Thursday, October 16, 2008

Do These Subjects Sound Familiar?

If you saw or read anything of this year's three presidential debates, or if you've even remotely paid attention to the latest news, you know that there are four issues that loom large in the minds of virtually every American today:

Energy, transportation, the environment and health.

How are we going to fulfill our gigantic and growing energy needs as the country speeds towards 400 million people, and how will we simultaneously manipulate and protect our global environment to do it?

Even if we can figure out solutions to those problems, how do we cope with a society (not just an American society, but a global one, really) that needs clean, efficient, forward-thinking transportation?

And how do we make sure we become healthier, stay healthy and afford health care?

Now, if you've been a regular reader of EPCOT Central, you may recall that Al Gore's Oscar-winning, 2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" provided the inspiration for an article called "A Convenient Theme?" EPCOT Central posed the possibility that all Imagineers and theme-park MBAs needed to revitalize EPCOT was to look closely at the movie.

Some wildly derided the proposition. Others found it intriguing.

Perhaps now is a good time to revisit the concept. Because in the last two years, it has become increasingly clear just how prescient, how necessary, EPCOT Center actually was.

We've learned, or perhaps we are learning, that just because something is "boring" does not mean it is not important. That just because "education" involved not only means we shouldn't dismiss it out of hand -- but we can't. We're learning that ignoring the vital issues only leads to ignorance and a lack of certainty over how to address them.

Consider, then, EPCOT Center's original mission. It still stands outside the park for all to see: "May it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere." Politics aside, it doesn't seem like we've really gone a long way toward that goal in the past 26 years. EPCOT Central has often quoted the tagline to "That's Entertainment!" and it seems appropriate to do it again: Boy, do we need it now.

EPCOT Center focused, originally, on five key areas of understanding: communication, energy, transportation, imagination and our environment. A few years after opening, health and the seas were added. The park wanted to enlighten guests about the challenges facing the future in these critical areas.

If the park failed to find exactly the right balance of education and entertainment, if it failed to get it just right in the first decade, it deserved an "A" for effort.

Now, more than a quarter of a century later, we're discovering that the global community, and particularly Americans, need to be informed about the potential and the pitfalls, the challenges and the opportunities, the successes and the failures, of these intensely important subjects. And as the third presidential debate made clear, both sides of American politics agree that we have failed to do that as a society. Our children and teenagers aren't aware, and they are growing up to be ill-informed adults who are asked and required to make vital decisions about our future.

The need to find alternative and safe energy sources, to protect and manipulate our environment, to provide reliable and clean transportation, and to safeguard the health of our people -- those are the very subjects that EPCOT Center explored.

And, sadly, they're the ones that Epcot has most tinkered with.

The park, much like society in general, has become fixated on entertaining and distracting its guests, rather than enlightening them.

All right, a healthy percentage of you are thinking, "I don't want education on my vacation!" Fine. Bypass EPCOT. Don't visit. Don't challenge yourself. Don't expose yourself to new ideas. It's all right. You can find all the Mickey-themed entertainment you need at three theme parks, two water parks, etc., etc., and you'll have a great vacation.

But if it's marketed right, a revitalized EPCOT could be proud of informing a large number of people of the challenges we're facing in these critical areas. Attractions like the "EPCOT Poll," ahead of its time in 1982, could be fed to the ravenously hungry online media and instantly reported. Attractions could be redesigned so they can be easily and frequently updated to reflect new information and ideas.

All it would take is commitment.

Imagine the marketing possibilities for The Walt Disney Company -- which would not only have a fully re-imagined theme park, but the ability to showcase its commitment to our future.

Best of all, unlike the massive (and crazy?) billion-dollar overhaul of Disney's California Adventure, the infrastructure is already there. The show buildings are there. The layout is there. The opportunity is there.

And EPCOT Center, as originally conceived, was always excited about opportunity.

Epcot could become EPCOT again, and show that our world can indeed be a better place.


