Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clothes-Minded

Unfortunately, the tumultuous economy and recent cutbacks you've been reading about have hit EPCOT Central, and those issues have caused new blogposts to be published less frequently. Thanks for your patience ... as well as your notes of concern about the frequency of postings.)


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Word has begun filtering out recently -- EPCOT Central has heard this rumor from several different sources -- that a major change is being considered for Epcot's World Showcase.

Instead of cast members in each pavilion wearing costumes that represent historical attire that's associated with each country, Imagineering and Disney Parks & Resorts is mulling over the idea of having all cast members in World Showcase wear a standardized costume.

Sadly, though this post is being published just before the calendar changes to April 1, this does not appear to be an April Fool's joke, but rather a serious attempt to cut costs by easing the burden that the Wardrobe department faces at Epcot.

If the change happens, it's hard to imagine even the most ardent supporter of the "Disney's-just-a-business" view having good things to say about this. Even the Mexican restaurant down the street has "traditional" (perhaps stereotypically so) costumes for its waiters and waitresses. Surely Disney can keep up this effort to add to the character, charm and flavor of World Showcase?

The blandness of the "Disney Parks" name may now be visually represented by bland costumes that eliminate the global flavor and feel of World Showcase. Allegedly, Disney believes that guests don't really care about such things, and that a standardized, modern-dress "costume" would somehow make cast members more relatable.

World Showcase should represent the unique attributes of each nation that is represented there. While an update or design modifcation to the costumes in each country certainly would be welcome, sending the message that everyone in the world dresses like a Gap ad is hardly a creative, innovative or appealing solution. (And as the 1970s rendering of the German pavilion that accompanies this post shows, native costumes have been an integral component of World Showcase from the inception of EPCOT Center.)

Let's hope this rumor remains only a rumor, and that the friendly and appealing cast members throughout World Showcase remain a personable as well as visual representative of their countries' unique culture, traditions and history.

26 comments:

AnonyMOUSE said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AnonyMOUSE said...

Oh, you... *wagging finger whilst chuckling*

LuminousSpecter said...

http://thedisneyblog.com/2009/03/31/disney-composer-grayson-wells-39-has-died/

Sad day...

Blah said...

I don't think that they'd actually go through with something like this. Costumes are an integral part of all the different areas in all the parks. If they were to do a standard costume for World Showcase, why wouldn't they do it for all of the other cast members in all of the parks?

Josh from England said...

I'm fond of the Future World generic costume, ie the one with huge stylised SSE pictures on it. But I still like the individual shirt at Innoventions and TT etc. Likewise at World Showcase. Individuality rules!

Future Guy said...

I agree with Blah in that land-appropriate costumes for cast members is something that goes back to Disneyland and Walt. Even the pointy-haired MBAs that run the company should be able to identify it as part of the "Disney Parks formula".

Of course, just about every business everywhere is feverishly generating cost-cutting ideas these days, so this just may be a bit of brainstorming that never makes it past the idea phase.

The Gust said...

The roles really have reversed. 8-10 years ago, WDW was the resort that had all the lavish attention donned on it, while DLR was the ugly step-child. I remember reading about peeling paint, burnt-lightbulbs, ride maintenance was pathetic, and standardized costumes in Adventureland (everyone wore khakis instead of attraction-specific costumes).

Matt Ouimet came along and things changed. And things are continuing to look good, even with a new president in charge. Sadly, WDW took a page from DLR's sad period in history. For awhile DLR was looking like a poisoned coral reef - one thing slipped, and soon everything else did as well.

Ironically, it's now happening at WDW. You'd think they'd learn their lesson of what to avoid based off of what happened at Disneyland, but these folks currently in TDO simply have no interest or real investment in WDW's future. It's sad. A true shake-down of WDW management is needed, similar to what happened when Ouimet began fixing up the poisoned Disneyland coral reef.

But hey, at least the wand is gone and Universe of Energy is being re-painted!

Sarah said...

