Tuesday, November 11, 2008

End of the Road?

Sometimes, change isn't planned, it's simply the only option.

Such may be the case EPCOT soon finds itself facing given the imminent collapse of GM. While Capitol Hill and Wall Street debate whether GM will really go away or get bailed out by the government, it's clear that GM is in deep, deep trouble. And, just as certain, a marketing initiative like GM's sponsorship of Test Track will soon seem like an unnecessary luxury.

GM was one of EPCOT Center's original sponsors, putting its money, name and ideas behind the World of Motion pavilion.

While Disney has never made public the details of its sponsorships, though GM's website indicates that the latest contract was signed in 1994 and actually expired in 2007. Now that GM and Disney have reached the 21st century together, maybe it's the end of the road?

Will Test Track go the way of the 100,000-square-foot ghost town that used to be Wonders of Life, which mostly serves as a reminder of Disney's lack of vision for and attention to EPCOT?

Will it be razed completely so that Test Track, like Horizons, Cranium Command, Body Wars and the World of Motion before it, becomes just a memory?

Will Test Track continue to operate without a sponsor, which likely means without a real post-show, so that the pavilion becomes just an even more meaningless thrill ride, one that lacks any theme or purpose?

Will Disney act decisively to find a new sponsor, one who could bring some much-needed innovation and ingenuity to what is now a 10-year-old attraction (not much younger than World of Motion was when it was shuttered)?

Most tantalizingly, might Disney use this opportunity to stay true to the theme of transportation, but go in a bold new direction, perhaps securing a sponsor that could showcase what the future holds, not just explore the present?

Two things are almost foregone conclusions: GM won't be the sponsor much longer, and Detroit doesn't hold the keys to the future of the pavilion.

Time will tell just what it will be.

EPCOT Central hopes only that it will be something ... and something good.


Matt said...

Nice current post. Again, the keywords here are "vision" and "future".

Anonymous said...

*prays it won't be "Cars" related.*

David Landon said...

I've actually been wondering about this for a while. My guess is that, since Test Track seems to be fairly popular, Disney will just pull the GM stuff out and continue to operate it for the present, maybe cutting its hours of operation to save some money.

Brian said...

TT is way too big of a draw for Disney to simply pull the plug on it. I think they'll find a way to keep it going - though they may dumb it down ala The Seas in the process.

Anonymous said...

And those latter two comments are the big worry. Even with a downturn in economic fortunes, Disney has enough money and enough resources to keep Test Track going without a sponsor, if it desired. IF it desired.

Anonymous said...

Your previous post about Disney needing sponsors in the beginning because Disney didn't have enough money and now it has plenty really impacted me.

GM might pull out but really, it shouldn't matter. Disney needs to set it's standards higher. It can afford to upkeep Test Track and any of it's attractions. Perhaps give Imagineers some space to create ideas for cars of the future and show them off in the exit area. I'm so sick of Disney lacking imagination and penny pinching. It takes money to make money. I keep waiting for Disney to exceed my expectations but that hasn't happened for a while now. :(

Oh and this whole Kim Possible attraction don't get me started.

Disney should use the opportunity to step up to the plate and make something amazing in the "transportation" world.

Anonymous said...

It "will" end up being "Cars" themed .. I put money on it!

Anonymous said...

If Disney turned Test Track into a "Cars"-themed pavilion, that would prove that to management, theme parks are interchangeable, the generic "Disney Parks" concept is something they (sadly) believe, and that Disney has TRULY lost its place as the premier theme park operator and developer in the world.

If "Cars" invaded EPCOT, it would be a sad day on so many levels and, after decades of Disney theme park attendance in my family, I'd TRULY be done, permanently with Disney's theme parks.

How sad, how terribly sad, would that concept be? What horrible things it would say about Disney's lack of ambition and commitment to the heritage of its founder. What an atrocious commentary it would be on creating things to appeal to the least common denominator.

Wow. The concept just boggles my mind. It would be unbelievably sad.

Anonymous said...

What about a company like Honda? They have shown a lot of interest in sponsoring the Asimo exhibit at Disneyland and rumors of future attractions.

Until GM shows some true innovation, they will continue having a hard time competing with innovative companies like Honda. GM tried with Saturn... but ultimately brought Saturn back under their umbrella a few years ago, and the things that people loved about Saturn vehicles left as well.

GM is going to need to focus on one line of vehicles going forward. They have too many. Honda has just Honda and Acura. That's it. People understand that.

GM should keep Chevy, Saturn, Buick, and Cadillac around, and rid themselves of Pontiac, Saab, GMC, and Hummer. Chevy and Saturn dealerships should be separate, to further the view that there is a difference.

Anonymous said...

my guess is that gm will lose the sponsorship and the ride will remain unsponsored for some time, at least by the major detroit companies. In an ideal world, the ride would be sponsored by some car company that produces cars running on electricity, or solar power, something meaningful. GM is the past, as is Chrysler, and Ford. Not to say these companies are going away, but they don't represent future innovation anymore, and they don't represent the right EPCOT. The ride should be modified to also represent the future, maybe the cars should run on something other than what they do now. They should make mentions of energy and the environment in the ride spiel, etc. The post-show area can be something better than a exported dealership.

Virtual Toad said...

anonymous: "What about a company like Honda? "

Funny, I had a dream several years ago about this exact scenario! The original WOM building was still intact, but you entered through a very tall, spacious, sunlit, curving, concrete, white-walled walkway. I distinctly remember a bright red "Honda" sign on the right-hand side as you walked in. Too bad I can't remember what the rest of the attraction was like, but I would *much* rather see a futuristic Honda attraction in this space than a "Cars" overlay!

