Thursday, April 12, 2007

Opportunity Missed

Back to being critical, I'm sorry to say.

Siemens and Disney have announced that Spaceship Earth will be getting a major overhaul soon. That should be good news. Why do I feel it’s not?

With this renovation of Spaceship Earth, it appears Imagineering is putting the final nail in the coffin of EPCOT’s once-grand theme – exploring our world and our place in it by examining overarching subjects.

No one reading this needs a history lesson, but to put it in context, EPCOT Center was designed to take guests on journeys through subjects that are critical to our understanding of our world: energy, health, transportation, imagination, the land and the seas. When the much-missed Horizons was added, it served to bring all of these concepts together – we could see how all of these coalesced into a whole, and what they might mean to our future.

Central to all of it was the idea that communication – both in concept and application – was vital to our lives. Spaceship Earth was the literal and figurative centerpiece of EPCOT Center. It reminded us that as much as man strives to better himself and his world, nothing can be accomplished without effective communication systems.

EPCOT Center took the idea of a “theme park” to new heights. The theme was the whole reason for the park. Even if World Showcase seemed like a separate concept, it wasn’t – after we learned about the ideas of the world we live in, we had a chance to meet the people with whom we share our planet and our hopes.

Over the years, EPCOT’s theme has eroded, and the description of the “new” Spaceship Earth degrades it further. At this point, EPCOT Center is truly gone; Epcot is all that’s left. Here’s the description:

On a trip through time inside the Spaceship Earth attraction, guests discover how each generation of mankind has invented the future for the next generation, and how the spirit of innovation has moved people from the caves to the cosmos.

So much for communication. So much for helping us understand how everything at EPCOT fits together. So much for the dream (no matter how wild) that the brilliant theme of EPCOT Center might ever make a comeback.

“Innovation” is the new theme, and it feels wholly generic, as if there is no passion left anywhere for EPCOT, as if Disney and Siemens are simply struggling to find something interesting to put in the attraction – an attraction that, even as it is now, is something of a classic. (Remember what Dear Abby used to say, “If it ain’t broke ...”)

They seem to have seized on the idea of “time machines” (which is, funnily enough, what the vehicles have always been called) and the oh-so-trendy idea of allowing riders a level of interactivity.

There’s not a lot to go on from the reports, very little that’s concrete, other than the loss of the “communication” concept and, by extension, the effective end of the ideas, concepts and vision that originally brought EPCOT Center to life.

This was an opportunity for Imagineers to look deeply at EPCOT and say, “How can we revive some of what made it so special, some of that theme that was such an intrinsic part of the park’s creation?” They did have that opportunity, and it appears they didn’t take it, that they opted instead for something that can be easily marketed (“travel into the past – and into your future!” – wait, didn’t they shut down a ride like that, called Horizons?) and easily sold as an “adventure.”

I guess I can’t fault anyone for taking the easy way out, because, hey, it’s the easy way. But they had an opportunity here. And they missed it.


(P.S. Guess what? Disney appears to say the wand's not coming down, either.)

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

"We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only obligation."
-Michael Eisner, Former CEO of The Walt Di$$$ney Company

There was a time when Walt Disney World could have been something more than a second-rate entertainment, but that time is gone and there is no bringing it back. C'est la vie.

Virtual Toad said...

I don't know, maybe we should wait and see on this one.

Don't get me wrong-- I'm a huge fan of "old school," and we've been burned way too many times in recent years by awful changes at EPCOT.

But I have to say (against all my instincts) that lately, Spaceship Earth has just seemed tired and out of place-- probably because it now stands alone as last vestige of the old Future World.

And after the initial shock dies down, the changes they're talking about-- in this case-- might not be that bad. The shift away from communications is likely because, unlike AT&T, Siemens isn't (just?) a communications company, and they want something that better reflects their business.

From the news release I read, it almost sounds like they're going to make it a more *general* attraction about the past and the future, which, when you add in the interactive element at the end, does sound a lot like... hmm, Horizons.

And how could that be a bad thing? As the thematic centerpiece of Future World, Horizons arguably should have been placed "in the big golf ball" to begin with.

So... I don't know. I'm about as critical as they come, but we might just want to see how this one plays out.

There's no doubt, EPCOT Center is dead and gone. But it has been for years now. So don't just look at this as the last nail in the coffin. Perhaps it's the first building block of EPCOT's rebirth.

Rocco said...

I have to disagree with you. This sounds like its going to be a great update and I can't wait to see it complete. Communication is old subject which many people know enough about. We need something different but also keeping the history still in the story.

Scott said...

I don't think we should write off this one off that easily (except for the lack of wand removal). It seems the major updates are coming after the history part, which is the area that needs the most work (and also where, historically, the sponsor is allowed to showcase its products). This is also one simple press release. Lack of the word "communication" in the initial press release, while slightly disheartening, isn't enough to call this a nail in the coffin.

And anything is better in the post-show area than construction walls. I do think, however, that the exhibits they're putting in are interesting, especially the simulated remote surgery one.

Epcot82 said...

Well, it's absolutely true that almost anything beats construction walls!

Please read my post again -- I'm disappointed both in the way the new "adventure" is described as well as by the seeming admission that the original theme of Epcot is gone now. A ride that explores "innovation" and "the future" may well be successful, but the central concept of EPCOT Center was to present different subjects and different themes for guests to explore.

Now, it's a hodgepodge. Some of those themes are still there, others have been supplanted with different ones, some of the pavilions are in-depth, serious explorations, others are lighthearted and surface-deep.

Re-thinking the central icon of EPCOT could have been an opportunity to remind people of the basic theme and concept of the park. Again, opportunity missed.

Unlike the cartoon-duck ride in Mexico, I'm trying not to write this one off -- but rather express a disheartening belief that, still, there doesn't seem to be anyone at Disney who "gets" EPCOT as well as the readers of this blog do!

Brian said...

I've known about the overhaul for a couple of months (Joe Herrington talked about it at the EMP here in Seattle on 2/14 - http://www.emplive.org/press/index.asp?articleID=861)
and the way he described it sounded... "better." But I noticed that this press release really sounded kinda like they were making it the "new Horizons" since there is no more general future looking ride... and SSE would be easily retrofitted to do this.

I rode it three times last week. Oh well, so much for communication. At least I got to see if before they screwed with it again.

At least it's not going to be a roller coaster.

Though there are an awful lot of "at leasts" here...

btw - saw Richard Sherman at EMP last night, and plan on seeing Marty Sklar 5/16- should I ask him anything? :)

Epcot82 said...

Ask him if he reads EPCOT Central! :-)

And, seriously, ask him what HE thinks about what's become of EPCOT, since he was so closely involved in the creation of the original park ...

sdav10495 said...

