Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why EPCOT Center Was So Special

What made us fall in love with EPCOT Center? What is the ineffable "something" that has all but been erased by Disney's current management in the past decade or so?

This terrific 1982 video gives us some fantastic early images of EPCOT Center and presents some terrific insight into the making of Spaceship Earth. Ironically (or not), one of the people who speaks about the importance and significance of EPCOT Center and Spaceship Earth is Marty Sklar -- the same person who oversaw the deconstruction of the brilliant EPCOT Center as he tried to navigate and manipulate the politics of Eisner-era Disney.

Are you a Disney employee or executive? Do you know someone who is? Please make sure to view this video and send the link to those who you think might like to see why today's "Epcot" is so far removed and so much less effective than the original EPCOT Center.

(Notice, too, how much more animated and effective those AA figures looked a quarter century ago!)

Spaceship Earth, the video reminds us, "embodies the spirit of EPCOT Center." Today's Disney executives would do well to keep that in their heads!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant video! Smooth out the tracks, tune-up the AA's, use 21st century cutting-edge audio, revamp the "future" part of the attaction, and I truly believe that SE can return to the glory described in this video!

Anonymous said...

My first thought was "what fantastic architecture!" Fortunate to say though, most of it is all still there somewhere... under tons of scrap metal, bunting and Mickey hands.

Come on Disney execs... there's got to be *someone* there with taste now!

mr smartass said...

I have recently spoken with a cast member who works on SE and she told me that Siemens is really excited about being able to update it and the post post show. They are supposedly updating the end of the ride (current and future) but leaving the history portions of the ride untouched. There was also mention of an entirely interactive area at the post show utilizing new technologies, namely fiber optics and the like. Let's hope it doesn't get "Disne-fied." And lets certainly hope that Nemo isn't anywhere to be found here!

Anonymous said...

If that's true about Siemens, it sounds like it would be a great development. You're right, leave Nemo, Mickey, Donald, Stitch, Cinderella and everyone else out of it! (OK, they can take their place on screen where we currently see Snow White -- I'll give 'em that. Heh.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful video. I love the opening shot where a bird-eye view follows the monorail on the approach to EPCOT Center. It truely looked fresh and new back then. You are correct that the excitement that surrounded the development and opening of the park is evident in this film. Those people really believed they were doing something outstanding and it shows. I don't see why this same flavor of optimism can't be returned to the park.

Which brings me to the question of what happened with the likes of Marty Sklar and Tom Fitzgerald?? Are these men truely have the same aspirations as when they were designing EPCOT Center and Horizons?..or has the rough politics of a different Disney Co. really changed them that much?? I have often heard their names associated with what's wrong with the company - either being ineffectual, or completely jumping on the Eisner/Pressler bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

This video is an attempt to make the old EPCOT Center seem exciting. Face it, the old EPCOT was boring once you've seen it three or four times. Give it up old timers, your time to checkin into the nursing home will come soon!

Epcot82 said...

I can only assume you're just being silly, Special K. But, of course, the "old" EPCOT Center was never meant to stay "old" -- Disney just let it remain that way, then felt it needed some crazed, massive overhaul. As dear ol' Ann Landers used to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." EPCOT Center didn't need fixing, because it wasn't broke -- it just needed some attention.

Too bad, because in the "fixing" it got "broke" even worse.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that anyone here is wanting Epcot to be booring. If anything, the expectations seem to be be that is gets better with time, and more exciting. Those thoughts are reflected in the video where Mr. Bradbury talks about Walt Disney's hopes to create a permanant "world's fair" and that the ideas would change and improve.

It's probably too late to get any big changes completed for a 25th anniversary, but as I have mentioned before, a big fix that can be done for Epcot would be to update the "theme center": everything from the entrance through to the entire Innoventions complex. It would involve creating a new approach to tying the pavilions of Epcot back into an overall theme, and add some genuine attractions to the Innoventions buildings - perhaps even some new ride-thru attractions, as well as shops and restaurants to enliven the place.

