Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Not to Be Missed? Not to Be Seen.
Around my house, buying the latest edition of Bob Sehlinger’s Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is something of a tradition. Even during years in which we do not travel to Florida, we like to read comments by Sehlinger and his reader-contributors about the latest attractions and changes in the World.
When it comes to Epcot, we’ve noticed a disturbing trend of late: Terrible things are happening to the attractions that Sehlinger considers “not to be missed.” In many cases, missing is your only option.
Spaceship Earth: Sehlinger says it’s “one of Epcot’s best; not to be missed.” Attraction status: Essentially unchanged since a redesign in 1994; its “future vision” of communications technology, such as instant video exchange and global sharing of news, is now commonplace.
The Living Seas: Sehlinger calls it “an excellent marine exhibit … the strength in of the attraction lies in the dozen or so exhibits afterward. Status: The attraction is being redesigned and rechristened as “The Seas” with a cartoon-ified vision of the oceans courtesy of “Nemo and Friends.” The original incarnation is, essentially, closed.
Living With the Land: A Sehlinger reader writes, “I really wished I had not had a preconceived idea about an exhibit. Living With the Land was truly wonderful,” and Sehlinger calls it “inspiring and educational … not to be missed.” Status: The attraction’s “personal touch” of a real, live cast member guiding guests through the greenhouses – something that’s been done for 24 years – is being abandoned, and the attraction is being “automated.” The version Sehlinger writes about? Soon to be gone.
Honey, I Shrunk the Audience: “An absolute hoot!” Sehlinger raves. “Not to be missed.” Lots of people are doing just that, as the 3-D movie – based on a film that’s nearly 20 years old and unknown to most Epcot visitors – reportedly is suffering from low attendance. What was once innovative and cutting edge is outdone by other 3-D shows throughout Walt Disney World and at other theme parks.
Body Wars: Sehlinger says it’s “not to be missed” but you’ll have to do just that – it’s permanently closed.
Cranium Command: The Unofficial Guide says this one is “Epcot’s great sleeper attraction.” It sleeps forever. Despite the Guide’s rating of “not to be missed” … it’s closed.
The Making of Me: It’s “excellent and should be moved from its tiny space to a larger theater,” Sehlinger writes. “Of course, we’ve been saying that for years.” They don’t have to complain anymore. It’s closed.
Universe of Energy: Though Sehlinger calls it “the most unique theater in Walt Disney World,” that kind of praise isn’t enough to get it any attention; it hasn’t been updated or substantially renovated in a decade, despite the advent of hybrid cars, hydrogen fuel cells and calls for cleaner energy. It also features a “Jeopardy!” set that was updated more than half a decade ago, and co-stars an actor whose last TV show aired three years ago.
The American Adventure: “Disney’s best historic/patriotic attraction,” Sehlinger writes. “Not to be missed.” And you shouldn’t, despite the fact that – even though the U.S. has seen extraordinary changes in the past 20 years – only the final film has been revised since Epcot opened … and that last happened 13 years ago.
Impressions de France: An “exceedingly beautiful film,” according to the Guide … and also one that shows France as it existed more than two decades in the past.
As I peruse the book from year to year, I wonder why Disney executives don’t do the same. They could learn a lot from Sehlinger’s more-or-less impartial (and hefty!) guidebooks – such as which attractions it’s thinking of closing, altering beyond recognition or neglecting for another year might actually be worth a second look.