Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What's It All About, EPCOT?

I've been trying all day to figure out how to get YouTube to link to the blog, but to no avail. The YouTube "blog-linker" thing just hangs and hangs. Nevertheless, I had to pass on this terrific video that Captain Schnemo sent me. It's a terrific reminder of what EPCOT Center was, why we used to get so excited about it, and what's missing from today's Epcot -- a sense of excitement, wonder and genuine excitement about the future and our world.

It's really great stuff. Hope you agree.

(By the way, if you have a moment, click on the photo to see the full-size version of this image. I was very impressed with the picture that my new digital camera generated ... it was taken from across World Showcase Lagoon with no tripod!)


Scott said...

That's a beautiful picture.

I saw that picture and first wondered if it was from the pre-wand days. Then I read the bottom of the post. After that I thought of what that picture would have looked like if you could see the wand. The thought of the wand only reconfirmed in my mind how out-of-place it is.

Epcot82 said...

I'll post a night photo with the wand one of these days. I have lots of Epcot photos from the trip that will (I hope) eventually make their way to the blog!

Gil said...

The video's great...

But got help the music... why is this music cheesy 80s crap and nothing near the orchestral music that plays when you enter into Future World?

Anonymous said...

That music was GOLD in the '80s, man. SOLID gold. We just...didn't...know any better.

Yes, I noticed that you've been cropping out the wand, Epcot82. And I thank you for it. However, this photo (especially the large version) does show that the funnel-web -- which, it occurs to me now, is an '80s design dream come true; just add leg warmers and you're totally awesome -- intrudes into your view of Spaceship Earth even from across the lagoon, in the dark.

Not to start a huge digicam thread, but what camera did you use?

Epcot82 said...

It's an Olympus SP-500UZ.

That was, indeed, state-of-the-art, totally, awesomely rad music back then!

Anonymous said...

Meh, its not the rad music they actually played in Future World when Epcot opened, that music was really good

Anonymous said...

You took that without an image stabilizer? Nice!

Scott said...

I have an older version of that camera (C-740UZ, 4MP, 10x zoom). It's an excellent camera and I can only assume that yours is even better.

Anonymous said...

Generally speaking, I think that people are more cynical these days. They're also more tech-savvy. It breaks my heart to say this, but I just don't think people are as optimistic about the future as they were back in 1982.

I was at Disneyland the other day when this hit me. There was a parent and child sitting behind me on Pirates. As we passed through the ride, the child blurted out, "This is boring. This is so fake". Unfortunately, the parent agreed: "Yes, honey, all the pirates are not real; they're robots". That little exchange told me a lot about today's guest.

The guests today are harder to please. As I said, they're much more cynical abot everything. They ride things like "it's a small world" just to make fun of it. EPCOT Center isn't even safe from today's cynicism: The Simpsons made fun of how "outdated", "corporate", and "boring" EPCOT is. I think that episode crystalizes what the general public thinks of EPCOT. They see it as a giant commercial for Big Oil, etc.

Back in the 80s, people trusted big business more. What happened? Enron? They looked forward to seeing the latest thing from the biggest American companies. Nowadays, people just walk right past it on the way to the next thrill ride. They don't look at technology with wonder; just with a dissatisfied yawn.

Then again, maybe that's why people NEED EPCOT Center. Not Epcot in its present form, but EPCOT Center: a place to look forward to the future. Walt created Tomorrowland in Disneyland as a way to INSPIRE people to look forward to the future just as much as he did. Even during the 50s, with the Cold War, people felt a certain optimism about tomorrow because of Walt's optimistic futurism.

When the 80s people along, people were again uncertain about the future. Disney tried to fill that void with EPCOT Center, a tribute to Walt Disney's optimistic futurism. I don't know if many people caught on to it, though.

I am not a cynic personally. I agree with Walt that we have to keep saying there's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow. But, in today's world, it's really hard to do that without coming across as "naive" or a "Pollyana-type".

Disney needs to realize what an asset EPCOT Center really is, if used properly.

The picture you took is very cool. It makes me miss Spcaeship Earth, pre-wand.

Dale said...

