Monday, March 16, 2009

In Response to Anonymous

Typically, EPCOT Central doesn't publicly call out responses to posts, though every single one is read (multiple times, usually) and appreciated. However, this one is worthy of making an exception. In response to EPCOT Central's "Marketing EPCOT" entry, a user who chose to remain "Anonymous" wrote, in part:

"Almost all of your posts write about how to re-brand the park and deal with marketing and management. You never consider the internal structure might be flawed. Unlike a Disneyland style park, Epcot is basically a showcase for corporate America. Its in bed with various sponsors to fund the park's operation costs. No other park has a sponsor for every attraction. ..." (Followed by a great deal of valid complaint and comment on EPCOT's sponsorship structure. The entire response won't be quoted, but you can read it here.)

Further, Anonymous claimed that thh suggestion to "re-structure the park back to its original intent is bad. You make no effort to suggest how Epcot (or EPCOT CENTER, whatever) would be able to compliment the rest of Disney's offerings. Its like putting a book in a stack of video games and letting the public chose their form of entertainment. ... What's even more ridiculous is that you're asking them to re-brand Epcot for a niche audience. With that much land invested into the concept, I doubt they'll be gearing towards a niche anytime soon. ... This is why when the company tries to synergize you get things like Kim Possible and Donald Duck...its the only content they have. The parks are extensions of a brand, not the reverse. How do you expect them to manage an entire theme park around a concept when they can't even develop smaller investments (TV or consumer products franchises) around the education/discover concept?"

It genuinely seems to me worth opening up a discussion among all EPCOT Central readers about the subjects Anonymous raises. Partly, this is because Anonymous raises some arguments that I think are probably shared within The Walt Disney Company and, unfortunately, fail to grasp some of the basic truths about EPCOT Center, Disney's theme-park business and the potential of The Walt Disney Company as a whole to become better. And given that Disney is firing many of its employees, charging fans $75 to receive marketing material, just announced that it is halting Hong Kong expansion, and has lost more than $30 billion in market-cap value in recent years, there's obviously a lot of room for improvement.

Two and a half years ago, EPCOT Central asserted that "as goes EPCOT, so goes Disney," and so far, there's been little evidence to the contrary.

So, first, let's get one important fact out of the way -- indeed, almost every major attraction at Disneyland-style parks have (or have had) corporate sponsors. It's not difficult to find a list. They include AT&T, Energizer, Kodak, FedEx, Mattel, NIPPON Oil, TOMY, Dai-Chi Mutual Life Insurance, Fujifilm, RCA, Esso and many others. These are only the attractions at Disneyland-style parks. From the outset, from the very conception of Disneyland, sponsorship has been a key element.

Of course, many major attractions -- such as The Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Indiana Jones Adventure, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and others -- operate without any sponsorship at all. Either sponsorships have lapsed, the rides were conceived to be sponsor-free, or there simply was no sponsor interest. Certainly not every major attraction requires a sponsor, and there's no reason that should not be the case at EPCOT.

EPCOT Center was unlike any other Disney theme park from the start. The reason sponsors were sought was not solely to underwrite costs, but because the unusual "pavilion" concept allowed EPCOT's attractions to thoroughly and completely convey a sponsor's intended message. The sponsor's logo wasn't simply pasted onto the ride; the entire concept was developed with the partner's involvement.

So, quite the opposite than "flawed," the sponsorship opportunities at EPCOT are quite brilliant. The problem is, Disney cannot define the park to potential sponsors, cannot articulate a clear vision, and have difficulty helping sponsors understand why such an "old-fashioned" concept is still relevant. In this area, Disney clearly needs some help. When companies are spending literally billions of dollars on acquisitions, brand extensions and new businesses, there should still be money for something that captures tens of millions of people as singularly as a trip to a Disney theme park.

