Let’s start out the exploration of EPCOT Center with a pavilion that houses my current favorite attraction, once housed an attraction which I have an unexplainable love affair with, and one that currently contains an attraction which I have a big problem with.
I’ll often refer back to Walt Disney’s Epcot, as in my mind, being a promotional piece, really struck at the heart of what Disney was trying to do with EPCOT Center, it’s ideals, and it’s intent. Speaking about talking to the designers of the pavilion, it says:
“They get excited, the members of the team that put together The Land pavilion, when they talk about it. Their enthusiasm, bordering on the passionate, stems from a belief that it is the most vital, significant, entertaining, and challenging pavilion in all of Epcot Center. The story of the land and its potential partnership with man, comes closest to the philosophy, purpose, and image of Epcot, according to the designers of the project.”
The Land is a pavilion with a bit of an identity crisis in it’s current incarnation. Thinking back to The Land as it opened in the original park, had its focus on agriculture and living in harmony with the Earth. The attraction lineup, headlined by Listen to the Land, complemented by Symbiosis, Kitchen Kabaret, and two dining establishments (A Good Turn and The Farmer’s Market), all complemented each other and all spoke to human’s use of the Earth to provide nourishment. Humans living in harmony with our Earth. From Symbiosis:
“Yes, we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go. For although chemicals and pesticides are vital tools in fighting world hunger, will we employ adequate foresight to ensure that some do not again turn up in the food chain or environment? How much longer will more than one-fourth of the world's food supply rot on the ground or be ruined by pests simply because of a lack of proper storage or delivery systems? How much more of the world's precious arable land will be made useless by poor planning or uncontrolled development? And how much more of the world's rain will fall bearing pollutants that poison our lakes, rivers and streams? For many of these problems, solutions already exist. For others, they can be found. It is within our power to address these issues. It is within our power to use or to abuse. To ruin or restore. To marshal, or to waste. What is needed, is the will. For every drop of water, every human being, all creatures in the web of life, nothing in the universe exists alone.”
Let’s take Listen to the Land. Aside from the phenomenal theme song, the ride is one of the two attractions in Future World left mostly in tact from it’s original version. Though the live narrator has been lost (which in itself is a shame), the ride through the greenhouses is still one of those that shows EPCOT in its original intent. It presented the material well during the dark ride portion, but once the door to the greenhouse opened, that is when the real magic happened.
The growing techniques were so far ahead of their time they truly looked like science fiction. Sure, some of them may have varying degrees of realistic commercial use, but the techniques themselves are not the important part. For example, let’s play a game of Did You Know for a moment as we pause.
Did you know that on a planet 75-ish% covered in water, less than 1% of it is freshwater that is reachable for use by humans. Of this, 70% is used for irrigation, 22% for industry, and 8% for domestic use)*. Of the water used for irrigation, up to 60% never reaches the crop it is meant to irrigate (and is “wasted”)**.
Growing food in new and more environmentally sound ways is still just as (or more, looking at you California) important now than it was in the 80s. If you notice as well, over the years the different techniques have changed/evolved within the greenhouses. New crops, new techniques seem to be displayed each time I visit. This shows a commitment to the ever-changing nature originally envisioned for Epcot Center. And that just covers more water efficient farming techniques. The number of different things that they do in the Land greenhouse is amazing.
Moving on, I may be one of the few people who have such deep affection for Kitchen Kabaret. Let’s chalk this up to a mix of music, nostalgia, and a lifelong love of musical animatronic attractions (Tiki Room, Country Bears…). I could likely go on and on about this attraction because of my memories for it, and you should see the T-shirt I made for a trip last year. There's nothing I don't love about Kitchen Kabaret aside from the fact that it is gone. I love it deeply. I will spare you further gushing however and just link to this video.
The big open centerpiece / fountain in The Land was really spectacular, a great deal better than today’s food-court chic. It left the place less crowded with people, less noisy, more calming. Just look at this:
So now to move on to the elephant in the room.
I don't like Soarin'.
No, it's not because it took the place of Kitchen Kabaret. My reason is something more esoteric. No, that's not right, petty. That's the word I'm looking for.
It’s twofold. I cannot get past the "Over California" piece, and even with the upcoming update to Soarin’ over The World, I still have thematic issues with the attraction.
And here's the thing. I really enjoyed the ride when I rode it first in DCA. The difference is simply one of theme and intent. I can't get past the idea that the film is one designed and intended for a park who's point was to display the wonders of California, in California. It's a "Come see the rest of California while you are here!" tourism film. The only thing is, in DCA, it makes thematic sense. That was what all of DCA was intended to be.
In Epcot, specifically in The Land, it makes almost no sense. Sure, by very nature of the attraction, there is "land" featured. Very pretty land. But, The Land was not about promoting tourism. The Land was about living with nature. The importance of agriculture, the importance of living in harmony with the Earth. Listen to the Land, Kitchen Kabaret/Food Rocks, Symbiosis, the Farmers Market. They all had themes specific to working with the Earth to provide food for our future and harmony with the Earth. Not look at how well we turned this beautiful landscape into a freaking golf course!
Now, will I like it more as Soarin' Over The World?
I will give it another try. Again, my issue is a little more than just "California". I don't feel that The Land pavilion was about showing off beautiful landscapes. But the California part will likely bother me less, that is for sure. It will make a little more sense to focus on the Earth as a whole and not just one state in one country.
This gets into a little bit of one way I’d fix Epcot if I could, which I will be tackling in much more detail in the future. This will play a small part in a much larger plan.
I really feel that the film should use the Star Tours technology to display an always changing array of wonders of the world. The world is too large, too beautiful, too unknown to a vast majority of the population (of the US and the world!) to be limited to one 5 minute film.
Also, I don't think it belongs in The Land. I think it belongs in World Showcase. Updated, this is a film about the world, which, I believe, is represented in World Showcase at Epcot!
Currently, the queue that they had to build to connect The Land to the Soarin' show-building is long (see yellow below). Now that they are doing construction, adding a 3rd theater (which is a discussion for a different day), they should take this opportunity to place it in its rightful place. If we're going to have to stand in a line a country mile long, let's move it so it's at least theme appropriate.
Here are two potential paths:
Now I know why I bookmarked "Walt Disney World" on Google Maps.
Either of those would be just slightly longer of a queue than current. It could lead out to a spot inside World Showcase. I like the idea of having it at the entrance to WS honestly, as it's about the entire world, but I also wouldn't want to cut out any of Canada's beautiful gardens to get it, so I'd accept it on the other side. There would have to be work in that case though in how to get supply trucks and equipment into Canada, but again, I'm sure this could be done. Go over, go under, it ain't rocket surgery.
Once Soarin' is moved, well, I'll get to that later. There would be a worry on my part that The Land would waste away and die, so there should be something added to The Land to make sure that we keep the crowd drawn in.