amazing feat was engineered. We're told it's not so deep that it is impractical to science, but deep enough that we can discover and develop new marine technologies. We see it coming to life, and finally we step off our vessel and into ...

Seabase Alpha.

The inside of the Seabase is part "industrial-functional," part futuristic. We learn that it has several different layers, each of which represents the different layers of the oceans. For instance, as we disembark, we see familiar marine mammals, and watch and interact with scientists who are studying them. We learn about how man interacts with this top layer of the ocean, and how we are impacting it. "Turtle Talk With Crush" is in this top area for the kids to learn more about the oceans.

One level down, we see the main aquarium tank and learn about sealife that never comes to the surface. Nemo himself presents information about fragile coral reefs for kids in a short video that leads into an underwater replica of a real coral reef (complete with the fish that live in and near it). Adult guests, meanwhile, are able to watch and interact with the divers.

On the lower level are the "Mysteries of the Deep." Here, a new, widescreen 3-D presentation about some of the most unknown creatures on earth shows us things that few people have ever seen. It has no host, but rather is presented as an almost eerie "journey to the depths," providing an oceanographic perspective that few other aquariums or sea parks even address.

Beyond its doors is a spectacular new three-dimensional, Imagineered diorama that shows some of these creatures and also offers a "customizable" self-guided audio tour (one for adults, one created specifically for kids, narrated by Dory) that talks about some of the amazing scientific and medical uses that these creatures may provide in the future.

We exit Seabase Alpha as we used to enter-- through the "hydrolators" that take us back up to the surface. Upon our exit, we walk through two enormous tanks that show off beautiful undersea displays and remind us of the amazing things we just saw and learned.

The pavilion provides enough education for adults and entertainment for children. It capitalizes on the success of Finding Nemo but does not fully rely on Nemo for its appeal. It incorporates a reconfigured ride and also allows guests to see and experience the attraction at their own pace.


Matt Arnold said...

Your idea sounds good to me. But not sufficiently better enough from what we've got to complain all that much. Since you're continuing the discussion here, I'll post some excerpts from the last thread and comment on them here:
Had the "cartoon fish" been at least original (like the characters in Cranium Command), there might have been something to it. - anonymous
When I think of what could have been done with the tech they're currently using to market more plush merchandise to us, it makes me want to cry. - captainschnemo
(Emphasis mine.) These comments made me realize that at least part of the problem, in some minds, has nothing to do with the actual content of the pavilion itself. It has to do with whether that content is original to Epcot and what motivated it, regardless of superb entertainment quality. Why should that matter? The reason Mickey doesn't belong in Epcot is that he's has got nothing to do with the attractions. Nemo does. Nemo is a Amphiprioninae Pomacentridae. Jacques Cousteau appeared on the DVD special features of "Finding Nemo" and later did a whole documentary about the species and locales of the film, for pete's sake! Mickey's not even a realistic mouse by any rational standard, so if they ever have a pavilion about rodents, he wouldn't fit.

You know what's ironic? There is an endless outcry on this blog for Disney to:
- Breathe new life into Epcot with maintenance and imagineering money.
- Return to the kind of thing we were getting in 1982 with the defunct Kitchen Kabaret and Cranium Command.
- Use entertainment to tempt us to expand our minds.

Everything I've heard about the Seas With Nemo And Friends sounded like a perfect fulfillment of all three of those demands. Do you resent it when Disney makes merchandising money hand over fist doing so? Is that it? Do you demand that Disney executives first cleanse their heart of hearts of the money motive before doing exactly what we've been asking for? Screw their motives, I don't care. We got what we asked for. Believe me, we on this blog would have cried holy heck if they closed The Living Seas instead of revitalized it.

Here is a thought experiment. I want each of you to pose this to yourself and sincerely observe how you react. You are living in an alternate history in which Nemo and Friends were invented for Epcot and appeared in the Living Seas first. Then "Finding Nemo" was made as a movie spinoff of an Epcot attraction. Close your eyes if you need to. I'll be here when you get back.

Back yet? Do you like it better now? Does it seem a better match? They sure do to me. But here's the thing: they would have been the exact same movie and the exact same improvement to a failed expensive attraction which was at risk of closure. They already are a perfect match. The order in which Disney did these two in real life only matters to an accountant; the guests won't care. Disney made so much money from the movie, it could be considered "proof of concept" to bootstrap up to improving the attraction. If The Seas With Nemo And Friends had come first, the attraction would not have drawn more box office crowds to the movie.