St. Chris said...

What, you want to turn Epcot into, like, a permanent World's Fair or something?

Epcot82 said...


Anonymous said...

The park, much like society in general, has become fixated on entertaining and distracting its guests, rather than enlightening them.

Oh give me a break. You're one of those doom-sayers that thinks the world keeps getting worse. You just had to sneak in that "like society in general" comment, huh?

If you haven't noticed, Disney is "fixated" on entertainment and not enlightenment. They haven't produced educational programming since Walt was alive and they have no interest in it. Look at the franchises they HAVE thrown money at in the past decade. They are all storybook or lifestyle brands that promote escapism.

All right, a healthy percentage of you are thinking, "I don't want education on my vacation!" Fine. Bypass EPCOT. Don't visit. Don't challenge yourself. Don't expose yourself to new ideas. It's all right. You can find all the Mickey-themed entertainment you need at three theme parks, two water parks, etc., etc., and you'll have a great vacation.

LOL. Wow. I wonder why Disney hasn't hired you already. While its nice that you're trying to say Disney should take these risks, your opinion of "like it or leave it" makes absolutely no business sense. You're suggesting Disney turns Epcot into this educational attraction that would be in contrast to the other parks and the overall agenda of the Disney company.

If the park failed to find exactly the right balance of education and entertainment, if it failed to get it just right in the first decade, it deserved an "A" for effort.

Incredible. You're willing to hand out grades for effort? This is the exact reason why we can't take you seriously. You're an idealist that is willing to overlook the demands of the public in order to remain true to a failed theme. You're too stubborn and too ignorant to realize that the showcase of the future doesn't belong is an overly priced theme park.

Its your blog, so keep posting. You provide too much humor for our office.

Epcot82 said...

Anonymous, one can only suppose that you work for Disney. So, in keeping with the debates, please allow me to address your points:

"If you haven't noticed, Disney is "fixated" on entertainment and not enlightenment. They haven't produced educational programming since Walt was alive and they have no interest in it."

ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. EPCOT Center opened in 1982, 16 years after Walt Disney died, while Disney Educational Productions was an integral part of the Disney Consumer Products division until about 1998, some 32 years after his death. Disney Interactive produced a great deal of educational material until about 1999/2000.

"You're suggesting Disney turns Epcot into this educational attraction that would be in contrast to the other parks and the overall agenda of the Disney company."

IT WOULD ALSO turn it BACK into the concept that Disney spent $1 billion to build in 1982. As for the "like-it-or-leave-it" concept, well, Disney practices that all the time. Disney's Wide World of Sports and the Disney racetrack/driving experience are two examples, as are the water parks. A healthy percentage of guests "leave it" when it comes to those, along with high-end (or low-end) resorts, Downtown Disney, and most recreation facilities. Indeed, the best business sense is to create multiple products that appeal to different audiences -- in other words, brand segmentation. it was, for many years, both the ideal and the goal for Disney (think about, for instance, Touchstone Pictures, the Walt Disney Classics Collection or ESPN). For some reason, Disney has, by and large, turned away from this model, which served it well, in favor of creating an increasingly homogeneous brand.

"You're willing to hand out grades for effort? This is the exact reason why we can't take you seriously."

LIKE MOST GRADING SYSTEMS, effort is absolutely taken into account. Not considering intent, effort and execution leads to overlooking the areas in which improvement can be realized. I should hope you would realize that "'A' for effort" is, as well, a rather well-used phrase, and I'm afraid you exhibit a rather alarming literalness here. Just so you'll know, as far as I'm aware, no actual "report cards" have ever been issued to Epcot.

"You're an idealist that is willing to overlook the demands of the public in order to remain true to a failed theme."

