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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Epcot 2.0 – Plan Alpha

Epcot 2.0 – Plan Alpha

I think that I’ve come to a point in this blog where I’ve talked a little about the past, a little about a few ideas for the future, rambled on a few topics incoherently, and in general hopped around the park quite a bit with no real agenda.  While that works well for a manifesto, it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense from an overall perspective.

I think that means that we could benefit from a little direction.  Not that I won’t meander off the beaten path if the mood so strikes me, of course I will, but if I can pick a target and aim for it, maybe it can help any readers who’s mind does not work the oddball way mine does. 

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On Star Wars and Epcot

On Star Wars and Epcot

This week I’m trying hard to institute a fairly comprehensive media blackout to try and avoid reviews and/or spoilers for the new Star Wars film.  Star Wars, a little indie film that might be playing at a theater near you if you are lucky starting this weekend.  My tickets are to see it on Saturday morning (and then again Sunday morning), so until that time, I try and smack my own hand if I find myself opening up Twitter or Facebook.  I’ve been mostly successful so far.

So I thought that this week, instead of trying to avoid the topic, I’d steer into it a little and try and find a way to talk about two things that were both seminal in my youth.  I’ve honestly not put thought into trying to relate the two together, so what follows is going to be a bit of an experiment in free flowing writing.  Hey, the title of the blog clearly state that this is a manifesto.  A certain degree of rambling should be expected.

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The spark is gone

The spark is gone

This is a topic that I’ve really been itching to touch for a while now.  It’s time to spend a little time talking about the Imagination pavilion.   It was, in your not-so-humble manifesto author’s opinion, a nearly perfect pavilion.  A microcosm of what made Epcot Center so special.  With it’s unique exterior, multiple attractions, commitment to theme from outside to inside, it’s whimsy, it’s charm, and it’s intelligence, it contained everything that made an original Epcot Center attraction great.

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In praise of: Magic Kingdom construction

In praise of: Magic Kingdom construction

I feel like recently, I’ve been too obsessed with pointing out the problems in Epcot, both here and elsewhere. 

I know what you’re thinking.  You are writing a manifesto about Epcot, it’s kinda your thing.  We don’t come here to read happy thoughts. 

I promise, I’ll be back on that soon.  But I’ve been realizing a little lately that with the start of this manifesto, my Disney fandom has started to slant WAY too far towards crapping all over current Epcot, and it misrepresents my overall feeling about Walt Disney World as a whole.  I see a lot of really great stuff going on in the past few years, and in the upcoming years as well at Disney World.  Overall, I’m extremely bullish on what is going on in Florida.  I wanted to take a little time today to go through why I’m very excited for the future of ¾ of the parks at WDW.  Maybe some of the good vibes will rub off and I’ll start to see Epcot in a whole new light!  I’m not holding my breath though.   

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Let’s be thankful

Let’s be thankful

There are times when I worry that my ranting and raving here may come off as a bit of a Debbie Downer.  Hopefully what comes across is my passion.  I’m a fan of Disney, a fan of Epcot, and one who has been ultimately affected deeply by that park as a whole who is unhappy with the current trajectory that the park has had in the past 10-15 years.  I criticize because I love.  Wow, how many Thanksgivings has a line like that from a parent or family member likely ruined?

So given the fact that we’re coming up on Thanksgiving, I’m in DC visiting family and bathing in the thankfulness that the holiday represents, I figure I should be in the headspace to list the things I’m still thankful for at Epcot.  I’ve really not thought this through other than the theme and title, so let’s see what comes out if I just sit down and start jamming and see what comes up.

Things I’m thankful for at Epcot:

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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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Data is MAGIC

Data is MAGIC

This week has been quite insane, as was last week.  I’ve had little time to give to thinking about Epcot, or Disney, or pretty much anything that wasn’t related to work or the purchase of our soon-to-be-new-house.  Who decides to buy a house in the middle of the holidays, in the north, in winter?  Are you sure you really want to read something written by someone who would do something like that? 

Since I’ve been thinking about work a lot, I’ll talk about something that relates work with Disney.  Data.  Wait, come back!  Don’t click away just yet!  This could end up interesting to more than just me, I swear.

