Reimagined Experiment

I’m pretty vocal about my love of EPCOT, particularly of the ‘old days’ when it was still called EPCOT Center, when Horizons and World of Motion were still running, and when Dreamfinder and Figment still starred in Journey Into Imagination (and could be seen at meet & greets). I custom-decorated my Magic Band on our most recent trip with the old EPCOT Center attraction logos. I wrote about the closing of Maelstrom, which turned into a lengthy rant about the identity crisis I feel the park has faced over the last several years. I proudly wear a retro EPCOT Center hat and have seriously considered an EPCOT-themed tattoo more than once. Seriously, it’s sort of an obsession with me.

So, while driving recently, my wife asked me a question: if I could rework EPCOT, what would I do?

Welcome to EPCOT sign

Welcome to my completely off the cuff fantasy version of EPCOT.

Future World

Obviously, I would bring back Horizons.

One of the things about EPCOT is, since it’s so focused on technology, it can get outdated pretty quickly. Tech that was way off in the future back in the mid-80s when the park was young has already come and gone and been replaced with something newer and shinier. Horizons, though, showed a future that has yet to be achieved. We don’t have cities on space stations or underwater, we don’t have holographic video phones, so even now Horizons would show possibilities. Obviously it would need to be updated to reflect the new tech that we do have, but it could still offer a glimpse into what the future could hold. Plus, I mean… it’s Horizons!

I’d renovate Journey Into Imagination so it doesn’t suck.

That may be a little harsh, but I feel pretty strongly about it. When they attempted to take the whimsy (and Dreamfinder) out of the ride and turn it into the Imagination Institute they took away the magic of the attraction. It got a little better in the last renovation, in which they brought Figment back, but it’s still not the same. I wouldn’t necessarily say they should bring back the original iteration, I’d be really curious to see a new version and they could still incorporate science in with the fantasy, but it should recapture the fantastical elements of imagination. Plus, if the sales of the Figment comic that came out last year were any indication, there are still lots of fans of Dreamfinder and his purple dragon companion.

Imagination fountain at night

There was a time when water flowing upward, with colorful lighting, was the coolest thing ever. Nowadays, do people look up from their phones long enough to notice? Though, to be fair, I think I took this picture with my phone…

I would turn the now-unused Wonders of Life pavilion into a Big Hero 6-themed robotics attraction.

Given that Big Hero 6 recently surpassed Lion King to become Disney’s third highest-grossing animated feature, there’s obviously interest in the movie’s characters and their world. Bringing them into interactive attractions about robotics and technology (a big part of the movie) would present the subject matter in a fun and accessible way. Like Wonders of Life the pavilion could be a combination of shows, rides, and exhibits and it would offer the educational type of entertainment that EPCOT has always been about.

I would do… something… with Innoventions.

Years ago, Innoventions was different than it is now yet the basic focus was the same: showcasing exciting new technology. Back then it was with rows of the latest video game systems (which, if I recall, was the Sega Dreamcast) and interactive exhibits crowded together. Over the years it got more spread out and the focus changed, but unfortunately it also got fairly boring in the process. There are a couple cool attractions, like Sum of All Thrills, but for the most part Innoventions is forgettable and in need of something new. A while back I wrote a post about how a Marvel character-based attraction could be cool at EPCOT (the post) and I think Innoventions could be a great venue for something like that. I know that a lot of Innoventions is focused on technology around the home, which could be really cool with a proper renovation, but currently it just… isn’t.

 

The fiber optic sidewalks at EPCOT, outside of Innoventions. Remember when they installed these, before fiber optics were considerably more mainstream? They were the coolest thing ever when I was a kid. Still are, really.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Heck, I don’t know.

I remember going on this one a bunch as a kid, when it was still Universe of Energy sans Ellen. I loved the first few minutes, when the ride takes you through the part with the dinosaurs, but after that it became an opportunity to nap in a nice air-conditioned environment. I always wanted to like it–the educational aspect is fun for me and to me it’s part and parcel of the EPCOT experience–but a half hour of watching a video about energy isn’t exactly compelling entertainment (especially when you’re at a theme park). Shortening the attraction considerably is probably the best option, focusing the video on alternative energy sources. It wouldn’t have as much information, but it might hold peoples’ interest. Obviously, though, I’d keep the dinosaur part.

World Showcase

First and foremost, no Frozen attraction in Norway. I get that they want to bring characters (particularly these insanely popular ones) into EPCOT and that the fictional world of Arendelle is loosely based upon the real Norway, but I feel pretty strongly about the fact that it’s compromising the integrity of the World Showcase mission. I wrote a whole post about this, which you can read here.

I think there can be a middle ground here, using characters in order to generate interest in the country pavilions. Showing how Norway inspired Arendelle, using Mulan in China, and more could not only leverage the characters to attract guests (as they’re trying to do in Norway now) but show how the animators and writers use the real world to influence their works.

Part of the issue is that unless you’re really into shopping or eating (or binge drinking) there simply isn’t a lot to do in the World Showcase. Currently only Mexico has a ride–until the Frozen one in Norway opens–and outside of just walking around and seeing the scenery it can all be… a little boring. Some of the pavilions have movies or shows that focus on the country (in Canada and China, for example), Mexico has artwork as you first walk in, but in other cases (say, the UK) there are a few shops and a restaurant and not much else.

