Monday, March 19, 2007

Anniversaries Everywhere ... Except EPCOT

Word comes in today from Mouseplanet.com that Disney is continuing its tradition of celebrating milestone annivesaries at its theme parks.

Except, that is, at EPCOT.

This weekend, Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean received the anniversary treatment, with a commemorative banner at its entrance as well as limited, collector's merchandise at the Disney Gallery.

You'll get no argument from me that Pirates of the Caribbean was enormously influential in the development of the theme parks. Although it opened after Walt Disney died, it proved his belief that Audio-Animatronic figures could provide a scale of entertainment no one had ever seen in an attraction, and though succeeding rides (particularly those in the last 15 years) have failed to realize the promise of the technology, Pirates changed theme parks forever. It doesn't hurt, too, that Disney has the big-budget Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End coming out this year.

But does a single ride, no matter how important, merit something that's not even being given to an entire theme park? Based on Brad Rex's comments to Allears.net, the only effort Disney is making to mark EPCOT Center's Silver Anniversary is to hold some "private observances behind the scenes for cast members."

Taken in conjunction with a press release touting the 10th anniversary of Disney's Wide World of Sports, this continues leading me to one of two sad conclusions about EPCOT:

1) Disney doesn't understand the important role it played in its own company and doesn't appreciate the impact it had on millions of people;

2) Disney just doesn't care.

Either conclusion isn't particularly pleasant, wouldn't you agree?

28 comments:

onjejank said...

Just amazing how Disney can "ignore" EPCOT. You'd think it would be hard to miss, I mean, it is a stop on the monorail circuit.

It's like Disney is making an effort to pass over EPCOT and it makes me wonder why. There's got to be a reason that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

It just baffles me. How can you NOT acknowledge the 25th Anniversary of Epcot? I mean....NOTHING at all. No banner? No t-shirts? Maybe we can all hold on some hope that they will announce something in the next few months?

Chris said...

"private observances behind the scenes for cast members."

*shudder* are they going to hand out black wardrobes and veils along with the last rites?

Sambahat said...

It just doesn't make sense. None at all. I think we're missing a piece of the puzzle. I can't believe it is simply that Disney doesn't care. There has to be a logical explanation.

Anonymous said...

I don't think either conclusion is accurate.
Disney's marketing department is too focused on the Year of a Thousand Dreams campaign and wouldn't want to compete with that message. Sure, they could put out a press release, but would that really be enough? Of course not. As for doing more, I think Disney would be disinclined to spend money on an EPCOT anniversary promotion considering what they annually spend on the food/wine and floral festivals.

Charles said...

That conclusion makes no sense. The Year of a Million Dreams is not stopping Disneyland from celebrating the 40th anniversary of Pirates of the Caribbean, albeit in a small way, or WDW from sending out a press release about the 10th anniversary of the Wide World of Sports complex.

In the end, no one is suggesting Disney has to do a lot -- but marking the occasion in some way, and letting the fans know it's going to happen, would go a long way toward at least paying lip service to EPCOT Center's importance in Disney history.

Some commemorative merchandise; a small presentation at EPCOT's opening on Oct. 1, 2007; a lapel pin to those who show up for the occasion; maybe an overlay on the EPCOT section of Disneyworld.com ... those little things would at least send the message that this day matters more than any average day.

But when Brad Rex goes out of his way to say that there will only be "private" and "behind-the-scenes" observances -- that borders on ludicrous. And, to many people, it most certainly sends the message that Disney not only doesn't care, they want everyone to know they don't care.

If it really is the "Year of a Million Dreams," then I vote for my dream being that Disney would actually pay some attention to EPCOT, at least on Oct. 1. This one theme park probably did more to jump-start Disney's theme-park business than anyone realizes.

Anonymous said...

well, the statements have been made, and I'm following them. I was quite excited about making an October trip this year, and I have simply chosen not to take one at all. While it seems petty, I was really looking forward to going for this celebration a few years ago. This really is sadly a nail in the coffin of my enjoyment of WDW, and I'll speak with the one thing I can: money. I guess that no expiration hopper will really be put to the test. I know that seems extreme, but it's honestly how I feel (a long time coming, I guess). I'll have a nice little celebration in my condo to commemorate what Epcot was and could be.

Anonymous said...

Biggest contribution of EPCOT to Disney? The idea that a second gate is essential for the viability of a resort. The idea of education, futurism, hope for tomorrow, etc. are (sadly) long gone. The "open a new park to boost revenue" concept is still alive and well. Believe it or not, prior to the opening of EPCOT, the concept of TWO parks at ONE resort was mindblowing. Now it's standard operating procedure to plan the second gate immediately after opening the first one.

kcnole said...

I still have a hard time believing there is nothing coming for Epcot. There's too much going on at the resort right now to not be. We've got the current ongoing refurbishments for SSE, El Rio Del Tiempo, and Innoventions. Then there's the upcoming renovations to Maelstrom, Alfredo's, China, and Canada along with the rumors that the Millenium Plaza things and the wand are also going away soon.

