For a park that is criticized as "boring" and "too adult," EPCOT holds up remarkably well. Here's the list of the top 10 parks around the world last year:
1. Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World -- 16.64 million guests
2. Disneyland -- 14.73 million
3. Tokyo Disneyland -- 12.9 million
4. Tokyo DisneySea -- 12.1 million
5. Disneyland Paris -- 10.6 million*
6. EPCOT at Walt Disney World -- 10.46 million
7. Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World -- 9.1 million
8. Disney's Animal Kingdom -- 8.91 million
9. Universal Studios Japan -- 8.5 million
10. Everland in South Korea -- 7.5 million
You can glean from this list what you will. There is no doubt most will look at this and say, "Well, there you go -- all of the Pixar-ization, cartoonifying and Princess-izing has worked for EPCOT."
Don't forget, though, that all Walt Disney World parks saw an increase in visitors, and the happy world of The Magic Kingdom actually saw the smallest increase (9%) while EPCOT saw the biggest (11%).
EPCOT needs no help to attract visitors. It will never, ever be the sole reason a family of five from Milwaukee visits Walt Disney World ... but it clearly is the second choice of many. Is that because it has more thrill rides and more cartoon characters? Perhaps?
Then again, has it always been successful, and might it be more so if it stayed true to its vision and kept a close eye on remaining the park of discovery, exploration and (yes) education that it was intended to be? I don't know. It's definitely worth thinking about.
Because of those 10,460,000 people, I can pretty much assure you, they didn't all just wait in line for The Seas With Nemo and Friends, Soarin' and Mission: Space, then bolt out of there. They like EPCOT. They've made it the third most-attended Disney theme park in the U.S. They obviously respond to its unique nature and the fact that it is different than the other parks.
It's nice to know EPCOT still works. And I hold to my belief it could work as well -- or better -- if the vision of EPCOT Center were brought back to it.