I'm a guest on Dave's Disney View

Yeah, I know I've not written in a while.  I've got a post 1/2 written right now, just need time to finish it.  In the meantime.

I had the pleasure of joining in for my first guest spot on a Podcast late last week.  Dave's Disney View podcast reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining to discuss Epcot, what it was, what it is, and what it may become when Disney gets around to announcing exactly what its plans are for revamping the park.

It was a great conversation, Dave brought up a lot of really great points that got me thinking and wanting to make time to dig back in and write again.  Give it a listen, let me know what you think.  I'm an avid podcast listener, so if I suck, it won't be because I've not prepared myself for podcasting.  It'll just be because I suck.

Anyway, here's a link to the podcast:

http://disneyview.blogspot.com/2017/01/episodes-272-273-and-274-changes-coming.html

Was Wonders of Life Wonderful?

Was Wonders of Life Wonderful?

I’ve started, deleted, restarted, redeleted, put off, made up excuses (some legit, some not), and basically ignored writing this next blog post for weeks now.  To be fair, it’s been busy lately, at work and at home, with annual review stuff, digging out of a work-related hole, sick kids, and various other things that have made finding time to start writing difficult.

But, being honest with myself, that is not the only thing that has really stopped me from writing.  You see, I know what the next target on my Imagineering plan to remake Epcot (Plan Alpha) is, and I’ll admit something here, don’t tell anyone: I never formed a real emotional bond with Wonders of Life.

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It's a Small World of Flavors

It's a Small World of Flavors

Where we left off last, oh, whenever that was, it’s been too long for me to keep track.

As a part of reinventing Epcot, Plan Alpha, we’re taking it as read that Soarin’ Over the World exists, but has shifted it’s entrance from The Land, where it does not belong, into World Showcase.  Given it’s world-spanning nature, it serves as a fantastic “introduction” to World Showcase.  We’ve started to discuss idea of creating a new, large pavilion in World Showcase, themed to the 1964 NY Worlds Fair.  The new pavilion would add a permanent festival space (to be addressed later), and added a year-round attraction to the space by moving Carousel of Progress (and reverting it back to it’s Worlds Fair version, complete with Sherman Brothers song).  I then teased something about It’s a Small World, and promptly disappeared for a couple weeks. 

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It's a Great Big Beautiful Yesterday

It's a Great Big Beautiful Yesterday

Wow, what a busy last week and a half. Moving sucks.  Why would anyone ever move anything?

So, let's start off on the previously mentioned '64 World's Fair pavilion and festival space by discussing my plan to move an entire attraction.  Let's talk about my plan to move Carousel of Progress out of Magic Kingdom, out of Tomorrowland, and into Epcot's World Showcase.  Hey, I'm not the one doing the packing and hauling, so it's easy for me to suggest this as a potential solution no matter the questionable sanity of said idea..

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Step 1: Festival Space

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?  

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So close…

So close…

Don’t you hate when you spend some time writing something, don’t finish with plans to get to it later, and then something comes out that changes what you were going to write?  A while back, in an earlier version of my Manifesto, in a WDW fan forum, I’d given my idea for what I thought should be done with the Imagination pavilion.  Included in this was of course what to do with the Magic Eye Theater.   Well, either Disney read my manifesto and got everything almost right (missing the mark in one small yet significant way), or great minds think almost alike.  I’ll quote verbatim from this post here, come back for some quick discussion, and then at the end leave the post that I’d been writing on Friday that dealt with things up to the point on Friday morning. 

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The Greenest Epcot?

It’s been a hectic weekend at casa de Manifesto.  Lots of craziness going on, with so many things in flux, that my normal tradition of writing my post first thing Monday morning was thrown out the window.

That’s ok.  This rant is going to be a bit of a sidetrack anyway.  My regularly scheduled post about, well, to be honest, I hadn’t figured out what I was going to write about anyway.  It happens more often than not that I have a vague idea of what I am going to write about before I sit down to write, I pull together thoughts I’ve put out elsewhere, I throw them away and write something new about them, I contradict myself, etc.  It’s been working well so far.