PERHAPS THAT'S TRUE, though idealism is, I've been told throughout my life, a trait to be emulated, not ridiculed. Indeed, I am willing to "overlook the demands of the public," as the stark reality is that the public generally knows what it wants when it gets it. This is not a commentary on "our society," but rather an observation of any large group. Perhaps you've had the experience of reaching consensus with your jovial office mates, only to find that your boss or group leader has a different idea. And, once that idea has been put in place, you're surprised to find s/he was right, while your idea was misguided. If we only gave the public what it wanted, Walt Disney would never have created anything other than Mickey Mouse shorts, the telephone would never have been invented, and we'd all still be mailing typewritten letters through the Postal System. Improvement and advancement require leadership, the willingness to look beyond trends, and a vision that can be followed even in the face of doubters.

Oh, and you're right.

It's my blog.

I'm glad it provides amusement to those who are clearly more enlightened than me.

Thanks for your lengthy comment. It means a lot that you were stirred enough to write so many words about something with which you so heartily disagree.

And if I'm right, please say hello to the folks at Team Disney Burbank. Some of them may remember me.

Epcot82 said...

By the way, Anonymous, if you have been keeping up with the blog for a while, you'll know that EPCOT Central believes it's a crying shame that Disney can't see the potential of turning EPCOT into a "lifestyle brand." Fruit doesn't hang much lower than that.

Anonymous said...

re: Anonymous

Whether you work for Disney or not, it would seem from the readership of this and many other blogs, that there is a perception among fans that Epcot has lost its way.

Whatever the original plan or operating aesthetic it originally had, there is little doubt that it has become either diluted or so blurry as to make little sense anymore.

The many readers of this blog mourn what might have been, and are interested in what this unique park might yet become. Why criticize these honest emotions and ideas? Is what Epcot is now so wonderful and complete that it cannot be improved?

Anonymous said...

There's no need to assume that education can't be fun. I remember going to EPCOT Center as a young child in the 80's and absolutely loving to experience the technology of tomorrow and see what the future could be like. I went to Disney this past summer and was really excited to go to Epcot because I hadn't been there in a long time and was so disappointed that much of the futurism had been replaced with thrill rides. Reading your posts is bittersweet because while it's good to know someone else feels as I do, it's almost like a sad nostalgia wishing things back to how they used to be.

Anyway, back to the actual topic, your ideas sound a lot like The Venus Project's theme park idea. What are your thoughts on that and how they compare/contrast with your vision for EPCOT Center?

Disney obviously still has interest in education with the existence of the DisneyNature film label. No reason they can't somehow tie that brand in with Epcot.

Anonymous said...

Also, being ecofriendly is the "it" thing right now. There's no reason Disney can't cash in on that. Epcot has The Universe of Energy, Living with the Land, and such already, now just take things to the next level (or back to the original level, as we believe ;) ). EPCOT Center had the whole environmentalism concept going on years before it was ever cool.

David Landon said...

Y'know, there's no reason why EPCOT can't be BOTH fun AND educational. You want to put Pixar's Nemo into The Living Seas? Great idea! Give the kids a fun and colorful ride, but also throw in a few exhibits about what global warming and overfishing are doing to Nemo and his friends. What better way to get kids thinking about the future of the oceans than by putting the face of a beloved character on it?

There's no reason for EPCOT to be all dry and academic. Despite Disney's unparalleled marketing ability (face it, they could sell you a turdbuger and make you like it) bad consumer word-of-mouth generally acts like Kryptonite. People who might have enjoyed EPCOT will stay away if their friends say "Don't go there, I heard it's boring." So, if people want fun and thrills, I say give them fun and thrills but slip a message in there. It's very doable, look how much money WALL-E made this summer. People will swallow the medicine if you coat it with the right candy.

My biggest gripe with EPCOT in the last decade or so has been the consistent replacement of attractions that gave you an immersive 10-15 minute experience with attractions that only last 5 minutes and aren't quite as immersive. I don't deny that the attractions in question needed a refurb, but I'm a little ticked that the refurbs almost always result in less show.