But today's Disney is not like yesterday's. While market cap and overall value have declined precipitously, Disney has the money, the ability and the power to operate its own theme park, even without sponsor money. It can, it just won't, and the question of "why" is indeed a curious one. Why wouldn't Disney want to encourage its own vision of the future, to lay out its own story of what we can be in our Future World, to present its own vision of our peoples in World Showcase? Well, in part, it does appear to want this -- as long as that vision includes Pixar characters, Disney characters or synergistic opportunities.

Disney's "vision" these days doesn't see far beyond its balance sheet, which is too bad -- because when you consider the remarkable opportunity it has created for itself, it's almost scary. Tens of millions of people are in Disney's thrall every year, and yet it does not try to espouse a particular set of views or philosophies. It's a big like a comic-book super-villain bent on "dominating the world" instead being content to sell toys and candy to everyone. Yes, I'm implying here that Disney could use its unprecedented opportunity to spout propaganda for nefarious purposes ... it could also use that opporutnity for remarkably good purposes, employing (as it once did) some of the greatest scientific and philosophical minds to create a vision of a possible future.

But really all it wants to do is sell more toys and candy. Oh, and lots and lots of t-shirts.

That's a major opportunity wasted, if you ask me.

In fact, EPCOT Center (or lower-case Epcot) should indeed"compliment (sic) the rest of Disney's offerings." But I think you were trying to imply that they should all be more alike than different -- an assertion I couldn't disagree with more. That's no more true than saying Disney should make only one kind of movie, only one kind of TV show, produce only one type of toy, publish only one type of book. Just as you would not want every house in your city to look exactly the same, or every piece of furniture in your house to strictly adhere to the same design ... just as you would not want every child in the world to think alike ... or every painting by Van Gogh to look alike ... or every piece of music by Mozart to sound alike ... every Disney theme park should "compliment" (actually, that's complement) each other, not mirror each other.

They should exist harmoniously together. They should each offer an experience that is unique and exciting and entertaining. Totally different, totally unlike the other, yet also making up a wonderful whole.

In fact, you're right, Anonymous: It's exactly like letting the public choose "their own form of entertainment." It's why we have hundreds of TV channels, hundreds of movies released annually, why the shelves of Target or Wal-Mart or Blockbuster are filled with thousands upon thousands of movies. Each one of us likes something different ... and in sum, we can say we share a common love "of movies" or "of reading" or "of Disney," even if our individual definition is different. Unfortunately, Disney, like you, would have it mean only the same thing, narrowly defined, denying itself the one thing that Walt Disney used to encourage us all to believe in: possibility.

Why Disney can't recapture that, why it has become a concept so narrowly defined that it can't sustain EPCOT, why it can't see Spaceship Earth as much more than "a giant golf ball," well ... that is the real disappointment.

As a longtime fan, as a lifelong shareholder, and as a steadfast believer in the things Walt Disney spent his life trying to get us to believe, it is saddening. This quote has been used before, and it will be used again no doubt -- the comment Eric Sevareid made on the night Walt Disney died: "The century hardly deserved him."


Anonymous said...

I think you have crafted a very passionate and well considered response to Anonymous...

However, I think the issues with Epcot provide a snapshot of the global community at the moment - there seems to be a complete lack of 'risk' and genuine imagination, with the possible exception of the UAE and Dubai in particular.

For a moment, consider the amazing architecture and infrastructure that's being created in the Gulf States. Then contrast this with the original vision and design of Epcot and the Contemporary Resort (slightly off topic!). The similarities are clear for everyone to see. This is especially evident today and there is no more stark contrast, around the entire Disney World property, than the new 'unimaginative' Bay Lake Tower!

The underlying point is that Corporate America and the 'west' in general do not have the thirst or desire to push the boundaries of imagination or creation. Hollywood itself, (the spiritual home of Disney) spend millions of $'s remaking old films and producing second rate sequels... Where ate the truly awe inspiring new films - like Star Wars????

Returning to the Epcot problem, where should it go next? The architecture isn't futuristic anymore and the technology on display doesn't evoke the senses quite like it used to. Simply, it needs to be brought closer to our 'imagined' vision of the 2070's and away from the original 'imagined' vision of the 2000's - time and reality has caught up with Epcot and cruised right past it!

