Monday, February 26, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

The atmospheric charm of El Rio del Tiempo will be sorely missed once the zany antics of the Three Caballeros finally come to the Mexico Pavilion. And based on the report I read over at, there could hardly be a ride concept that’s further from EPCOT Center’s origins than this one.

Quoting from Miceage:

“More details are emerging regarding the changes at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, as
news has emerged that the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros will
cruise along the former rout of El Rio del Tiempo when the attraction reopens on
April 2.

“It seems that the trio are scheduled to stage a reunion
concert in Mexico City when Donald Duck disappears to tour the country. That
leaves Jose Carioca (the parrot) and Panchito (the Mexican charro rooster) to
try to track him down.”

Granted, we've known about this for a while, but these latest details show just how little Disney cares to create something great, when it could create something "Disney." The history, culture, art and people of Mexico apparently aren’t good enough on their own, it takes funny Disney characters to make Mexico interesting and fun for a five-year-old.

If you watched the Oscars on Sunday night, you saw brilliant Mexican filmmakers and artists whose films and talents were honored as among the best of the year. Mexico has an astonishingly vibrant creative community – but in Disney’s mind, the best way to create something people will “like” in Mexico is to put colorful Disney characters into it.

Perhaps I should stop making suggestions, offering critiques and presenting observations about what could be done to return the theme of Epcot to its former glory. As I pointed out to a reader in an e-mail today, “Disney Parks” are now what they’re called, not “Disney theme parks,” and that distinction makes all the difference. There’s no need for a theme to draw people in when they’re already spending thousands of dollars to stay on property. Gone are the days when the Disney parks each needed something unique and utterly different to make people feel it was worth their time and money to visit. Nowadays, they’re all just “Disney parks,” lower-case-Epcot included.

Yes, indeed, based on this news about El Rio del Tiempo, I may very well stop commenting and wishing and dreaming for some changes at Epcot ... I should, I think, just start finally mourning the complete loss of EPCOT Center instead.

I miss it already.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Defining Disney

On one hand, it’s the most profitable strategic move that The Walt Disney Company has made in the last 10 years. On the other, it’s one of the most disturbing to longtime fans:

It's the decision to narrowly define the “Disney brand” as something primarily for kids, emphasizing Disney’s animated characters and focusing on the ideas of “dreams” and “magic.”

Disney has, inarguably, one of the most valuable and instantly recognizable brand names in the world. It’s strange, then, that its management team would be spending so much time doing exactly the opposite of what’s being done with most entertainment brands: Instead of expanding and re-defining “Disney” for many audiences, the company has been making its audience smaller, honing in on a specific age group that, increasingly, is its focus above all else.

EPCOT Center is one of the most visible examples of what has happened with Disney’s “brand” identity.

But today’s Disney has no room for a concept like EPCOT Center, which isn’t about pixie dust, fairies, princesses or computer-generated characters. Of course, that doesn’t mean Disney’s not trying to shoehorn those things into EPCOT ... they are, and quite emphatically.

The strange thing is, Disney’s management represents the increasingly limited definition of “Disney” as an advancement, trumpeting itself as the role model that the entire entertainment industry should follow when developing a “brand management” strategy. It’s strange because it represents such a retreat from two or three decades ago, when the name “Disney” wasn’t limited by images of saucer-eyed princesses and happy fish.

In the late 1970s, 10 years or so after the death of Walt Disney, the company realized it had painted itself into a corner. If it wasn’t G-rated and filled with pixie dust, it wasn’t “Disney” – and, wisely, management decided that wasn’t good enough.

Walt himself had long moved past animated movies and children’s entertainment (though, truth be told, it was never made just for kids) as the core of his business. In his final years, he was looking to the revenue that would be generated by Walt Disney World to fund some pretty amazing ideas, things like the PeopleMover, the Monorail and EPCOT.

Of course, they had their roots in Walt’s fascination with futurism, and it’s anyone’s guess how they would have fared. The point is that they weren’t “traditional” Disney efforts. Nor were such groundbreaking offerings as the Animatronics-filed rides that were being built at Disneyland.

These were revolutionary ideas that moved far beyond simple entertainment, and in the process they moved the “Disney brand” far beyond its roots. By the time Walt died, “Disney” could define itself any way it wanted to. And, perhaps surprisingly, that concept didn’t die out when Walt did.