Oh, and one last thing: Anonymous, no one denies you've got a right to your opinion, but is it really necessary to be such a douchebag about it? And don't bother hiding behind the "Anonoymous" label, we all know it's you, Mr. Cheney.

Anonymous said...

If anyone reading this has a copy of the 1984, 1985 or 1986 Walt Disney Productions/Walt Disney Company annual reports, it would be very interesting to see what happened to WDW attendance during that time period -- when Disney reported those figures. I'm still dubious that "bad word of mouth" had anything to do with EPCOT's original "failure," as much as abject failure by Disney to put the necessary money into keeping the attractions updated, revised, revitalized and interesting. EPCOT really needed a commitment to refreshing it every three to five years, making sure that its attractions didn't look outdated, since they did that very, very quickly.

EPCOT was a completely unique proposition, and Disney "sold" it brilliantly -- REALLY brilliantly -- prior to its opening. Then, Disney fell into tough times, and had to buy up "poison pill" companies like Arvida and Gibson Greeting Cards in order to avoid being taken over. So it had no money to put into the parks.

Now, it does. But Disney has been so concerned about becoming a multi-media conglomerate that it has forgotten how to run theme parks that have unique, exciting, DIFFERENTIATING personalities. Disney SHOULD have "the classic park," "the science and culture park," "the movie park" and "the animal park." Increasingly, though, it has "the Disney park," "the Disney park," "the Disney park" and "the Disney park" in Florida -- all of which, not surprisingly, fall under the banner of "Disney Parks."

Anyway, if you happen to have a stash of old annual reports and can share attendance, that would be great! As EPCOT Central pointed out, EPCOT brought in 10.1 million visitors in its first year -- which isn't far off its current attendance, actually. So, whatever Disney's been doing, you can't say it has either helped OR hurt attendance. The audience for EPCOT has remained fairly consistent, and Disney doesn't seem to understand how to make it grow. The ideas presented here are at LEAST as much worth considering as any others.

Anonymous said...

Its always easier to tell people how to run a business than to run one yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous III ... what is your point? I'm not sure I get it. Wall Street has given Disney plenty of advice and look where that has taken the company. I'm not sure that anyone actually IS running Disney, though they pay Iger an awful lot of money to say he is. This blog isn't telling Disney how to run its business, it's making some great suggestions. DIS has paid handsomely for the kind of feedback and suggestions this blog makes. Too bad no one seems to be listening. There have been some pretty lame-brained assertions made on EPCOT Central, but there have also been some really amazing ones, which would lead to a better, more marketable, more focused theme park that could result in tangible benefits to Disney. Yeah, being an armchair quarterback is easy. That doesn't make it wrong.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a bunch of fat guys talking about how some pro atheletes need to improve their game. Tourism is a tricky industry and I know the most about it.

Epcot82 said...

Please enlighten us, Ricky! Hopefully, it reminds you more of former athletes sitting around talking in an educated way about the game, utilizing their experience. I had about a decade of experience within the ranks in Burbank, working directly with marketing execs in theme parks, theatrical, consumer products and home video, so as the author of this piece, I like to think it reads more like "color commentary" than "armchair quarterbacking"!

Digital Jedi said...

Ricky said:
>>>This reminds me of a bunch of fat guys talking about how some pro atheletes need to improve their game. Tourism is a tricky industry and I know the most about it.<<<

Actually, Ricky, I don't think you do. Otherwise, you'd offer your insight instead of calling everyone intellectual "fat guys". Tell me which is easier? Sitting down and coming up with viable, tenable solutions to a subject you've put a great deal of thought into? Or making a one paragraph blog post deriding those that do? To borrow another theme from the current election, "Your silence is defening."

Anonymous said:
>>>Its always easier to tell people how to run a business than to run one yourself.

And always easier to pretend there's nothing wrong with your business and ignore the people that keep you in business to begin with. Especially when you've ridden someone else's legacy to get where you are today.

