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  1. #1

    • Mkcoastie
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    EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Hello fellow Micechatters!
    I've noticed a little bit of commotion on twitter lately that I wanted to comment on. I live in Virginia currently. Specifically, I live in southern Virginia.....about 30 minutes from Bush Gardens Williamsburg.....Or "Busch Gardens Europe" as the park is officially called. This park has always had a vague similarity to EPCOT (at least world showcase), in that it takes you through various countries. That general similarity in theme, however, is pretty much where the comparisons ended......until recently (within the last 5 years or so.) It is during this time that Busch Gardens has made some interesting changes that have lead some on twitter to refer to this park as the EPCOT of the north. I'm not happy with this. don't get me wrong, I like Busch Gardens, but.......

    I can certainly see why the comparison is being made. Apart from the same "around the world" idea that both parks share, Busch Gardens has now added even more parallel's. A new ride in which you soar above the world (sound familiar?), and the interestingly named "illuminights" night time spectacular are being complimented next year with Busch Gardens own food and wine festival! so is this park worthey of the EPCOT of the north moniker......to answer that question, we need a quick tour........

    you enter Busch garden through England......





    Not a bed entrance, and honestly quite pretty in person.....here is Epcot's





    I hardly think there is a comparison here. I like the entrance to Busch Gardens a lot, it has a very quant and festive feel to it.....but it is hardly world showcase quality. Next up in you trip around Busch garden's Europe is Ireland.







    This is a lovely land, and it benefits greatly from the very lush surroundings of southern Virginia that bush gardens is built around. It has a very "leprechauns and magic" feel to it, much more fantasy than realism. It's beautiful and fun. Now, obviously, EPCOT has no ireland to make a direct comparison to, so we will let this one stand for itself.

    Next up in our slow walk counterclockwise is the "land" known as jack Hanna's world reserve. This land has no theme. Not "it's themed badly" or "it has minimal theme", but "this land has no theme." it's kinda just a pretty wooded area with animals.......so, moving on....it's time for france!



    nice....., very "france" feeling....well, except for this...



    smack dab in the middle of France is the griffon. It is visible from pretty much anywhere in France and....well, I have no Idea what this has to do with France the country. Now Busch Gardens has coasters like this just about everywhere you look, I have no problem with this. At the end of the day Busch gardens is a coaster park. that's the primary purpose for it's existence. The theme surrounding the coasters is simply a nice setting for the main attraction. I applaud this, and any theming effort that they make in a coaster park. This however is where we see the real difference between EPCOT and Busch Garden. In EPCOT, the theme and emersiveness of world showcase IS the attraction, everything else is second. O.K., next up....


    New France?....





    O.K., so this land is basically colonial Canada, but that doesn't fit into the "Busch Gardens Europe" theme, so.....New France! because this land represents the french settlements in canada, i think it's only fair...........





    yeah, soooo.........

    next in Busch Gardens you have a mini-land of the alps that consists of the roller coaster Alpengiest. I guess this ride serves as an introduction to Germany (since the alps run through Germany). the ride is lightly themed with bits of snow here and there. Next is Germany......





    Germany in Busch Gardens has some very nice stuff, including the festhaus, with is just stunning inside. It is also surrounded by generic carnival games and rides such as a "scrambler" style ride. here is Epcot's direct comparison.



    Now, Ive shown you some nice pictures of Busch gardens's Germany. So far the land even seems to hold up well to EPCOT! But like all of the countries in this Virginia park, the themed buildings are just dressing for the rides. In this case, theese nicely themed buildings are surrounded by decidedly generic rides and carnival games





    Busch Gardens germany has a castle too. It's the show building for the Curse of DarkCastle:



    Nice, but unfortunately the themeing stops right around the side leaving a plain grey show building only slightly obscrured by tree's.

    next on our trip around the busch gardens globe is Italy.





    Once again, however, there is this.........



    This is Appalo's Charriot in the "festival" section of Italy. Thankfully, the connection between the coaster and the land is a little more clear here than in france.