One need look no further than EPCOT Center to see that. Not only were the themes of EPCOT Center different than anything Disney had ever attempted, but the mere idea of finally expanding Walt Disney World was, in effect, the most visible effort of Disney to define itself whatever way it wanted. The non-character-based resorts, the creation of the Disney-MGM Studios and the Animal Kingdom parks, the subsequent design of DisneySea (first in California, then in Tokyo). Not even considering the non-park advancements made in the 1970s, 1980s and very early 1990s, Disney did something pretty remarkable:It made clear to every single person who experienced these creations that “Disney” simply meant quality, integrity, excitement, creativity and inspiration. It didn’t need to rely on Mickey and the Gang for its future – Disney would decide how it would be seen by the public.

The theme-park creations of the 1980s and 1990s were particularly notable for their focus on “non-Disney” theming. Granted, the movie-based park used the “Disney” name, but anyone who visited the park through the late 1990s could tell you that what made it truly remarkable and memorable was how “non-Disney” it was.

The same went for EPCOT Center. I’ve noted time and again how remarkable EPCOT was for not taking the easy way out – it had a theme, a difficult one to explain, and it carried out that theme in everything it offered. True, within a few years of EPCOT’s opening, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald could be found roaming the park; but that was really “lip service” to those guests who wanted something Disney in it. By and large, and much to its credit, EPCOT Center refused to be defined by “Disney” … quite the contrary: “Disney” was being defined by how far beyond its traditional boundaries it would allow itself to stretch.

All that has changed. Whether it was a result of the 1995 acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., whether it was a result of Disney’s near single-minded determination to hire its managers only from top-tier MBA schools, whether it was caused simply by a growing American tendency to define concepts in the broadest possible strokes, I don’t know. But something changed.

Disney no longer tries to perpetually redefine and grow the “Disney” name. Anything with the Disney brand has to make room for Mickey and Pals, for lots of smiles and happiness, for families and wholesomeness.

On its own, this wouldn’t be terrible – except that this crazy notion that anything without mouse ears somehow isn’t Disney creeps in to everything at the parks, including EPCOT. Every shop in World Showcase is filled with basic Disney merchandise, rather than wares from the home country. New rides and attractions must have a “Disney” component to them. (Though, blessedly, Mission: Space didn’t get Mickey-ized.) It’s as if Disney doesn’t trust its guests to understand that the true spirit of Disney has nothing to do with characters or “magic” (despite what the marketing materials insist), it has to do with a unique spirit of adventure, discovery and optimism.

Twenty-five years ago, EPCOT Center represented what Disney was: a company that, despite some creative struggles, was attempting to re-define itself and bring to the public creations that would withstand the test of time, that would allow the company to grow in bold new directions, even while honoring its past; a company that could design new experiences that would stand along side the tried-and-true classics, resulting in a creative arsenal unprecedented in the entertainment industry.

Twenty-five years later, Epcot represents what Disney has become: a company that, despite financial success, has little interest in being innovative and exciting, that wants simply to trade off of its past successes and turn creative efforts into merchandising opportunities.

It’s too bad we’ve come so far that we’ve started to go backward.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dare to Dream ...

Head on over to Re-Imagineering for some potentially wonderful news from the inside. It appears that the blemish on EPCOT's face (of the sort that often strike 25-year-olds, if we're to be allegorical about it) may finally be going away. Hip, hip ... well, let's not say that last word until we see it for ourselves!
But if all goes well, the days of stooping, leaning, craning and kneeling to "fudge" photos of Spaceship Earth's beautiful geosphere, like the one above, may be numbered.

Guest Comments

I’ve heard anonymously (as in, I know who they are but they will remain absolutely anonymous) from a few Disney executives and park employees who say they read EPCOT Central frequently. Many thanks!
Recognizing that not everyone reads all of the comments that are posted, I wanted to highlight some of the most interesting comments that have been posted to the site in the past few weeks. Think of it as a “public service” for you busy executives who are too busy to read all of EPCOT Central – but, I hope, not too busy to be out there walking the park and seeing it through a guest’s eyes.

On EPCOT’s lack of a 25th anniversary celebration:
As a former manager at Epcot for 4 years and someone who was at working at WDW for during the 25th Anniversary celebration as well as being a member of the opening management team for Disneyland Paris in 1992 I think this is a disgrace. Epcot will always hold a special place in my heart and if Disney does not want to recognize it, it is their right, but their are many of us who toiled day after day year after year to make it one of the best places to go and to make sure we lived up to Walt's dream and vision every day!