Anonymous said:
>>>"You're an idealist that is willing to overlook the demands of the public in order to remain true to a failed theme."<<<

Uh-huh. And what demand was that exactly? Nemo in the Living Seas? Was there a big rally to get Horizons junked that I missed? How about that big campagn to make sure there was no clear theme to Future World, but to make sure you still called it Future World ---- just because.

And what failed theme was that? To borrow another overused political term, you've been sipping the Kool-Aid. There was no failed theme, other then the failure to stick to it. No buisness sense that looks to the continued health of a brand seeks to water it down till it has no theme. And that's just common sense. No buisness degree required.

Anonymous said...

I think what we are missing here is a mass gathering of one form or another. Something tells me that the new leadership over there at Disney saw an opportunity to not suck and they grabbed it. The whole 25th anniversary of EPCOT Center happened because there was sufficient outcry from people all over the place (contained mostly in cyber-space) It seems to me that those of us who feel the same way you do epcot82, missed our opportunity to keep things like that going! We can become the voice that pushes at least a better partial agenda. Partial because we have to take it in steps.
Your recent post is so on the money! Its kind of like watching one of those Nostradamus specials on the history channel. EPCOT Center pushed this stuff 26 years ago, a full quarter century before it became the talk of the town out of necessity! While there are more important things in life to fight for, I think this is important if only for the fact that EPCOT Center can become what its intent was. A hub of invention, promise, and the sharing of ideas! It's all there just waiting!!

Anonymous said...

Global Warming is a very touchy subject and many people (scientists who are perfectly qualified to say to as well) don't believe that it is occurring due to scientific data so that is a touchy subject that could get political. Why I won't delve into the politics of it I believe that the world does need a better vision of tomorrow than what we have, and I don't mean a crappy jib jab cartoon either. EPCOT Center was an excellent thing for the world that has been destroyed, but there is still a chance it can be brought back, I hope it will.

Anonymous said...

Life is a very touchy subject. The argument you put forth is absurd to anyone with a brain.

Anonymous said...

One aspect I'd like to comment on:

Florida's Disney parks really do feel more and more generic to me. WDW should provide more distinctive experiences. Currently, I see the same generic stores everywhere, selling the same products. The same characters are everywhere, each park feels more alike to the others every time I go.

Let EPCOT be EPCOT. That works for me.

EPCOT, to me, ought to be educational in the same way that Animal Kingdom is conservationalist. The message, the theme is not so much direct as indirect. At AK, the experience of the dignity and intrinsic value of the environment and natural life is the real contribution of AK to its environmental angle.
Likewise, for EPCOT the experience of bold visions, the encounter of its broad themes, the inspiration drawn from American optimism, is the way in which it is educational.

I feel good when I can experience this on my vacation. I feel better about taking my children there. Moreso than going to a generic cartoon character park. Just like I feel better taking my children to experience world cuisine than taking them to a generic fastfood restaurant.

I am not an industry bigshot. I am, as is more likely in the case of several comments here, also not posing as one to add gravitas to my anonymous ramblings on the internet.
I am, instead, just a family man who happens to pay the bill for my family's next year's holiday.

Scott said...

It seems to me that science and discovery centers do a lot of Epcot's mission now and some do it very well. Their mission is more to educate than to entertain (though entertainment is certainly part of their goal, too).

Epcot's mission is to do both, and do them at a high level. I definitely want to have fun when I go there, and part of the reason I'm willing to pay a high admission to them instead of just going to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is BECAUSE I want to be entertained as much or even more than I want to be educated AT THAT TIME. They do succeed at that, and it's their job to figure out a way to do both but to make sure that the guests are entertained first and foremost. That's my opinion...

Anonymous said...

This blog has shown me how evil Disney really is. I now hate the conglomerate. Thank you.

Virtual Toad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Virtual Toad said...

First anonymous said: "Oh give me a break. You're one of those doom-sayers that thinks the world keeps getting worse."