Inexcusably long post ahoy, but please bear with me (I’m not as concisely articulate as most of you)…it’s basically an explanation of why my mind is being changed concerning this rehab and what I think it could mean for EPCOT. In a good way.

I've been going up and down about this one since I read the news. Part of me shares your frustration, Epcot82, because today's Spaceship Earth is indeed the last of the great EPCOT Center attractions, and the last shred of evidence there is that the attractions of 1982 (though this is technically the 1994 version) can still awe the masses without...well, "Test Track"-ification. Although I last came off of the ride (in February) thinking that it needed an update, it never crossed my mind that an update would mean a “re-imagining”—all I wanted was a smoother track, clearer audio, and more futuristic finale. I’m a little crushed that this will mean the end of the current narration and possibly of the musical score. I never wanted that in an update—it just didn’t seem necessary.

But one fact remains: I last came off the ride thinking it needed an update. Pretty badly. Virtual Toad has put most of my thoughts perfectly. “Against all my instincts”, I saw that the grand old attraction needed some care because frankly, the state of the attraction was almost embarrassing when I thought about it from a first-timer’s point of view. It’s still a beauty and hasn’t nearly reached “Wonders of Life” levels of neglect, but even so…this was once a shining vision of the future that packed a wonderful punch and forced guests to leap headfirst into EPCOT Center. In recent years, that leap into the park has become more of a hesitant stumble.

So why not just clean it up and leave it be? Well make no mistake—I am a major subscriber to almost all of the theories and thoughts presented on this blog about the timelessness of the old EPCOT Center style, and I still believe that, were nothing changed about the current Spaceship Earth aside from some dusting and some oiling up, it would continue to wow guests. I am well aware that visitors of all ages, including the supposedly jaded younger generation, still flock to this ride time and time again, and love it. That’s a testament to the talent of the attraction’s original Imagineers and their respect for their audience.

But that talent and respect put into Spaceship Earth 25 years ago can’t hold the ride up completely anymore. Now please understand, I will never, ever believe that “re-imaginings” in the mold of Test Track (or even the less offensive Mission: Space) are default solutions to aging attractions—perish the thought. And trust me, I don’t like resorting to the trite argument that EPCOT was always about progress to begin with so we should change everything that looks old.

But once I calm down and put this Spaceship Earth news into perspective, I realize that we’re almost certainly not talking about crimes as egregious as Test Track, and that perhaps we are for once looking at an EPCOT rehab that actually can be justified with that often-tired argument about progress. I’ll miss the current ride for my own selfish reasons, but I’m coming to realize that this is as respectful a rehab as we can hope for that still pushes ahead in the spirit of the original EPCOT Center.

Though I will certainly lament the death of the old Spaceship Earth (maybe forever, since this version was so special to me), I look forward to what could perhaps be, as Toad said, the first building block of EPCOT's rebirth—or rather, the birth of what it was always meant to be. I, too, have always been a little confused as to why Horizons, an attraction which is always touted as the union of all the themes of EPCOT Center, was not the park’s physical centerpiece. In fact, think about the Spaceship Earth philosophy itself—not that of the ride, but the actual philosophy, which pre-dates EPCOT: we all need to make the most of this tiny planet we have by pooling all of our resources and knowledge and creating a brighter future for each other. We’re all we’ve got. By golly, when you think about it, it’s what EPCOT—all of EPCOT, Future World and World Showcase—is all about to begin with, right there in the name of the ride. If you ask me, communications has always seemed too narrow a lens through which to view and understand that vast concept.

By essentially placing “Horizons II” at the center of the park, Disney could be ushering in an EPCOT Center that is once again as ready for the future as it was in 1982. They may not realize it yet, but if this rehab is done intelligently and sensitively, the Imagineers could essentially be starting EPCOT from scratch under the radar of the “suits”. So let’s say it is done as well as we can hope for. I am almost positive that, whatever I personally end up thinking of the rehab, the public will love it. The bean-counters may for once get a positive public response from a “new” attraction that doesn’t feature Ellen, Nemo, Donald, or high speeds. They’ll see public enthusiasm about a ride that values ideas over obvious product placement and earnestness over wry Pixar humor. Suddenly it might not look so risky to build thoughtful attractions when other pavilions are up for a rehab…

Listen, I know the Walt Disney Company has done a lot of damage to itself in the 25 years since EPCOT Center opened, perhaps some of it irreversible. The almighty dollar may always have priority in the minds of the higher-ups, making it improbable that something of a true return to EPCOT’s original values will ever fully happen. But—and I’m surprised by this—I’m finding myself getting more and more excited about the possibilities of this rehab. Yes, I’m still cynical about some of the wording in the press release—I’m not so sure about that word “adventure”, and as for the interactive screens, well…let’s not forget that interactivity was a beloved feature of Horizons, but it could also be as bad as Horizons’ use of it was good. Still, I’m optimistic. I don’t entertain illusions that we will never get burned again…I may end up hating it. But if done right, or even less than right, this could still be lightyears ahead of the Disney-fied dreck EPCOT has suffered through lately.

A medal to anyone who read through that. I’ve been thinking a lot about this (I know you can’t tell, right?) and so this was more to write my thoughts down for myself than anything else. But if you did read it, I’d like to hear some thoughts about whether you think this could really be a “Horizons II”, and whether that could really mean anything good for EPCOT. This is an angle I hadn’t been able to put into words until Virtual Toad posted it, and against my better judgment it got me a little excited.

sdav10495 said...

Sorry, I realize that I might not have made something quite so clear about how I felt (as if I could leave something out of that post)--I just wanted to make it known that I'm still pretty worried about this. I know not to put blind faith in WDI anymore and I am really, truly sad (for lack of a fancier word) about the "demise" of the current version of Spaceship Earth, which I love so well, and the knowledge that the new version may be quite different from anything I have in mind or want to see. And when I just get an image in my mind of Spaceship Earth, that old survivor of EPCOT Center, being transformed beyond the point where it can be considered an original attraction anymore (though perhaps it won't be that drastic), my heart sinks and I feel as if I've lost an old friend forever.

It just occurs to me, however--in an on-again-off-again way that's driving me nuts--that this may not be such a terrible thing and it may be time to say goodbye to the old Spaceship Earth. While I can't say with any informed confidence that most of the new ride will retain old elements (I just don't know that, of course), I am confident that the very nature of the attraction and the slow, Omnimover ride structure will prevent it from going too far overboard. This rehab idea really does have a lot of potential, and I'd just like to see more discussion about all the possibilities of that potential. This is clearly a significant change for EPCOT, and I'm not sure we should mourn just yet without thinking about the upsides.