On EPCOT’s spirit:
Epcot should emphasize that the future is what we make it. We can either let it be run by cynicism and self-doubt, or we can fill it with optimism and creative energy. I prefer the latter.

On the “shrinking” of EPCOT:
I appreciated the comment that someone made about the physical size of Epcot, and particularly about Future World. That aspect of size also relates to the pavilions/attractions, especially in the initial versions. In many of the pavilions... SSE, Energy, the (Living) Seas... there was so much space for each attraction that you couldn't help but have an immersive experience. And with a large amount of space, you had a lot of time to experience the attractions in the pavilion... even if it was just a long ride like SSE.

Contrast that with Mission:Space, and you see how the elements of an immersive experience are abandoned. Most of the interior seems to be the queue; then you have a four-or-five minute ride and that's it.

On EPCOT and adulthood:
there's so much to love at epcot. it's hard to believe as a child i didn't fully enjoy the epcot experience. i couldn't appreciate it more now.

On the “new,” thrill-heavy EPCOT:
Disney is pushing excitement. It is overwhelming. I remember being very excited as a child, but it was more in hopes of experiencing everything. It was more constrained so the excitement came from within. Now, it feel forcefed. It is certainly exciting, but it is not simultaneously relaxing. I feel worn out, not worn out but very satisfied.

On the changes to Akershus in the Norway pavilion:
I was at Epcot on 2/14/07. My husband & I always loved the Norwegian restaurant and were horrified to find that the princess dining has taken away our beloved mashed rutabaga and tomato herring while almost doubling the lunch price since our last trip in 2004. The boat ride was operating, but the trolls were unable to say, "Back! Back! Over the falls!" Norway is my favorite pavilion, and I love the movie so very much. I wish that they would maintain this area and return it to its former glory.

On other recent changes to EPCOT:

During my last visit to WDW, my time at Epcot depressed me, both emotionally and visually. Adding Nemo to The Living Seas and putting a giant television in place of Horizons (no matter if it is a nod to a previous Tomorrowland attraction) doesn't capture the imagination that the original attractions did. Regardless of how the audience's tastes and attention spans have changed, a dissipated focus on Disney's part allowed the notion that business wags could come in and "fix" something that wasn't broken.

World Cinema

In 2006, The Walt Disney Company spent good money to produce and/or distribute such cinematic gems as The Santa Clause 3, Step Up and The Wild. Together, the domestic (U.S.) gross of these movies was $187 million, meaning that approximately 30 million people saw them. Put another way, on average, 10 million people went to see each of these Disney movies.

Disney thinks nothing of spending millions on a movie in order to make a very little bit of money. Despite razor-thin margins, Disney churns out movie after movie … except, that is, the movies that more people see than any other: Its theme park productions.

Since opening its doors in 1982, EPCOT has greeted some 250 million visitors from around the world. Assuming just 50 percent of them visited any individual attraction, it’s safe to bet that more than 100 million people have experienced the movies that represent the World Showcase countries of Canada, France, Norway and China.

Yet, in that 25-year span, only one of those movies, The Wonders of China, has been updated, perhaps owing to the fact that Disney ultimately realized it had to acknowledge the sweeping social and political changes that have taken place in one of the company’s most significant regions of international investment. Undoubtedly, Disney’s decision to spend a few million bucks to update the China film came not from a deep creative need to present an up-to-date look at the country, but out of a desire to impress Chinese officials, with whom they desperately want to do more business.

If it were solely a creative decision, then Disney would have been much more aggressive in updating the films throughout World Showcase over the years. Despite the fact that more people have seen these movies than all but a handful of its own Walt Disney Pictures releases, Disney has shown no interest in investing in this area of its theme-park business. (Note: I realize the photo on this blog entry is of the Germany pavilion, which does not contain a film, but it was one of the better World Showcase photos I've taken!)

Take, for instance, the little-seen film that follows the Maelstrom ride in Norway. It is painful to witness how few people actually bother to sit in the theater for this five-minute travelogue. It’s a shame, because the movie is, by and large, a beautiful experience. Then again, it’s also often laughable. Clearly made in the late 1980s, the Norwegians it depicts sport ridiculously big hair; work on clunky, old-fashioned computers; and look like they just walked out of a Robert Palmer video. Frankly, it’s embarrassing, particularly because the film’s basic idea is that Norway’s people are at the heart of its rich spirit.