I remember riding through Horizons and seeing the concept of a family talking to their relations in the desert via a 'web cam' like device. As a child that seemed an amazing and quite unreal possibility - todau every computer in my house and my mobile phone provide me with this functionality.

I accept that Horizons has gone but I want to experience the next ride in Epcot that will make me wonder what the future hold for us technologically - It's not in the park though....

Don't get me wrong I love Epcot, more now than at any other point in time but I don't go there expecting to see the future anymore, it's more of a nostalgic, museum type experience!

The Disney board have a decision to make. Lead the revolution in park entertainment, or sit back and watch as the WDW park's become a kind of working memorial to the 70's, 80's and 90's.

The bigger question is do the 'west' have the stomach to kick on and make new, great breakthroughs anymore. My guess is that once the recession's out of the way, we might see the creative spark reignited and this could be the platform for Disney to lead the way?!?!?

Digital Jedi said...

What level of presumptuousness is it to conclude that if you give people a choice between a book and video games, they'll ignore the book? It's the presumptuousness of marketing that caters to the lowest common denominator. It's the pandering type of marketing that says people are basically stupid and will only respond to the basest of entertainment. It's the type of marketing that ultimately results in a minimum of quality, so long as the product is passable and consumable. (It's also the type that ranks a video games below a book, as if they're indicative of some kind of intellectual class.)

Walt already proved that this type of marketing isn't the most lucrative. And our struggling economy should be evidence enough that greed isn't all that good after all.

People instinctively don't like to be pandered to. They'll consume it. But ultimately, they'll tire of it without necessarily being conscious of why. Synergy -- real synergy, not this Disneyfied version of it -- is parts of a whole that work together to create an enhanced combined effect. And you can't enhance the whole, when you don't think much of it's parts.

Where is EPCOT's synergy? There is no overall effect of this park anymore. It's a mish mosh of everything that panders to the public and remnants of things well thought out, but now out of place or outdated. Pandering is a failed business strategy. While it works for a little while, it's ultimately damaging and tougher to correct the longer it pervades. When people tire of pandering, your reputation is damaged, and that is much harder to rebuild then a new Horizons. Don't presume people are basically simpletons. If you speak (or in this case market) up to people, not only do you fill a niche, but you also set a precedent. Now, not only does your competition have to be more high minded then you, but you've told future generations that high mindedness is hallmark of quality. Your building your future demographic.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that Epcot does not have an attendance problem. People like it, so Disney doesn't want to fix a machine if it isn't broken. Afterall, they can't be throwing money into a nonproblem these days.

Here are the world's 20 most popular theme parks, by attendance, in 2007, according to the Themed Entertainment Association Economics Research Associates:

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo DisneySea
Disneyland Paris
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Universal Studios Japan
Everland (South Korea)
Universal Studios Florida
SeaWorld Orlando
Disney's California Adventure
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Ocean Park (Hong Kong)
Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (Japan)
Universal Studios Hollywood
Busch Gardens Africa
SeaWorld San Diego

Notice how Epcot is above DHS and DAK? That is why those parks have been getting attention. Also, look how far down DCA is on the list. That is why they are basically redoing the entire park. Tokyo and Paris aren't getting touched- those numbers are pretty good. They just want to focus on parks they feel are doing poorly.

You pretty much need to realize that Horizons isn't coming back, figment is here to stay, the average family likes having characters in their park, and Epcot's redoing already has come and won't come again for another decade or so.

Marilyn said...