And with the readers of this blog, I'm sure we'll get some really intelligent arguments rather than the empty-headed Pollyanna posts seen at other WDW boards... ;)

Captain Schnemo said...

I agree with much of what has been said. I also always thought that Horizons should have been the park's iconic attraction (which made the decision to bulldoze it even more soul-crushing) and I view this change as an admission that destroying it was a mistake.

I have complete confidence that they will either screw this up completely or make something wholly unimpressive that everyone cheers about because "it could have been worse". I just don't object to the basic principle.

While it's nice that they say they aren't going to completely abandon the old sets, those sets were created to tell a fundamentally different story. Even if you change the narration, the visuals will still largely be about the specific issue of communication. That puts the Gang that Couldn't Stay on Message behind the eightball even before the first brainstorming session.

At least it didn't become "ride a data packet through a network at high speed...with Buzz and Woody!". At least at least at least...

Another point that should get epcot82 fired up is that if they stick to the schedule I've seen announced elsewhere, it will be closed for the 25th anniversary.

Somehow I think that's completely appropriate, given what Epcot has become.

Also, I couldn't let rocco's statement pass without commenting on it: Communication is old subject which many people know enough about.

What complete nonsense. I guess the web will be the last innovation, then. Yep, we've seen it all. 50 years from now, the media and communication will be exactly as it is today! With that worldview, I think you're qualified to be an Imagineer these days.

Rob said...

sdav10495, i agree with what you said about this possibly being the beginning of the REBIRTH of EPCOT Center and not the nail in the coffin.

In many ways this update is what the park needs to bring back than ol futurist spirit and I for one am welcoming it with open arms.

Virtual Toad said...

sdav10495 and Captain Schnemo both make excellent points.

I was genuinely optimistic about all this until I listened to the existing music soundtrack on my iPod last night. And my first thought was, crap, we're going to lose this beautiful, fully orchestrated music for more cheap Midi loops (Journey Into Imagination comes to mind as an example).

I guess I could say I'm still excited about the possibilities as they're laid out in the news release (it still sounds more like EPCOT than anything else they've tried in the last decade), but when you think about how poorly things have been executed over that time, well, sure, it is cause for concern.

Will this be the beginning of a rebirth or just an excuse to remove more moving parts from the park (read: AAs) to save money on maintenance costs?

I guess it all comes down to execution.

Anonymous said...

First off I love this blog. It is a little, I mean a lot critical. But it is a nice look at Epcot.

Great Job Epcot82.

Now on to SSE.

My favorite ride in the world, hands down. I could care less about roller coasters or rides that turn you inside out, give me SSE every day of the week.

Now this being said, I am excited about this change. Not that I dislike the old ride, I do not. It is a perfect ride. But Epcot stands for a lot of ideas, one of the main ones being progress. The future, what will be, what can be. So even though I would kill to ride Horizons again or even hear Cronkite’s voice as I slowly spiraled up inside SSE, I welcome a change.

Life changes, we change. Today’s world is much different than the one we lived in 10 years ago. Just try and go a week without a computer or a cell phone. Most of us cannot do it. So as the world around us changes, so do the things we love. Like Epcot.

The old Epcot was awesome. Not a character in sight (except for Figment) and memories abound. I still have to hear “Listen to the Land” at least once a week. Epcot has to evolve, it has to change. And it has to be one step ahead of the times. I kind of welcome the characters, it gets my 6 year old daughter excited and puts a smile on her face. She can hug Mickey all she wants as I ride MS, or TT.

I might get flamed for saying this but, I love Mission Space. Yes it is short, but I get a kick each time I get thrown back into my seat from those G forces (I hate the whole orange, green thing, bring back the single riders line). I like Test Track (when it is working). I have heard of the changes to El Rio D Tiempo and it sounds great! And Soarin can become my new favorite ride ever.

WEI is not dead, I think that in certain instances they get over ruled by the Suits. But you can’t say that Everest is not an amazing ride. Really detailed, and yes a thrill ride.

Lets see what they do with SSE, I hope the renovation will be amazing and we all will be right here praising WDI. But maybe we will get a Laugh Floor kind or Renovation. And if we do then we can all stand infront of SSE with Black Arm bands and wax poetically about the times of the past. Then all go and ride Soarin.

We should not fear change (except for pennies).

Angelo


Angelo721@bellsouth.net

kcnole said...

This is one instance where I think you're really stretching. We've only been given a bit of information here on what they plan on doing. To me it sounds like they plan on keeping much of the theme of communication but also adding in some of the themes that are sorely missing from Horizons. Based on the limited info I have it sounds like it may be a wonderful update. This is one where I truly think you need to wait to gather more info before being upset. I for one am mildly excited but holding it back before I know any more.

Chris said...

I have to agree with kcnole. We really don't have enough information to go on about this update and I think if there's a chance that Siemens has some people who think this idea is great and they pour money into it, it could be a great update.

As much as Disney has failed in the past, they have still had some successes, Im holding out to see if this is one of them.

Brian said...

re: sdav10495 & "rebirth" - I thought you were just being wildly optimistic... but apparently some evidence has sprung up that may give some weight to your idea...

don't look now, but Spaceship Earth has a new _logo_...!

http://www.wdwmagic.com/general_epcot_news.htm

(13 Apr 2007)

Scott said...

That new logo is pretty sweet.

It's a throwback to the old logo but also fresh and modern. I like it a lot.

Here's to hoping they decide to do one for each pavilion.

Captain Schnemo said...

Hmm. The old logo shows the planet progressing forward, whereas the new logo shows it in a swirl of conflict/confusion/activity/fillintheblank.

I don't hate it or anything, but it doesn't bode well for renovation that's going to require a lot of thought and attention to detail.

Brian said...

oh my god, is there any change at Epcot in the last 10 years you don't hate? I miss the old logos too, but they are 25 years old.

In the grand scheme of things, the wand and Horizons are much bigger issues, however.

Siemens is definitely exerting their influence - seeing "SIEMENS" laser-projected up on Spaceship Earth last week after Illuminations sorta hammered this point home.

I see this as a good sign. :)

Chris said...

Siemens was projected on Spaceship Earth already? You'd think they'd at least open the post show area first before plugging their stuff.

That's my only real fear so far, is that they're going to cram the attraction with hidden S's and lots of Siemens mentions everywhere. That would be horrid.

I mean AT&T definitely influenced the original, but it was pretty subtle and didn't take away from the attraction too much.

dean said...

I wish you could elaborate more on what you consider to be central to the issue here. Is it that you see Communication as the key theme to unify the rest of the pavilions, or is it that you see Disney introducing a new attitude to the attraction that emphasizes a shallow marketing-based approach??