With all due respect, anonymous, and sorry for jumping in so late, I think the author of this blog is one of those people who believes the world can be so much *better* than it is.

Somewhere along the line, America stopped taking risks, stopped pushing the envelope. Disney is a perfect example of an American business that lost its way by playing it safe. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Disney theme parks.

EPCOT used to be a unique, fantastic place. Visitors started in Future World, where they saw how imagination, ingenuity and cooperation could change our lives. Then they continued on to World Showcase, to see the result of that idealism-- a world living in harmony. Yes, that's a more challenging theme to execute than "come see Mickey Mouse," but the results were sublime. The original EPCOT was part of a societal movement that helped influence an entire generation of young people-- people who would grow up to lead the technological revolution.

You see, anonymous, the original EPCOT was the very embodiment of its message: take risks, show leadership, try the unconventional and you *can* make the world a better place.

Today's "Epcot" just feels like a bad carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom. Sure, it's full of character meals and plush toys, but it's totally devoid of a soul.

Some of us frustrated by the direction "Disney Parks" have taken not only see what used to be, but what might have been. If Disney could somehow regain its leadership and vision-- and most of all, *confidence* in its own brand, things could be so much more than they are now.

As for extending this argument to society in general, it *is* appropriate, because the lack of vision, courage and leadership at Disney mirrors the malaise that's poisoning our society. The complacent notion that "things could be better, but why bother?" is *exactly* what's wrong with Disney-- and our nation at large.

Finally, anonymous, some of us have noticed that much of the criticism coming from the halls of Disney these days is not-so-thinly laced with vitriol. That somehow, you find it necessary to "slap down" anyone with the audacity to challenge the direction the company's current management has taken.

That attitude speaks volumes about how insecure some of you really are.

Hux said...

Hey there E82 (mind if I call you E82?). I just discovered your blog on a link from the Disney Blog, and I have to say I find it fascinating. While I may disagree with some of your specific ideas on revitalizing EPCOT, I do agree with your main thesis that EPCOT has lost its way.

Personally, I think the Disney Paks in general lost their way once "synergy" became the primary focus of the parks. The Parks all lost focus on what they were supposed to be focusing on and just became excuses to advertise whatever new movie Disney had coming out that week. We lost the uniqueness of the individual parks. So EPCOT became lost its bright vision of the future (although I will admit that I thought Innoventions was brilliant when it first opened), Disney-MGM lost its classic movie feel, and the two Magic Kingdoms...well, don't let me get started. Does anyone remember the days when Disney didn't have to base an attraction on a movie? When there were certain experiences you could only get in the parks? Brilliant things like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. Now all the unique attractions seem to be either leftovers from Walt's Era, or in foreign countries like Tokyo DisneySea. Roy Disney said it best when said "synergy was a great thing until it had a name". I think that has been the greatest threat to Disney Parks.

I am however curious as to what you think of John Lasseter? There was great hope in him when he first came to the Studio, and I'm wondering if you have insight into his new role at Imagineering. While I know it'll be years before we begin to see the fruits of his labors, so far I've been a bit unimpressed. Although, in fairness, many of the things I've been unimpressed with (like the Tinkerbell movie) were in the works before he even came to the Studio.

Epcot82 said...

I think John Lasseter is a brilliant creative mind who has great, great respect for the theme parks, their history and their unique identities.

But I think he has "bigger fish to fry" than EPCOT, I think he's learning that Disney is way more highly politicized than he ever imagined, and I imagine that he's overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of his job -- and the problems facing Disney theme parks. He is not in an enviable position.

Thank you for reading -- and, no, feel free to call me "E82"!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, why can't you all stop complaining about a theme park?

All this whining about a single park. Get a life.

Epcot82 said...

EPCOT Central asks readers to ignore the comment of "anonymous" above!

David Landon said...

Something that virtual toad said got me thinking:
Somewhere along the line, America stopped taking risks, stopped pushing the envelope. Disney is a perfect example of an American business that lost its way by playing it safe.