My thoughts on EPCOT are its geared to a different audience and Disney seems to have forgotten that. We enjoy(ed) EPCOT because it caters(ed) to adults. I resent the fact that they are Disneyfying it by making one of the venues a Disney character meet and greet, adding Nemo to the Living Seas and changing the venues to be sure people know they're at Disney. EPCOT was never intended to be a Magic Kingdom south. Walt's original vision for EPCOT was a community of tomorrow not more of the same (i.e. Magic Kingdom type of park) with the park changing as technology and the future changes, not changing it for the sake of making sure it's branded Disney. You just need to look at what the EPCOT acronym stands for. I don't believe Walt ever intended to EPCOT to be "branded" with Disney characters. If I want to go to a Magic Kingdom like park (with Magic Kingdom type crowds), I'll go to the Magic Kingdom. Please rethink and honor the original concept for EPCOT Center.

Anonymous said...

Um, Mr. Weingarten? Figment's been a part of EPCOT Center since its inception. It's just a shame that Dreamfinder had to skedaddle for Dr. Nigel Channing (in my opinion, synergy gone awry).

I agree with Digital Jedi's sentiment - Disney needs to buck the trend of entertainment companies to try and play to the lowest common denominator. Talk smart and raise the level of intellect required to enjoy your product, and maybe some people will be inspired to try and reach that level to understand it.

Anonymous said...

So, does that mean that it's UNIVERSAL that should be tearing down its theme park and rebuilding it from the ground up while Disney maintains an even keel with California Adventure? By Anonymous' reasoning, California Adventure is a better park than Islands of Adventure, since more people visit it, which means it's more popular and therefore superior.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, that's the EXACT same ranking the four Walt Disney World theme parks have ALWAYS had, from day one of EPCOT. MK is number 1, EPCOT is number 2, DHS/D-MGM is number 3, DAK is number 4. By your logic, it's DAK that should have been renamed and rethemed, not DHS. And if you ask me, THAT retheming has been pretty much a disaster. A rock 'n' roll recording studio and electric guitar on 1930s Sunset Blvd.... a massive hat blocking the view of the most famous "movie castle" that ever was.... dismantling and destroying possibly the best walk-through attraction EVER (Magic of Disney Animation) in favor of a crappy commercial.... that's been a nightmare, but enough said on that subject since this is supposed to be about EPCOT.

Anonymous said...

"The sponsor's logo wasn't simply pasted onto the ride; the entire concept was developed with the partner's involvement."

This is actually a huge problem with the original EPCOT Center. Exxon's involvement with the Universe of Energy probably destroyed the attraction, because it was made (and still is) from their point of view: that oil is the be-all and end-all of energy in the world. People don't want a 45 minute commercial. GM did the same with Test Track, making the "transportation pavilion" about cars and cars only. And Kodak's sponsorship deal requiring an overhaul probably destroyed Journey into Imagination.

I actually think Disney has done well with Epcot since the late 90s. The new Seas pavilion ride is much more entertaining than the previous version, and I still can't reason why United Technologies had a pavilion when no member of the general public would even think of buying an Otis Elevator, a Pratt and Whitney jet turbine, or a Sikorsky Helicopter. Mission: Space and The Land have instead both been developed independently of their sponsors (though Space suffers from a lack of full immersement) and are still more enjoyable than Energy or the old Living Seas anyday.

Sponsorships in other parks tend to not influence the ride itself (the old If You Had Wings/Dreamflight and Space Mountain notwithstanding). McDonald's seems to have no connection with Dinosaur!, Mattel had nothing but their logo in It's a Small World, and Coca-Cola had nothing to do with The Great Movie Ride.

The fact is Epcot devotes too much land to too few attractions, and as such requires sponsorship money to justify its existence. World Showcase is the saddest example of this, as it has been devoid of any new improvements for twenty years because no one wants to give Disney a few million to improve anything in the area. We can only thank those countries/companies for doling out the dollars 30 years ago that World Showcase is so immersive and delightful, except for Italy of course.