Yes, Communication is one of the most important tools we have as a society. At it's best, it creates understanding and cooperation. At it's worst it can be used to spread lies and conflict. But practically every species on this planet that is able to peep or squeak has some form of communication. It's our innovative spirit that allows us to accomplish what we will with it. Thus I see Innovation as a very important theme, unique to the human condition, that can apply nicely to the rest of the park. It also more accurately describes the achievements of Walt Disney and what he was trying to accomplish with EPCOT.

As for what Disney is currently capable of, I think that Captain Schnemo applies the right amount of cynicism. Based on what I have seen lately with the Nemo and Three Caballeros shows, I really wonder if Disney has the capability to create anything other than entertaining gimmicky fluff. Even shows like Mission Space and Soarin' that have a more serious side to them are woefully one-dimensional. Disney can certainly pull off a first-rate and imaginative production, but creating anything with sophistication or depth to it, something that stirs our souls, may be far beyond their reach.

Jenna said...

Now I wasn't even born when EPCOT opened, but I went for the first time when I was 6 mos old and I've been AT LEAST once a year since. I love EPCOT as much as anyone (I've been 3 times already this year) but everytime I go it just seems older and older. A lot of the architecture and design is still from the 70s, and the whole communiation thing- it's ideas for the future are what we already have. So SSE being updated is a good thing. The whole idea was to show ppl the future of technology, and you can't talk about the future from 15 years in the past. The comment about everyone knowing about communication- while we don't know everything and there will be advances in the future- you do have to admit that the average person now is a lot more "communications savvy" than 25 years ago....I talk to friends around the world on a daily basis- a concept some ppl never would have thought of 25 years ago. Anyways, I do think communications is essential to understanding our world. One of the biggest problems today is that with all this great new technology, people are actually communicating less. So I don't want to see the theme completely lost, but maybe such a blatant attraction about it isn't as neccessary anymore either. And my post is getting as long as some of the others, so I'll stop now.

On one other note- Everyone talks about MS and TT being horrible attroscities, but did anyone think that maybe they bring a whole new concept to EPCOT: Transportation. Transportation is a big part of developing the future and I think that by showing people didfferent aspects of it that they can help lead people to build the transportation of tomorrow. I was just thinking today as I was driving that it would be great if someone invented teleporters....but thats my wishful thinking. Honestly, I don't really get the point of Soarin'....you wait 2+ hours to see a little picture montage of stuff....tell me how this fits with your "central theme" of EPCOT?

Ok, now I'm really done, lol.

Brian said...

Soarin' is definitely out of place in Epcot, but I can see how it's the "least bad" place to stick it. Not a big fan of Soarin' here, but it's an interesting attraction nontheless.

Umm... believe it or not, the original EPCOT Center showcased a huge transportation pavilion - it was called World of Motion. Guess who sponsored it? GM - and it's the building that currently houses Test Track.

Test Track does indeed pack in the crowds in a way World of Motion could never do, but we've gone from "Transportation" as a whole to just "how we test cars." It is pretty much a step down thematically.

I am getting pretty tweaked out trying to think of what succint question to ask Marty Sklar when he comes to Seattle next month... :)

Captain Schnemo said...

brian: oh my god, is there any change at Epcot in the last 10 years you don't hate? I miss the old logos too, but they are 25 years old.

I'm so tired of this recurring theme. I never said they should stick with the old logos, just like I never said they should create attractions and not update them for 25 years. I only ask that when things are updated that they are done so with at least a fraction of the consideration and skill as the previous incarnation.

An icon is nothing but symbolic, therefore an analysis requires an examination of the symbolism. This icon is symbolically weaker than the previous one. It's a handsome icon, but it clearly fits the recent pattern of flash over substance. Like I said, I don't hate it, but if something is lame, I'm certainly going say so.

Honestly, I would love to be able to say nice things about Epcot which don't begin with "At least...".

jenna: ...you do have to admit that the average person now is a lot more "communications savvy" than 25 years ago....

And 25 years from now, our technology is going to look primitive. I am continually amazed by people who seem to think that technology is so wonderful and we are so smart right now that things could hardly be better. You all sound like the family from the Carousel of Progress who thinks that the height of technological achievement has been reached because it only took them five hours to do the laundry.

Despite acknowledging that things are quite different from the way things were 25 years ago, and despite the fact that this has been true for centuries, you fail to imagine that this will continue to be true? Do you find no lesson in history?

It must be so devastatingly depressing to believe that right now is as good as it's ever going to get.

Jeff Pepper said...

Captain Schemo: I'm so tired of this recurring theme.

In fairness, I believe so many who read comments here such as yours and Epcot82's have the perception of negativity on your parts because well, that's all we seem to see.

Let's face it, nearly all the recent posts here take news, announcements, events, etc and just spin them in support of this very black and white view of what Epcot should be.

Reading negativity into icons and and cast members riding segways tends to get a bit extreme.

And frankly, you didn't answer the question--is there any change at Epcot in the last 10 years you don't hate?

Twirlnhurl said...

Put me in the boat with those who are cautiously optimistic. From reading the press release and knowing Disney, the entire first half of the ride is almost certainly going to be kept very similar to it's current state. I'm more saddened that we're going to loose the wonderful music and narration. Hopefully, the new version will have something of similar quality.
A note about the Siemens logo projected on Spaceship earth after Illuminations: I am pretty sure that Siemens is the sponsor of Illuminations. If not, then it is sponsored by Sylvania, a Siemens company.

Captain Schnemo said...

jp: Let's face it, nearly all the recent posts here take news, announcements, events, etc and just spin them in support of this very black and white view of what Epcot should be.

Why do you feel that it's "spin"? That implies that there is some us vs. them, anti-Disney agenda in play. Certainly, yes, all things are held up to the yardstick that Disney itself created and that is the reason that we enjoyed Epcot so much in the first place.

The easiest way for Disney to get people like us to stop complaining is to produce entertainment that meets their previous high standards. If Disney continues to lower its standards, fans are certainly not obligated to be cheerleaders.

Reading negativity into icons and and cast members riding segways tends to get a bit extreme.

I could not disagree with you any more strongly on that point. The thing that differentiates a Disney park from any other park is a dedication to produce something of a higher quality and that involves sweating the details.

For years, Disney prided itself on this attention to detail. Every decision was subjected to scrutiny, and while things weren't always perfect, there was at least the understanding that some serious thought was put into these choices.

You can't say that details aren't all that important, because they are in fact the single most important thing that separates Disney from the competition.

Unless you're comfortable saying that Epcot should be no better than Universal Studios, then you must acknowledge that details are incredibly important.

...is there any change at Epcot in the last 10 years you don't hate?

There aren't many, although that is a result of the changes Disney has made, not a reflection of my desire to portray Disney in an unfavorable light. If things suck, they suck. That's not my doing.

