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  1. #1

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    "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Most people know that the traditional Disney characters were deliberately kept out of EPCOT when it first opened. Looking back, this seems like a foolish move on Disney's part. How can you possibly expect to visit a Disney park for any other reason than to see Mickey and pals? Why, there weren't even any movie-based rides! Not one! Just a lot of science and world culture stuff. Really now, why would anyone visit EPCOT's France except to meet Belle? The conventional wisdom says that Michael Eisner recognized the folly of this and set about "tooning up" EPCOT, thus saving the park.

    Another site has an article which shows this up for the myth that it is.

    The Miami Herald newspaper of Monday, September 28, 1981 declared the following:
    “With the opening of EPCOT Center next fall, Disney officials hope to launch an entirely new generation of lovable, laughable characters. To that end, they have banned Mickey Mouse from the elaborate new theme park and declared it the domain of new characters.

    “If Figment seems to capture the hearts of Disney guests, a well-orchestrated campaign will swing into action. Disney writers will create series of Figment adventure books. Figment T-shirts, keychains, mugs and charms will find their way onto souvenir racks.
    Dozens of other characters also will be born on the stages of EPCOT Center, and artists are now striving to develop individual personalities and voices for every one of them.

    “A single character, if he captures the public imagination could be worth millions to the company,” said one artist reverently, “You feel like you’re birthing a child.”

    See? Mickey was banned from EPCOT because 30 years ago, Disney wanted the parks to have their own characters, not give you 25 different versions of "Finding Nemo." Personally, I liked the parks a lot more before they became recursive brand experiences. If I want to see the movie again, I'll watch the DVD.
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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    But how are you going to get the idea to watch the movie again?
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  3. #3

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Now I want to know who these new characters were and how many of them if any ever made their way into the park. I know SMRT-1 was supposed to be Comunicore's friendly mascot. There were a few other robot walk around characters back in the early days. I wonder if this refers to them or a different set on non-robot characters. Were members of the Kitchen Kabaret getting prepared for their own set of nutrition based adventures? Were they planning on having characters for every pavilion? If so, what were they planning to do to make the Universe of Energy "lovable and laughable?"

    Even if they were waiting to see if Figment was a big enough hit before developing other characters, he was (and still is). The other characters must have had development at least started before the new team took over.
    It bothers me when people selectively edit quotes to support whatever point they are trying to prove.

  4. #4

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadway Guru View Post
    Most people know that the traditional Disney characters were deliberately kept out of EPCOT when it first opened. Looking back, this seems like a foolish move on Disney's part. How can you possibly expect to visit a Disney park for any other reason than to see Mickey and pals?
    This is a case of hindsight being 20/20. This was the first time ever that Disney opened up a 2nd park in a complex. They were on totally uncharted ground. Heck, they thought that there was no need to put a Pirates attraction in the MK, as they were close to the real Caribbean. And of course the number one complaint that first year was that there was no Pirates. It's easy to see now that there are certain elements that we all have come to expect in a Disney park. But at the time it was felt that E.P.C.O.T. could do without them. They found out very soon that they were wrong.

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    This is a case of hindsight being 20/20. This was the first time ever that Disney opened up a 2nd park in a complex. They were on totally uncharted ground. Heck, they thought that there was no need to put a Pirates attraction in the MK, as they were close to the real Caribbean. And of course the number one complaint that first year was that there was no Pirates. It's easy to see now that there are certain elements that we all have come to expect in a Disney park. But at the time it was felt that E.P.C.O.T. could do without them. They found out very soon that they were wrong.
    Ahem...well, actually, my point was that the old characters were kept out so that new characters could be developed, Figment for example. There's this school of thought today that says the parks should be only one part of a feedback loop to other Disney branded content. This is very different from the pre-Eisner Disney, which saw the parks as content producers in their own right.
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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    This is a case of hindsight being 20/20. This was the first time ever that Disney opened up a 2nd park in a complex. They were on totally uncharted ground. Heck, they thought that there was no need to put a Pirates attraction in the MK, as they were close to the real Caribbean. And of course the number one complaint that first year was that there was no Pirates. It's easy to see now that there are certain elements that we all have come to expect in a Disney park. But at the time it was felt that E.P.C.O.T. could do without them. They found out very soon that they were wrong.
    But with Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney recognized the mistake and brought the attraction to Florida. Why would so many of the same people suddenly become so stubborn with EPCOT?