The lovely Circlevision 360 film O Canada! is equally uncomfortable … and that’s speaking as an American; I can only imagine how Canadians feel. The movie was made in 1982, which means it’s older than probably half of its viewers. Judging Canada on the basis of this movie, no one there uses a computer or cell phone; Toronto’s skyline is woefully tiny; all Canadians drive massive, old-fashioned cars; and Canadians have less fashion sense than my grandmother.

France fares little better, save for the fact that Impressions de France spends most of its time on landscapes and less on cities. Well, then again, there is that entire section on the Monaco Grand Prix. I expect Steve McQueen to pop out of one of those cars at any second. With so many European Formula One fans visiting (heck, Disney sometimes even sponsors Formula One cars!), there’s a bit of explaining to do about the images seen in the movie.

Then there’s the fact that most of these films sport visible copyrights. Yes, Disney very plainly puts up on the big screen for all to see: “© MCMLXXXII Walt Disney Productions.”

Now, back to the first point: If Disney, as a company, can spend, say $35 million on prints, advertising and marketing for a movie like Stand Up, which 10 million people in the U.S. will see, couldn’t it spend one tenth of that amount to update its EPCOT films every couple of years?

Perhaps Disney doesn’t realize the importance of these films to the World Showcase experience at EPCOT. The architecture of each World Showcase pavilion, the dining experiences and the cast members who inhabit them are absolutely the heart and soul of this area of EPCOT, but right behind them are the attractions that guests can experience. Only three of these attractions – The American Adventure, Maelstrom and El Rio del Tiempo – are ride-through experiences; the rest rely on films to convey the spirit of their host countries. (Norway has both.)

Imagine if The Walt Disney Company itself were being represented by a movie that was 25 years old: We’d see plans for EPCOT Center and Tokyo Disneyland being readied, production on Something Wicked This Way Comes touted as an example of Disney’s big-screen prowess, and perhaps a description of the “new” Fantasyland at Disneyland.

I somehow doubt Disney would allow itself to be presented in such a fashion, yet it doesn’t seem to care that entire countries and cultures are being represented as if they haven’t changed in a quarter of a century. It’s as if the digital revolution never happened, as if there have been no changes in society worth depicting in 25 years.

When it built EPCOT Center 25 years ago, Disney took on a responsibility to ensure that the theme park remained ever-changing, fresh and exciting. One of those responsibilities is to the host countries – whether they are officially sponsored or not – that it presents in World Showcase. Just because its current managers didn’t themselves decide to build and open EPCOT doesn’t mean they are any less responsible for it.

Chillingly, I have received word that O, Canada! is indeed due for a new film … one starring a comic whose height of popularity came around the time EPCOT opened. Yes, that means we’re in for another movie that, instead of trying to bring insightful illumination and showcase the beauty of a country and its people, we’ll be treated to another quick-to-age “comedy” routine as we’ve seen at the Universe of Energy and the Imagination pavilion.

Is it possible that seeing 1976 Buick LeSabres and polyester apparel on screen is better than the alternative, which is another desperate attempt to be “fun” instead of simply letting EPCOT do what it does best: inspire, amaze and (go ahead, shudder at the word) educate?

Each year, Disney blows through literally billions of dollars to keep its movie business competitive. It seems hard to believe that a few million dollars out of Disney’s overall budget couldn’t be shunted over to the theme parks division each year, where they could be used to ensure EPCOT remains fresh, vibrant and exciting, offering guests a reason to return and re-discover year after year.

Of course, that would assume that the people who manage EPCOT actually care about doing such things, about ensuring that the park lives up to the very high bar that was set for it 25 years ago. I’m not sure that’s the case. Every week, it seems, there’s an astonishing new IMAX film opening at the science center down the street from my house. Someone enjoys making these movies, and, based on box-office results, millions of people enjoy seeing them. Someone understands there’s a market for these movies.

Someone, perhaps, but apparently not Disney.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

EPCOT's 25 ... and No One Seems to Care

That’s the attitude that the Walt Disney Company and EPCOT’s own Brad Rex seem to be taking when it comes to commemorating the 25th anniversary of this remarkable place.

In a recent interview on, Brad said there’s no public celebration planned for EPCOT come Oct. 1, 2007.

It’s alternately astonishing and par for the course these days.