To more directly answer the question, I don't hate Soarin'. I think it's a poor choice for The Land (flying in the air over California has nothing to do with the overall theme of The Land and even less to do with Future World), but it's not as overtly wrong-headed as so many of the other changes. I haven't seen what is to me the "new" version of Illuminations, but people seem to like it. Some aspects the newer Innoventions incarnations are better than previous versions.

It's easy to show, however, we're not trying to "spin" anything, in that you could have asked us ten years ago to explain what makes Epcot special and we would have said exactly the same thing we're saying now, and those elements come directly from Disney itself...we didn't invent them!

So you can objectively look at the changes that have been made and see that they are not in line with Disney's own vision of Epcot.

Don't blame the messenger. We just want Disney to take itself seriously and not pander to an audience who doesn't care about details, quality or vision.

Jeff Pepper said...

Captain Schnemo--

Let's be clear--this "Disney vision" of Epcot is your subjective interpretation of what the original presentation of EPCOT Center was.

What is interesting in so many of these discussions is that while there is so much focus on this "vision" of Epcot, there seems to a be a real lack of addressing one of the most important founding principles of EPCOT Center--corporate sponsorship. EPCOT was built on corporate dollars and is still largely sustained by those endowments. These companies can and do exert influence on the creative process.

SSE's theme sprang largely from the fact that it tied into its sponsor, not some idealized mission on Disney's part to tell the story of communication. So when Siemens wants a new SSE theme more in keeping with its corporate mission, how is that any different from when the park's sponsors of 20 years ago exerted similar influence.

As for your comments on spin--When you take a very short press release and cherry pick its wording to criticize an attraction that is a year away from reality, it's not exactly what I would call an objective, rational evaluation.

Many of the comments made here tend to be overly harsh and at times mean-spirited. That certainly gives the impression to many of this "us vs. them" agenda you purportedly disclaim.

Captain Schnemo said...

jp: ...this "Disney vision" of Epcot is your subjective interpretation of what the original presentation of EPCOT Center was.

It absolutely is not. It's recorded in print and various other forms of media, and there's a plaque explaining it in the park itself. It's not our invention.

Epcot was not presented in a vaccuum. There's a considerable amount of documentation out there explaining the process involved in its creation. To use a metaphor, we have the director's commentary on the DVD extras.

So when Siemens wants a new SSE theme more in keeping with its corporate mission, how is that any different from when the park's sponsors of 20 years ago exerted similar influence.

As I said, I have no complaints about the change of subject matter. I believe it is an improvement, and I said so. (I believe I am in disagreement with epcot82 on this point.)

When you take a very short press release and cherry pick its wording...

It's not "cherry picking", it's simple analysis. I have no interest in saying negative things about Disney news for the sake of negativity. (I might ask why you are cherry picking the negative things I've said.) What would I have to gain from taking an antagonistic stance with a giant corporation that has no interest in my opinion? The fame? The money? The chicks?

The easiest way to shut me (and others like me) up would be to produce a quality product, and I be more than happy to reward a company that created such a product with my dollars and support.

Chris said...

Soarin' is definitely out of place in Epcot, but I can see how it's the "least bad" place to stick it. Not a big fan of Soarin' here, but it's an interesting attraction nontheless.

In its current state, I agree....the sad part is I thought of something they should have done instead...the actual Soarin' building is between the Land and Imagination, they should have just created an entirely new pavilion there.

Theres definitely enough of room because Disney almost put the Great Movie Ride in that exact location before deciding to make an entire park in MGM.

Stick with me, there's the Land Pavilion, next to the Sea pavilion...the next logical step could have been an "Air" pavilion, where they could have put Soarin' in and added a lot of educational, interactive displays. Instead they hacked up The Land and put a large walkway to Soarin instead where it doesn't really fit that well.

Oh the possibilities. ok, I strayed a bit far from the topic so I'll stop now

Captain Schnemo said...

That's interesting, chris.

I suppose flight is basically transportation, but since they destroyed the transportation pavilion they could have combined Mission: Space and Soarin' into a generic flight-based pavilion...although, when you get down to it, neither are particularly thoughtful and Soarin' isn't futuristic.

Still, it's an interesting idea to knock around.

The main problem with Soarin' at Epcot is that it was created for another purpose (which made complete sense within that context) and then Disney tried to find a place to "stick it". Not exactly in line with the grand vision thing.

sdav10495 said...

The main problem with Soarin' at Epcot is that it was created for another purpose (which made complete sense within that context) and then Disney tried to find a place to "stick it". Not exactly in line with the grand vision thing.

That's what I was just thinking recently. The way Soarin' was introduced into Epcot is what I find most objectionable about it.

Other than that, though--and this is where we may disagree--I think it's one of the best and most "EPCOT" things they've brought to lower-case Epcot in recent years. I don't see it relating to aeronautics at all, aside from the fact that you're in a hang glider (and aside from the fact that they have the queue and show space themed like a hangar). It's very much about inspiring wonder and awe at the land that's spread out beneath you--a big presentational experience (largely free of a ridiculous narrative set-up) in the tradition of Walt's True-Life Adventures and, dare I say it, even of the original EPCOT Center attractions.

Most importantly, Soarin' stands alone as the one recent product of lower-case Epcot that really, truly is geared to and amazes all ages. It doesn't (aside from the occasional flying golf ball) stoop to the empty thrills of its Future World East counterparts, and it doesn't (aside from Tinkerbell) play solely to young children like its Future World West neighbors. It appeals to every demographic a good EPCOT Center attraction should. How telling of WDI's understanding of Epcot that this one wasn't even made for the park.

Now clearly, that point is part of the problem. It wasn't made for The Land, so it isn't at the level of the old pavilions yet. It doesn't yet say very much on its own. The film should ideally take us above all parts of the world, showing us not only the Earth's natural wonders but also people who use it wisely and live harmoniously with it (think the new and stunning "Planet Earth" TV series, with a farmer or two). It should tell us, without words, how precious our planet is and how urgent it is that we preserve it. The images and trivia questions in the queue do a fair job of this already, but the entire attraction should be revised in that mold to make a more cohesive pavilion.

As it is, however, the ride does succeed somewhat in driving that message home, which is really more a testament to the strength of the rest of the pavilion (especially "Living with the Land", still hanging on and in fine form) than anything else. And really, though the ride isn't quite where it should be right now, that's what's so great about Soarin': when you look at it within The Land, sure, it might be the oddball, but it really doesn't detract from the message. It enhances it, and in my opinion helps to establish The Land as Future World's strongest pavilion. Guests of all ages line up in droves to witness the latest farming technology on one ride, to fly over the land itself on another, to enjoy the fruits (literally) of what they've seen in the restaurants...heck, even the character placement in The Land (the "Circle of Life" film) isn't as cheap or patronizing as it is in--well, other areas of Epcot. Though I'd personally alter the interior aesthetics and organization (and the Soarin' film, as I said) The Land is truly one of the gems of Epcot today. I think it's the best evidence we have that modern guests will still flock to a Future World pavilion that harmoniously houses eateries, a film, a traditional slow ride, real researchers in action, and an E-ticket that--imagine!--doesn't revolve around speed or nausea but wonder. It's a work in progress, but there's a lot to be learned from The post-Soarin' Land, methinks.

