I am a 47 year old Disney geek and when I was in my early to mid-teens I had one objective and that was to get my hands on every piece of information and promotional material that I could about the planning, development and opening of EPCOT Center. I remember that I would write multiple divisions of the Disney company letters requesting information about the project. I would also head to the library and look up magazine and newspaper articles that made even a scant reference to the new park. I don't think I was ever as excited in my life as when the opening month of EPCOT approached. By the time October, 1982 was over I visited this new incredible entertainment spectacular for an entire week and the words EPCOT Center dominated the press and changed the vacation habits of millions of people.
But then something happened. Jump ahead some 30 + years and I can barely even crack a smile when I visit the Epcot of today. How could the Walt Disney Company deflate the excitement and Zen of this park from it's incredible hey day? In the late 70s and early 80s Disney management rallied everyone in the company around the concept of EPCOT. They were able to convey the importance that this project had on every nook and cranny of the corporation and extrapolate how the EPCOT concept dominated the corporation strategy for years to come.
Then Eisner and Wells came on board in 1984 and it was hardly a secret that the idea of EPCOT seemed to be way over their heads and nothing more than a big yawn to them (an expensive $1 billion dollar yawn). Next thing you know, the Disney characters get planted all over the place and soon after that a circus tent gets pitched over the Future World fountain and even Walt and Roy themselves were probably rolling their eyes. And then the ultimate indignity occurs with the decommissioning of the park's dynamic logo and the name is shortened to a simple "Epcot...the Discovery park" (the history of taxation sounds more exciting).
It's not that I don't accept change I realize it is necessary but the Epcot concept has been tweaked by various WDW management levels and regimes with their own personal agendas that what we now have today is a product that is so diluted and unclear that it hardly even seems like a viable product. If an Imagineer tried to pitch what Epcot is today in a design meeting he'd be laughed out of the building and forced to resign. In the words of Homer Simpson, "It's even boring to fly over it." - and I'm not sure that is due to the weighty science and culture theme as much as it is a reluctance to realize the park's potential. A Mt. Fuji bobsled ride or a Switzerland pavilion complete with a Matterhorn would have kicked up the wow factor for the park as would a Canadian white water rapids attraction. In Future World things comparable to Test Track would have given this section of the park the thrills it needed to compete with the Magic Kingdom yet stay true to the original concept of the area.
What are your thoughts...what is today's Epcot? What kind of park is it trying to be? When did it "jump the shark"? What can be done to save it? While it still pulls in attendance numbers today, I think the only reason it does this is because of the Disney Dining Plan. The wretched dining plan, the scourge that single handedly destroyed food quality at Walt Disney World, might have actually been one of the things that has inadvertently saved this park's attendance.