The Magic Kingdom is the world's most popular park, and Epcot isn't far behind. But much of this is the fact that visitors to WDW are very habitual and then return to WDW with their children with the same habits. Case in point, my Connecticut family. My mother first went to WDW in 1975, then again in 1982 before Epcot opened. I came along in 1986, and we all went to WDW in 1990, of course spending our time mostly in the Magic Kingdom because it is a) more dense in attractions and b) my mother went there first so wanted to share her memories with my sisters and I. With a dozen more trips, the Magic Kingdom is still the favorite trip while on property, even if not the favorite park (that would be, coincidentally, Epcot).

Epcot's reliance on sponsorship has stripped it of any meaningful memorable attachment, because things change so much because of changes in the sponsors. When Mattel left It's a Small World, there was no noticeable change, but when Kraft left the land, the whole pavilion changed. Epcot has no smaller attractions like the Swiss Family Treehouse or the PeopleMover that can resist change and evoke memories while still being enjoyable, so that people don't respond to it the same way they react to the Magic Kingdom.

Disney is just simply still trying to figure out what to do with Epcot. It comes from a strange 60s-70s era has been called into question quite abruptly the past two years. Epcot seems a suburban theme park, with its wide grassy areas and unlimited space, but surely it's concept should be scrutinized as the whole American suburban life of the 60s and 70s is now. Much as our suburbanization has been called into question because of the collapse of the housing market, so has Epcot's original purpose. Epcot glorifies the life of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s: Big houses in the suburbs filled with GE appliances, serviced by ATT telephones, big GM cars filled with Exxon gas to get places, Kodak cameras to record our memories, American Express there to finance our purchases, and Coca-Cola to wash it all down. Our current world has almost killed off Kodak and GM, ATT has been broken up and reconstituted by some of its own baby Bells, and Exxon(Mobil) is among the most reviled companies in the country. GE is currently stuck in neutral, still figuring out if it wants to be a media giant, a financial giant, or a maker of lightbulbs (while leaving scores of communities such as Bridgeport, CT and Schenectady, NY destroyed in its indecisiveness), all while scores of new suburbs deal with foreclosures, empty houses, and half-built subdivision and older suburbs deal with urbanization. The Magic Kingdom does not share these problems; World Showcase as a whole does not either, as they mostly deal with the past. But Epcot lives and dies with Future World. Hopefully a new economy will emerge in the future, and with it will come a new overriding mission for Epcot. The EPCOT city is ironically a fantastic example of a decent mission, being complex in transportation though simplistic in development (commercial and residential areas completely separate? Any urban planner can tell you that is not an ideal city). The theme park, not so much.

New sponsors from the new economy may take up space in Epcot, and orient it truly toward the future rather than a stale version of the present. Both Horizons and Spaceship Earth were Epcot's two best attractions, because they looked to the past to develop our multifaceted future. Dreamfinder and Figment will still be welcome in the future, but things such as the Universe of Energy show and both incarnations of the GM pavilion will not. People will like to see how the problems of their lives will be solved, but they must be presented with complex and multifaceted ideas, not a commercial for ugly cars or dirty oil. Epcot simply must reorient itself toward the current future, or else it will become obsolete. Disney knows this, but does not yet know how it should orient the park, much as we cannot decide how to orient our own country for the future.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with sckinney on "watching the WDW park's become a kind of working memorial to the 70's, 80's and 90's."

Maybe the "theme park" concept as we know could be on its way out....

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I feel that Epcot has now found itself in the wrong Disney resort area.

WDW as a whole is becoming a Wal-Mart version of the Disney parks. EPCOT would have been much better served if it were built in Anaheim or especially Tokyo where they would appreciate what the ideals that EPCOT Center showed.

There are many reasons for this, mostly it's due to the idea that WDW visitors aren't coming back as frequently as those in Anaheim, it's not seen as a locals destination, its seen as one that people come to visit once every several years or once in a lifetime and Disney feels like they need to only cater to what's popular now.

I don't know if this philosophy will change, maybe if Disney does really start to lose overall market share and people see the lack of quality they'll make some changes, otherwise EPCOT could be "lost" for a long time.

Anonymous said...