There needs to be more to immerse guests in the culture and history of each culture.  I want to learn about that stuff, not just shop. I particularly want to know about the legends and myths of a culture, which is why I enjoyed Maelstrom and its trolls so much. So whether it’s a ride or a movie I’d want there to at least be an educational attraction available, but updated to appeal to modern audiences.

Norway dragon boat

Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, an interactive game, turns the countries into a scavenger hunt of sorts. In playing, we found this dragon boat in Norway that I never knew was hidden in the trees. There just needs to be more reasons like this to explore the pavilions.

There are some great live shows, but I think they’d need to be highlighted more. Generally I’ll stop in passing if I happen to see a performance happening, whereas I should want to go to a country specifically to see a show. So making those a bigger focus would be a thing in “my” version of EPCOT.

I would also try to fix the boat ride in Mexico. Formerly the El Rio del Tiempo, a ride through the history and culture of Mexico, it changed in 2007 to the Gran Fiesta Tour and turned it into a vehicle for Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros characters. In doing so they pretty much killed the ride. I think the intention was to have Donald (a very recognizable character) bring guests on this journey through Mexico, but in doing so they somehow eliminated any informational aspects of the attraction. So finding a middle ground would be a thing: I think keeping the Three Caballeros in the ride could work, while also offering the education that the earlier version did.

I get that I may be a bit odd in that I enjoyed EPCOT when it was all about educational entertainment, whereas most guests would prefer excitement and thrills. That’s a lot of why the old EPCOT Center struggled to maintain an audience and had to start changing in the first place. Yet, I think there’s some middle ground to be found between what the original EPCOT was meant to be and what paying guests want to experience.

They’ve still managed to work science and technology into the current attractions, Mission: Space and Test Track are both awesome (though the more intense ‘orange’ side of Mission: Space is a bit much for me), but I loved learning about the history of transportation in World of Motion or seeing possible futures in Horizons. Sure, lots of what has come and gone doesn’t need to return–Kitchen Kabaret was cute but I don’t need to bring it back in my fantasy version of the park–but I miss the looks into what was and what could be that EPCOT Center showed its guests.

chickens

Obviously, my version of EPCOT would include chickens in every attraction. These are from Living with the Land. There were chickens in World of Motion, and at least one in Horizons, so the inclusion of chickens in EPCOT attractions has become a running joke with my wife and myself.

Granted, it was a different time, we couldn’t just look up the entire history of the world on our phones. Pfft, kids today and their crazy modern devices and loud music and being on my lawn…

So there it is. If I could reshape EPCOT into something new, this is basically how I’d approach it. I’m sure there’s more that I could think of–and to be fair, my answers were about 80% nostalgia–but these are what popped into my head when my wife asked me that question.

Spaceship Earth at night 2

I see Spaceship Earth and I still get excited. It was the entry to a park that offered a nerdy kid a look at the future and at history. It’s still cool, with journeys into space and through a computerized automotive test, but there was an innocent charm to the old days.

What do you think, readers (you know, both of you)? Is EPCOT good as is? What would you do if you could change it?

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5 Responses to Reimagined Experiment

  1. Great post. I like the Big Hero 6 robotics idea. I wish they would do something like the old “Journey in Inner Space” from Disneyland circa 1980, except maybe dealing with new medical uses for gene therapies. World Showcase needs more. Since they are going the way of movie promotion (Frozen), close impressions of France and replace it with the Ratatouille ride from Disneyland Paris.

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  2. Doombug says:

    Thanks!

    I think Ratatouille could be a great addition to France to makes the country accessible to kids who really know the movie. My big issue with Frozen in Norway is that the world of Arendelle isn’t actually Norway, but I think that using the fact that it heavily influenced that world could be cool and bring the concepts of the other culture to guests. There’s an opportunity to really use other characters in the pavilions as long as the connection is clear.

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  3. evbogerd says:

    I agree with so much in this post. Many times recently I’ve found myself reminiscing about what EPCOT Center was in its first years, and the many changes that I have disagreed with. I may disagree most over World Showcase, much of which I enjoy as-is without the need for a ride in each land, but I do agree with your thoughts on using careful theming tie-ins with movies rather than letting them take over areas (as Frozen is doing with Norway). I would hate to see, for instance, a Mulan roller coaster in China. Now, maybe in another park, a cool dragon themed coaster would be fun, but it would detract from the look and feel of the pavilion in Epcot.

    Maybe they should hire you to represent those of us who don’t see such a great need to cram every moment of every park with movie references?

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  4. Doombug says:

    Glad you liked my “what if” thoughts!

    I think there’s been a shift in what guests expect out of the parks, and as technology advances there’s a need to improve the attraction experiences accordingly. So rides like World of Motion and Horizons really do seem like they’re from a “more innocent” time. But I definitely think there’s a way to bring the educational sensibilities of those types of rides into a more modern setting. There’s even opportunity to incorporate characters, as I mentioned with Big Hero 6, to act as a draw.

    I don’t know that every pavilion in World Showcase necessarily needs some big flashy ride (though I may have said otherwise in the post), I can definitely see the point of keeping them more low key. I just think there could be more hooks to draw people in. Though, interestingly, the Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure game was a lot of fun and a great way to get guests to explore the pavilions. I found areas of UK and Norway that I had never seen before!

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  5. Pingback: Future World | Magic & Misadventures

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