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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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The visual design

I’ve had this in mind to talk about all weekend, and just didn’t get a chance to sit down and write it.  This isn’t something in which I really plan on complaining about Disney’s lack of, well, anything really in regards to current Epcot.  It’s not really something that they probably have put a lot of thought into, it’s fairly static.  There is a little complaining of course, not everything is rosy, but overall not much.

Today I want to talk a little about the overall aesthetic of the park.  The design of the buildings, the walkways, the greenspaces, the water, just about everything.  I’m going to steal pictures from online to show some things, if you notice some watermarks on the pictures, just remember to visit their lovely sites as well.  I’ve not had time to dig deeply through my childhood pictures to look for photos of my own (which I will be doing at some point), so theft is my main option here.  There are likely going to be a lot of pictures in today’s post.

For a discussion on the overall design of the park, I’ll admit that I’m skipping over some of the genesis of what the park was when it started on Walt Disney’s watch.  The park that was once his brainchild was vastly different than what opened on Oct 1st 1982.  I think comparing this over time is just not very relevant, though I’m sure many people have, and maybe someday I will myself.

Walt's idea of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

Walt's idea of the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

I’ll also likely skip over some of the early versions of the park that were modified over time as the designers worked to take Walt’s vision and turn it into something that would work as a theme park.  I likely will cover some of this later as well when I get to talking about a major change I’d love to see made in World Showcase.  It is such an interesting thought that the designers originally had World Showcase as the entrance, with Future World sitting in the back of the park, working your way narratively from present to future.  The design changed multiple times over the years to eventually reverse it to what we know now with Future World being the main entrance.  The model below shows a middle-point, with Future World in front, but the American pavilion serving as the grand entryway to World Showcase.

An early model of Epcot Center

An early model of Epcot Center

It is though interesting to look at the design of the park that was created and look at where it stands today in comparison. 

The original park seemed so unique and original when you first walked up to it’s gates.  With the grand geodesic sphere of Spaceship Earth towering over the monorail station, you could see some of the design choices that would echo throughout the entire park.  You saw that this park was not going to be themed entertainment like existed previously in Magic Kingdom or Disneyland.  No castles, no jungles, not even the rocket ships of Tomorrowland.  The World Showcase might be traditionally themed, but Future World was different.  From the opening gates, you could see the recurring theme of the long, curved lines, the lighter color palate using silvers and light colored concrete.

A view of the entrance to Epcot Center, curved lines, silver and white all over.

A view of the entrance to Epcot Center, curved lines, silver and white all over.

The architecture seems to have one foot in the brutalism architecture movement, lots of large cement structures, one foot in modernist architecture, with it’s sweeping curves and vaguely futuristic viewpoint.  (Architects take note: I’m not an architect and likely just made a massive hash of different architectural movements, I’m just going off of my vague understanding and quick confirmation on Wiki).  There were not many straight lines in early Epcot, everything had interesting angles, curves, waves, and everything had an interesting design that looked different than what most of America would be used to seeing at that point in time.

Even the walking paths were not straight lines, dealing with arcs and waves.  The entrance left the ticket booths and brought you in curving paths towards Spaceship Earth.  The gateway to Future World.  The entrance was not cluttered, plants, grass, trees, water, and the crystal statue all brought us towards the future. 

An entryway clear of any sort of Legacy.

An entryway clear of any sort of Legacy.

Look at how simple and beautiful

Look at how simple and beautiful

One thing that comes to mind when I think about the design of the buildings within Epcot Center is the scene in Horizons when we first meet our hosts, sitting in their futuristic living room.  If you look out the window at the city scene behind them, you’ll see very similar design styles.  While their view is upon a “city” and Epcot Center was a set of pavilions, the same angles and curves are present.  Horizons was looking into the future, and Epcot Center’s design was as well.

Look at the city outside the windows

Look at the city outside the windows

Look at The Land building compared to the scene above.  Very similar architecture.

Look at The Land building compared to the scene above.  Very similar architecture.

Adding this one just because it's gorgeous.

Adding this one just because it's gorgeous.

I feel that the design work on Epcot Center was meant to reflect the future that the designers saw coming.  With large cement structures, environmental impacts of construction were being lowered, and the light-reflecting colors were looking for methods to reduce the environmental impact required to cool the large buildings.  Lots of light reflecting materials, photovoltaic cells on top of Universe of Energy, greenspaces in between buildings, all of these a vision into the designer’s view of the future. 