Let’s recall that 25 years ago, Walt Disney Productions had one simple goal when it came to opening EPCOT Center: Make sure every man, woman and child in the United States knew the name “EPCOT.” That incredibly far-reaching goal signified the importance that Disney placed on EPCOT, not just as the first addition to Walt Disney World, but as a harbinger of what was in store for Disney in the future. EPCOT was the most important project that Disney had ever taken on.

It was also, of course, the most important project to the company’s founder. Though he clearly never intended it as a theme park, Walt Disney felt EPCOT would be his lasting mark upon the world, his attempt to make his life meaningful beyond the world of entertainment. It was a monumentally important task for him, one that fate would not allow him to achieve.

That Disney’s management felt strongly enough about Walt Disney to at least try to bring his final project to life in some way that at least captured the spirit and intent of Walt’s ambitions spoke volumes about their determination to make the company grow, prosper and thrive while also upholding the ideals and vision of its founder.

Today’s Disney, of course, bears almost no resemblance to the company Walt Disney founded. That’s fine, in its way, but with each passing year, with each new egocentric, “industry-styled” executive that comes on board – each person who insists that The Walt Disney Company will bear his or her mark, founder be damned – there’s less and less “Walt” in the “Disney.”

Given the direct ties between Epcot (née EPCOT Center) to Walt Disney, given that the welcome announcement that played every day for years at EPCOT Center directly referred to Walt Disney, given that every paycheck these executives cash has their founder’s name on it … wouldn’t it be possible at least to acknowledge the important role that EPCOT played in the company’s history?

Or is it just too embarrassing to admit that today’s thrill-driven, hyperactive, cartoon-filled Epcot bears less and less resemblance with each passing day to anything even close to what Walt had dreamed?

Is the lack of a 25th-anniversary celebration for EPCOT a tacit acknowledgement that the theme park that sits in Walt Disney World today is a pale reminder of its proud history?

Disney celebrates anniversaries like nobody’s business. Walt Disney World (that is, The Magic Kingdom) got a fifth, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th and 30th anniversary celebration. Disneyland has had an anniversary party as long as I can remember (with each fifth year that passes). Tokyo Disneyland? The same. Disneyland Paris? You bet.

So, how come Disney can’t celebrate the silver anniversary of its most unique, most daring, most astonishing theme-park invention? Could it be that Disney is so embarrassed by what EPCOT has become (or, sadly, by what it used to be) that they just want everyone to forget?

EPCOT Center was a revolutionary, radical, meaningful project – to the world and, importantly, to the history of The Walt Disney Company. Not only did it try to bring to reality the last great vision of Walt Disney, the man, but it proved that it was possible to expand Walt Disney World, paving the way for every “expansion” theme park that followed in its footsteps.

EPCOT Center means a great deal to a great many people. Unfortunately, those people don’t seem to be in charge of the park or of Disney.

Please, Brad and Bob and Jay and whomever … EPCOT Center means more than you may realize. Seeing how its 25th anniversary comes during the "Year of a Million Dreams," surely there's room for one of those to be the final dream of some guy called Walt.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How EPCOT Could Change the World

I’m serious about that title. Thanks to the many, many people who have written to me, both inside and outside of The Walt Disney Company, Imagineers and fans alike, I’ve heard some fascinating, passionate, beautiful and funny stories about how EPCOT Center changed their individual lives.

I know that there are many “entertainment purists” out there who believe that Disney’s theme parks should do no more than entertain and amuse guests, and I appreciate those arguments. From the start, Disney positioned itself first and foremost as an entertainment company, and in his dying days even Walt Disney realized that it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get American industry and government leaders to buy into his forward-thinking vision of EPCOT, the City.

When the concept of an EPCOT Center theme park got underway, the socio-political climate of the United States was eerily similar to today:

* The U.S. was engaged in an overseas war that had virtually no public support;
* The American president had lost the respect of his citizens;
* The government was mistrusted and, in 1976, underwent a partisan overhaul;
* Environmental (then called “ecological”) issues were top of mind, particularly the damaging effects of industrial and automotive pollution in major American cities;
* Technology began moving at a mind-bogglingly rapid pace;
* Violent behavior was on the rise, leading to high-profile assassinations and assassination attempts;
* The role of entertainment was increasingly questioned for its ill-effects on children.

It may seem like none of this really relates to EPCOT Center ... except that every creative endeavor is a product of its times. The climate that gave rise to EPCOT Center was one in which adults were trying to make sense of the tumultuous period they had just experienced, when they were wondering if the social and political ills that seemed to exist on a global scale had any solutions at all.