    And now for comparison:





    Italy's big themed ride in Busch gardens is Escape from pompeii



    Once again, Nice......from the front. the Back is a generic warehouse. granted this warehouse is in a wooded area, but it is still very visable. The last two area's of Busch gardens are sesame Street Forest of Fun and Scotland. Forest of Fun is a huge dissapointment for me from a theming perspective:



    This kiddy land is nothing more than painted plywood. this actually saddens me. Sesame Street is a classic we all grew up on. it is a world rich with material....it deserves better than this.

    Unfortunately I could not find any pictures of Scotland other than it's roller coaster the Loch Ness Monster





    (disclosure: none of these are my photos, my thanks to the real photographers)

    This is another example of a main point. Busch garden is a roller coaster park. Thatís what it does well. The theming is just a environment into which roller coasters are placed. The rest of Scotland is a quaint, lightly themed area where the famous Clydesdales are kept. You have now been around the Busch gardens Europe World.........

    Conclusion:

    EPCOT is not perfect. There are many, in fact, who believe that it is a shadow of its former self. With that being said, however, there is a reason I still drive halfway across the country to visit EPCOT (even though I live right next to Busch Gardens). World Showcase in EPCOT stands on its own. It is an amazingly themed environment that immerses you in different cultures. The different pavilions in EPCOT surround you in culture and fantastic food. Walking around the pavilions can be just as enjoyable as any of the attractions. Busch Gardens is a great park. It's densely forested surrounding help to make it a beautiful park. It is not, however, a close comparison to EPCOT. It is a coaster park, and that's Ok.....great even, as long as you don't try to pretend it's something else. EPCOT it is not. I will probably go to the Busch Gardens food festival when it comes around. Iíll probably enjoy it....but the EPCOT food and wine festival does not have anything to worry about from this southern Virginia park.
    Last edited by mkcoastie; 12-10-2012 at 07:27 AM.

  2. #2

    • Minion
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    I really like this post and hope you continue. A while ago I did a series of posts on the Tier Levels of theme park design & execution and this illustrates perfectly the distinction between Tier I & II (or II & III).

    Several things factor in to what makes EPCOT Tier I and BGW Tier II:
    1. Design Priorities/Goals (BGW's aim is to include big-thrill, lightly dressed steel coasters)
    2. Budget Resources (The cost of fully-theme-ing big steel coasters is huge).
    3. Skill of Designers/Artists/Craftsmen. This factor is often overlooked and also has something to do with Factor 2 (the best people cost the most). It may be the most important. Given the same budget, a great Creative can achieve something outstanding, while the lesser skilled can achieve something not-as-great.

    I find it very educational to study the differences between Tier I & Tier II (the same concept executed at varying levels), such as these France environments:



    Clearly, EPCOT had brilliant designers.
    Last edited by RandySavage; 12-09-2012 at 11:51 PM.

  3. #3

    • Mkcoastie
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by RandySavage View Post
    I find it very educational to study the differences between Tier I & Tier II (the same concept executed at varying levels), such as these France environments:
    I just realized that i completely forgot to post any ECPOT france pics for comparason, thank you for fixing that for me. I totally agree with you. I think I would like to have read your posts on that.
    Last edited by mkcoastie; 12-10-2012 at 06:27 AM.

  4. #4

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Love the pics!
    For the love of Disney....

  5. #5

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    great post. And an interesting thought.

    Though in all honesty even if it is referred to as the "Epcot of the North" one must still know what Epcot is, and have had visited it, in order for the comparison to make sense.

    In the end we are comparing 1 park that gets 3 million visitors a year to another park that gets 10 million visitors a year.
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  6. #6

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    You forgot the new coaster that opened in the Germany area this year... Verbolten. It's where Big Bad Wolf used to be and is themed to a German car rental place or something like that. I don't have any photos but you can find lots easily using Google Images.