I think something is coming for Epcot's 25th. There's simply too much going on at the park for there not to be. Maybe it's still in the planning stages and meant to be a suprise, who knows, but there's way too much work going on in the park for their not to be at least a mention of it.

Oh, and I did forget to mention all the brand new EPCOT Center merchandise that just came out in the stores. Something is going to come, I just can't believe that there can't be. I guess we'll find out for certain later this year.

sdav10495 said...

I would really like to believe what kcnole just said--no matter what you think of new additions/refurbs, they are being made--a sign that Epcot hasn't been completely abandoned. And yes, there is the curious matter of a new line of retro t-shirts touting "EPCOT Center", even one that apparently features "82"...surely this is a sign that Disney is at least not actively turning their back on EPCOT's legacy, no matter how small the gesture is. I like to think there is still some appreciation of the old EPCOT that we don't always give Disney credit for.

But as for a celebration still being in the planning stages, or being a surprise? Nah. Disney counts too much on these celebrations to increase park attendance--there's no way they're actually planning to keep the 25th under wraps until it's too late for the average Joe to plan an Epcot visit around it. That's what's so shocking about Disney's refusal to celebrate: not simply that they're ignoring the park's unique legacy, but that doing so is actually wasting an opportunity for them to rake in money. Think about it that way, and you realize that there must be something Disney's really afraid to bring attention to with a celebration.

Don't forget--the only possible way a celebration or acknowledgement can happen at this point is if Disney is pressured enough by fans (or by the media). It's not too late for a concerted effort to get EPCOT remembered. But for now at least, don't fool yourself into thinking that Disney will budge on its own.

(Still though, you have to wonder about those new "EPCOT Center" shirts...)

Phil said...

Are these retro shirts confirmed? Link?

Greencapt said...

http://www.mouseinfo.com/forums/showthread.php?t=85219

Geoffrey said...

http://www.zazzle.com/SpookyBear has those epcot retro shirts....

I got one myself...

while I agree that EPCOT's anniversary needs to be celebrated it cannot overshadow the larger "100 years of dreams" campaign or whatever they are calling it..

rather it should be celebrated aloungside that campaign kindof technology is helping to fulfill the wishes of tommorrow kindof thing where they update EPCOT and show how technology is helping to fulfill the wishes and dreams of tommorrow

captain schnemo said...

The lack of a celebration doesn't trouble me as much as what it reveals about the company.

I don't want to attribute "shame" to a corporate entity, so I guess it's not right to say that Disney is "ashamed" of Epcot, but they certainly don't understand it. Never mind that for all the grumping, it's a solid two-day park (as opposed to the new half-day parks) that has been quietly racking up huge attendance figures for years.

It seems to me that they don't know how to market it and they don't understand that its uniqueness is a selling point, not something to disguise.

I wonder how much this has to do with market research. I think if you ask people if they want to see something with a whiff of "education" (although I maintain that Epcot is about thoughtfulness, not education), they'll say they don't want it, but if you present them with a high quality, intelligent attraction, they'll really enjoy it, even if they can't clearly express why.

Walt didn't give people what they said they wanted, he gave them what he knew they'd enjoy. If it were easy to figure out what people wanted, you wouldn't have $150M box office bombs. If you let the masses (or god forbid the boardroom) program your entertainment, you're never going to get break-out quality.

Chris said...

I think if you ask people if they want to see something with a whiff of "education" (although I maintain that Epcot is about thoughtfulness, not education), they'll say they don't want it

Makes me think this is a uniquely American response. I think part of the problem is the school systems here. Educational is a bad word because people associate it with how it isn't fun.

kcnole said...

"Are these retro shirts confirmed? Link?"

Yes, they are for sale in the mousegears store in Epcot at least. There were pictures posted of them on wdwmagic last week. I'll be there this Saturday and hope to pick one up myself.

Jahosifatz said...

It's sad that they just don't care. But then again, what's there to celebrate at Epcot? It's more like mourning if you ask me. I love the pic, as you can see 180 top. You know there's more track foundation at the top than you ride? It's b/c they literally miscalculated the room. I used to work SSE and know all kinds of cool secrets. Great article!

www.allthingswdw.blogspot.com

sdav10495 said...

http://www.zazzle.com/SpookyBear has those epcot retro shirts....

Just to clear it up, in case anyone was wondering--the shirts at the link quoted above are not the ones being sold at Mousegears. They are made by a fan (and are pretty darn cool). Pictures of the official shirts being sold at Mousegears can be found, as kcnole said, on WDWMagic in this thread:

http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showthread.php?t=155390

Ahem. Back to the discussion, then.

Thierry said...

This is worldwide.
Present sucks because of the last 20 years of the future EPCOT shown with so much enthousiasm. I only wish to travel back to the past and make the environement bloom at this point, and have a last taste of its spirit. No more future please.

Epcot82 said...

Let's hope this conversation continues. It would be great to have someone from Disney weigh on on this. I know, with absolute certainty, that they're reading it. Not just "rank-and-file" (but valuable!) cast members, but senior management. Come on guys -- hit the "anonymous" tab, and I assure you no one will know exactly who you are.