Let the executives do their strategic thing. We got what we asked for. This is some way to repay them for that.

Major Pepperidge said...

I have never had the opportunity to visit Epcot (or any of the Florida parks), but have always longed to...I listen to a number of Disney related podcasts, and get the impression that Epcot has lost a lot of it's charm (not to mention so many of its major attractions...Horizons, World of Motion, etc)

I really enjoy reading this blog, thanks!

Anonymous said...

I’ve been holding up on this general framework comment for a while, and Epkat triggered it:

The Disney co. in one sense has the exact same mission as every other publicly traded company. That mission is making its owners happy. Specifically to make more money than the company did before. Whenever a company flouts this rule the owners usually change the leadership to someone that redirects the company’s activities, or the company becomes a target for takeover from a group that believes they can make more money.

This is inarguable. Do you want to make less money in your 401K. No. You want those companies to do better each quarter. Some will do that by soaking their customers or selling off the goodwill of their companies. Others will get better at what they do.

That fish tank had to have humongous operating costs and it was not heavily visited. By definition the company must “improve” its operations. This of course lead to 2 posibilities: save a ton of money by bulldozing it, or do something that makes paying customers want to visit it.

I’m sure everyone on this blog wanted the second. So from there they had 2 choices. Go with the seabase alpha theme and put some actual technology in Epcot, or go the Nemo route. Frankly I bet Turtle talk was outdrawing the rest of the pavilion since it opened. Seabase had 20 years and Crush was (excuse the pun) crushing it.

What we should be happy about here is it sounds like this attraction has stayed true to the pavilion concept. You can do the Nemo ride, the crush show, or just walk around the tank. It also sounds like there is a lot of quality in the attraction. A better show than anyone else can produce. That sounds like the WDI we have been missing.

Captain Schnemo said...

Epkat said: These comments made me realize that at least part of the problem, in some minds, has nothing to do with the actual content of the pavilion itself. It has to do with whether that content is original to Epcot and what motivated it, regardless of superb entertainment quality.

Hello and welcome to the purpose of this blog. What have you been reading before this?

Seriously, how difficult is it to understand that what we would prefer to see (and what the stated goal of Future World should be, according to Disney itself) is a pavilion based on future and science? Once you start from that point, there are any number of fun and exciting places you can go, but if you start from the wrong point (eg, "let's put on a toon show!"), then the things that follow are necessarily going to be out of whack.

I am no fan of the Kitchen Kabaret, but even that was merely a sideshow. It was not the focus of the entire pavilion. Forget my line about merchandising (although, again, it was Disney, not us, that made a point of making Epcot free of existing Disney characters). That's not the real issue here. We all want Disney to make money.

Your mental exercise doesn't apply, because it would never have happened. The reason we like Epcot so much is because of the concepts that drove the initial pavilions.

If you think putting on a good show is the only important thing, then you are never going to get what we are saying. We simply want Disney to live up to the standards which they created and put into writing for all to see.

Test Track is a fun ride and is well-done. Great. What does it have to do with the concepts that Disney has told us Epcot is based on? Absofrigginlutely nothing. It's not about the quality of any given attraction, it's about the message.

You obviously don't care about that, and I suspect that most people do not, but the Imagineers set a higher standard with Epcot and told us they were going to live up to it. They haven't and that's why we're grumpy.

If you buy a ticket for a movie and on the stage is the most beautiful piece of modern art you've ever seen, that's kinda cool, but it's not what you signed up for and the guy who runs the theatre isn't being honest with the audience.

anonymous: What we should be happy about here is it sounds like this attraction has stayed true to the pavilion concept.

It hasn't, and that's the problem.

Future World.

No one wants to see something that sucks or is boring or uses only technology from the mid-'80s, but many of us who read this blog are asking for the Imagineers to essentially "uphold the constitution" they have laid out for us.

I don't think they're ever going to do that again, honestly, but that's why this blog exists.

Anonymous said...

While I disagree with most of your comments on this blog regarding the update to the living seas. I would like to see it be a bit more educational at times. Maybe something a bit like . You could even incorporate the Nemo people into it but use it as a great chance to teach about all that is in the sea.

