I'm a geek. Epcot has always been one of my favorite Disney theme parks. I really enjoy learning and teaching, I think infotainment is a viable theme park option. Sure, I love the Tower of Terror or Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but give me The American Adventure, with a walking talking Ben Franklin, or The Living Seas, where you actually go INTO a real, live ocean, or, my personal favorite, Spaceship Earth, where you ride through tens of centuries of communication development, from cave men to Romans to modern video-conferencing.
Ever since 1994, when EPCOT Center lost both the capitals and the "Center" and became "Epcot'94", things have fallen into a steep decline at the park. Crappy-assed Innoventions opened the summer of that year, both World of Motion and the Universe of Energy closed in January of 1996, the REAL Journey into Imagination closed in October of 1998, Horizons closed forever on January 9, 1999, Test Track ® 's much delayed opening finally came in March of 1999 and to top it all off the year 2000 brought a huge, sparkling mess to Spaceship Earth.
Thirty-six foot tall letters, spelling out "2000" were bolted to the already 180 foot tall geodesic shere of Spaceship Earth. A giant Mickey Mouse gloved hand, weighing in a 100,000 useless pounds, waved a magic wand over the numbers. And the best part? A quarter of a million "shimmering metallic eye-catchers" (yes, that's the real Disneyfield description from the press releases, "shimmering metallic eye-catchers") covered the entire thing.
Pandering. Pandering to the lowest common denominator.
See, I love Epcot, or EPCOT Center, for many different reasons. But most of all I love Epcot because it's everything Disney wasn't in the 1990s and the early 2000s.
First off, it's friggin' huge. It opened in October of 1982 at a cost of nearly a billion dollars. The park is really two parks in one: Future World and World Showcase, the former containing pavilions demonstrating various facets of future and present life, and the latter with many countries' cultures represented. I mean nowadays cheap-ass Disney would build just Future World, or HALF of World Showcase. Hell, you could fit most of the new Disney's California Adventure into the World Showcase Lagoon!!
But mostly I love Epcot because it is infotainment. True, you're not completely immersed in any one topic for too long, World Showcase is pretty much Europe-lite, but you might prompt you to learn more later. Hey, if you enjoy one country while in the park you might just plan a real vacation there next time! Seriously, though, the old Universe of Energy might teach you about ... gasp, energy. You might learn that the roof is covered with 2 acres of photovoltaic cells, providing 15% of the power needed to run the attraction. The arrays, composed of 80,000 three inch cells on 2,200 panels, can provide 77 kilowatts of DC current at peak conditions which is converted into AC current for use. Plus, they have friggin' dinosaurs.
Like I said, it's infotainment.
Unfortunately, the 1990s brought in a need for easy money and cheap thrills at Disney. Marketing became more important than adding rides or shows. Twenty-five years of Magic! Remember the Magic! The Millenium Celebration! 100 Years of Walt!
Slowly Epcot moved off message. Where was the discovery?
But through it all, Spaceship Earth stayed (mostly) the same. You can still get photos from the correct angles that block the large, rusty Mickey glove. And the inside is still great, although the change from Walter Cronkite to Jeremy Irons took a little getting used to.
Then about a month ago Orlando channel 2, WESH, reported that Epcot's Spaceship Earth is getting a major makeover.
Iinside sources said Disney is preparing to gut and replace the ride in Spaceship Earth in time for the 25th anniversary of Epcot in 2007.
Documents obtained by WESH NewsChannel 2 report Disney will close Spaceship Earth in February of 2005, and replace the whole thing with a ride called Time Racers.
Sources said the rie will most likely be a moving theater-type ride in Spaceship Earth to handle up to 2,400 park patrons per hour.
One report, on another website, said the loading/unloading platform would be OUTSIDE of the geodesic sphere, and SHOOT you INSIDE. For the love of crap, people, we can't let this happen!
Now, I'm not saying that nothing should be updated at Disney parks. Nothing really is sacred. In fact, most of Epcot is just reimaginings of earlier Disney theme park ideas. The dinosaurs in the World of Energy are ripped off mostly from Disneyland's Primevil World. But this time they added smell! Horizons is a rehash of sorts of Walt Disney's original Carosel of Progress. World of Motion and Spaceship Earth are Marc Davis classics, similar to Pirates of the Carribean or the Haunted Mansion. The interior of Mexico is a cheap rip of Disneyland's Blue Bayou. And the American Adventure is an update of the great Hall of Presidents.
But you know, Spaceship Earth is the icon. The center of the park. Sure, communications might make for a "boring" infotainment show, and a high-speed roller coaster ride might be an easier sell.
But, Spaceship Earth show designer Pat Scanlon once said, "Spaceship Earth is more than a show about communications, it's a testimony to human enterprise for surviving and flourishing on this planet." I just hope Spaceship Earth survives, or I might never go to Epcot again.
Last Updated on: December 11, 2002
© 2002-2004 Joshua Paul Edwards
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