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A Greener Epcot

A Greener Epcot

Earlier this week I spoke a little about the visual design of Epcot Center, it’s once futuristic look and feel that was different than any other theme park in the world at the time.  Since not much has changed in the last 33 years in this respect, an ugly canopy here, an ugly paintjob there, I think that when looking at trying to refocus Future World, it only makes sense to update the look and feel of the area.  A visual change will signal that the park is different.  A change towards the mission statement that will make sure that the message is heard loud and clear by visitors, and hopefully by management as they look to keep the park updated in the future.  Get ready for LOTS of pictures!

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Pale Blue Spaceship Earth

Pale Blue Spaceship Earth

No, I'm not asking us to paint the outside of the pavilion.

As I talked about a little last time, the major issue with the current attraction is the descent.  The attraction builds to a climax at the top of the pavilion, then a massive change in gears to the JibJab-esque cutouts is so painful that it kind of ruins the message of the entire pavilion.

Now, I'll submit that there is some worry here if we were to update it to show communications technology, which changing at such a rapid pace that any update that focuses on technology is going to be out of date before the update is finished.

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The Living Seas With Nemo

The Living Seas With Nemo

Last week I discussed The Living Seas and it’s current incarnation, The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  If you recall, my issue with this is not necessarily that Nemo was included in the attraction, but in how Nemo was included.  In a second post, I spoke about Toonification, and how I believe that is can be done well at Ecpot, and still hold true to the fundamental ideals that made Epcot stand out in the past.  The problem with The Seas with Nemo and Friends lies in the fact that the attraction is sub-par, whether it has characters or not.

What I would like to present this week is an idea that might help make this attraction fit in more with the attraction’s great history of education and entertainment.  I’ve not gone so far as to write a script for it, nor describe each and every turn.  Disney would have to pay me a bit more than they do (currently topping off at around -$3000 / year based on my last few year’s financial records).   That said, I think that I can give some broad strokes,  paired with some hastily (and poorly) done art to try and get the idea across.

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On Imagineering a new Epcot


Imagineering

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Imagineering is a portmanteau combining the words "imagination" and "engineering".
The word is well known for its use within the name of Walt Disney Imagineering; however, contrary to popular belief, the term was neither coined by Disney, nor did it originate there. The word was "invented" by Alcoa around 1940, and appeared widely in numerous publications of several disciplines such as urban design, geography and politics, evolutionary economics, corporate culture and futures studies.

 Feeling inspired

Feeling inspired

I’ve never been one to get too deeply into thinking about new attractions, shows, or other features that tend to be tied into the “Imagineering” side of Disney fandom.  There are groups of people who put untold hours of work into creating imagineered attractions, there are competitions that are held among these fans and some of the work that comes out of them can be fairly incredible.  I’ve never really gotten into that.

It’s not because I find fault with the idea of people expressing their creativity and passion in this way.  I have loads of respect for those that put themselves out there by developing ideas and placing them in the public for comment.  That takes some (figurative) cojones that I've not had a lot of in the past.

The reason that I have not really done much is that I can honestly say that for the most part, I’ve been quite happy with the Disney product.  At least enough so that I’ve never felt the urge to try and dream up a replacement or an expansion to their existing offerings.  Why try and think of a better way that they could have used the intellectual property for Winnie The Pooh better than their current ride, when the current one brings so much joy to me and my children?

Well, that took a bit of a turn when I really started to dig into my feelings about Epcot.  As I mentioned before, I had a break from Epcot during my broke college student years.  For a decade or so starting in the mid 90s, I really didn't visit WDW.  Once I started going again, I was just happy to be there.  Over the years though, I just started to get this nagging feeling when I visited Epcot.  It didn't mean as much to me, I didn't care if I missed whole swaths of the park.  Was this just nostalgia playing a part in romanticizing the park of my childhood (partially yes), or was there something larger at play (also partially yes).  Once I started to form my thoughts on this, I started to find the faults that have become the basis of this manifesto. 