If they would ever add something like that to the mix, then I think this may be one of the best pavilions in Epcot.

Anonymous said...

somehow I screwed up the link in that last post.

Just copy and paste this link.

Captain Schnemo said...

I've seen Deep Sea and it was pretty cool (especially the octopus), but that kind of thing is better suited for the Animal Kingdom. It's just an examination of the natural world, which is basically zoo (or nahtazu) territory.

The original Future World attractions were more about humanity's interaction with the world, with a particular focus on technology.

I suppose it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a small section of the Living Seas where talking cartoon fish showed you interesting animal behavior or physiology, but it would still be out of place. I mean, Winnie could put on a little show about where honey comes from in The Land with Pooh (and maybe Piglet could explain the finer points of ham sandwiches), but it just wouldn't fit into the original theme.

Which is part of my problem with the Kitchen Kabaret, but that's another story.

Matt Arnold said...

captain schnemo,
I do care deeply about the uniqueness of Epcot's mission. Looking at the opening-day plaque Epcot82 posted on Monday, October 2, it's clear that Epcot Center's guiding mission has always made room for the wonders of humanity's present science, not just future science. Aside from Innoventions and Horizons, Future World has always focused mainly on present knowledge. Bits about the future were scattered here and there, usually limited to the last scene in a ride. If cartoon fish explaining the sea is out of place in Future World, then most of Future World has been out of place in Future World since the day it opened.

You said
what we would prefer to see (and what the stated goal of Future World should be, according to Disney itself) is a pavilion based on future and science...
Do you not consider oceanography and marine biology to be sciences? How about the science of zoology? I have always believed the entire Animal Kingdom park could have been a very fitting pavilion within Future World if it weren't so large, and would uphold Epcot's guiding "constitution" perfectly. Nemo and Friends fit the human science of oceanography on which The Living Seas pavilion has always been based. It's as oceanographic as one can be without being "Snootier Than Thou" and losing the Epcot pillar of fun.

In Epcot's preamble plaque, the three pillars "entertain, inform and inspire" have "entertain" first. Those who have read my past comments are perfectly well aware how important the other two pillars are to me.

By contrast, I'm not sure you've noticed that Epcot was ever entertaining. Epcot has always been a park full of cartoons. The old World of Motion was entirely cartoony. Journey Into Imagination is cartoony. SMRT-1 was cartoony. The Wonders of Life opened with Goofy cartoons in it. "Food Rocks" is just as cartoony as Kitchen Kabaret ever was. All while simultaneously informing and inspiring, as Nemo and Friends are capable of doing. If anything, EPCOT is less cartoony now than it ever was.

Captain Schnemo said...

Wow, I'd like to get a pair of those glasses you view the world through. Out of curiosity, why do you think they called it "Future World"?

You conveniently focused on the only phrase in that plaque that was so generic as to encompass virtually anything Disney has done.

What happened to "Here, human achievements, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all."?

A seabase is a human achievement, a technological marvel, and futuristic. Cartoon fish are none of that. Even the remainder of the sentence you artfully edited doesn't support your point.

Future World was primarily based on cutting edge knowledge, which would lead to future development. An undersea lab is cutting edge (and in no way "snooty"). A talking fish playground is not.

In no way do I believe that humor and whimsy (or even cartoons, explicitly) cannot be vital components of Future World attractions, as long as the basic core has some relevance to the "constitution". There is usually an angle you can use to twist something into whatever you want it to be (eg, almost anything is "educational" if you didn't know it before), but some things clearly fall outside the obviously stated realm of relevance. Sure, many things on Earth take place on the land, but that doesn't make them all reasonable fodder for The Land.

Epcot has lost its focus and has now become a dumping ground where attractions are shoehorned in based on only a tangential relationship to the subject matter. The Nemo Seas would actually fit better in any park other than Epcot. I'd say there's only one park it doesn't make sense to put a Finding Nemo attraction in, and that's Epcot.

Why put a California-based ride based on flying thru the air into a place that is supposed to be about the land? Because it's easy. Why apply the latest famous characters owned by the Disney company to an attraction that desperately needed some attention? Because it's easier than doing it right.

Epcot82 said...

There's no simple answer here. You guys represent the two sides of a familiar argument.

Unfortunately, though, it doesn't seem to be an argument (or discussion, conversation, debate, or whatever you want to call it) that is taking place within the halls of Team Disney.