I've used Photoshop to just completely remove that bleeding wand from my recent SE pics. The resulting aesthetic is so much cleaner and more sublime--hearkening back to the time before before all the corporate abuse began taking hold.

No matter how many Bob Igers or John Lasseters pass through the Grand Hall of Greed that is today's Walt Disney Company, that disgusting "maximum profits at minimum cost" mindset will only continue and probably get worse. The only solution I see (albeit fantastic by the true definition of the word) is for someone to come along with enough cash to take the company private again. Dissolve the current board and eliminate the shareholders who constantly push for high returns--suddenly you have an environment where artistic integrity and entertainment value can once again flourish and still generate profits that can go back into the parks rather than the pockets of the Wall Street set.

Now THAT would be some real Disney Magic!

Anonymous said...

I was at Disneyland the other day when this hit me. There was a parent and child sitting behind me on Pirates. As we passed through the ride, the child blurted out, "This is boring. This is so fake". Unfortunately, the parent agreed: "Yes, honey, all the pirates are not real; they're robots". That little exchange told me a lot about today's guest.

You know it's funny, I was at WDW a few weeks ago to ride the new Pirates there, and some kids behind me were probably 12-13 years old in line. One of them said "I thought Pirates of the Carribean was just a movie." then we got on the ride and they saw the Johnny Depp animatronics and were blown away, they said "this is REALLY cool!" and were questioning whether he was real or not and comparing him to the others. They weren't joking, they were serious.

What does that say? Well, it means that every guest is different and we can't judge one experience based on that. I wish Disney had the budget to update more of POTC but then again there was already major outcry when they announced these very few changes already.

Anonymous said...

I love that video, cheezy synthesized music and all. The audio comes across a bit distorted, but is William Shatner really narrating it??

Concerning the discussion of EPCOT Center existing in a world of cynicism: wouldn't that be the ultimate example of Disney escapism....and optimism?? Why couldn't Epcot become a refuge of ideals that hold promise for the future -- a place where the weight of society can be cast aside and one can enjoy their true free self? In a way that has been the concept behind Disneyland from the very beginning.

Captain Schnemo said...

I don't remember the 80s as being particularly optimistic myself. Blade Runner came out in 1982 and it looked for all the world that there was a good chance we'd nuke ourselves to death at any moment.

I wonder how much if this is just a matter of us getting older.

It does seem that children's entertainment specifically has become more cynical and ironic, which is a terrible shame. Children deserve better. Especially since young kids do not even comprehend irony.

The key point has already been stated here, however. Regardless of whether or not pop culture is cynical, Disney should not be. It's just that simple.

When Alien Encounter opened in Tomorrowland, it was apparent that something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. Instead of helping humanity to reach new heights, technology and corporations were things to be feared. Gee, thanks, Eisner.

Anonymous said...

^I happen to really miss Alien Encounter. It is far better then Stitch's Great Escape. I understand that my love of irony will fall on deaf ears here, but I think that Alien Encounter was a great attraction. It had an easily relatable theme but was not tied to a movie, and was actually kind of scary. The problem is that it wasn't for children. My 7 year old coisin cried through it's entirety. If the ride were built in the Studios park, maybe it would still be there. (The studios is the only park on Disney property that can get away with an attraction not for the entire family. Don't tell me this is a bad thing, bacause this allows a park to cater to an older, more jaded audience. I'm not saying that Epcot needs to have attractions that exclude riders, in fact, I think Mission Space would also be better at Epcot...) but to criticise a well made and clever attraction like Alien Encounter is wrong. The real cynical aspects of a Disney park are where the sponser's sell is Cramed. Down. your Throat. like at Honey, I Shrunk the Audience or Dinosaur.

Alien Encounter replaced a boring attraction. There, I said it. Mission to Mars was boring. How do I know this at my relatively young age? I saw a video of it. It was boring. Every person I know who rode it said it was boring. I'm not against serious attractions, I love the retro 60's futuristic and I love space travel and the manned exploration of space, but Mission to Mars was boring. Period. Nothing happened. It was a waste of space. Alien Encounter was exciting, original and scary. It's corporate framework let it fit in to the New Tommorowland's Flash-Gordon/hodgepodge of sci-fi concept future, fitting it into it's Convention center theme. It was a good attraction.

