Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Sea? This is FUN!
I'm happy to know that so many reports are coming back with positive things to say about the newly retooled pavilion with the unwieldy name The Seas With Nemo and Friends. Full disclosure: I have not experienced it myself, and probably won't get the chance to do so for quite some time.
That said ... I'm not sure I want to. Having visited the half-finished pavilion several weeks ago, none of the reviews I've read online lead me to change my mind about this Epcot pavilion: It's Pixar-ized pabulum that dumbs down what was for many years one of the most challenging -- and most rewarding -- of the Epcot attractions.
The Seas, etc., etc. would, from what I gather, be a lovely addition to The Magic Kingdom. It's fun, it's colorful, it's firmly rooted in fantasy. It's got loveable characters that are nicely integrated into a well-conceived ride.
But here's the thing -- what I'm realizing is my basic problem with turning EPCOT Center into Epcot and now into, it seems, Discot (Pixcot?):
The Magic Kingdom is a place where adults can feel like kids, where kids (by virtue of being able to share most of the attractions with their families) can feel a little bit like adults, where fantasy is the common touchstone for everyone who visits. (I'll put aside the relentless commercialization and even the non-Tomorrow Tomorrowland.) It's a place where animated characters and fairy tales can come to life, alongside recreations of our heritage and our idealized notion of how we came to be (at least, if we're Americans).
In short, it's a place that you grow up in.
EPCOT Center was something quite different, and here's the conclusion I've reached: It was a place you would grow into. You could be too young for EPCOT Center, without a doubt. If you were 8, the place would be boring, and Disney knew that -- so they tossed the kids a bone in the form of a purple dragon and some silly-looking characters in World of Motion.
Other than that, EPCOT Center was resolutley and steadfastly determined to present itself as different than The Magic Kingdom. As you "grew up," you would find more and more to EPCOT Center to stimulate you. A child has little interest in shopping for interesting home decorations, visiting displays that teach about the history of a country, or discovering how food is harvested. But for most of us, those things become increasingly fun, increasingly relevant, increasingly interesting, the older we get. They remind us how much we don't know about our world, and how much there is to explore and learn. EPCOT Center was made for those who found The Magic Kingdom a little silly.
No one is allowed to do that today.
We're not allowed to think our own thoughts, conceive of our own lives, without Disney's help when we go to Walt Disney World. To me, The Seas, Yaddah, Yaddah is yet another example of that.
Let me state again: I believe (and want to believe) that it's a good, fun ride. I don't doubt that the Imagineers have done a terrific job at making it look great.
But The Living Seas celebrated our world, not a digitized, Pixar-ized vision of happy, talking fish. It reminded us that there are mysteries here on our very own planet that we have only begun to explore, and then invited us to explore those mysteries at our leisure. It held a view that the oceans were vast, exciting, vibrant and alive with creatures that seem infinitely alien but share our own planet.
I just don't believe, as well done as it may be, that a turtle who loves saying "Duuuuuuuuude" is quite the same as discovering for ourselves how little we know our own world.