Wait, isn't this conversation about Spaceship Earth?

dean said...

About the new Spaceship Earth logo: What do you mean a negative interpretation? It's most certainly the swirling vortex of death. ;)

About Soarin': they should have placed the entrance to it on the upper level since it deals with an aerial perspective of the Land. The film should focus on how the Land is shaped and affected by the environmental forces of the Earth. I can imagine an incredible sequence where the film follows a tiny windblown seed as it braves the elements in it's flight to bring new life to a remote location.

Tomorrow's Child said...

Give it up. I love Spaceship Earth, but it always felt like my Journalism 101 class. Why not broaden the appeal? If Epcot put in a new drinking fountain, you would find a reason to complain. (The Epcot water fountains in 1982 were colder!)

Jenna said...

cs: "Despite acknowledging that things are quite different from the way things were 25 years ago, and despite the fact that this has been true for centuries, you fail to imagine that this will continue to be true? Do you find no lesson in history?

It must be so devastatingly depressing to believe that right now is as good as it's ever going to get."


All I meant when I said that was that as far as communications technology goes, in the past 15 years it has advanced more rapidly than in the 15 years before that- when I was in 4th grade all our homework had to be done on computers!- my parents were amazed. Technology will probably continue to advance at an exponential place which really means that no matter what Epcot does, it will be obsolete before they finish building it! If you want to talk about devestatingly depressing, what about the idea that the world is going to end in 5 yrs? (Sorry that's what I was listening to on the radio this morning). My point is, that they could build attarctions about all this new technology before and it would seem new and cool for at least a few years before it became everyday stuff. Now, computers are obsolete before you even take them out of the box! I think some of the stuff they announced for the new SSE aftershow is cool, like the remote surgery and stuff, but you have to remember that they already have this technology, thats how they can put it in there in the first place. So it's going to be really difficult to make stuff that seems so futuristic as it did in the 80s. I know Epcot seems run down and kinda lost now, but its still one of my favorite places in the world.

kcnole said...

"As much as Disney has failed in the past, they have still had some successes, Im holding out to see if this is one of them.

I still have faith in the imagineers, its the beancounters who have caused the problems. Just take a look at what is going on in Tokyo where money is no object to see that the imagineers still get it when given the freedom to get it. The problem is that they know that here in the states they're not allowed to get it anymore so they only do what the money allows them to do. That's not WDI's fault except that maybe they don't fight hard enough.

I'm hoping that Siemen's sees this as a wonderful chance to showcase their productline and are willing to pour the amount of money necessary into making this right. So I'm going to wait and see. I have no problem with the theme of SSE changing a bit. I don't think it has to be so tied into only communication. It was that way only because AT&T was the sponsor at inception. I think the change can work just fine. Let's just wait and see. It could be awful, but I like to see the glass as half full and until I see a reason to proclaim it half empty (as we have at Test Track) then I'm going to view it as half full.

Virtual Toad said...

Okay, a few more thoughts on the whole Spaceship Earth thing and why, even though it sounds good on paper, many of us are still worried.

Stay with me, it all comes around.

Show buildings, like all physical spaces, give off energy; the have a vibe. When you introduce incongruous elements into a space, it messes with the vibe.

To be more specific, take two examples. First, Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management.
Iago and Co. are totally out of place in the Tiki Room because the space, setting, set design, lighting, etc. weren't designed to showcase annoying agressive birds from outside Polynesia.

The serenity of the physical space is now in total conflict with the new subject matter of the show. The guest may not be conscious of this conflict, but nonetheless it has a tangible negative effect on his or her enjoyment of the attraction.

Something just isn't right.

And that's the same problem I have now with the Three Caballeros overlay. I saw it twice over the weekend and both times I came out of the ride physically and mentally exhausted. At first, I couldn't figure out why. Was I just angry with the changes? The whole thing left me with a bad Slurpee headache.

After giving it some thought, it dawned on me. Frenetic animated birds have no business on the screens of El Rio del Tiempo **because the physical space was never designed to accommodate them.**

Think about it-- now you coast serenely past an ancient pyramid in a slow-moving boat, turn the corner, and WHAM! LOUD OBNOXIOUS BIRDS! The setup is in total conflict with the payoff. There used to be an immersive pacing to the attraction, a slow, natural progression of energy from start to finish. Now it's an all-out, unrelenting, fast moving, animated assault on the senses. Great if it's a simulator ride or roller coaster. But IT JUST DOESN'T WORK in a physical setting designed for a slow-moving, relaxing boat cruise.

Maybe that's what has a lot of us worried about the Spaceship Earth rehab. The physical space, sets and show scenes were all designed to support the original theme and pacing. Recent Disney is more concerned about shoehorning ideas (round hole, square peg?) than they are about maintaining the subtle but important relationship between physical setting and show content.

It used to be I'd go on Disney attractions and wonder "How on earth did they do that?" Now, more and more, I wonder "WHY on earth did they do that?"

Will the new Spaceship Earth design honor the original intention of the show space, or are we talking about another forced concept? Will the new finale match the spirit of the ascent, or will we spend the last five minutes of the ride staring at (yet another) video screen while rolling past empty black walls?

Sorry for the long post. I just wanted to explain to the "you think change is always bad" crowd why some of us are mindfully critical of changes made just for the sake of change. Sadly, "new" doesn't always mean "new and improved."

dean said...

"...Three Caballeros overlay. ..The whole thing left me with a bad Slurpee headache."

Are you sure it wasn't those margueritas? ;)

The positive thing that I see about this Spaceship Earth update is the sponsor. Although I have no way of confirming this, it's my understanding that Siemens values the current attraction, thus they turned down the Time Racers thrill ride concept that Disney was trying to sell to them. That isn't to say that they are not going to try to jazz up the storyline. There is a lot of opportunity for wrecking something that has value. I hope that someone is talented enough at WDI to see the strengths of the show and build on those, rather than adding a lot of superfluous material that waters down the experience. A show doesn't have to be fast-paced to be captivating.

sdav10495 said...

Although I have no way of confirming this, it's my understanding that Siemens values the current attraction, thus they turned down the Time Racers thrill ride concept that Disney was trying to sell to them.