Sorry about that rant.

Anonymous said...

If you had grown up during the 60s and 70s when everything space was cool and exciting, you would know why "Mission to Mars" wasn't boring. But it wasn't kept up to date, which is the problem with so many Disney rides, then they go and just tear them down instead of making the original concept better. Yeah, I agree that "Alien Encounter" actually was pretty good -- well, it was not BAD -- but I didn't even bother with "Stitch" last time I was there. Still I never figured out why aliens made sense for the Magic Kingdom! You're definitely right, they should have put Alien Encounter at the MGM Studios (back when IT was good -- sigh, is there a running theme here?!?!) and it could have been the actual alien from "Alien." THAT would have been cool and there would have been a great storyline for it, too! Well, Disney's cheap and they probably wouldn't have paid the rights for it, the lesson is, I guess, that Disney just puts up random stuff hoping something will stick. Too bad. Love that everyone here is so passionate and enthusiastic, though!

Anonymous said...

That was a great video I enjoyed it very much.

I haven't been to EPCOT in quite awhile(almost 6 years I'm sad to say) I can almost imagine how good/bad it is now. And then again I don't want to imagine because after reading some of this blog, I really don't want to set myself up for a disapointment. It really is sad that i must prepare myself for disapointment at WDW of all places.

I've never even seen a video of "Mission to mars" though I also never remember it being there, for the longest time before Alien Encounter, all that I remember being in that space that was later taken by AE was always empty as far as I know. We never went onto the Mission Mars as well as we went to that Time Traveler thing across the street only once, and upon finding it was just a boring video where you stand in the room we promptly left. Ok I was quite upset when Stitch found his little way into the AE, there was NO reason for that,
A) The ride was NEVER appropriate for children putting stitch there made it seem like it was.
B) If the ride wasn't FOR children why replace the ugly bug with an cartoon alien...

for these reasons alone it seems alittle silly to even do this

ok my little rant is over..thanks for listening

Anonymous said...

I have to dissagree with the comment about Mission to Mars' downfall being a lack of new technology and being updated. A ride with a good story or world is timeless. That's why Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion, and Splash Mountain have always and will always be popular, even if it isn't updated. (Yes, I know pirates has been updated, but it was not done to save the ride from obscurity or anything...) These rides create interesting and richly detailed environments with lush backstories which would keep them entertaining even if the motion of the animatronics was turned off. Mission to Mars was not nearly as rich in story. They interupt a boring lecture about space (I love astronomy and was raised on PBS science documenteries, so I mean it when I say boring) with a bird's crash landing. What hillarious hyjinks.

I don't have a problem with aliens in Tommorowland, because I see it (At Disney World's Magic Kingdom) to be a sci-fi fantasyland. If you want the realistic future, Epcot's Future World is where you should be able to look. That is why I am far more defensive about the tone of Epcot's rides then Tommorowland's.

Captain Schnemo said...

The problem with Mission to Mars (which was an upgrade of Mission to the Moon, which needed to be updated when Men landed on the Moon for real) was certainly an issue of the era it was created. There weren't a lot of PBS documentaries to watch. This stuff was not commonplace. They were still guessing about how the tech was going to work, and detailed pictures of Mars were extremely rare.

As a kid, I thought Mission to Mars was great, although I make no argument that it would hold up in the present day.

Turning Tomorrowland into a sci-fi land is just cheap hack to avoid keeping up with the times. I think it's inevitable that they will drop the "Future World" name at Epcot, although they still have the balls to call it "Tomorrowland", so maybe not...

Anonymous said...

The idea -- just the idea -- of dropping "Future World" truly scares me. Might as well just drop the Epcot name and call it "The Golf Ball Park" or "MKII." Yikes. Take that back, Capt. Schnemo!

Captain Schnemo said...

What's in a name, you know? They've already pretty much dumped the future in concept...keeping the name certainly hasn't kept them on the path. I guess they saved themselves some embarrassment (although one can only wish that they could be still be embarrassed) in Paris by creating "Discoveryland" instead of Tomorrowland.