Step 1: Festival Space

Of course, last week I opened my big (metaphorical) mouth and decided to start my Plan Alpha, to address some of the problems facing modern day Epcot.  I had it all lined up, ready to roll, and then I got a notice from the library that a book I had on hold was finally ready to be picked up.  The book has major ties into the first step of my plan here, and it means that I have two choices.

 1) delay my posts until I have time to read it fully to make sure I don't say something that isn't true, or get a better idea.

2) write my post as planned with the knowledge that I might be speaking out of my proverbial backside, the real information sitting in my backpack waiting to be read.

Guess which one I chose?  

As I mentioned last week, one issue I have with modern Epcot is with the fact that they scuttled an entire Future World pavilion, and the best idea that they've had for it in the years since is to use it for festival space.  A place where during the times of year (a larger percentage each year) that a festival is being held, they can host seminars, or sell merchandise.  

A big, open, airy, architecturally interesting and beautiful pavilion in Future World, now home to a Smith & Hawken.

A big, open, airy, architecturally interesting and beautiful pavilion in Future World, now home to a Smith & Hawken.

This is sad for a multitude of reasons.  It's mis-placed.  The World Showcase festivals have their main festival center in Future World, which does not typically participate in the festivals.  Having to run to Future World to make sure you hit your paid-for Whiskey tasting seminar, while trying to enjoy time in World Showcase just seems counter-intuitive.   

It's a waste of a formerly great pavilion, one that could be devoted to unbelievably important topics.  Health and the Human Body are not less important today than they were in the 90s, they are more.  We understand more about the human body yet we are still faced with significant challenges.  Inspiring the next generation of doctors or research scientists is still unbelievably important.  Inspiring people to understand more about their body so that they can make the right decisions for themselves and their families is still important.  There are so many misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist out in the world at large, and while a fun little pavilion is not going to change anyone's opinions on a deeply held belief system, it might inspire someone to ask more questions or rethink an existing position.  I can (and will) talk more about this pavilion later though, the main point here is that it's wasted space as it stands right now.

 So we want to create a space, in World Showcase, that can be used as a festival home base.  One that can provide the same functions (and more) as Wonders of Life currently does, but that exists within the grounds of World Showcase. 

I'll start with addressing location.  I'll bring up an image I stole from Yesterdayland, which shows a bit of an outdated version of the Epcot expansion plots.  For those that might not know, there are a group of open spaces around World Showcase that are set up to be expansion plots, places where countries could be added in the future.  The graphic below shows the expansion plots, with the caveat that this is prior to the Norway/Frozen expansion, in which they cannibalized the Mexico/Norway expansion plot (#1) for a Meet and Greet complex.

Look at all that space to work with!

Look at all that space to work with!

 I see two real usable sites that could house a nice festival grounds.  The first, the one I'm not choosing here, is marked as 8, which was home to the Millennium Village / WorldShowplace.  While this space likely makes the most sense from a ease-of-construction/demolition perspective, it doesn't exactly work for me.

Look at that big tent there, so tempting

Look at that big tent there, so tempting

First, I do honestly believe that while it should be better built, not just a big tent, that Epcot really should have a large "private space", one that can be rented to private parties for weddings, corporate events, seminars, etc.  I've attended a private event at Epcot, a wedding held in the American Adventure Rotunda.  It was amazing, and the space was incredible.  It did however require the pavilion to be closed to guests during that time (it was held post-Illuminations, so no problems there).  Having this extra tent space allows Disney to make a little extra money off of private events, and they are held out away from the crowds, not really making the paying day guest "jealous" that they are missing out on something due to some wealthy corporation.  I mean, they are, but it's not in their face.  I'd like to suggest that eventually a more permanent and well-themed structure should be built for this, but it's so low on the priority list that it can be handled WAY later in the plan.

That leaves me with my chosen spot, which leads me to the breaking of the first ground rule (who had 1 post in the "when will he deviate from his ground rules" pool?), and also depending on some of that "no construction knowledge" might be absolutely impossible.  

I'd suggest using expansion slots 2/3 together.  The location that was once going to hold an Africa pavilion, sitting between China and Germany.  This gives us a ton of space to work with

Look at those huuuuuge... tracks of land.

Look at those huuuuuge... tracks of land.