Instead of discussing the latest financial figures and trotting out Tom Staggs to talk about how fabulously Disney is doing from a revenue and income perspective, it would be great to have Iger bring out Lasseter for a serious and sincere talk about how Disney's doing from a creative perspective.

I'd love to hear him publicly defend the Nemo Seas; the under-installation Pixar-based ride at Disney's California Adventure (here's food for thought: It has nothing to do with Disney or California!); the Epcot wand and the Disney-MGM Studios hat; the Walt Disney Studios Paris; the decision to release The Wild and The Santa Clause 3; or any other lunkheaded non-creative move that the company has made in the last five or 10 years whose sole motivation was pure profit.

The argument that "Disney is a public company that needs to turn a profit" is the one that deserves the most scorn. That's the kind of thinking that has led to some of the worst corporate decisions in American history, and that have ruined once-powerful brands like Sears, AT&T, MGM and (almost) Ford. These are companies that, just a few decades ago, no one could have imagined would not only no longer be the tops in their field, but would be virtually meaningless in commerce.

Disney is too close to this kind of "relevancy extinction," and it's caused by the insistence on putting financial gain ahead of creative growth.

EPCOT Center is an example of a product that could have revolutionized its field. It's another example, like Feature Animation, of Disney frittering away the creative/competitive advantage that used to set it so far ahead of its competitors that it literally stood alone.

The objection that's being raised here, I believe, isn't that The Seas With Nemo and Friends fails as an attraction in its own right (an assertion I went out of my way not to make), but that it represents a sad creative compromise. It is such a comedown from the creative prowess Disney had up until 12 years ago, one that positions simple commerce (i.e., merchandise sales) over imagination and artistic brilliance.

Walt Disney was able to tell the public what it wanted. Most of the time he was right, some of the time he was wrong. Today's Disney lets the public dictate what gets made. It is such a reversal of what made the company great, such a tacit acknowledgement that it is simply in the "brand management" busines, that it saddens many of us.

That is the creative failing of creating a pavilion around characters that, let's face it, Disney itself didn't even create. That is the artistic failing of the new Seas and of today's Epcot. And that is the issue that, both as a Disney fan and a shareholder, I would like to see the company honestly, openly and candidly address.

Captain Schnemo said...

Even if they chose to address the issue, they would define the terms of the discussion, so we'd still never get real answers out of them. The answers seem obvious and sadly mundane, in any case. Until such time as they decide to change the name of "Future World", they're not going to openly admit that they haven't really been paying much attention to proper conceptualization.

They're not sitting there, wringing their hands like animated villains and gleefully cackling at the demise of the optimistic future. They just aren't interested, and the marketplace gives them no reason to be interested. They aren't as smart, talented, or visionary as Walt and, frankly, not many people are. This is to be expected.

I really enjoy this blog, but I don't see why any Disney suit would ever get past one paragraph of this. They aren't curious, and a lack of curiosity is the death knell for this kind of project.

Also, I don't believe the Nemo Seas is actually a "compromise", since (as you said) it seems unlikely to me that there was any serious attempt to remain true to Epcot's original vision. (I would love to know if the guy calling the shots even knows what that vision is!) It's only a compromise if they recognize both sides of the issue, and based on their decisions for past dozen years or so, I doubt it went beyond "Well, the Seas is looking pretty weak. We need to upgrade it somehow." "Hey, I got it! Nemo is a fish!" "Great idea!"

If there is anyone who cares about Epcot's stated purpose, it doesn't appear that they have any influence. Another decade or so and no one within the company will even remember it.

Honestly, I gave up on WDW around 10 years ago. That doesn't mean I don't have hope, of course. Losing hope is quite a terrible thing.

But I don't think any reasonable person can look at the past dozen or so years and believe that something has not fundamentally changed.

Anonymous said...

The statements above are what I really like about this blog. There have been some excellent ongiong discussions. I agree that it would be nice to know if these sorts of discussions are even taking place at Disney. I wonder: is the culture at Disney that far removed from the talents of it's founder, that it no longer can recognize that it is off-track, even when it aspires to those same talents? It's amazing that Bob Iger would need to bring in an "outsider" like John Lasseter to restore the company's creative vision and dedication to quality.