Over the years, there have been little tweaks to the overall design, but no truly massive changes.  The biggest (worst) was the introduction of the odd diamond shaped canopy thing in the middle of Innoventions.  Not large enough to truly provide shade, not small enough to block views, it just seemingly doesn’t fit in the location that it is in. 

Serving no purpose but to block a beautiful view.

Serving no purpose but to block a beautiful view.

There have been other modifications of course, pathway changes, planters being added/removed, but mostly the general feel of the park remains today when being looked at from the outside.  That is aside from the massive crowds of people who are streaming past Future World and only into World Showcase of course.

As I make my way forwards in this Manifesto, I’m going to be working with one design goal in mind.  I want to have an overall aesthetic change to Future World, but I don’t plan on making any massive structural changes to existing buildings.  Instead, I think that there are many ways that they can be worked with and updated to reflect a new vision of the future, while keeping most major structures intact.  Suggesting we reshape the buildings for no real reason at all would be just a giant waste of my non-existent budget. 

I do however think that we could make some fairly substantial changes to the visual impact and meaning of the entire Future World section of the park.  To bring it forward once again.  If Epcot Center was a vision of the future in the late 1970s, we can update the park to a futuristic view of the park from the late 2010s.  Next time, I set out the visual direction of the park update.

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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Our Spaceship Earth

Our Spaceship Earth

I can hear you now. 

“Spaceship Earth really hasn’t changed much since ’82, how on Earth can you go on for 2000 words about an attraction that still exists, has been modified multiple times, and still retains all the kinds of things that you typically rant about?  It has a clear mission, it follows the original format, it’s iconic, you can’t possibly find that much wrong with it, can you?”

TL;DR – It’s about half of a great attraction as it stands right now, and some simple fixes could make it great again.

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Bill's Energy Adventure

We've talked a little about the weak points of both versions of this pavilion.  

The Universe of Energy was quite dry, with the dinosaurs really feeling almost like a non sequitur, only tangentially related to energy.  The sponsor model and ties into an oil company lead to a very fossil fuel centered attraction.

(speaking of non sequitur, I'm watching an episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos series, and it just stepped right into climate change.  Episode 9 if you want to chase it down)

Ellen's Energy Adventure was a step in the right direction, adding humor and updating some of the energy sources to at least pretend that it was not a fossil fuel centered pavilion.  It did however sidestep climate change in a massive way, and one that really rings hollow with what Epcot Center used to do in the past.  

So let's talk parameters here on an update.  First, we need to tackle climate change.  Second, it needs to be entertaining, engaging, and informational, leaving us to think about our part in helping to solve one of the most important puzzles in our lifetimes.  I'd like to try not to have to add onto the showbuilding, but the bonus here with this pavilion is that we actually have the space to do so if needed.

If you don't spend a good portion of your time staring at Google Maps satellite views of Epcot like I do, here's a quick reminder of what we're looking at space-wise.

Here we go.  Bigger than Wonders of Life, bigger than Mission Space.  Should be enough to work with

Once again, let me throw out the disclaimers.  If you thought my artwork on The Living Seas was bad, just wait till you see this crap.  I threw them together in just about an hour with my kid's art kit while my wife has her book club in the other room.  I really need to get myself some tools to do this better, or I have to stop subjecting you to my artwork.  Thankfully, I can't get the second picture to show up right in this blog right now, so you are spared a picture that my kid could have drawn.

This pavilion is going to have one of the more major updates in my entire series.  I do my best to work with what they've given me to try and keep things a little sane, but here we are going to have to do a gut rehab.

I mentioned this in my last post, but this update is the end of the dinosaurs.  I might just have to name this "Project Chicxulub" (named after the crater from the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs).  I think that the focus on fossil fuels need to go, and I also feel that the dinosaur section has handcuffed previous efforts to improve the pavilion in the past, having to build it's story around this trip through the diorama.  By shipping the dinosaur animatronics over to Animal Kingdom, we can improve an attraction over there or create a new one, and open up our space to any sort of new project.