Anonymous said...

If the above statements about Siemens are true, hooray for them! Since it seems Disney management only looks at where the money is coming from, maybe they'll actually listen to the requests of Siemens execs.

Regarding Marty and Tom: it's a combination of being ineffectual AND jumping on the Eisner/Pressler bandwagon. As far as I've heard, Marty tried to resist it more than Tom. I think that was one of the reasons Marty elected to be the "Imagineering Ambassador" as a way of semi-retiring.

Speaking of WDI, I've been hearing from some of the operations folks in the Parks that some of the Imagineers nowadays are real divas who marvel at their own magnificence. It just seems that theres a change in the breed of Imagineer. They all want to be celebrities like their predecessors. But what they don't understand is that guys like Rolly Crump didn't see it like that; they saw it just as a job. A fun job, but a job. They didn't expect to be celebrated by anyone.

I think that's one of the reasons why EPCOT is faltering: Some of the Imagineers are not focused on the big picture.

Anonymous said...

Not surprisingly, that attitude is also what killed Animation. That "diva" mentality can be quashed awful quickly simply by asking everyone for their best ideas and seeing which ones really are the best!

Anonymous said...

I can easily see another side to the "diva" story. When a "creative" institution becomes a "corporate" institution, the rules for what is the "best" are all changed around if there is no one to champion the true creative essence of the company. It's possible that the method of survival for those trying to get their projects from being chopped is to develop a salesmanship of their self-importance to the company. It becomes a matter of survival.

Scott said...

The song at the beginning of this video (the first part of the Epcot Entrance Medley) is one of my favorite Disney World songs.

Did anyone else notice that "Egyptian" (in Egyptian Temple) was spelled wrong? In the video it is spelled "Egyptain".

I agree that the Disney characters need to be kept out of SSE. However, I was looking around to research a blog article of my own, and the general reaction from the people who have gone on the Nemo ride so far have enjoyed it. One person said it wasn't as educational as the old SeaCabs, but a good introduction to the pavillion. The video I found also seems like it's a decent introductory ride. I only wish they wouldn't have changed the whole pavillion's name to "The Seas with Nemo and Friends" instead of keeping it as The Living Seas. The name is too long for a pavillion name in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I believe a lot of the Imagineers are "divas". I used to work out close to the Glendale, CA facility. These people are showing up to work late in fancy cars with personalized IMAGNR licence plates. Let me bow down in their greatness!

Captain Schnemo said...

As an aside, I think we need to be realistic here and remember that not everything from the past was perfect. The SeaCabs for example, weren't "educational". They weren't anything really.

As for the Imagineers themselves, I agree that there is a problem, but it's one of leadership. All the great Imagineers took their cue from Walt, and as he becomes less important and forgotten within the corporation, it's only reasonable to assume that the Imagineers will follow suit. It's not their fault.

Disney as we know it is forever lost, and has been for some time. I love that blogs like this exist and it's great to come in here and vent and do the post mortem, but ultimately this just a bunch of guys sitting around remembering the good ole days.

People seem to enjoy the Nemo thing, so it will be popular and therefore regarded as a success. Why wouldn't it? Other entertainment companies don't hold themselves to a higher standard, and now that Disney thinks of itself as in competition with these guys as opposed to a completely different animal, there's really no turning back.

There is one and only one factor that resulted in the creation of something like WDW, and that is Walt himself. He's long gone and his effect has worn off. Barring another benevolent madman, we're flat out screwed.

How many other men can you name who have put quality before all else and made an empire in the process? You can them on one hand. Walt was a freak of nature, and we got to ride a helluva wave for a good long time, but it's over, baby.

I'm just thankful for what we had.

(Just so I don't end on a total downer, those original Epcot instrumentals are friggin' awesome!)

Anonymous said...

The video no longer works. Anyone know where to find it?

Epcot82 said...

I can only imagine that Disney's lawyers have struck. I cannot find this on YouTube. If anyone knows where it may be, please let me know -- and thanks for the notice!