That's what I believe I've heard as well, and I think it's been more or less backed up by what we've actually seen so far--depending, of course, on how you look at it.. The post-show, nearing completion after a long absence, seems to have been thought out reasonably well and with a real desire to make the space engaging, however effective it may actually end up being. And though I understand (with a bit of a laugh) that the new logo evokes more of a "confused vortex" than the forward-thinking old one, it's still more straightforward than the majority of the post-Innoventions clutter of the park. I also think the fact that it brings back the original globe design says something about how much the WDI/Seimens team working on this attraction understands its roots.

Again, I understand that this could really end up tipping in either direction, but as much as the refurbished ride could suck there is also, I think, equal reason to believe that the ride's rehab team is looking to bring back some of the resectful simplicity the park lost when it became Epcot. Though virtual toad brings up another great point (and valid fear) about WDI fitting square pegs into round holes of late, it seems that Seimens, at least, is trying to guide the SSE rehab in a more appropriate direction.

Brian said...

All -

I've added some content to my little pet project site "FixEpcot.com" that summarizes some of the things that have been wished for in "executive summary format." Take a look and please let me know what you think.

FixEPCOT.com

-Brian

Captain Schnemo said...

Good points were made about Soarin'. It's not actually "about" flying, the focus is definitely on the land below. Doesn't really say anything about it, but it does seem that a new film could do a much better job of fitting into The Land.

jenna: Technology will probably continue to advance at an exponential place which really means that no matter what Epcot does, it will be obsolete before they finish building it!

Only if the goal is to look a very short distance into the future. One of the major problems with Innoventions is that the showcased technology is not futuristic at all. It's an examination of the present, which, as you rightly point out, is immediately outdated. If they'd update it more frequently (and do a better job of selecting the technology in the first place), it'd be fine, but installing tech that is already old and then hanging on to it for years is a big mess.

Getting back to the point, Horizons was largely criticized for being "outdated", despite the fact that we have not achieved any of the major things displayed in the attraction. We don't have cities in space, seabases, holographic phones, tamed deserts, etc.

They looked far enough into the future that, 25 years later, we still haven't seen what they showed us back then.

An intelligent, well-researched, and thoughtful prediction of the future of communication could be fascinating. They'd need to go back to their roots of putting some real effort into the planning and research of the attraction, which is something they have not been willing to do recently.

kcnole: I still have faith in the imagineers, its the beancounters who have caused the problems.

I'm certain the Accountaneers have had an impact, and it's true that the Imagineers have done a nice job crafting some of the recent attractions, but they can't be completely blame-free for the message problems in so many new attractions.

I suppose we're talking about different people here, and maybe that's part of the problem. In the past, it seemed that Imagineers tended to be jacks-of-all-trades and the guy building the robot might also be responsible for stylistic decisions about various design elements.

From a tech perspective, Nemo is has some neat tricks, but from a message perspective, it really falls down. Nemo shouldn't be there in the first place, but if we assume the suits required his presence, the attraction could have been equally fun and had a more lasting message than "Where's Nemo? Oh, there he is." And this lackluster attempt was followed up immediately by "Where's Donald?" in Mexico.

That's a pretty sad imagination deficit from a group called "Imagineering".

Jahosifatz said...

It almost sounds like they are bringing back a watered down Horizons. Pft, darn you Epcot.

Scott said...

http://www.intercot.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=102504

Another announcement: Patina Restaurant Group will be taking over the space currently occupied by Alfredo's. Patina operates the Naples Restaurant at Disneyland's Downtown Disney (never been, so I can't comment). It's a new restaurant concept that will include signature dishes, interactive experience, and a variety of wine, according to the internal release. This new restaurant will open in Fall 2008. An "authentic Italian chef" will run the daily operations of this new concept.

Between August 31 (when Alfredo's contract expires) and Fall 2008, Patina will serve Italian food from its current restaurants.

John H said...

First off, let me say that I completely agree with sdav10495 that The Land is indeed the best pavillion in Epcot... still the one with the best connection to the original themes of progress, understanding and innovation. I miss a lot of the old-school Epcot Center that I loved so much.

However, while I really like SSE, I do feel that an update of sorts is necessary... particularly on the "trip down" side of the ride, which got an update about what, 10 years ago? It's in need of it again. I am hopeful that the changes on the ascent part of the ride will only be minor. And who knows, maybe with the new narration and music there will be the orrotunity to rigth a few wrongs: maybe there will be more of a breathtaking moment at the top of the ride when the starfield is revealed (someting that was definitely lost with the transition from Cronkite to Irons, IMHO). I can only hope.

But it's definitely disappointing that the incredibly stupid/tacky/out-of-place wand won't be coming down.

Smilee306 said...

John H said... But it's definitely disappointing that the incredibly stupid/tacky/out-of-place wand won't be coming down.

Agreed. That was the biggest "ew" moment for me in the whole article. They know people hate it, but they really like it a lot? It cost a lot of money? Why why why is it staying?

Captain Schnemo said...

Excellent point about the starfield. That was one of the highlights of the original attraction.

Another was the positive tone of the Cronkite narration, as opposed to the gloomy Irons version.

sdav10495 said...

To me, the Cronkite version felt like my grandfather taking me on a tour of a museum...it's nice, but it wasn't an extraordinary experience. I'll take the drama and mystery of Irons voice matched with that musical score any day. I hope they go with something similar in the rehab...not because a Cronkite-like voice is wrong for the attraction (it's not) but perhaps because at this point in EPCOT's history I'm so mortally afraid of the park's last great Animatronic ride becoming too quaint or cutesy. Let there still be some air of the "unknown" about the place, please!

Digital Jedi said...

What's there to debate? Whether it's a great attraction or not, whether it's desperately in need of an update or not, whether they stick brand new technology in the thing or not, history has proven that current management doesn't have a clue what to do with the park.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for "at leasts" when discussing any Disney park. This is not a place that's supposed to be "at least" as good as anything else. It's supposed to be the top dog of everything like it or that comes after it. It's supposed to set the standard. Not only have the recent changes in the past few years shown that Disney management doesn't understand what EPCOT stood for, they don't even realize what a cash cow their slaughtering by failure to understand that. And there's no reason to think that this latest addition is going to be anything else but more failure to see the forest for the trees.

Walt Disney and his immediate predecessors once taught me to be optimistic about the future. Current management has all but destroyed that optimism. And honestly, what possible reason could I have to think of this as anything else but another nail in the coffin? EPCOT has become nothing more then a depository of ideas for Disney. Got something new and shiny? Stick in Future World! Theming be damned. That's not good enough. EPCOT is better then that. And it's a damn shame the numbnuts in charge can't see what a grand place EPCOT could still be.