One line of thought that has surprised me from many Disney purists on here... The idea that EPCOT as a park should appeal to a “different type of person” than the other Disney parks. The original creative impetus behind Disneyland was to create "an amusement enterprise where the parents and the children could have fun together." Walt wanted a place that families could enjoy as a family - that would be multi-generational in appeal. Obviously, Walt never intended EPCOT to be what it is today (or what it was in 1982 for that matter), so we can't say definitively how he would approach any "generational gap" in this particular park, but I have to think that Walt, the man who hated being bored watching his daughters go around on a merry-go-round, wouldn't want any of his parks to appeal to just one demographic.

That's where I have to disagree with Epcot82. EPCOT as a park shouldn't serve a niche market. EPCOT should, as best as WDI can figure out how to do it, appeal to everyone. That is NOT to say that EPCOT should be homogenized to appeal to the lowest common denominator. As Epcot82 correctly noted, this current tack, being taken by Disney management, is fundamentally flawed because they're alienating a wide swath of their audience. However, it would merely be an equal and opposite mistake to design/market EPCOT to only appeal to a more sophisticated audience. I firmly believe that EPCOT can be educational and true to its mission, while maintaining mass appeal. WDI realized this, which is why when they were planning the very regrettably unrealized WestCOT, they intended to address guest complaints about EPCOT being too boring while maintaining the integrity of the park. In my mind, a WestCOT type change is exactly what EPCOT needs – not to be dumbed-down, not to lose the coherency of its theme – but to be given a new infusion of creativity which seeks to revitalize the park and make it more engaging for a wider audience while keeping its mission (celebrating the challenge and possibility of the world of tomorrow) intact.

Unfortunately the larger problem is that the WDW execs seem perfectly content with the status quo and their highest goal, at the cost of all else (including, apparently, significant brand erosion), is short-term profit margins. Jim MacPhee, the one exec who seemed to “get it” and was willing to shake things up, has been promoted into irrelevancy with the latest re-org. Honestly, I think our best hope is for Lasseter to turn his gaze eastward once he's finished with the much-needed refurb of DCA. Having met Lasseter personally, I can tell you that he comes across as definitely being the real deal (he even unreservedly badmouthed “the wand” in front of guests!), but is, at least for the moment, almost exclusively concerned with the Disneyland Resort. It's sad that there seems only to be one person in the entire Walt Disney Company who has both artistic integrity and the power to do something with it, but that seems to be where we are.

Epcot82 said...

Very interesting views posted on here, and the passion, thought and consideration is appreciated.

You're right, of course, Mark, that Disneyland was meant to appeal to everyone. And by saying EPCOT should appeal to a "niche" audience is not meant to be exclusionary. My argument was meant to say that this "niche" audience is as "niche" as, say, people who like to take cruises. I don't count myself in that audience. No matter the cost, no matter the destination, no matter the cruise line, I could never imagine myself taking a cruise. But Disney doesn't try to market its cruises as "like any other vacation, only on a boat," so why should it market EPCOT as, basically, "like any other theme park, only slightly different"?

Mass appeal was inherent in the original conception of EPCOT Center -- just look at the numbers, review the first year. Where it went wrong was pretty simple: It wasn't the concept, it was the marketing. It wasn't that guests rejected EPCOT, it was that it wasn't explained well to them. And for those who DID love it, it didn't change, it didn't fulfill its promise. Disney failed to understand what it had created, so over the years, it took the easier route -- the one that didn't involve trying to design a better park and marketing program, but that changed the park to fit a pre-existing mold.

Walter, I find your comments fascinating, a little frustrating and compelling. At first glance, I read your comment and interpreted it to mean you felt EPCOT's sponsorship model led to a bad park. But then I looked at it again -- and you seem to concur that when DONE WELL, having a sponsorship makes a lot of sense, with two great examples being Horizons and Spaceship Earth. It's a matter of finding the right fit.

I agree, wholeheartedly.

