Saturday, March 15, 2008

Return from EPCOT

Yes, I know, I know -- it's been a while. A long while.

But EPCOT Central is still open.

Knowing that a trip to EPCOT and Walt Disney World was coming up in March, it seemed best to delay updating the blog a bit so the commentary would be based on EPCOT as it exists now, not as it was on the last trip. (Not living in Florida or working for Disney anymore, trips to WDW aren't as frequent.)

There will be much more soon, but here are some initial thoughts:
  • Cast members at EPCOT, particularly in World Showcase, seem lacking in the Disney spirit. There were more lackadaisical, indifferent cast members here than anywhere else on our three-trip -- this was particularly true at Soarin', where we finally broke down and spoke directly to the three cast members who were having an awful lot of fun doing each others' hair, talking about the weekend, and comparing notes on who they liked to work with, but found little appreciation for the job at hand (you know, dealing with guests, managing the queue, etc.).

  • There's a great sadness around the Norway pavilion, which seems almost neglected; Maelstrom's queue area is poorly lit and was strewn with trash, Akershus is peopled only by families with children, and the cast members seem aware that Disney doesn't actually care about representing their culture -- only about turning this into a popular dining location. Visiting the Norway pavilion was painful.

  • Illuminations badly needs care. Hopefully the rumors are correct and the video globe will be replaced, because it's virtually impossible to make out any of the images (and there's a huge black rectangle in South America).

  • The Spaceship Earth rehab is mostly terrific. I agree with the nitpickers that some of the narration is pedantic, there's nothing to look at other than the screen in the descent, the music isn't memorable, and the story's through-line gets a little lost. I wonder, if Disney fans recognize this, how come Disney executives don't? Those problems aside, Spaceship Earth comes the closest to representing the best Disney has to offer. It remains an excellent "introduction" to EPCOT Center, and serves as a reminder to how thematically lacking "Epcot" is -- and how much potential it has to improve. Bravo on Spaceship Earth. (There will be more blogging about this later, no doubt.)

  • Wander to the northeast quadrant of Future World and anyone who cares about Disney is in for a rude shock. It's painful to see what's become of Wonders of Life -- like walking through an abandoned, neglected downtown area in a city that's in bankruptcy. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Universe of Energy looks wonderful on the outside, but there's no one there. Any Disney shareholder who wants to see the negative consequences of Disney's fiscal philosophies should walk through this section of the park.

  • Something needs to be done about stroller parking at The Land and the Seas.

  • El Gran Fiesta at Mexico isn't as bad as feared; but it genuinely does not represent Mexico. It's sad to see Latino heritage reduced to sarapes on birds. Still, it does sparkle more than before.

Generally speaking, this trip to EPCOT reinforced all of the concerns that EPCOT Central has been raising. Disney is neglecting this park, and it's beginning to show. Badly.

It was wonderful to spend time in EPCOT. Even a downtrodden EPCOT is better than no EPCOT at all. But, still ... what couldn't be done here with a little bit of money! How much Disney could achieve by polishing, buffing and re-thinking some of EPCOT and then pouring some marketing effort into it!

As we drove past the billboards and read the marketing material for all of the other theme parks in the area (Disney and non-Disney) it was rather disconcerting to see how similar they all are. They seem to be slicing the same piece of pie ever thinner rather than truly differentiating each offering.

EPCOT is like nothing else Disney, or anyone, has ever created.

One of these days, I hope, someone at Disney will truly understand that.


Anonymous said...

Glad to see your return to Epcot Central.

I felt the exact same way on my last trip but can't wait for the future.SSE seems to be the first right step.

Greg Bevier said...

Welcome back! Hopefully we'll see something in EPCOT's future that will give some hope like Horizons did.

Anonymous said...

I love it when this blog comes back from the dead. Nice shot--I trust you have a nice new crop of Epcot photos from your latest trip?

Epcot82 said...

Yes, indeed ... hope to be sharing them soon!

Anonymous said...

A trip to EPCOT for me is frustrating. It has so much damn potential to be cutting edge and lead the way.

I can only hope that one day I will help to change this park.

Josh said...

The tone of this post, while there is some negativity present, is mostly positive and hopeful. I'm pleasantly surprised by that, as I find your opinions are generally a good barometer for me to judge EPCOT by.

I'll be headed back that way in October. Can't wait to see how things look then!