I for one, give up on EPCOT. Until the money grubbers are all kicked out on their collective designer suited asses, I have no longer any hope for any Disney park. Lassiter is only one man, and not enough. Fire the MBAs or whatever the hell you call the accountanteers who are too busy greasing their pockets with my cash to give a damn about legacies. Once their gone, then we can rebuild and have optimism again. Until their gone, I give up. On all of it...

Chris said...

I have hope...and here is why. The same era that brought us DCA and some of the worst attractions ever at WDW also brought Tokyo DisneySea...a masterpiece of theme park design...and why?

Because the Disney Company didn't pay for most of it.

So what does that mean here? Well Siemens is putting its corporate hands all over this project, they're probably spending a lot too. I'm hoping that with them paying for sponsorship we'll get a high quality update.

Captain Schnemo said...

It's not so much about money as it is about respect for the parks and theming, and a willingness to put some serious thought and planning into each attraction. In short, Disney doesn't take itself seriously any more.

The problem with many of the new attractions isn't that they're too cheap, it's that they're stupid, poorly themed, and poorly designed.

"Monsters, spacemen, yeah, sure, whatever...the customers won't care and neither should we!"

As for Irons' narration, I'd never considered it "dramatic", but I can see that point of view.

In particular, I object to the "But will these seemingly infinite communications become a flood of electronic babble?" line, because that's the default belief of a cynical population. It's much harder to write something optimistic and sound convincing, but spending brain power is not something Disney seems interested in doing (again, money isn't the whole issue).

I guess a certain amount of drama is fair for the opening sequences. Also respect for Cronkite as a man and his reassuring delivery are probably both products of my age.

Twirlnhurl said...

Sorry about the lack of focus of this post, but oh well...
About the Irons narration vs. the Cronkite narration, I think Iron's is far superior. It is much more intriguing and I can listen to it forever. The Cronkite version seemed too much like a laundry list ("Behold the majesty of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. etc.."). Also, I think the line about electronic babble is the best line in the attraction. It challenges you, the listener, to keep communication technology about communicating and not about noise. It is not cynical.

On another subject, I went to the new post-show area Friday. It was interesting. It was basically a few banks of computer games spread around the room, one of which looked like a standard racing one and the other was some sort of 3D thing, with glasses and stuff. The electricity games were not there yet. It kinda reminds me of some of the exhibits in Wonders of Life (as far as how slight they are). They're not bad games, and the room they're in is nice, but it was still disappointing.

Captain Schnemo said...

I think the beauty of Epcot in the past was that it presented its own challenge to the guest's cynicism, by actually showing them what the future can be...to say we, as a people, aspire to this, and you know it is possible because you're looking at it.

The default belief is that the future is going to suck (even 1982 was the era of Blade Runner) and it's taken as read that's what's in the guest's head. It's more true today, as even children's programming is filled with cynicism and irony and being optimistic is equated with being hopelessly uncool and out-of-touch.

To me, the challenge is not to address this issue directly with words (which is cheap and literal), but to address these ideas with a vision that is both positive and convincing. In most good works of art, the theme is not attacked literally. Harrison Ford's character doesn't have to say "Boy, this is one awful future!", you're simply presented with the story which makes the point obvious.

One of the things I most liked about the Living Seas' "deluge" movie was the reveal. The doors dramatically open and the future is right there. There's no argument about what is or isn't possible, they just flat out show you the goods.

It's a minor point to most people, I suspect, but to me the presentation gives great insight into how the Imagineers are thinking and what they expect the guests to take from their creations. It takes balls to buck convention. Giving people what they expect is easier, but it also has little chance of dramatically affecting them.

sdav10495 said...

I think what you're saying, Schnemo, is mostly very true. I believe, though, that the "default belief" today is not "the future is going to suck" (we are bombarded with that thought constantly, but that's always been the case). Rather, here in 2007 we've settled into a lazy rut where we believe the future, with all its wonders, is surrounding us today. We are, as you mentioned much earlier in this discussion, the family from the Carousel of Progress--what could possibly be more amazing than the present? Technology has moved so mind-numbingly fast in just the past 10 years that it's become impossible for many of us to conceive how the world will look even a few years down the road, and so the collective imagination has all but lost its will to get excited about envisioning the future. Just give us our RAZRs and our iPods and we'll be happy--nothing can top the here and now.

In 1982, I think the future was actually easier to grasp because it still seemed to be a "horizon" just beyond our reach. Part of that, I'm sure, is the fact that the 21st century stood less than two decades away--it was an exciting and mysterious benchmark, a grand milestone to look ahead to, and EPCOT Center was a place where you didn't have to wait 18 years to get there. This, I'm sure, is part of the reason it was more "cool" to be optimistic two decades ago than it is today. Now that we're in the 21st century, and the 3rd millennium, there's no such milestone in any of our lifetimes. We're here. The computer revolution, which we were on the cusp of in EPCOT's first decade, has come...now PCs are as common as salt and so advanced already that we can't begin to think where the next revolution will be and how it could possibly be more impactful. We're running low on wide-eyed wonder--we're too savvy for that today, and our culture is indeed more cynical as a result.

This, I believe, is the main reason EPCOT Center needs to stop being run by suits and has to get some real Imagineers back. A true rebirth of the original park in tone and spirit will require our best creative minds, because the public's vision of the future at large has become more short-sighted and mundane than it was in 1982. For all our talk of technology there's really not much that's boldly pointing our way towards the future. EPCOT Center could, with a lot of imagination from the right people, have the potential to fill that gap and become more relevant than Disney has ever dreamed...

I realize now that none of that was about Spaceship Earth, but those have been some of the thoughts floating around in my head and Schnemo's comment triggered them.

Chris said...

"--what could possibly be more amazing than the present? "

A lot of things, the modern world we live in today is still nowhere near where we should be. Take transportation for example...it hasn't really improved much in the past century, actually in many ways its gotten worse.

Thats where the original EPCOT city plan would have helped

Captain Schnemo said...

You make a good point about our smugness about the present, although I believe that the disappearance of optimism has more to do with the state of children's entertainment today. Kids grow up consuming ironic and sarcastic media before they even have the intellectual means to "get it". The only message that seems to filter down is that everything is screwed up, and there's nothing anyone can do about it but make snide and apathetic remarks.

I find it more than a little depressing that a society of text messagers thinks that "OMGWTFLOL" is in any way advanced and not a comically primitive means of communication.

Anonymous said...

EPCOT Center is an idea that can stand the lengths of time itself. Then Disney mudded it up with Three Caballeros and Eric Idle. If they had seen the mistakes they made through the haze of $$$, they could correct.

I feel the ground shaking!! Walt's turning over in his grave by the destruction of his dream!!