And, yes, you're absolutely right that our notion of a future driven by big corporations wasn't realized. Well, kind of. Because instead of monolithic CONSUMER PRODUCTS companies, we have monolithic companies of another sort. As much as life in the '60s, '70s and '80s was ruled by GE, AT&T, IBM and the like, today our lives are ruled by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. We'd like to think, perhaps, that we have no reliance on gigantic corporations ... but we do, as much as ever. They're just painting themselves as "friendlier," somehow more oriented to "you." But many of these companies are as large as any of the huge conglomerates that used to rule our lives.

The sponsorship model may very well be outdated at EPCOT. I'd buy that argument. Here's the thing, though -- unless it re-engineers the ride to tout its OWN products, Disney doesn't want to have anything to do with it. GM's failure may leave us with a "Cars" pavilion, just as when UT pulled out, we got left with a "Finding Nemo" pavilion. Disney doesn't have a Norwegian-themed cartoon, so it will just dump a bunch of princesses into the Norwegian restaurant.

Disney is in a VERY different place than it was in the late '70s and early '80s. It has the financial ability and the creative acument (theoretically) to develop "Epcot 3.0," something that maintains the original vision but isn't reliant on sponsors. Disney can give us ITS version of the future and our world ... but seems incapable of doing that unless it involves pre-existing Disney properties and cartoon characters. EPCOT may have fewer sponsors, but ironically it has become a shill of its former self.

Digital Jedi said...

Mark, your presuming that the "niche" market referred to here only includes one kinds of person. It, in fact, would include families of all varieties. "Niche" isn't tantamount to exclusionary.

Anonymous said...

On the upside, The Energy pavilion is getting repainted.

Flerg said...

Consider if you will, that Anonymous is a douche.

I love video games, in fact I create video games for a living. And Epcot is my favorite theme park in the world. Epcot 82 would be my favorite, unfortunately it is long gone :(

The Gust said...

Some marketing genius probably thought likening Spaceship Earth to a "giant golf ball rising in the distance" was incredibly picturesque sounding. And somehow it made it to the EPCOT homepage. Sad.

In fact, the main picture on the EPCOT homepage is sad -- a monorail going by on a ridiculously dirty beamway. It could be a great picture... but it simply reflects the trend.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, the main picture on the EPCOT homepage is sad -- a monorail going by on a ridiculously dirty beamway. It could be a great picture... but it simply reflects the trend."

Yeech, you're right, they should at least photoshop that for "artistic purposes" or something

Andy JS said...

Hi EPCOT Central,

I noticed you said you read every post. I'm interested to know when your first ever trip to EPCOT Center was. Mine was in October 1988.


Epcot82 said...

Hi AndyJS -- I'm so sorry I have not been checking posts lately. I've had a lot to deal with in the last couple of weeks.

My first trip to EPCOT Center was in June 1983. As soon as school was out for the year, my parents took me and my best friend on a trip to New York City and Walt Disney World. It was my second time to WDW, but my first to EPCOT. I remember the park seeming VERY fresh and wide-open, and being entranced by three things in particular: the build-your-own roller coaster computer display at Communicore; the "upside-down" fountains at Journey Into Imagination; and the amazing spectacle of Spaceship Earth. Attractions like Horizons and The Living Seas weren't open yet, but we still spent two full days at EPCOT.

And my mother wore a "proper" dress the entire time!

Andy JS said...

Epcot82, thanks so much for your reply. I'm so glad I found your blog and I hope you can carry on with it as long as possible. My family has quite a lot of home movie footage from Orlando from the period 1988-2002 which maybe one day will be interesting for people to watch, including a ride on It's Fun To Be Free / World of Motion on December 31st, 1995, which I think was just 2 days before it sadly closed. Our family has kind of broken up since our last trips together in 2001 and 2002 because of college, university, etc, but we certainly had a great time visiting WDW and EPCOT over those years. I'm just checking out the Horizons website you mentioned in your latest post. Thanks again!

Ed Rhodes said...