On a side note, does anyone else find it incredibly ironic that Test Track's salute to fossil-fuel technology uses *electric powered vehicles?*

Anonymous said...

Cranium Command wasn`t razed. Closed it may be, but it is still there ;)

RoboPhred said...

Interestingly enough, the "fuel for though" exhibit has finally opened in Test Track.
Its quite lackluster, with a lit diagram of a hybrid car, a "memory" style game of European countries that ultimately just says how many countries a certain car traveled to on electricity, and a lot of empty space.

Anonymous said...

I'd really like to see them pull in an unconventional (read: non-car) sponsor, just to liven things up a bit. I think I'd rather them do away with sponsorship altogether, in fact. It would be great if Disney would stop thinking about the short-term profits and started treating EPCOT like the long-term investment it is.

subsonic - I've talked to a few people who have done early testing for the Kim Possible attraction, and they said that it was fabulous. It doesn't intrude on the World Showcase aspect of the park, and is actually quite subtle and interesting. I can't see a majority of people being interested in it, though, and I hate having yet one more non-EPCOT attraction in EPCOT.

Anonymous said...

What Trent said.

I say, do not let anyone but an American motor company sponsor TT. Keep jobs here in the US. Buy American-made and buy union-made. That will stimulate our economy.

Anonymous said...

Tracie, it's not just your economy that's screwed. We're (England) looking pretty bad, too.

Back to the topic at hand, I would hate to see TT close, yet have its diabolical neighbour Mission: SPACE remain. At least TT kept WoM's building, Mission: SPACE didn't (as cool as it would be if they had).

Anonymous said...

Such U.S.-centric statements are quite contrary to the view EPCOT has tried for so long to present of the world. I wonder if the message has never really sunken in with some folks.

Anonymous said...

Anon, are you the same one who lectured me in the previous post about diversity?

If you are, you seem to be the kind of person who appreciates diversity only as long as people share YOUR views.

And that's not really diverse.

There isn't one single thing wrong with supporting American jobs and American workers. Do you want to see our workers unemployed, going hungry, living on the street, etc, so long as homage was paid to your sacred cow "diversity?"

You'll also notice that at EPCOT, there has been no attempt to (for example) force the Chinese to be half-Canadian, or to somehow force the Mexicans to put French food on their menu.

Part of diversity involves allowing people to be what they are.

Anonymous said...

I like Test Track, but it should be longer.

Also, I found something a bit funny about Disney-park fans-At first they like something, the next minute they don't like something, or they just listen to the land ;).

Anonymous said...

What Trent said.

I say, do not let anyone but an American motor company sponsor TT. Keep jobs here in the US. Buy American-made and buy union-made. That will stimulate our economy.

So Toyota (or Honda) should be fine since they employ U.S. workers and even design cars in the U.S. for ONLY the U.S. market (See the Scion tC and their pickup lines as examples).

Oh wait, they aren't "union made" or the big reason why the Big 3 are suffering so much right now.

Anonymous said...

There isn't one single thing wrong with supporting American jobs and American workers.

I understand that, Tracie, but why complain about a (relatively speaking) small sponsorship when you're dealing with a company that does huge amounts of outsourcing? You'd be better served by asking Disney to support the US economy by keeping jobs in the US. And for the record, cars aren't the only form of transportation. There are plenty of US companies that deal with planes, trains, and other "things that go". I see nothing to gain by focusing so strongly on only auto companies.

Anonymous said...

KG: You really don't need to patronize me like that.

It was a momentary statement focused on one thing.

I'm well aware that there are bigger issues that go along with this economic difficulty.

You are blowing my comment entirely out of proportion and you also don't know what ELSE was circulating in my head, do you?

Enough, already. OK I'm the stupidest person to ever set fingers to a keyboard and I should never have raised up on my hind legs and bleated like the sheep I am. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, what penance am I supposed to do for making the comment I made?! When will it STOP?!

Clearly I was so wrong that there just aren't words to describe it, so what am I supposed to do to get you people to lay off?!

Anonymous said...

What I do not understand is how a single sponsorship of a fun attraction can cause so much controversy that's completely unrelated to Disney.

Unknown said...

"...might Disney use this opportunity to stay true to the theme of transportation, but go in a bold new direction, perhaps securing a sponsor that could showcase what the future holds, not just explore the present?"
This is one of the things that bugs me the most about where epcot seems to be heading (besides the character invasion... Mexico... The Living seas...). The future used to be amazing and interesting, with the pavilions showing us what could be. Now it seems like Epcot and it's caretakers would rather not think about the future, or have a poor, unimaginative grasp of what "might" come.

Anonymous said...

And this morning, it was announced that GM is cutting $800 million from their advertising budget. Is the sponsorship next on the chopping block?

Anonymous said...

Concerning GM sponsorship of Test Track: I don't know the actual Dollar amount spent. But for the amount and quality of exposure to GM products is actually a bargain. I have been told that Test Track has been of the best dollar value advertising for them.

Anonymous said...

Test Track is not going to die out. It's too popular for that. Disney has been talking to Toyota about sponsoring it. Toyota seems to show a lot of interest. Because we all know, the Japanese car industry isn't dead like America's. Yes it's sad. Of course, if Toyota chooses to slap its name on the attraction, new and interesting changes will probably be made. Test Track has to stay. It's always interesting seeing how cars are tested for saftey, putting you in the test car. Going through the tests certainly leave a lasting impression about the steps taken to ensure driver/passenger saftey. In my opinion, it's an exciting and innovative attraction that needs to stay.