Specifically, it got me thinking of JFK's famous "we choose to go to the Moon" speech, and how I can't remember the last time I heard someone in a position of leadership talk like that. As a society, we've stopped believing that we're capable of great things. As a result, we haven't been to the moon since before I was born, and we get overly excited by shiny trinkets like the iPhone that are fun to play with but do nothing to improve the human condition.

And when I think of EPCOT, it galls me that they borrowed the words "We choose to go" for Mission:Space's logo, but the pavilion itself contains nothing of that inspirational message. Kind of like the majority of the park. Maybe it's because people like Walt Disney and JFK have given way to people like, well, the folks in charge of Disney and the folks in charge of the government.

Matt said...

(^) In regards to that attraction (and its message), the queue is passable, the exit sucks (as does the "post-show" game area), but the ride itself is pretty damn good.

The fact that they poured that amount of money into remaking an old Disney concept - and done exceptionally (by this I mean that they stretched the technical bar and created something unique) - should be given kudos. Also, the somewhat abstract and far-reaching notion of seriously considering human travel to Mars should be given applause (for at least presenting it in a ride that seems to take it somewhat seriously - not presenting it as a "cartoon" endeavor).

As far as the discussion of the event, that's another story. The Mission: Space concept is different than past attractions at EPCOT, obviously, because it doesn't hinge on learning, but rather entertainment. I think that's an area they had to touch on with Universal across the road, and with the audience's demand of thrill rides. It's obvious that thrill rides alone draw a certain segment of visitors, and Disney is trying to put a certain number of these rides in each park. I think diversification in this respect makes sense.

Still, maintaining the original concept for EPCOT could've been given more credence in this ride by adding realistic learning experiences to the post-ride area (not video games - especially not video games that suck). The thing that made/makes Disney great is their thoughtfulness and attention to detail when creating tangible environments, and in this ride they failed to do that. How can they devote that kind of attention to barely noticeable areas in AK, but not the exit of this ride?

Off topic, this leads me to what the public expects/"wants" (in entertainment and design) vs. what is appropriate (and good) for the overall theme and specific message. [Where is Steve Jobs when you need him?]

What immediately comes to mind for me is the lack of detail in their recent overhauls (in environment and gaming) - for example, this is minor, but the use of Flash animation (and childish presentation) in Spaceship Earth. Horrible. Just a reflection of what I hate about our current society, and thus, the people in charge of adding these new concepts. Disney, as media in general, used to talk UP to kids instead of down to them, which also allowed a respectable presentation for adults - a win-win situation.
The ending of Horizons was more interesting than SE's new ending, and that was 20 years ago! It seems that everything must be presented as a game now, and that's not a good route to take for a theme park, where people go to escape, when every kid in America has the best video games on the market in their living room. Disney can't (and shouldn't) try to compete with that segment of this quickly ever-changing market. They should focus on what people love about rides - the combination of fantasy and tangibility. This means active "dioramas", animatronics, detailed environments - things that you can look at and ponder endlessly about without it being on a screen.

Disney used to be exceptional at combining learning and entertainment (but so did other segments of society).

Again, Mission:Space should be commended for its technical achievements (and concept), but as E82 restates over and over (and I agree) it's the overall message and attention to detail that's lacking here. I hope the rest of the park doesn't go down the road that the recent remakes have gone.

Matt said...

People want more out of life - though, some don't even know it. They want meaning.

The thing that Disney mgrs don't realize is that they have a unique opportunity to present ideas to society that others don't. Being concerned about wealth is what's wrong with Disney and society in general today.

As E82 has already stated, Disney is now and will probably forever be comfortably financially, its the viability of their conceptualization and risk-taking that's lacking.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Epcot82. It's sad that a lot of the positive buzz that Gore's movie and movement created has seemingly dissipated leaving politicians weakly supporting a terrible alternative (ethanol) and still pushing to rape Earth more so that in a hundred years EPCOT will have an ocean view. Phooey.