EPCOT Center was not intended to make sense of it all, nor to simply educate youngsters. It was a remarkable attempt to spotlight some of the key issues of the day and underscore three important points: 1) Though complicated, they were subjects that could indeed be understood by anyone, at least at their most basic levels; 2) American industry was working to find solutions to the problems of our world; and 3) People around the world are connected by their differences and by their desire to work together to improve our common future.

It wasn’t all hype. All of the publicity and marketing initiatives in the world wouldn’t have mattered if, at its heart, EPCOT Center didn’t send a message that people who lived in the 1970s and 1980s were desperate to hear – a message of hope and understanding and optimism.

As sophisticated as EPCOT Center was when it opened in 1982, its audience quickly grew that much more sophisticated. And is it any wonder? Even as EPCOT Center promised a “wired” world (before we used that term) in which information could be shared at light speed and people could learn about any issue almost instantaneously, Disney failed to do what it took to make sure EPCOT Center kept up. EPCOT told us the world was moving ever more quickly, but EPCOT itself failed to keep pace.

Ultimately, when it came time to re-think EPCOT Center for a new generation (an exercise that, frankly, Disney should have had a team working on constantly, with an appropriate budget to ensure that EPCOT remained at the leading edge of technology and ideas), Disney got lazy.

Just as it’s far easier to move furniture around in your living room than to repaint your entire house, Disney figured if they prettied EPCOT Center up a little, no one would realize that the ideas it was serving up were about 10 years out of date.

As time passed, those ideas got older and older, until many of them seemed downright antiquated. No one could watch the films in the Universe of Energy without thinking about the Exxon Valdez or Chernobyl disasters. No one could visit Horizons and not muse how far we were, at the dawn of the 21st century, from the future that was once envisioned.

And yet ... the subjects were never any less relevant.

Perhaps, dare I say it, never more relevant?

When it’s difficult to make sense of what’s happening in the world, to keep up with developments from Japan, Korea, Washington or Mars, there’s once again a place for an experience that reminds us that our planet and its issues are ripe for us to explore, to debate and learn about.

When more and more surveys tell us that people around the globe are increasingly concerned about the world in which they live, there’s room for them to discover that they don’t have to just accept things as they are – that the future is theirs to make.

EPCOT Center blended its sunny, Disney-style optimism with an implicit believe that people wanted to know more about their world.

Back then, there were only two Disney theme parks in Florida and the choice seemed stark: the cheery cartoon world of The Magic Kingdom or the more serious-minded EPCOT Center.

Now that there are four theme parks, two water parks and myriad entertainment opportunities in Florida, it doesn’t seem far-fetched or unreasonable to examine whether EPCOT could fill an important niche. After all, local science centers around the country are enjoying record attendance – clearly, there’s a need and a desire to learn, and be entertained while doing it. (If those local venues can master this balance, can’t Disney?)

There will always be people who disdain a bit of awareness and insight, who resent being offered anything other than a thrill and laugh around every corner. Those people have plenty to choose from around Walt Disney World.

For the others, those who feel their world is a little confusing, EPCOT could be a place that offers them hope that they can contribute to their own futures.

EPCOT Center was a product of its times. The times don’t seem to have changed that much, and the ideas behind that revolutionary theme park have never been more meaningful.

It’s a shame that cartoon characters are so much “easier.”

EPCOT’s designers and managers have a remarkable opportunity to look at the world today and update EPCOT’s core attractions – and revitalize the park’s efforts to live up to the ideals set forth in its dedication plaque.

The world we live in needs someone to help explain it, even to the smartest and most aware. We need to be reminded that there is much left to discover, much left to accomplish, much left to see – other than high-velocity centrifuges, cartoon “Mexican” ducks and talking turtles.

Our real world is more fantastic, more astounding than anything Disney or Pixar could create, and we are privileged to live in it. That’s the sort of message that resonated 25 years ago in the midst of great tension and unease in society. It’s the sort of message that could resonate again.

Given how many people were inspired by an EPCOT that was more clear on its overall intent, I think that inspiration could return. EPCOT has the opportunity to amaze and excite people, not just thrill them. It has the opportunity to get them to think and reflect, not just laugh and giggle. One person at a time, one experience at a time, EPCOT could again be a most remarkable place that encourages people to dream big and act accordingly.

One person at a time, I believe, EPCOT could change the world. It’s a ridiculously lofty ambition ... but, then again, no one used to dream bigger than Disney.

Used to.