Tuesday, March 28, 2006
What is to become of the Universe of Energy?
A rumor circulating on Miceage.com says the pavilion – one of Epcot’s original opening attractions – may soon go the way of Horizons and the World of Motion, leaving Epcot’s east side as thrill-ride central.
Rumors among Disney cast members have an impressive rate of veracity, and if this one is indeed true, it’s another sad day for those of us who love what Epcot used to be.
The dedication plaque at Epcot sets forth the park’s vision clearly:
“EPCOT is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.
May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere.”
Now, I love roller coasters – I really, honestly do. Even though it’s an ugly ride with no imagination or thought put into it, I think Mulholland Madness at Disney’s California Adventure is a heck of a lot of fun. Every so often, I get the urge to go to Magic Mountain in Southern California and have the bejabbers scared out of me on one of their steel contraptions of torture and fear.
Put a pretty ribbon on a roller coaster, though, and it’s still a roller coaster. No one would argue that Space Mountain is the height of storytelling-based attraction design. Put expensive wrapping paper on a centrifuge, and whether you call it Spin-Out or Gravitron or Mission: Space, it’s still a centrifuge. Put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.
Have you ever heard anyone speak in happy, nostalgic tones about a Tilt-a-Whirl? The same kind of tone they use when talking about experiencing Spaceship Earth or the Universe of Energy or even It’s a Small World? You don’t hear people saying, “Oh, I remember the shine of those tin cars and the smell of the vomit as we whirled around.”
Not the way they say, “Remember the dinosaurs? Remember looking at the Earth like you were on the moon?”
Replacing the Universe of Energy with a thrill-based attraction, no matter how elaborate, is further admitting defeat, acknowledging that Imagineers no longer can be visionary or bold with their ideas, accepting that MBAs and marketing analysts run Disney and from hereon out always will.
A challenge to Imagineering: If you must replace the Universe of Energy – and I admit Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy have long overstayed their welcome – do it in a way that pays tribute to what Epcot should be, not what it has become. Remind yourselves of that plaque that greets every visitor to the park: entertain, inform and inspire.
In the early 21st century, there are few topics as urgent, as compelling, as meaningful as the future of energy. It’s a topic that encompasses nuclear energy, solar energy, hybrid engines and hydrogen power. Encourage Disney’s “corporate alliances” department to approach companies exploring alternative energy concepts rather than asking Big Oil to re-up their sponsorship.
Move confidently in the direction of the dreams of the Imagineers who designed Epcot. Apply the technology of today to the storytelling expertise they perfected and thrill our minds and hearts … not just our nervous systems.