Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The once sleek, wide-open spaces of Epcot have given way to such visual clutter that it's almost hard to make out the park's design.
Look above at Innoventions Plaza (top image). The park's original design instilled a sense of serenity and beauty in Future World. Although the buildings of Innoventions (formerly Communicore) are overwhelmingly large, they are almost Zen in their spartan design. The simple sleekness conveyed a sense of "future" that has aged very well. The carnival-like additions to the plaza, however, already seem retro and silly.
On the other side of Spaceship Earth, as you enter Epcot, is one of the most crass pieces of visual clutter imaginable. Enter the park, and the first thing you get is a blatant sales plug for "Leave a Legacy." Directly at the base of Spaceship Earth, even before you get to the attraction entrance itself, Disney's already trying to get you to shell out hard cash. It's ugly, its crass, it's distracting and it really ought to be moved to a different location.
Mission: Space (you can read my review of that below) is a brilliant design addition to Epcot, its exterior design so sleek and simple. It fits in perfectly with the original conception of Epcot pavilions. Next door, however, is another matter. Test Track (image above) is such a visual clutter that you can't even make out the design of the building behind it. There was something wonderfully basic and elementary about the World of Motion building: a round silver structure that supposedly was modeled after a wheel. Even if the "wheel" message wasn't visually conveyed, it was a lovely structure. Now it's covered up by scaffolding and pylons and signs and other visual pollution. It's exhausting just to look at it.
Over on the west side of Future World, the glass pyramids of Journey Into Imagination are still there, and the water elements (the jumping fountain and backwards waterfall) still entertain. But when Imagineers shortened the name to "Imagination!" they must have thought, "Gee, nobody will understand," so they overwhelmed the building with signs and visual clutter. The "Imagination Institute" logo is everywhere, there's a garish neon-laced sign for "Honey I Shrunk the Audience," and even a hanging vinyl sign that looks like it was made at Kinko's. In a park dedicated to man's opportunities and achievements, the best they could do was a cheap sign that looks like it was designed by high-schoolers?!
Throughout Epcot, it's as if attractions are shouting out, competing for your attention. "Look here!" "Ride me!" "Come inside!" "This is fun!" Walking through the park puts a guest on sensory overload.
It would be great to see Imagineers take a long look at what has become of Epcot visually. The park has a beautiful design and sensibility somewhere underneath all of those garish new decorations. A few years ago, Disneyland in California became overwhelmed with outdoor vending carts (a problem that plagues Epcot, as well!) and too much visual distraction. Wisely, Imagineers and park management scaled it all back, making a much better guest experience.
If any Imagineer remembers the words "bad show," please raise your hand and proceed directly to Epcot!