Can't someone please explain what Disney is thinking with this lack of EPCOT acknowledgement?

As for the shirts, get 'em while they're hot, kids. I have two GREAT retro EPCOT shirts that I bought in 2001. Both of them use the classic EPCOT font (with no "Center") and showcase the original circular logos for each attraction. BRILLIANT shirts, and sadly they're losing their luster as they get washed from such heavy wear. People ask me about them regularly and offer great comments ("Oh, I used to LOVE Epcot!"). Even for those who don't recognize the classic logos, the design is SO fantatsic that they capture attention.

Hmmmm ... the circular logos. Now there's a fun idea to blog about. ;-)

Meanwhile, I am going to keep this post up for at least a few more days, with no new additions to EPCOT Central, in the hopes that someone who's truly in the know and can offer a fair and balanced assessment of the lack of celebration for EPCOT's 25th -- someone from within Disney -- will step up to the plate and offer some explanations.

Remember, folks, the "anonymous" function really does make you anonymous!

Greencapt said...

Insult to injury, it seems that the Dis is looking to expand Anaheim further but here in Florida not only does the EPCOT anniversary get ignored but we basically have to beg and plead to get classic attractions at Magic Kingdom repaired (Haunted Mansion, finally) while they continue to bulldoze others (beloved 20,000 Leagues)... all this under the fact that:

"Disneyland may be where it all started, but it was long ago outpaced by its Florida counterpart, with four theme parks, two water parks, six golf courses and 22 hotel resorts. Walt Disney World accounts for about 80% of the company's theme park operating income, said David Miller, an analyst with Sanders Morris Harris.

"Florida means so much more to the company than Southern California," Miller said."

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-disney22mar22,0,5565918.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Sad, sad times.

Jason Gallagher said...

Disney brass care more about Cali. Period. And it shows. I'm trying to formulate a more profound way of expressing this but it will take me a couple days. I still think that Nemo is a good example, as is Soarin'. And I say this as someone who grew up with the Florida parks, has only been to Disneyland once, but loves Disneyland more. Except for EPCOT.

Epcot82 said...

From today's (March 22) Los Angeles Times:

"Disneyland may be where it all started, but it was long ago outpaced by its Florida counterpart, with four theme parks, two water parks, six golf courses and 22 hotel resorts. Walt Disney World accounts for about 80% of the company's theme park operations, said David Miller, an analyst with Sanders Morris Harris.

"'Florida means so much more to the company than Southern California,' Miller said."

Jason Gallagher said...

I know that, referring to the quote from the LA Times, is what the company is saying but really the proof is in the pudding. Everest is the only major attraction that has not been a trumpcated version on an attraction concept saw first in California. Florida didn't even get a ride through based on Monster's Inc. They received Turtle Talk in a huge new theatre. Blah!

Jason Gallagher said...

In less than two weeks, Disneyland Paris will celebrate it's 15th anniversary - the party at the Magic Kingdom is scheduled for March 31st.-from Alain Littaye's piece this morning at Miceage.com All I can do is cry bitter, bitter tears.

kcnole said...

It has only been recently that Disneyland has been getting all the love from California. During the Pressler/Harris years they were just crying for the same level of attention that we received in Florida. Then they got Matt Quimet who really got things focused on quality over there. Then the 50th came along and things really got rolling there.

But to say that the brass love california more than florida is silly. You have to look no further than DCA to see that's not the case. It's just that Disneyland was ignored for so many years and seen as a regional park by many in management, that its just now being seen as a possibility for a national and worldwide attraction much like WDW so they're pushing money at it to get it there.

I agree that WDW doesn't need to be left to fall into the pressler quagmire that Disneyland hit before it gets money spent on it, but for years and years we had it best. I think our time will come back around. It shouldn't have to be either parks time as both resorts should be taken care of equally, but lets not look at it from just a WDW perspective. let's realize that Disneyland is just now hitting its prime again and if it does want to become a national and worldwide draw then DCA needs to be rebuilt and another park and hotels are desperately needed.

Smilee306 said...

Just as some added info...you all are probably too mature to play vmk, but not me. :) They just released an EPCOT room that I love, although you can see the crappy red lettering in the corner of the ball. Also, it was disconcerting that half of the questions were about the "new" Epcot attractions. Of course, it was never mentioned why they were adding an Epcot room to a virtual magic kingdom...hmm I meant it to be good news, but it's really just more mediocre. Ah well.

EPCOT_Man said...

Well, EPCOT really is having a 25th after all. Here's why:

1. The wand is almost completely taken down.

2. A fan gathering of 500 fans will occur on October 1st.

3. Epcot will get an OFFICIAL re-dedication ceremony.

4. Epcot VP Jim Mcphae said in a press conference that Epcot's 25th will be big.

5. Disney will release 11 Epcot 25th pins on October 1st.

6. SSE is getting a refurb

7. MouseGear is now selling vintage EPCOT Center shirts.

8. VMK now has an Epcot room.

9. Japan and Maelstrom are getting refurbs.

10. The globe for Illuminations is recieving a video screen upgrade and a refurb.

Need I say more?