The photograph above is a perfect example of why. I’ve traveled to many points of the globe, and there are few memories more lovely to me than standing on the edge of World Showcase Lagoon at night, after Illuminations has ended and the crowds are leaving. The view is magnificent, there is blessed isolation (even amid many people) – it’s serene and beautiful. Click on the picture for a larger-sized version.
It’s just one of the many reasons I love EPCOT Center (yes, I know that’s no longer the official name).
Several people have subtly accused me recently of concurrently bashing EPCOT and caring too much. For the record, I don’t want to do the former and I could never do the latter.
What I don’t like is that the people in charge of EPCOT and of Disney’s Theme Parks & Resorts division don’t seem to care very much at all. They want EPCOT – all of the parks, really – to be easily marketable, to be almost interchangeable. That’s why you’ll now find Nemo at Disneyland, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and EPCOT. It’s why Mickey Mouse is at every park … lest anyone forget that they’re at a “Disney park.”
In this way of thinking, “Disney Parks” are all the same. The joyful individuality they used to have is stripped away; walking through Disney-MGM Studios you’re reminded less and less of the glamour of Hollywood and more and more of the ubiquity of Disney. Likewise, EPCOT has lost its grand themes and has become about buying more Mickey merchandise (even the shops of World Showcase have taken on a sameness).
That’s what I don’t like.
What I do like? Ahhhhhh … that list is almost too long to detail, though I did take a stab at it several months back.
I love that EPCOT was designed to celebrate the best in mankind’s nature, and still does that to a certain degree. The ingenuity of humans is on display, and that makes me happy.
I love wandering around EPCOT and just … looking. At nothing in particular, just taking in the feeling of being there, the festive environment of World Showcase and the implicit majesty of Spaceship Earth hovering above everything, almost everywhere you go.
I love Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, which is still perhaps the single best attraction of any sort Disney has ever created (and, yes, I know that’s saying a lot, but I love it that much).
I love the moment the curtain rises in the Universe of Energy and you begin moving forward into the world of the dinosaurs; no matter how cheesy and silly the attraction has become, that moment still holds power.
I love rising into Spaceship Earth, despite the jerky, lurching feel that the attraction has taken on. I love hearing Jeremy Irons’ voice intoning, “Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time.” Wow. Gets me every time!
I love staring at the artificial reef in the Living Seas (oops, the Seas) pavilion; yeah, Sea World is great, but there’s something about this place, about watching the silent little oceanic dramas playing out in front of you, that is really spectacular.
I love Ice Station Cool, though I love it a little less without the igloo (which is strange, because that comment absolutely contradicts everything I generally say and feel about what Disney has done to the old Communicore); it’s one of the most unexpected, meaningless little throwaway, commercially driven attractions, but I still get a sense of discovery about the way other people live when I go in there – oddly, it kind of (as Foxxfur commented) conveys the spirit of EPCOT.
I love the Fountain of Nations, whether it’s performing or not; it’s a bold visual feature, and it just “works.”
I love the “upside-down” and leaping fountains in front of the Imagination pavilion; how fun are they? They’re one of the few holdovers from 1982 that haven’t changed at all, and they don’t need to.
I love Listen to the Land. I imagined that I would hate it when they took away the cast members, but I have to admit it works well now, and it’s genuinely compelling and insightful. Even the interior films and limited-motion animatronic figures seem to have thought and care put into their creation.
I love the “splashdown” moment in Maelstrom, when you suddenly feel as if you’ve been transported to the North Sea. That one moment and the entry into the Norwegian fishing village are two perfect little “show” moments that absolutely transport you to another time and place. (For that matter, I still love the Norway travelogue that plays after the ride, no matter how impossibly and unbelievably dated it has become; Norway seems like a fascinating place.)
I love that EPCOT is there to discover at your own pace. If you’re in the vast majority of guests who just care about getting a ride fix and moving on, you’ll get your fill at EPCOT. If, however, you like to move at your own pace, you could (even still) spend three or four days solely at EPCOT and not discover everything there is to see and learn.
Much of EPCOT still works. It’s the parts of EPCOT that are so clearly “malfunctioning” that get me angry and agitated, simply because so much of EPCOT works so well, these problem areas seem that much worse.
EPCOT is still a wonderful place. It has a spirit, and try as they might, they can never quite take that away. The planning, design and execution of EPCOT Center was so strong, a lot of it still shines through, even 25 years later. Try as they might, they can’t take it away completely.
I wish they would quit trying.
What do you love about EPCOT? I'd really like to know! I hope you'll post a comment and share your thoughts, especially you Disney folks (and I know you're out there). Don't worry, when you choose "Anonymous," you really do remain anonymous ... no one will know it's you. (Even me!)