Getting back to The Seas, one interesting quality of the original EPCOT Center attractions is that they were meant to be "E-Ticket" quality shows on a grand scale. The presentations were meant to be impressive and the storylines engaging. The original Living Seas concept was intended to be just that. Whether one considered the educational apects of the show to be booring or engaging, there was a sense of drama, and the lofty concept of decending down into the oceans to visit a working scientific seabase.

From the comments I have read, it seems that the Nemo ride falls short of any grand gesture. The sets seem confined and claustrophobic. The length of the ride is very brief with the scenes passing by very quickly. If it were a true Epcot-worthy production, the ride scenes would have been expansive and immersive. Instead, it seems to be a nicely produced "C-Ticket", more appropriate for Fantasyland.

Whether the grand Seabase Alpha story had any lasting appeal was evident by the slow decline of the pavilion and by Disney's inability to keep it fresh for changing audiences. While the new ride is a fresh and welcome approach, the storyline is hardly as engaging, or inspiring. Like most of the makeovers in Future World, it has missed the oportunity to be anything more than simple entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Epcot82, since you so thoughtfully presented your ideas for the pavilion I thought I would respond to them more directly. I like the fact that you are attempting to preserve the concept of visiting a marine seabase, and I like the importance you place on VIP status of the visiting guests, (it would be fun to hand out Seabase Alpha "Visitor" nametags as a freebie). The different shows and exhibits you have planned for the eventual seabase are definietly more activity than I experienced during my last (pre-Nemo) visit and should keep people entertained.

One hurtle to overcome with the Seas pavilion is the problematic entry sequence/show. I honestly feel that the multitude shuffling from waiting area, to theater to waiting area, to hydrolator, to queue, to seacabs, hindered the admittance of guests into the pavilion. There was no real highlight to the experience to make it worthwhile. I agree that a ride-thru presentation could "circumnavigate" the problem.

My suggestion would be to make your proposed ride the highlight experience of the pavilion, much as they have tried to do with the Nemo ride, only on a much grander scale. The ride system of the 20,000 Leagues ride at Tokyo Disney Sea could be adapted with improved futuristic vehicles for an elaborate "dry for wet" presentation. Unfortunately, the extra space for such a show can only be found in the current Coral Reef reasturant, but it is not entirely impossible that the restaurant couldn't be moved upstaurs to the former VIP lounge...just a bit expensive.

Epcot82 said...

Thanks, Dean. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" at Tokyo DisneySea is a great example of a technology Disney could adapt for use elsewhere. Though the ride has been criticized as boring by some, I went on it several times just because I was so fascinated by the complete illusion of the ride system; it sure had me fooled, and allowed for some terrific effects.

It would be great to see that technology put to use elsewhere, and though I cannot imagine Disney investing more money in the Seas, particularly without a sponsor, it would be a logical place for that sort of "dry-for-wet" system!

Anonymous said...

I would even be happy with the bubble-style omnimover vehicles that were originally conceptualized for the ride-thru show. They could be made with translucent lexan and be fitted with fiberoptics to make them glow and shimmer like some underwater creatures do.

Captain Schnemo said...

You make a good point about the entrance. I loved the Living Seas, but as cool as that movie was, I really had no desire to see it the 15th and 16th times on any given WDW trip. I just walked in the back door.

Now, if they'd put an E-ticket (or, really, even a C-ticket) dark ride at the entrance...something that was more of an experience than a movie, I doubt I'd have skipped it. Knowing me, I might go right back outside and on the ride again. I used to do that with Horizons, because there was always some new detail to notice. (I stopped doing that towards the end of Horizons' run, when the details I'd notice were unrepaired machinery and burnt-out lighting.) Maybe this is how most people will regard the Nemo ride, I don't know.

Also excellent point about the grand scale. Replacing the deluge movie with "Yay! Yay! Talking fish!" is most uncool. Even the Ellen revamp (which I can't stand) makes an attempt to preserve the grandeur.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a pretty good attraction although I think all the elements would require additional space in the building.

In response to the comments above I think its important that we always keep the intent of EPCOT in mind. Regardless of what the plaque says, we know that EPCOT was intended to be a semi-permanent world's fair. The thing that draws people to world's fairs is the excitement of seeing wonderful new things that make the future seem brighter. Today these fairs have all but vanished to make room for stores like Bose, Sony, and Sharper Image. People can drop by their local mall and see the future. Or you can attend conferences to see the future of video games or home repair. So, what do you do, when the concept on which your entire theme park was built is now a thing of the past...history? If world fairs disappeared because they can't compete with your local mall, can EPCOT be any different? Yes, it can!