EPCOT to me, as a little kid, made me think positively about conservation hand in hand with these great ideals for the future. What better place to bring that theme back and utilize all of its Future World pavilions to showcase a little green. I don't think people get the effect these parks can have on the youth. Trust me, it gets in there. It may take a while but the foundation is built strong. I'm fairly certain it's why I'm who I am now because things like EPCOT helped make me appreciate the world I live in.

Dan said...

Isn't it interesting that most simple-thinking naysayers on this board always post as "anonymous"?

Seriously, I don't think anyone here believes they know exactly what should be done to fix Epcot.
What's so frustrating is that each change moves the park further away from the original concept. The lack of vision in these "updates" is disturbing.

And it wouldn't take a complete overhaul to change the direction of Epcot.

In Future World, you could update the Universe of Energy (12 years old) and make it a modern look at our environmental issues. Attendance would soar there. Do some minor tweaks at Test Track (9 years old) while keeping the thrill aspects. Crowds would grow even larger. Keep the Nemo theme at Living Seas but create some new, innovative exhibits to go along with it. Start over at Imagination and use new technologies to create something unique (and longer). And do something at Mission: Space (perhaps in the post-show area) to enhance our understanding of space travel instead of just giving thrills.

At World Showcase, we need to have a few new attractions. The gigantic building by Germany could be used for a ride. The Norway film needs an update. And the France movie also should be newer. The American Adventure needs a modern touch.

It would just be nice to see balance. I know the characters aren't going anywhere, but can we also have some innovation too?

Anonymous said...

Dan, don't forget...and they could use the Wonders of Life pavilion for some new theme. I really just never found WoL interesting. If they could find a way to perhaps better present the concept of health, then go with it. But maybe they can use the pavilion (which is a great looking building) for some other theme along these lines. Something that is forward thinking and educational. I don't know what that is right now but it could be an extension of things that aren't given enough time in other pavilions. Or a totally new concept. Clearly there are plenty. And it's a shame a good building in Future World is being used for corporate seminars or something.

Hlinskona said...

As for the "like-it-or-leave-it" concept, well, Disney practices that all the time. Disney's Wide World of Sports and the Disney racetrack/driving experience are two examples, as are the water parks.

AMEN! I'm a Florida resident and I have never gone to Sports and I don't like most of the water parks.

There's plenty of actual "entertainment" ALL OVER ORLANDO if that's what people want.

Go there.

I want the old EPCOT back. Badly.

Epcot82 said...

As I've said before, what astounds me is that Disney is typically so good at branding and sub-branding. But they just can't make EPCOT work, primarily because no one within management ranks at Disney understands it or its potential.

There is room for four COMPLETELY different experiences within Walt Disney World -- plus, as we've mentioned, the water parks, Wide World of Sports, the racetrack, all of the resorts, etc. Just as with those elements, it is economically sensible to make some that appeal more to a consumer subset than others. Based on the park attendance estimates, it's clear that fewer people go to Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios than the Magic Kingdom. So, why not appeal to those who DO go, those who have an affinity for the park's theme, than try to capture those who clearly have no interest in going?

You're right, hlinskona, there is plenty of opportunity for ALL tourists to focus narrowly on what appeals to them. It's such an obvious solution, such a clear and simple way to be able to market to hugely different groups, that it truly amazes me that Disney can't see the opportunity that sits right under its collective nose!

NavyKato said...

The original vision of Walt Disney for EPCOT was not even a Park but to develop a prototype city or community that embrace continuos improvement in technology to improve the standards of living. This prototype city was to be of circular design (similar to what Jacques Fresco has proposed in his Venus Project). We should go beyond the surface discussion of whether the park is effective in entertaining or an educating experience and try to revive the pursuit of Walt's original vision of EPCOT in the absence of such visionary and forward looking ideas from contemporary leaders....