I still want to keep Bill Nye involved, but I want him to be the star of the show.  Energy is a topic that can be fairly dry.  Sahara dry.  Bill Nye has the passion for the subject, and the energy and knowledge to make the topic entertaining, while still grounded in fact.  Bill should consult on the project, helping to write the script, or at least have a final cut at it.

Now, what do we do here?  We have Bill Nye, and no dinosaurs.  What does that mean?

Some of you may know about the trackless ride technology that Disney has used at some of it's overseas parks.  Mystic Manor in Hong Kong, Pooh's Hunny Hunt in Tokyo, Ratatouille in Paris.  This ride system is different than those here in the US in the fact that there is no set track.  Most rides here follow the same path time and time again, there is no variability.  The trackless system changes this by using a computer controlled system to manage the paths of the carts, and each can turn, move, and shift on different paths each and every ride.  For a good example of this in action, YouTube has some good ridethrough videos of Pooh's Hunny Hunt, and it's bright enough in there that you can see how the other cars are moving.  

I think that the trackless system gives us a few benefits here. 

  • It is not currently being used in any US park, so it has novelty
  • The unpredictable nature of the ride system will work very well in concert with Bill Nye's dynamic delivery of content
  • The hectic feel will play well with the concept of using many different sources and technologies together to solve our future energy needs, and that each one will play an important role.  A linear ride implies order.  A random ride does not.
  • It is a bit of a nod to the current ride, as the giant theater cars in the current ride is technically trackless.  It is not random, but it operates without a track

In regards to the last point, I'd also suggest making the ride cars very reminiscent to the current attraction's theater cars, only smaller.  One family sized, fitting between 4 and 6.  Visually nod to the past while moving towards the future.

Also, we should start out with a film, like currently.  Each group of ride vehicles should be moved into a film section, with Bill Nye talking about climate change.  I very specifically want this topic covered and focused on (see previous post), but I also think that it should not be the middle or the end of the ride, it should be the start.  The setup.  Bill Nye's next book is about solutions, and we should have this too.  One or two film segments should be used to show the science behind climate change, and it's impacts that we are already seeing, and those we may see in our lifetime.  Lets say a couple minutes per screen, a few screens.  Maybe we even go to 3 screens with travel time in between them so that the ride is constantly moving.

Yes, that is supposed to be Bill Nye.  I suck.

Yes, that is supposed to be Bill Nye.  I suck.

From this section, Bill moves us into the real trackless portion.  He is now introducing us to the different energy technologies that are all going to play a part in meeting our future energy needs.  Solar, Wind, Algae, Hydroelectric, Electric, Fossil, Nuclear, etc.  Each one working together in concert to create the energy that we need.  

This can really take advantage of the trackless system.  As each will play a part, we can randomly bounce between each piece.  The frantic nature of the ride matched by Bill Nye's delivery.  Talk about the technology, talk about it's limitations, talk about some interesting implementations.  Make it fun.  We should be bouncing back and forth around the room, hitting a technology, moving along.  Heck, maybe we don't hit all of them on each ride, leave some behind for a person to do a follow-up ride to get to see.

Hit the skyscrapers that are being built with algae windows or solar windows to help generate energy for the building.  Hit different windmill technologies, improvements in solar collection and battery storage technologies.  It can't be too specific, as it needs to last years, but even in generalities he should be able to make it entertaining and educational.  Hit on the concept of thinking outside the box to solve the problems, not on specific solutions themselves.  Make it specifically general if you can follow my random train of thought.

After the trackless section, we go to a final film section tying it all together.  It should be uplifting, truthful, and it should stress how we all need to play a part in this to make sure that we have a planet that is safe for our children, and that we can meet the energy needs of an exploding population.  It should leave us wanting to know more, it should leave kids thinking about energy, and it should not be something that people go into just to sleep.

The format and ride vehicles pull from Epcot past.  We have film-ride-film, just in a more entertaining and informative way.  The topic is hopefully interesting and thought provoking, and the ride system makes repeat rides something that a visitor might want to do over and over again.  We need music intertwined with motion, visuals and effects (wind blowing for the wind section, heat from the light of the "sun").  Get all portions of the brain working at once, as the more activated the brain is, the more likely the topic will resonate.

Hopefully this gives an idea on what to do on the inside of the pavilion.  Later I'll hit the outside, but that'll come with a more overall thematic change to Future Worlds landscaping. 