EPCOT has to be the best in the business. Although I have always been an EPCOT fan, I will agree with every person that says entertainment has taken a back seat to education in the past. A successful EPCOT attraction must be visual and interactive in order to appeal to today's audiences. Mission Space has buttons you need to push but no negative effects for forgetting to push it. Not to mention dozens of other buttons that do nothing. Boring! But, let's not forget the concept of a world's fair. They generally have exhibits, rides, or shows which present new technologies by giving us a little history lesson first. EPCOT used to present its attractions in a similar manner. Now its time to spice it up. Each of the areas of Future World are themed perfectly to accomplish this. What is the not so distant future of space, transportation, energy, agriculture, etc.?

Disney can stay on the cutting edge of technology but it takes the help of sponsors which is another staple of world's fairs. We shoudn't be selecting these sponsors by how much they pay. We need sponsors who are on the cutting edge of technology and get exclusive permission to present it. Even semi-permanent EPCOT has to change with the times. When a sponsor has lost their hold on the future, you dump them and get the new kid on the block (with new attraction). If the sponsor's future grows beyond the scope of the attraction then its time to rework the attraction. The pavilions should be designed to last as long as progress will allow. These occasional changes to stay on top would cost far less then money wasted on attractions with no lasting appeal. Innoventions should rotate items weekly. This is a showcase of actual itmes in our near future. Technology becomes obsolete as soon as it hits the self. Disney has to always be one step ahead here, like when they used to replace light bulbs at 75% of their life span.

So, what about nemo and living seas? Honestly, who cares if cartoon characters dominate the exhibit as long as they fit in with our world's fair. Does it? History lesson? Nope. Interactive? A little. Sponsor? No. Cutting edge sea research and technology? Not really. I don't believe this attraction meets the core concepts of an attraction at the biggest world's fair ever. Do you? We should also ask this question about the other EPCOT attractions.

P.S. Disney- Splurge some money and take the wand down. I can do it for half the estimate that you were given.

Anonymous said...

"Getting back to The Seas, one interesting quality of the original EPCOT Center attractions is that they were meant to be "E-Ticket" quality shows on a grand scale. The presentations were meant to be impressive and the storylines engaging. The original Living Seas concept was intended to be just that. Whether one considered the educational apects of the show to be booring or engaging, there was a sense of drama, and the lofty concept of decending down into the oceans to visit a working scientific seabase."

The problem is that while the concept of visiting an active seabase was grand, what they actually produced was nowhere close to grand. I know very few people who found the short seacab ride to be much fun at all. The only cool part of the attraction was the hydrolators, other than that, it didn't work.

That's not to say that the concept couldn't have worked, just that what they gave us didn't. Now could they have gone back and recreated this idea and made it better? Possibly, but it would have taken a huge and massive influx of capital for something they wouldn't know if it would succeed or not and in today's Disney that's not going to happen.

So I do agree that we got a compromise, but it's not a bad compromise. I see that the name of this land has always been futureworld, but its focus has really always been more on education with a slight bent towards the future and never really a great futuristic world.

The only ride who ever gave a great push towards the future was Horizons and that ride has long since been gone. Everything else has always been about things in the near future.

Personally, without a massive amount of money being thrown into recreating attractions every year, I find the future world concept a failure. The future moves too fast. Heck, half the time, by the time the ride was opened it was already dated. I would much prefer seeing Futureworld changed to Discovery Land or something similar to that where the main theme is still close to futureworld in that it is about our discoveries and education of the world around us and how that will push us into the future. That's the true direction Epcot has taken anyhow, so the name would just fit better and I think it's a theme they could keep up to date better. We'd still discuss the future, but at the same time we'd learn about things from the past and the present that we're discovering every day.

Anonymous said...


While not technically related to this conversation. I'd like for you to investigate the new post show at Test Track. I really like what they've done here and I think you would see it heading in the right direction as it is a nice postshow discussing all of the different future fuel options that GM is working on currently.

Epcot82 said...