  7. #7

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    I'm going to go out on a limb and say it: Busch Gardens Williamsburg is my second favorite 'themed park' in the US. It opened with it's Europe theme BEFORE Epcot, and I think that for what it is, it's an amazing theme park.

    I love BGW. Many of these pictures don't do the park justice, as it's a beautiful park. The gardens are amazing, it's got a wonderful train, and it's a true park on various levels. Yes, some additions over the years have been a little bad (Forest of Fun and Festa Italia).

    The goal of BGW was to always just be a themed regional park, and the theming is excellent for that purpose. BGW has always been known for it's thrilling and new coasters, but it also has some of the best theming outside of Disney. Using their new coaster as an example, Verbolten, it's got a solid story - and is a great family coaster (less intense and more story than Screamin' for example).

    Also, BGW has some GREAT shows. I really like the Celtic Fyre show, with classic Irish dance, a fun plot, and some great performers. The Grimm is great for the kids, and adds to the well rounded aspect of the park.

    Curse of DarKastle uses the same technology as Spiderman at Universal, and while the plot isn't as good - it's still a solid attraction. Again, there's a well rounded set of attractions here. Classic amusement park attractions, fun dark rides, and thrilling coasters.

    I really like BGW - it's no Epcot, but it's goals are different and I think it's garden upkeep and diversity are much better than Epcot. Epcot wants to give you a taste for each country, while BGW just uses it as a setting and theme for a fun regional park. Remember, Busch is just a standalone park, and there's no hotels or other parks to make money off of.

    If you're ever up there, be sure to go. It's a nice park!
    -Monorail Man

  8. #8

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Awww The Big Bad Wolf is gone? I really liked that ride. It was the only coaster I've ever been on outside of Disney that attempted to tell a story and it did a pretty good job of it. It was also the first suspended roller coaster I ever went on and if I remember right one of the first ever built.

    I really like Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I've only been there twice, neither time recently but it's really well done for what it is. I noticed the similarities to EPCOT too and it's hard to compare to World Showcase which is arguably the best themed area ever built. Even as Future world has lost its way World Showcase has remained largely as it was when it was first built, which is to say beautiful.

    Growing up I may have even preferred Williamsburg to Busch Gardens Tampa. I was more of a coaster person then and Williamsburg definitely had more and better rides. I'm glad The Loch Ness Monster is still there. It's one of my favorite coasters, interlocking loops and a surprise inside the cave. I think it's by far the best east coast park outside of Orlando. If I had to compare it to something I'd say it's like the Knotts Berry Farm of the east.
    It bothers me when people selectively edit quotes to support whatever point they are trying to prove.

  9. #9

    • Minion
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    "North?" said the New Yorker.

  10. #10

    • Mkcoastie
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Monorail Man View Post
    I'm going to go out on a limb and say it: Busch Gardens Williamsburg is my second favorite 'themed park' in the US. It opened with it's Europe theme BEFORE Epcot, and I think that for what it is, it's an amazing theme park.

    I love BGW. Many of these pictures don't do the park justice, as it's a beautiful park. The gardens are amazing, it's got a wonderful train, and it's a true park on various levels. Yes, some additions over the years have been a little bad (Forest of Fun and Festa Italia).

    The goal of BGW was to always just be a themed regional park, and the theming is excellent for that purpose. BGW has always been known for it's thrilling and new coasters, but it also has some of the best theming outside of Disney. Using their new coaster as an example, Verbolten, it's got a solid story - and is a great family coaster (less intense and more story than Screamin' for example).

    Also, BGW has some GREAT shows. I really like the Celtic Fyre show, with classic Irish dance, a fun plot, and some great performers. The Grimm is great for the kids, and adds to the well rounded aspect of the park.

    Curse of DarKastle uses the same technology as Spiderman at Universal, and while the plot isn't as good - it's still a solid attraction. Again, there's a well rounded set of attractions here. Classic amusement park attractions, fun dark rides, and thrilling coasters.