Now, I do see one large issue with this space, and that is the backstage boathouse.  That seems like something that is required for park operations, so I can't suggest getting rid of it entirely, but it takes up a ton of usable space.  We do not want to mess with trying to reroute the backstage roadways too much, this is essential infrastructure, required to supply and staff the pavilions on the South side of World Showcase.  So our plans would be limited by the existence of this  boathouse.  I mean look at this, two Wonders of Life pavilions would fit into the space occupied by the boathouse.

Thatsa lotta space there.

Thatsa lotta space there.

For the first step, I'd like to suggest we build a new boathouse area over near the International Gateway area.  It would likely require a little modification to some of the walking paths, making a few drawbridges so that boats could occasionally be shuffled in and out if needed when guests are present.  That shouldn't be a major issue though would it?  We might even do the same with the access road so we can move the boathouse out back hidden away from Epcot and from the Beach Club:

This is keeping the same shape as it was, it could be reconfigured easily.

This is keeping the same shape as it was, it could be reconfigured easily.

Going all cheap online photo editor on us, that leaves us with a HUGE place to do some serious work

Look at hose huuuuuuge... tracts of land!

Look at hose huuuuuuge... tracts of land!

What should we put there?

We need event space, a place that can handle the merchandising and seminars of the Flower and Garden as well as the Food and Wine festivals.  

It also should have things there that can attract people for the times of year that do not have festivals going on.  The seminar space can easily serve as a venue for other types of entertainment acts.  Music groups, comedians, whatever.  It's available to us to use as we see fit.  Other than that, we want reasons that people might stop in during festival "off season".   We can spread the crowds out a little more by giving people things to do in this pavilion the whole year round.

It also should have a consistent theme, one that makes sense with World Showcase, and with Epcot as an entity.

Well, this leads me to my plan.  It's one of my favorite ideas I've had so far, completely off the wall, likely unrealistic, but dammit if I don't love the idea.  

Wait, didn't you mention some sort of book?  What the heck kind of book was it that made you wonder about what you've talked about so far? "Moving a boathouse for no apparent reason"?  "How to avoid Huge Ships"?

When I started thinking about what Epcot was, and what World Showcase was, the thought struck me that it is basically a permanent Worlds Fair.  I've started to get intrigued by Worlds Fairs, The White City from the 1893 World's Columbian Exhibition  is something that really leaves me in awe any time I see an old black and white picture, or drive past the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago (who's building is a rebuilt Palace of Fine Arts from the fair).  Worlds Fairs were meant to showcase the technological advancements of countries around the world, and to showcase the individual cultures of many places (some more exploitative than others).  This is very much what Epcot Center was as well.  As Walt said:

"EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."

Thinking about Worlds Fair of course quickly leads one to remember Walt's involvement in the 1964 New York World's Fair, without which much of the technologies that power today's modern theme parks would not exist.  Multiple theme park attractions that still exist today made their debut at the '64 Worlds Fair, including "It's a Small World", "The Carousel of Progress", "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln".  Walt perfected audio-animatronic technology for the Worlds Fair.  The Ford exhibit laid the groundwork for what would become the PeopleMover.  Walt gave the Worlds Fair it's most memorable moments, and the Worlds Fair gave Walt and WED reasons to push themselves into new areas.

All of this is a the long way of saying that I think that the 1964 New York Worlds Fair would make an excellent theme for a pavilion / festival space.  It's got so many things working for it, with connections to Disney, connections to Walt, a very distinct visual style that is both futuristic and retro at the same time.  It would be a single unifying theme that lays out World Showcase as a cohesive concept, strengthens the theme, and allows for something that would draw guests in no matter what season.  The book I am reading right now is Tomorrowland: The 1964 Worlds Fair and the Transformation of America.

I think I'll have to make this post a two-parter, hopefully getting to really dig into the details later this week because next week will be filled with me packing/moving/unpacking non-stop.

I'll leave you with a few pictures to whet your appetite for what is to come.  The first is another major tie-in to modern day Epcot, one that will still play a role, though hopefully bigger.  It's the 1964 Worlds Fair Unisphere.  Look familiar?

Where have I seen something like this before at Epcot?

Where have I seen something like this before at Epcot?

Also, did you know that Carousel of Progress fits very nicely into the space formerly occupied by the boathouse, with plenty of room to spare?

Seems like something could be done with this information, which would allow for expansion in Tomorrowland as well as adding an attraction to World Showcase that has significant historical precedent. 

Hurm.