If you regularly read this blog, then you’re probably aware of something: I write about EPCOT a lot.
With that in mind, it’s not my intention to rehash anything here. I’ve expressed my feelings about EPCOT before (and, honestly, probably will do so again). At the same time, however, I feel like I should clarify some of my thoughts–because shortly after publishing the recent “Past, Present, and Future World” post I realized that I may be giving folks the wrong impression. It may sound like what I want is for Disney to put EPCOT back the way it was decades ago and bring back all of the old rides, and that I’m so upset with the current version of the park that I would rather just live in the past and complain about how much better it used to be.
The truth, though, is this: I understand (perhaps grudgingly) that this classic EPCOT Center I hold so dear is gone. It’s not coming back.
And…that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although I do so like the complaining.
I do miss Horizons and World of Motion and the original Journey into Imagination, and there’s definitely a nostalgic aspect where I wish they were still operating. It’d be great to ride them again, and I’d love to show my wife and daughter these rides (which they never got to see) that meant so much to me as a kid. It’s more than just attractions, though, that I miss. When I was growing up, EPCOT Center was–to the geeky kid that I was–all about possibilities. It was about the future and what humanity could achieve.
While I often talk about how much I miss that park, though, I don’t necessarily mean that I want them to put everything back the way it was twenty years ago. And there are still a few classic attractions, of course, that present science and technology in a fun way: Spaceship Earth, Living with the Land, and Universe of Energy still represent the park’s early edutainment concept. It’s been my opinion for a while, though, that as they’ve tried to make EPCOT more mainstream and appeal to the widest possible audience they’ve lost what the park’s intention was: to teach, to showcase science, to imagine the future, to present possibilities, and to inspire guests to help make them a reality.
I’d much rather them reimagine it all in such a way that it can recapture the essence of the original park: find new ways to showcase possibilities of the future, to present history, and to encourage people to imagine. Because I don’t think that the park is doing that right now, and that’s what I really miss.
I know that there’s been a push to add known Disney properties into the park. The inclusion of Frozen into the Norway pavilion is an example of that (I won’t go into that rant again, but you can read the original here). On some level, I’ll even admit that I agree with this idea. Not the Frozen/Norway thing specifically, I’m still annoyed about that, but I do think that there’s definitely a place for Disney characters in EPCOT to draw in guests and make it feel more like a Disney park and to use those characters to capture the imagination of kids. I’ve said more than once that I think a Big Hero 6 robotics area would be amazing and it would really fit into the futuristic themes of the park, and I’ve made other suggestions along those lines (check out Marvel’s Agents of EPCOT and Reimagined Experiment).
But there’s simply nothing in the park now that–to me–portrays futuristic possibilities the way that some of those older rides did. Is Test Track inspiring an interest in the history and future of transportation like World of Motion could have, or are guests just thinking it’s a fun ride with a cool high-speed section at the end? Is Mission: SPACE evoking thoughts about space travel and someday flying to Mars, or is it just a big interactive video game? I’m in no way knocking either of those, because I think that they’re both really cool, but I also don’t personally think that they’re inspiring in the way that Horizons was. I miss that example of what humanity could someday achieve and where we could go. Not just the ride, which is gone forever, but that inspiration.
That sense of wonder, of possibility, is what I feel the park is lacking now, and it’s something that I feel they could totally bring back.
Maybe it’s not all EPCOT’s fault. Obviously I’ve gotten older, and maybe ten-year-old kids are riding the current Journey Into Imagination and thinking it’s fun and whimsical like I did when I rode the original at that age. Maybe they’re riding Mission: SPACE and dreaming of space travel in the way that seeing the underwater city in Horizons inspired my much younger self. Maybe there’s a kid riding Test Track right now who gets so enthralled by it that they’re going to revolutionize the auto industry someday. Maybe I’m simply blinded by nostalgia, missing these attractions that I loved as a kid, lamenting the fact that they’re gone, and trying to justify all that somehow.
I understand that Disney, ultimately, is a business and their goal is to make money and grow said business. If trends seem to be pushing towards outer space thrills and characters from popular movies, as opposed to slow rides about the future or a boat ride about a foreign country, then of course the company is going to shift their focus accordingly. And I get that the attraction sponsors have a say in how their money is spent. So if a sponsor would prefer to represent their brand with a thrilling ride through a high-tech automobile testing facility, as opposed to a slow dark ride about the history of transportation, then Disney will work to accommodate that. I also understand that the audiences change, too, and what entertained us in the 1980s may not work as well with modern viewers and what was inspiring to me decades ago might not be to kids today.
And I’m sure that EPCOT in particular is a special challenge–it must be tough to keep up with Future World when the future keeps arriving so rapidly. I’m sure that keeping people interested, and keeping the entertainment current, is an incredibly difficult task and I have nothing but respect for the Imagineers who do that. Especially with old whiners like me complaining whenever they change something.
I may talk a lot about how much I miss the old EPCOT Center, and how much I wish I could ride Horizons and do a meet-and-greet with Dreamfinder, but I don’t necessarily want to go back (unless you’ve got a time machine I can borrow). When I go on (and on, and on) about how much I loved EPCOT Center, and how it’s just not the same anymore, it’s out of love for a park that made a big impression on me when I was a kid. I still want the park to offer that same sort of inspiration to others, and I just don’t think that it does anymore.
So while I may glance back longingly at the EPCOT of the past, I really do like the idea of looking towards the park’s possible future.
Isn’t that what EPCOT Center was all about in the first place?