If they're going to do away with costumes anyway...
Honestly, flight attendant-style costumes might not be so bad. I'm all for formality. Remember all those old pictures of families visiting Disneyland in their Sunday best? Why can't cast members dress the same way, even when guests are wearing oversized t-shirts, denim shorts, and gym shoes with calf-length socks (ugh)?

Besides, current costumes are more of a caricature of the individual countries than anything. Not like the pavilions themselves are terribly authentic, but still.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Accoutant-ineers are taking away everything I love about WDW. Soon there will be nothing left that I can relate to, and I'll have to find some other places to spend the $1500. - $2000. a year that I have been spending at WDW. The end of an era. I'm glad Walt didn't live to see this kind of penny-pinching applied to his beloved creations.

EPCOT Explorer said...

That's horrid...Really don't hope this comes to fruition. I certainly have not heard anything.

Marilyn said...

I hope this (idea) doesn't come to fruition. One of the great things about World Showcase is as you walk from pavilion to pavilion you feel transported to the particular countries. The costumes add to the feeling of being in the various countries and having college students from their respective countries also add to the atmosphere. SO --- if costumes are going generic, is the next step phasing out the students from the various countries in favor of generic cast members staffing the various pavilions? I most cerainly hope not! "Bean counters" (AKA MBA's) have no sense of imagination or what has made Disney so successful. All they care about is the bottom line which I know is important but there has to be a balance between bottom line obsession and the Disney "dream."

We've been "Disneyholics" for over 50 years (from watching the very first show of the original Mickey Mouse Club to our first trip to Disney in 1977 to now living an hour from Disney and being annual passholders)and can see the changes that are being made. It's one thing to make changes that don't affect the front lines (i.e. downsizing management) but it's another to start making wholesale changes that do affect the guests' experiences. One comment I read (either on this blog or another) favors the return of "leads." I think that is a great idea. One thing, generally the "leads" salaries/pay would be less than management and also would be on site for questions and problems that come up as opposed to having to make a call somewhere to answer a guest's question or address a guest's problem.

As I've stated before, the Disneyfication of EPCOT is disturbing. I know there's NO chance of returning EPCOT to what it was when it opened but I hope that somewhere the idea of a park that is a perpetual World's Fair (with the latest in technology and future developments in energy, transportation, etc.) comes back. Adding Disney characters to the park is NOT the answer to updating EPCOT (yes, I know the name has been changed to Epcot, but it will always be EPCOT to me).

Lou said...

THIS IS HORRIBLE. I'm going to shit a brick.

Anonymous said...

Cute April Fool's joke... I hope.

Epcot82 said...

Sadly, no. The news came to me from a few different sources, all of whom are typically quite accurate. Let's hope that Disney comes to its senses on this one!

Brian Place said...

Wow.

From an accounting standpoint, wardrobe must be a *huge* line item on Epcot's P&L statement. It's probably hard to miss. I've seen the wardrobe department at Epcot, and it is absolutely massive. They have to stock, maintain and repair dozens and dozens of sizes of each costume for each pavilion.

But if they go through with this it's because they know people aren't going to stop coming to Epcot just because they've gotten rid of the individualized costumes. And they will be right.

But at what point does this constant "drip-drip-drip" of Chinese water torture of cutbacks go from simply "making the experience slightly less magical" to "making EPCOT less of a real destination to spend money on?" That's the risk they will run if they proceed.

dbknight said...

I can't imagine them doing this. Maybe they we're thinking of the generic flag shirt that PAC and GLOW wear??

Sarah said...

Ah Hell's no! Is the first reaction that came to mind.

I know these things are pricey (if I can recall, Costuming quoted me that my American Pavilion dress was a whopping $160 with an additional $40 for cap and apron), but that's such an integral part. The last thing we need is everyone running around in damn flag shirts and gawdawful white pants. All these cuts are starting to really nag me (even as a campus rep, who is unpaid, we're getting cuts out the wazoo).

Agreed with 'The Gust'. Someone needs to remind WDW uppers that emulating that part of DL history is a BAD thing.