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    One really didn't have anything to do with the other. I'm just saying that everything out in Florida was a new thing. They tried something, and it didn't work out the way they thought it would. Even Walt thought a circus would work in DL, and found out pretty quickly that it wouldn't.

  8. #8

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    There is a difference, though, between having Mickey and pals seen around the park here and there, and jamming every nook and cranny of the place, every attraction, every corner with Disney characters and movie tie-ins. To me, this was the real difference between classic EPCOT and EPCOT today.

    As for other potential characters, although it wasn't an original attraction, Capt. Eo featured a lot of characters that were available as plush toys and even some walk arounds.

  9. #9

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by Broadway Guru View Post
    Most people know that the traditional Disney characters were deliberately kept out of EPCOT when it first opened. Looking back, this seems like a foolish move on Disney's part. How can you possibly expect to visit a Disney park for any other reason than to see Mickey and pals? Why, there weren't even any movie-based rides! Not one! . . . .
    And isn't ironic that they made the same mistake when it came time for a 2nd Disney park to open in Anaheim, nearly 20 years later (with the exception of Bug's 3D movie, and the Animation Building)!

  10. #10

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by danyoung View Post
    One really didn't have anything to do with the other. I'm just saying that everything out in Florida was a new thing. They tried something, and it didn't work out the way they thought it would. Even Walt thought a circus would work in DL, and found out pretty quickly that it wouldn't.
    But that is another example of a rather quick reaction to a realized problem. I am not questioning if Disney could wrong, but why if they were often so quick to fix what was not working, why this did not occur with EPCOT Center. It was only the new people who seemed to find that suddenly there was a problem with EPCOT Center, a fault they saw not only at the EPCOT Center, but one that would ultimately be found at every Disney theme park.

  11. #11

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Way back in the old days seeing walk around characters at Disneyland was pretty uncommon too. They were used for television and other special events but weren't an every day thing for quite some time. I don't know when they started having costumed characters on a regular basis, but it certainly wasn't part of the original plan. When they did show up they were very popular so they decided to make better costumes and keep them around.

    Like Disneyland so many years earlier, EPCOT Center was supposed to be something new with new adventures, stories and characters. Now everything has to be an expensive book report about some successful and marketable movie. I guess the idea bag is full.
    It bothers me when people selectively edit quotes to support whatever point they are trying to prove.

  12. #12

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    If you want a good example of a Disney second gate that remains subtle with its inclusion of popular Disney characters without shoving them all in your face everywhere you go, look at Tokyo DisneySea. To me this is how Epcot should work.
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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by toonaspie View Post
    If you want a good example of a Disney second gate that remains subtle with its inclusion of popular Disney characters without shoving them all in your face everywhere you go, look at Tokyo DisneySea. To me this is how Epcot should work.
    Honestly, you could probably say that about anything about TDS. "If you want a good example of ______________, look at Tokyo DisneySea. This is how __________ should work." Put anything in there and it's probably true.
    I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds.
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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Yay, theme park madlibs!

    "If you want a good example of Handwiches, look at Tokyo DisneySea. This is how Balzac should work."
    It bothers me when people selectively edit quotes to support whatever point they are trying to prove.

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    Re: "EPCOT flopped w/o characters"--BUSTED!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dapper Dan View Post
    Yay, theme park madlibs!

    "If you want a good example of Handwiches, look at Tokyo DisneySea. This is how Balzac should work."
    Hahahaha, well... It works within reason
    I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was ever to grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits. For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds.
    -Walt Disney



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