As long as it's about Epcot, it's related! ;-)

I liked the Test Track post show, but personally found (much like the old TransCenter), that it's tough -- very tough -- to convince people to stick around to explore and learn when they feel they're in an automotive showroom. The emphasis has always seemed (and continues to seem) to me to be on getting me interested in buying a GM car than on giving me information about transportation. (And I have always found it interesting, ever since I was a kid, that despite being about "motion" and "transportion," the pavilion's post-show has only ever really focused on personal automotive transportation.)

Anonymous said...

I hope that the creative folks are just picking their battles. Spaceship Earth is worth going to the mat over. Seabase alpha frankly was disappointing. Correct me if I’m wrong but essentially it was an elevator and some themed walls. There was also that 1982 grade computer graphic of the Dome and hyrdrolators. Horizons had a much more detailed vision of a seabase.

The attraction was always about the big tank and it’s still there.

I think WDI had a chance to hit an attendance home run with a new attraction that still keeps the tank which was 90% of the whole point. We should be celebrating that it has not gone the way of the Wonders of Life Pavillion.

Epcot easily beats MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom in attendance. I wonder if this makeover will boost their numbers further. If so this may inspire the powers down there to clean the SE mural and put some cash into innoventions.

Anonymous said...

You can't blame GM for wanting to promote their automobile products at the end of the attraction they sponsor. It's their core business. I suppose Disney could have selected a more well-rounded company to represent the future of transportation but there is actually very little crossover between the automobile and mass transit industry.

Unfortunately, I never got to see Seabase Alpha in it's early days so I can't say how successful it was at that time. I have definitely been to better aquariums though none of them represent a theme as intriguing as The Living Seas did. It seems that the "big idea" was to have a seabase surrounded by ocean and when that didn't completely fit in the big tank, a seabase was added to the side of it with just a "module" to walk out into. It's still very nice, though it's entirely possible that they could have created a seabase in the ocean effect by using multiple smaller tanks than one huge one.

Captain Schnemo said...

Regarding the showcasing of new tech, I think Innoventions has lowered guest expectations and made the idea of a slightly-dated Circuit City showroom acceptable entertainment.

A couple of decent products that stick out are the zero emissions vehicle and the windows that turn opaque at the flick of a switch. Both these things are still extremely rare and not a part of the typical American experience. We should be looking deeper into the future at this point, but those were interesting displays when they came online.

I remember looking around Innoventions once and they were demonstrating the magic of miniaturization with a cell phone display. My friend produced a phone half the size from his pocket. Who cares about slightly better resolution on your television set or a video game that's going to come out in December? That's not stuff worth paying money to see.

Also, I don't agree that it would require any more cash than was spent on the Nemo "upgrade" to improve the Seabase Alpha theme. Instead of spending the money on cartoon fish, they could have easily spent the same amount of money in a manner consistent with the theme.

The big tank is cool, but it wasn't the whole of the seabase motif. In the side attractions, there were examinations of aquaculture (which is still a black art laden with problems in the real world), intelligent mammal research, robotics, and the ever popular "real life scuba dude goes up the tube" (do they still do that?). They also actually did do real research there.

At the very least, they could have made the dark ride informative or relevant to Epcot in some way (any way!), but inside they decided to put a Fantasyland attraction in the middle of Future World. It looks like a nice ride, but it saddens me that so much effort (and money) and so little thought went into it.

Scott said...

If GM really wants people to stick around in the Test Track post-show, then they need to put in innovative cars. They have the cars, but choose to put in the big sellers instead of the innovation. Where's the hydrogen car, the ethanol car, or the fuel cell car? Disney and GM could do a lot by showing this technology off. Instead, it's full of Impalas, Silverados and Avalanches. Even if they put a regular concept car like the new Camaro with the post-show it would be a great improvement.

Of course, when they had the Corvette in the post-show area, I stayed around quite some time. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a Vette.

Anonymous said...

"If GM really wants people to stick around in the Test Track post-show, then they need to put in innovative cars. They have the cars, but choose to put in the big sellers instead of the innovation. Where's the hydrogen car, the ethanol car, or the fuel cell car?"

They have. They just changed the postshow this week removing the dreamchasers nonattraction and put in a very nice display on the different fuel types of the future from hydrogen, ethanol, electric, etc... I haven't seen it except on video yet, but by all accounts, it's a nice update.

Scott said...

Well, I did not know this. Thanks for the update.