Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Simple Spaceship

Photo illustration created by and courtesy of Werner Weiss,

The fantastic Disney-fan website Yesterland, which is home to an impressive array of essays and photos of Disney attractions (mostly at Disneyland) that no longer exist, has been bit by the Epcot "what-if" bug.

Yesterland curator Werner Weiss has demonstrated impressive Photoshop abilities by reminding visitors how much worse it could get with the "dressing up" of Spaceship Earth. Spaceship Stitch, anyone? Capt. Jack Sphere-ow?

His imaginings are both hilarious and a bit scary -- if the wrong folks at Disney (so many of whom seem to have such a poor sense of humor) get a hold of these parodies, they could come to think of them as "conceptual designs," and might start getting ideas.

If they do, they'll hopefully spend most of their time looking at the final image on Werner's Spaceship Earth page. There, they'll find (reprinted above, with Werner's kind permission) the best possible concept of all:


No hand, arm, no wand, no stars, no curlicue "Epcot" -- just the 180-foot-tall geosphere of Spaceship Earth against a beautiful Florida sky ... "naked" and proud.

Werner's Photoshopped image leaves in the garish mauve awnings (what are they for? It can't be shade, as they provide little) that rise above Innoventions Plaza, and it's most interesting to note how they detract from the overall scale of an unadorned Spaceship Earth. Not that that's a reason to leave up the hand and wand, mind you! And not that today's Imagineers seem to care much about a sense of scale (see the Sorcerer's Hat at Disney-MGM Studios -- this link takes a minute to load, but it's worth it! While you're at it, check this out for an excellent proposal on what to do with the hat.).

It's a lovely image to consider ... Spaceship Earth, restored to the way it was meant to be. How many people, even wand supporters (if you're out there), can look at the image at the top of this article and think the wand should stay?


Ivonne R. said...

Ok, pardon my French, but some of those photoshopped what if's for Spaceship Earth scared the shit out of me. They make the wand look like a work of art.

I still want the wand taken down though.

Anonymous said...

I also would love the lighting capabilities of a plain sphere. Imagine having light pots that shoot skyward (think Luxor in Las Vegas) on either side of the sphere at night. Or a better color scheme approach like Cinderella Castle. I don't mind adornment if it fits, but I fail to see how Sorcerer Mickey fits at all. Furthermore, the wand really does look good only at night.

Anonymous said...

If they ever remove the wand...

Maybe the fountain can be restored and the 'war' memorial can be taken down. It was such a simple, clean entrance that is now junked up. It feels like a maze entering the park (actually, it looks like barricades meant to prevent a car bomb from entering the park). It used to welcome you and draw you into the entrance to Spaceship Earth and Future World.

If they want a guest 'memorial,' why not design and sell a brick that fits with the original look and feel (if anyone remembers)of the park. That way it wouldn't detract from the strong visual cues that still remain in the park.

Anonymous said...

I didn't realize just how bad those awnings at the back were until I saw that photo. They really do mess up the scale of Spaceship Earth. I really hope that when the wand comes down they take all that 'millenium" crap with it.

Anonymous said...

I've just come back from Epcot and spent quite a bit of time taking photos in creative ways to get the wand out - I really didn't like it before and now that I see it live I like it even less.

Epcot is a very special park for us as it's where we met and now that we're married, we took our son to visit: his first Disney park. It was great to see the old place (we worked there 10 years ago!) and while some parts look nicer, others look a bit sad and/or closed. What's going on at Odyssey? Where is the waterfall in Norway? Why is wonders of life shut?

I love this park and because I love it so, I want that wand down. It's a symbol of all that is wrong with it.

Kevin Carter said...

I would take no new attractions, no new updates, no major celebrations for Epcot's 25th if they would just restore that entrance plaza to its original luster.

Put the horrible graveyard somewhere else, take down the wand, and remove all the millenium awnings. To me that would be a successful celebration of Epcot's 25th all by itself. Oh, and change the name back to Epcot Center.

Scott M. Curran said...