Anonymous said...

Well, I was just there a week and a half of ago and eating in the Tutto Italia restaurant in Italy, (not nearly as good as Alfredo's) where a clearly un-Italian looking American dude was the matre D. So, maybe they will just be careless enough to replace the college students with a generic melting pot staff. This costume thing is a real shame! What makes them think that people don't care about that sort of thing? They're always running with these impulsive assumptions lately, and destroying what people appreciate the most about EPCOT. The costumes aren't their problem. Their cynicism and diminishingsense of focus and creativity is the real problem with Disney.

I don't really have to visit Walt Disney World or any it's parks especially the depressing and badly adulterated Future World again and I'll be fine. World Showcase is the highlight of every trip to Disney for me and my family, and if they start messing with that, I definitely won't have reason to go back. I could honestly fly from Chicago to Orlando, simply to visit The World Showcase alone. If you want to fix something, fix Hollywood Studios. It's a huge waste of time and money. Leave World Showcase alone!

Tracie the Red said...

I too hope this never comes to pass.

EPCOT Explorer said...

This is apparently just a rumor. I posted this article over on WDWMagic for some feedback and our "informants" said there was no truth in it.

Ed Rhodes said...

okay, I gotta say. I'm very loose with how I think Disney should work. I don't mind characters in EPCOT, or even thrill rides like Test Track or Mission: Space, but this would be that one step too far. Especially since World showcase is my favorite part of EPCOT. Thank god there's apparently no truth behind it

Minako said...

Hi... just happen to cross your site...

Im planning to go to Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney this Christmas. Hoho and I found some stuffs from Hong Kong Disneyland here as well:
disneycloth.cwahi.net

I will definitely take tones of photos there!!!

Seiya said...

If they're unifying the costumes, there HAS to be some difference by country. For example (just a theory), say every World Showcase cast member is going to wear a tie, each country should have a different tie, whether it be using the country's flag colors, or some design that shows the cultural aspects of the country. As long as it doesn't ruin the atmosphere, the costume change can possibly work. But unifying the costumes 100% would make guests think they're in Epcot's World Showcase, and not a specific pavilion.

rosa said...

I don't know... I actually thought forcing employees to wear bastardized versions of their national dress was definitely pandering to American tourist sensibilities, and also disrespectful of the national identities those clothes symbolize. Traditional garments are usually reserved for special cultural events, like National Days and festivals. They're not just "costumes" to be worn for fun, and they're certainly not what a person in that country would wear to work everyday.

To add to that, presenting an international employee in a costume to an American without much multicultural experience (which is sadly a lot of us, for reasons that are more widespread cultural institutions than the fault of the individual) only serve to further exoticize that employee. They're not individuals, and they're not even representatives of their country -- they ARE their country, a blank amalgamation of stereotypes. And that country seems nothing like our country: it's just some kind of big, ongoing party in a pristine pastoral hamlet -- not like here, where we have to put on real professional clothes, to go work at our real jobs, to earn the money that finances our real lives. In fact, the work that Epcot employees do is long and hard, and they deserve as much respect as any of us for it.

Allowing international employees to wear uniforms styled in the same professional manner as people in similar "upscale" service jobs, and NOT forcing them to prance for tourists' amusement in uncomfortable silly outfits, would be a real demonstration of the kind of respect for other cultures that the World Showcase is supposed to be about. In fact, I believe this is already in practice by [some of] the saleswomen in the Mitsukoshi department store of the Japan Pavilion and the Guerlain employees in France. Heck, Epcot could even cut costs if it just had their sponsoring companies send employees over with their own uniforms. If national dress is to be worn, keep it reserved for performing groups who demonstrate traditional styles of music and dance. The point is, treating employees with basic professional courtesy should not come second to a tourist's "magical" experience.

bowling instructions said...

I really like the costumes Because that's Attire historical represen Associated with Each Country, and I like learning about different countries to increase my knowledges

kimberly said...
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