    I really like BGW - it's no Epcot, but it's goals are different and I think it's garden upkeep and diversity are much better than Epcot. Epcot wants to give you a taste for each country, while BGW just uses it as a setting and theme for a fun regional park. Remember, Busch is just a standalone park, and there's no hotels or other parks to make money off of.

    If you're ever up there, be sure to go. It's a nice park!
    I actually agree with you wholeheartedly. It IS a beautiful and very fun park. I've had season passes to it every year I've lived here (up till this year.....it was transfer season and we didn’t know if we would be staying in VA). I think what angered me enough on twitter to come and rant on Micechat was the idea that Busch Gardens was equivalent to EPCOT. Perhaps some context is needed. These are the actual tweets that sent me off the edge:





    Theme park insider has almost 12 thousand followers.

    So, please....don't take this post the wrong way....I love Busch Gardens. It actually is some of the best themed environments you will find outside of Orlando or Anaheim. I just don't think it should be thought of like this. Let Busch Gardens be its own park. It's truly unique.....it's not the new EPCOT.

    (oh and as for @Stingray_travel's remarks...if they ever build an unthemed wooden roller coaster in EPCOT, I will personally rip it down board by board.)

    (I would, however, love a good wooden roller coaster in Busch gardens)

  11. #11

    • Mkcoastie
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dapper Dan View Post
    Awww The Big Bad Wolf is gone? I really liked that ride. It was the only coaster I've ever been on outside of Disney that attempted to tell a story and it did a pretty good job of it. It was also the first suspended roller coaster I ever went on and if I remember right one of the first ever built.
    Yes, sadly it was removed. This hit my son very hard. He got a roller coaster addiction after his first ride (er.....5 consecutive rides) on the Barnstormer when he was only 2 and a half. The Big Bad Wolf was the first adult roller coaster he could ride. He ADORED that ride. I quite enjoyed it too. It was really sad to see it go. You are correct; it was the first suspended roller coaster. I believe the reason they gave for its removal was that it had become difficult to repair and almost impossible to get parts for it anymore. Still.....it will be missed.

  12. #12

    • Mkcoastie
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by aimster View Post
    You forgot the new coaster that opened in the Germany area this year... Verbolten. It's where Big Bad Wolf used to be and is themed to a German car rental place or something like that. I don't have any photos but you can find lots easily using Google Images.
    That was purposeful omission. I have not yet personally seen or rode Verbolten yet (sadly, no season pass this year). I didn’t want to comment on it without first hand knowledge.


  13. #13

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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    It's simply not a fair comparison. I agree with Monorail Man for the most part, although since EPCOT is my favorite park ever I can't say BGW is better, but it's not necessarily worse either.

    Are the similar in a way, absolutely, but they are just different enough to be unique. Like Monorail Man, BGW is my favorite non-Disney "theme" park, hands down, no contest. It's simply got anything and everything anybody would want to do from world class coasters, great shows, fantastic foods, amazing gardens and special events.

    I honestly don't see why EVERYTHING has to be compared to Disney. The world is big enough for the Disney's and the non-Disney's. Not everybody can afford Disney (and they are making sure of that).

    As for Verbolten, it was quite simply my favorite new attraction that I rode this year, better than RSR. It's an absolutely PERFECT fit for the park.


  14. #14

    • Mkcoastie
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    Re: EPCOT of the North.....or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by sir clinksalot View Post
    It's simply not a fair comparison. I agree with Monorail Man for the most part, although since EPCOT is my favorite park ever I can't say BGW is better, but it's not necessarily worse either.
    You know, I agree with this statement. That’s probably what goaded me so much about those tweets in the first place. The idea that bush Gardens is like EPCOT, or that EPCOT should get roller coasters like BG. at the end of the day I wanted to show that the two parks simply are not the same thing. They have different goals and each achieves them wonderfully.

    *on that note however, I do think "Land of the Dragons" (a fantastic kids play area I didn't mention) would benefit from Figment....................then again I feel that way about most things. I just like Figment.

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