Agreed, agreed, agreed and agreed.
My wife and I were in Orlando this past weekend for a wedding and stayed at the Hilton near Downtown Disney. As the wedding was a morning event, we were able to sneak in a visit to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon. On the bus ride over, I glanced over and saw the wand and script "Epcot" over Spaceship Earth and instinctively shook my head back forward to look at the road ahead. Spaceship Earth used to be something to behold. Now it has been turned into little more than a shiny billboard that does little to capture the imagination. I know it is Epcot!!! Spaceship Earth already tells us that...why throw in a generic, completely unimaginative and gaudy add-on? So, as I said above...agreed.

My only question...and perhaps a topic for a future post (perhaps a sensitive one at that)...are any current imagineers listening???? Do they read this blog? What's the scoop on the issues this blog addresses? Is anyone trying? Is Lasseter steering this ship in a new direction? Inquiring minds want to know...and are hoping to see results.

Epcot82 said...

I'm not about to break confidences, but I have heard from some Imagineers. Of course, the ones who write to me are in agreement on all of the issues, and probably feeling a bit burned by Disney's management, which emphasizes cost-cutting in all areas (except, of course, the most senior management!) over actually implementing creative ideas that require investment and risk but could likely lead to more honest long-term growth.

There is a very strong feeling that Lasseter has let down Disney and Disney watchers. He had an opportunty to come in and make some swift pronouncements and changes. The media reported that Iger was essentially giving him carte blanche, but instead of calling for a thorough creative review, he rubber-stamped such attractions as the new Pixar ride at California Adventure, the Nemo overlays to The Living Seas and the Submarine Voyage (which were underway before he came on board, though theoretically he could have at least tried to gauge them critically), and the new Monsters Inc. attraction in Nothing-to-Do-With-Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. Gosh, do you sense a pattern?

Lasseter has, if not by action then by inaction, shown himself to have a strong propensity toward Pixar-based attractions, even if they have no "fit" in any particular theme park. He has also failed to make any indication he thinks Imagineering should be involved at all in the actual operation of the Theme Parks, which is something that many have urged over the years.

Keep in mind, of course, that he has enormous responsibility, and one of the most pressing issues has been the revival of Feature Animation. It is a huge driver of revenue and growth for the company, if done right -- though, it could fairly be argued, so is the proper management, growth and development of the company's 11 theme parks, nearly all of which have been criticized on the Internet and in the mainstream media for suffering from a lack of attention.

Lasseter, it is becoming clear (and, again, the Imagineers who have been willing to chat with me about this have upheld my belief), is an excellent, extraordinary, justly lauded creative leader ... but not particularly adept at the political game. He created a company that, by all accounts, has little need or desire for politics, then he oversaw the sale of it to a company that has become widely known for back-biting, vicious political infighting.

WDI, it seems, has become a culture of fear and animosity, where the idea takes a distant back seat to the personalities and the desire to maintain some bizarre agenda of ensuring that current management stays in place at all costs -- even if it ultimately undoes what took so many years to create.

In my own personal experience, I saw the change at WDI from a division that was lauded for its creativity, where everyone felt they had a chance to pitch ideas, one that was held in extraordinarily high regard by all employees. In the early 1990s, before the ramifications of EuroDisney became clear (and many of the decisions that led to the financial mess it is still in came not from WDI but from the Disney Development Company), WDI was seen as the zenith of Disney creativity. Feature Animation and WDI were filled with truly astounding people, and they were creating such extraordinary things as the Tower of Terror, Disney's America, Westcot, Tokyo DisneySea, and so on. Their star shone very brightly -- but when the EuroDisney debacle came to light, WDI was held up as the scapegoat. Suddenly, it was WDI's fault that Disney overspent on the park -- as if the cost decisions weren't reviewed by senior management at all steps.

So, WDI became subordinate to the parks themselves, and a marketing mindset took over. Spending on things that would directly lead to revenue (shops, restaurants, inexpensive movie-based rides) became the norm because their return on investment could be immediately calculated, and anything that was extravagant or smacked of "Disney quality" was snuffed out. WDI was forced to turn a profit (or at least operate like a "proper" business division), a directive completely at odds with its role as an R&D and creative group.

Ultimately, WDI seems to have lost whatever power it once had to influence what happens in the theme parks, and only those Imagineers who toe the company line (such as the one who claimed that the "Epcot" sign was a great idea because it added to the sense of place and gave the park an identity it needed!) were given prime projects.