The man who mistook his blog for a manifesto

Driving home today I was revisiting my favorite podcast, Radiolab.  It is fantastically well done storytelling that tends to live in the science space that I love.   I've never fallen so fast and so deeply into something as I did with Radiolab, I felt like I was freebasing it, just consuming it as quickly as I could.  It's one of the only podcasts that I routinely revisit stories that I've already listened to over and over.

Through Radiolab's stories, I was introduced to someone whom I am kicking myself for not mentioning in yesterday's blog post when I was listing science communicators, Dr. Oliver Sacks.  

You may not realize that you know of Dr. Sacks.  His first book as a neurologist, Awakenings, was made into a major motion picture with Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. I don't know if I realized it at the time, but this was "based on a true story".   It is quite a good film, and one that stuck with me throughout my life.

His style, not just reporting on the scientific facts of a case, but telling the story of the patient, the patient's feelings and journey, in beautiful prose split the scientific community.  Some felt his style was fame seeking, others looked at it as a throwback to 19th century medical histories.  Either way, his long and storied career came to a close very recently when he lost his battle with cancer.

So why am I putting together a post on him on an Epcot and Disney based blog?  Well, firstly, because I want to.  Secondly as a mea culpa for not mentioning him in yesterday's post.

More importantly however is how his writing style really fit hand and hand with what is missing from Epcot today.  He was able to take scientific topics and through narrative and wonderful writing, get us to connect with his patients in a deep way.  He took subjects that for the most part are treated as clinical and unemotional and he let us connect with the topic in a way that we can get not just the science, but what it means to us at a human level as well.

This is something that I think the designers of Epcot Center knew well.  They knew that science only takes you so far, but narrative and emotion (laughter, awe, excitement) are what form the bond with the individual that sticks with them.

Here is one of many appearances of Dr. Sacks on Radiolab, and I cannot recommend digging up the rest highly enough.  

His many books can be found on Amazon, his writing in the NY Times, and on quite a few Radiolab podcasts.   His autobiography was my Father's Day present this year, and sits on my nightstand.  

The Universe of Ellen's Energy Air Conditioned Napatorium

The Universe of Ellen's Energy Air Conditioned Napatorium

I had a request this weekend to talk about the Universe of Energy / Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  I’ve shared some opinions on this pavilion before, but I think I’m going to ignore those, not even look at what I’ve written before, and try and come up with some thoughts off the cuff.  That way it’s hopefully a take that is fairly reflective of my current thoughts.  

While my take will be fresh, my overall opinion on the pavilion itself hasn’t really changed.  The Energy Pavilion is one that I just don’t feel has ever really hit the mark.  Not in original Universe of Energy version, and not in the Ellen’s Energy Adventure version.  Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both I think just never measured up to the bar of the other pavilions in Future World, and with the topic itself.

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Horizons. A love letter.

Horizons.  A love letter.

The Disney Parks Blog this week has really been trolling me, and other lovers of Epcot Center.  There was the 13 reasons we still love Horizons, the Advice on the future from 80s Epcot, and the Horizons quiz.  They then fired a personal attack highlighting Kitchen Kabaret, which had to be targeted directly at me.  It HAD to be.  I’m the dude that spent hours last year drawing characters from Kitchen Kabaret to make my own personal T-shirt to wear specifically at WDW.  Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit 4 Life!

Anyway, sidetrack.  The Disney Parks Blog seems to be poking the stick at us grumpy original Epcot fans, there have been questions bouncing around akin to: “Is Disney bringing back Horizons?” (spoiler, no).  I think that it makes it as good a time as any to talk a little about what is mostly seen as Epcot Center’s prized jewel, Horizons.

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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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Toonification

Toonification

I had originally planned on talking about The Living Seas a little more today, but I think that it makes a more sense to delay that one post more so that I can have a bit of a setup for what’s coming next.  Then I can focus mostly on the idea itself in the next post.

Let’s talk for a moment about the concept of “Toonification”.  I’m not sure if this is the universally accepted word for the concept which I’m speaking about here, or if it varies in different circles of overly obsessed Disney Parks™ fans.  I think though that the concept itself is universal, even if opinions on it are not universally agreed upon.  Let me try and give it a bit of an Oxford Dictionary style definition:

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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”…