But aside from just finding fault, I felt a bit of an obligation to try and do more than just complain about what I don’t like.  I figured that if I think that I’m an arbiter of what is and what isn’t worthy of being in Epcot, then I had better put up or shut up.  Don’t just bitch about it, think about what could be done to make it better.  Look at all sides of it, try and figure out what they were trying to do, figure out how it failed, and then see if there are ways that the same goal could be achieved while still holding on to what made the park such a special place.

So this post is meant to set up some parameters for any Imagineering that comes out in this blog.  Some thoughts about what I’m doing and what guidelines I’ll try to follow (and likely break, hey, it's my blog, I'll rant how I want to).

1)      First and foremost, I want to make it clear that any idea I throw out is in no means the only answer.  They are ideas, some more fully formed than others, that I’ve come up with while thinking long and hard about Epcot. 

2)      I have no experience in construction and therefore, while I will try and keep things within reason in terms of both feasibility and budget, I have no idea if what I suggest is possible.

3)      Speaking of budget, I probably won’t again.  I have ideas for a makeover of the entire Epcot theme park (mostly Future World, but touching World Showcase as well).  None of this is done with a goal in mind of “Given a 3 billion dollar budget, we could do X and Y”.   I have no ideas on construction costs, at Disney inflated prices or otherwise.

4)      The approach I will likely take as I go along will be incremental.  It will be a multi-step, multi-year plan trying to keep the park open and operational, with as little impact as possible to the guests.  There is a large part of me that would like to take the approach of: “Shut down all of Future World, cut ticket prices in ½ and operate World Showcase like an extended Pleasure Island.  Eating / Dining / Shopping experience while we remake Future World for a grand re-opening.”  This approach would never happen in a million years, so I leave it to the side and focus on something that could be done over time.

5)      I am not an artist.  I might throw up some sketches or badly hacked up digital photos from time to time.  Know this is not because I really am proud of my artwork, rather I follow the “picture is worth 1000 words” mentality.   While I’ll likely still write the 1000 words to accompany the pictures, I might try and illustrate my thoughts through pictures as well.  I’m not saying this because I want you to go easy on me in the comments, or on Twitter, always feel free to take a big steaming “Stitch’s Great Escape” on me or my ideas.  I just figure a little bit of warning is likely warranted.

6)      As time progresses, I’m likely to suggest alternatives, decide I hate my ideas and come up with new ones, and I reserve the right to change my mind at the drop of a hat.  As I said, none of what I present is the only idea, so if I have more, I’ll share.

7)      I have no idea if any of these have been suggested before.  If you've had this idea years ago, I'm happy for you!  I've written some of these things on Disney fan forums, so I have a bit of history with the ideas, but I have not searched back to see if they are truly original or not.  


Ok, that is out of the way.  By nature of this being my manifesto and all, I’m apt to jump all over the place.  I have a part of me that thinks it best to cover EPCOT Center as it was, then Epcot as it is, then offer solutions.  Another part of me thinks it best to cover a pavilion and then offer an alternative.  Another part of me thinks that no matter what I do, it’ll end up disjointed in the future anyway.  So, I’m going to go with a “post what I feel like when I feel like it” approach.  This week I think I feel like exploring a potential solution to The Seas.  When it gets around to arranging all the work in logical order, I can then just point back to this.

Hmm…  looks like it’s time to upgrade from my Crayola colored pencils for my “concept art”…

 

The Land (and the elephant)

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.

 The Land

The Land

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:

 Much more peaceful than today's overcrowded zoo

Much more peaceful than today's overcrowded zoo


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:

 

 Two potential paths

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.

The Epcot Manifesto mission statement.

Welcome to the Epcot Manifesto.

Manifesto?  That doesn't sound very "magical"!  Isn't Epcot in Disney World?  Isn't Disney World one of the happiest places on Earth?  How could one relate the word manifesto with a theme park?

The mission of this website is simple.  To explore the mission of EPCOT Center, the park as it existed in the 1980s and 1990s.  The park before it lost some capitalization and the word "Center" from it's name.  To look at the park that was, the park that is now, and to perhaps suggest some ways that the park could be brought back to it's former glory.  

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