Again, this is pieced together from a multitude of e-mails and conversations I've had ... and hopefully someone can correct me if I'm wrong about it!

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of finding the correct balance in a design. With a building like Spaceship Earth it's pretty much perfect the way it was designed -- adding anything to it starts to detract from it's pure form.

I can understand the reasons for doing what they did to Communicore. They were trying to create a visually exciting space to enliven the plaza. Unfortunately, the effort was misguided and the design has ended up clashing with the original design rather than enhancing it. A plaza doesn't have to be filled with tons of needless details to make it visually exciting. A minimalist design can be exciting in it's own right if it is executed properly.

Anonymous said...

Hey Epcot82:

I continue to enjoy this terrific blog about my favorite of theme parks; keep up the good work. This is off topic, but I just read on that the Wonders of Life pavillion is now opened through 12/31/06. Just an FYI for those who'd like to see this once familiar pavillion one last time.

As for me, I'm heading over to Epcot sometime before Christmas week to see El Rio Del Tiempo (and the usual Xmas decorations) before the Three Cabelleros take over.

- Mike

Epcot82 said...

I'm very excited that Wonders of Life is reopening, albeit temporarily. I was going to put up a post about it, but since I won't be able to experience it -- and, more importantly, since its "temporary" reopening only underscores how lunkheaded Disney's decision was to close it in the first place, I opted not to. I have heard (just a rumor!) that only the rides and interactive area will be open, and that the stage areas and other activities will be closed ... which could make the overall effect one not unlike when you used to visit your high school after hours and all except certain areas of the campus were shut down. It always seemed odd and spooky to me, and slightly sad.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from Disney world not but two days ago, ending the family vacation with a trip to EPCOT center. I have to say two main things about Mission Space and Spaceship Earth mainly because, well because i can (people seem to listen to others opinions here) and because i think there have been several misunderstandings about those two..

First Mission Space, OK people please be quiet about getting sick on this ride...seriously my entire family went on this ride, and not only do their warnings about motion sickness tend to scare you more than the ride, but also they are in my opinion a falsehood... Not a SINGLE person that rode the ride whilst we were waiting in line and saw exit, nor a single person in any of my familys car get sick(and yes we opted for the more intense version of the ride) Now I finally figured out why some people get/got sick on this ride however, they simply didn't follow simple directions..

now what do i mean by that? before you are assigned your "duty" on the ship you are reminded time and time again to keep your head facing forward, because of the motion sickness thing again...Just to test out what my theory(all good theories are tested) I experimented and told several of my family members to turn to the side and stop focusing on the screen, and i can tell you every person that did that felt sick whilst they weren't focusing on the screen, and everyone else never got sick, or even queezy. So for all the hype of how bad the ride is I very much enjoyed it, and will definitely ride it again...

Now to Spaceship Earth, god that wand makes me mad...I had several very good photos of Spaceship earth and some of the other very photogenic areas of Epcot center (i've uploaded them to photobucket (including some of the pictures that were destroyed by that wand :mad: please email me for the pics( darn photobucket won't let other people view my album)

anyways Yes that wnad continues to ruin pictures of EPCOT everywhere and needs to go, but the Innoventions PLaza shading actualyl from afar fits the curvature of Spaceship Earth(but once again that wand sticks out like a sore thumb)

other things that picked my brain when i was in EPCOT center was that Soarin' was a awesome ride, very fun and appropriate in the Land Pavilion, and The Sea with Nemo and friends though gaudy and annoying at times (the seagulls on the seas entrance really make you made after the first 10 times you hear them) I noticed that alot more people(espescially kids) wanted to go into the Seas to learn about Nemo or whatever, and anything that increases attendance therefore, awareness (like the ride was originally designed) is a good thing in my opinion...

the only other things I saw that was alittle annoying, but necessary annoyances was the repairs going on at much of the World Showcase Pavilions( espescially noticably at the the Chinese Pavilion) it ruined the view of the buildings up close...other than that thats all I have to say about EPCOT center, whats yalls opinion of this, I'd like to hear..