I still believe the main reason Epcot isn't EPCOT Center anymore is simply because guests didn't want it. It's not that DISNEY sees Spaceship Earth as nothing more than a Golfball, it's that the guests can't. And they're the ones paying for the tickets so without Walt, they're the ones who are going to influence Disney's choices. They're not going to spend money maintaining a theme to a park no one wants to go to. World of Motion is a good example of this. Take a look at some footage of the queue to the ride from the mid 90s. IT IS EMPTY!! People might've thought it was cool for a while but lost interest in it quickly so they needed a new approach. Like Walt said "If something doesn't work, we'll take it out and try something else"
Sometimes though, I can't help but agree with that statement. "The century hardly deserved him." Not the company, but the simple minded people it's trying to appeal to while still trying to give that Disney difference. Even Walt himself was faced with this problem. I understand when Disney made Mickey Mouse, his crowd just wanted more talking Mice. Then he did 3 Little pigs, then his crowd wanted more talking pigs, when he did Snow White, is audience just wanted more Dwarfs. In fact, I also heard one of the reasons Pinocchio didn't make a profit was because Snow White was still fresh in everyone's minds and they just wanted more of that. So even in Walt's day, Disney's audience was pretty jadded.
and by the way,
"It genuinely seems to me worth opening up a discussion among all EPCOT Central readers about the subjects Anonymous raises. Partly, this is because Anonymous raises some arguments that I think are probably shared within The Walt Disney Company and, unfortunately, fail to grasp some of the basic truths about EPCOT Center, Disney's theme-park business and the potential of The Walt Disney Company as a whole to become better. And given that Disney is firing many of its employees, charging fans $75 to receive marketing material, just announced that it is halting Hong Kong expansion, and has lost more than $30 billion in market-cap value in recent years, there's obviously a lot of room for improvement."
For the record, This doesn't mean Disney needs to improve (though in a lot of places it could) it means we're in a recession. A borderline Depression. EVERYONE is cutting back and charging more. Not just Disney.
Sorry for this loooooong post but I had a lot to get out

Andy JS said...

Ed Rhodes: interesting comment. There's always the same problem, which is when you do something a little more intelligent, the number of people who will appreciate it is automatically going to go down compared to something more based on simple thrills. I feel privileged that I was able to experience EPCOT Center as it was in the late 80s and early 90s before the thrill rides came along.

But you're absolutely right - the park was never totally full like the Magic Kingdom, and rides like the World of Motion never had a queue of more than about 10 or 15 minutes - which was great for people like my family who loved the ride.

The longest queues I ever experienced in EPCOT during the period 1988-2002 were something like this, (although we avoided going to rides when we thought there might be a longer queue, like going to Spaceship Earth when the park opened for example):

Spaceship Earth: 15 mins
Univ of Energy: 10 mins (to preshow)
Body Wars: 25 mins (this was when it first opened)
Fun To Be Free: 15 mins
Journey Into Imagination: 10 mins
Listen To The Land: 20 mins (had a slow queue for some reason)
Living Seas: 15 mins (to preshow)
Horizons: 10 mins (fast-moving queue)

The rides in World Showcase sometimes had longer queues, especially Maelstrom. I remember queueing for that for about 30 minutes a few times.

Anonymous said...

« Disney failed to understand what it had created » ... a way of living that brought a clean use of technologies from its ideal mean. The fact is that, iPhone and all those cutting-edge crap focus on telemetry and are about to tell not only what are our friends but also who they are. But hey, are you my friend more than you would be with someone living close? I shall watch Contact from Robert Zemeckis again :)

God said...


Adam, this is God. I read what you said about missing the EPCOT of days past, and about being a creator of video games.

(Of course I did not have to READ it. I KNEW it already. I just find reading quaintly pleasurable. Don't change the subject, I'm God.)

Adam, I charge thee with the task of re-creating the best of EPCOT Center in digital form. Make sure it includes Horizons. Do it or I'll smote you. Use any game engine thou wisheth, it matters not, God's rig is the shit.