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  1. #1

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    The Epcot Conundrum

    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.

  2. #2

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    I agree EPCOT has lost its way, but the attempt to add Disney characters isn't one of them. I also don't know what type of park it wants to be. It seems to want to be what it always was, but less of it. Less educational, less pendantic; however, it did end up less inspirational and less interesting. It is a park that needs a new direction.

    I do think the name EPCOT is outdated. It needs to find a new name and message. They need to do this gradually over a period of 10 years.

  3. #3

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    for the masses, education does not equal fun. People don't pay the big bucks to go to an educational seminar.

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuhbau View Post
    for the masses, education does not equal fun. People don't pay the big bucks to go to an educational seminar.
    OK, I can respect that viewpoint. I think that the original EPCOT concept tried to execute the education portion in off beat and entertaining ways, the Kitchen Kabaret for example tried to be fun, but the Energy pavilion and movies like Symbiosis bored the socks off of everyone. And when one park has two Circlevision movies when there is already one up the road you are just asking for trouble. The odd thing is that later pavilion concepts like the Living Seas only seemed to get more boring and Mission Space just does nothing for me at all (and I love sci fi).

    So, if you make the assumption that Epcot was already a bore to begin with and that even improving it will yield half hearted attempts then what can be done? As the saying goes, you can add lipstick to a pig but it is still a pig. Is it time for a radicalization of Epcot including ditching the concept all together in lieu of something totally different. Is it possible to have an Epcot 2.0 or Epcot 3.0 or are we now in need of a "Theme Park # 2 Rebrand"?

  5. #5

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    I highly recommend you google "Some Jerk With a Camera: Epcot" and watch his hilarious and informative 3-part review on the park. He pretty much addressed everything about the problems in the park's early years spot on.

    I do think however that the reluctance in improving the park is due to the fact that many attractions in Epcot rely on a corporate sponsor. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this park has more "sponsored" attractions/restaurants/shops from outside companies than the other 3 at WDW does it not?
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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by toonaspie View Post
    I highly recommend you google "Some Jerk With a Camera: Epcot" and watch his hilarious and informative 3-part review on the park. He pretty much addressed everything about the problems in the park's early years spot on.

    I do think however that the reluctance in improving the park is due to the fact that many attractions in Epcot rely on a corporate sponsor. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this park has more "sponsored" attractions/restaurants/shops from outside companies than the other 3 at WDW does it not?
    That guy is great!

    Yes all the pavilions were built with sponsors in mind from Futureworld back. to World Showcase where contries were involved along with businesses. That was the business plan of Epcot.
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  7. #7

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    EPCOT has gotten stale. Disney doesn't invest anything in the park to keep it fresh and interesting.

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by toonaspie View Post
    I highly recommend you google "Some Jerk With a Camera: Epcot" and watch his hilarious and informative 3-part review on the park. He pretty much addressed everything about the problems in the park's early years spot on.

    I do think however that the reluctance in improving the park is due to the fact that many attractions in Epcot rely on a corporate sponsor. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this park has more "sponsored" attractions/restaurants/shops from outside companies than the other 3 at WDW does it not?

    I watched the Jerk Guy last night and laughed my socks off. He certainly did hit the nail on the head with a lot of his points.

    Back in the late 70s and early 80s the United States was a very different place - no cell phones, no internet, no instant communications except for television. In fact, the personal computer was a multi-thousand dollar luxury item that few homes could afford or even knew what the practical purpose for having one was (aside from playing games). On top of all of this, we were still in the middle of an intense cold war and Communism was enemy # 1. Considering the zeitgeist of the times I can see where Walt Disney Productions might think that Disney's view of world affairs and prosperity would be the logical organization to create a park concept loosely based on Walt's ideas for a future city and to make the park a showcase for all things safe, secure and happy.

    When the Iron Curtain fell and Communism was no longer the scare that it was, EPCOT Center seemed to become an also ran. A relic of the old days that people wanted to forget - the Cold War is so "yesterday" and the EPCOT park, not even 10 years old, was already passe'.

    The trouble with EPCOT Center I think is that it was built at the wrong time. If it was 20 years earlier I think it's relevance with baby boomers might be as high as the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland currently are. If it was built 10 years later than it was I think it would stand a better chance at still being relevant in the eyes of the public because the technology slant is common and recent. Now the place is some gangly joke and nobody knows what to do with it - it's akin to one of the lessor malls in a large city. The current owners and operators of the park, Mickey himself, certainly seem to be scratching his head trying to figure out what to do with it.

    At this point I think the only thing really worth saving at the park, and the one area that stands a chance of consistently standing the test of time, are the World Showcase aspects - build it and they will eat!!!! Probably Disney should expand World Showcase to a second ring of nations at the front of the current park and save a select number of Future World pavilions for some mankind as a whole generic theme related rides - obviously Spaceship Earth could survive with some global/brotherhood ride concept. I'm sure some of the other pavilions could be modified to themes around ecology and global cooperation but most of the other ride concepts like Imagination, Space, Health would be bull dozed over to make way for some new pavilions depicting the countries of the world (and of course they would have actual rides).

  9. #9

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    As someone who only gets out there every couple years, I find EPCOT to be a lot of fun. I enjoy all the world showcase stuff, but I can definitely see how itd be really stale for people that were frequent visitors.

  10. #10

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    I first visited EPCOT Center in 1987. It has since been my favorite of the WDW parks to this day. It's not as great as it was in its heyday, but still a lot of fun and the park I visit the most often. I've always seen the park as having a kind of World's Fair vibe, which I know the park has been compared to many times over the years.

  11. #11

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    World Showcase has nine pavilions without rides and five without any attractions at all. If Disney had focused on developing those instead of replacing existing attractions in Future World to court unnecessary sponsorships, the park would be in much better shape.

  12. #12

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuhbau View Post
    for the masses, education does not equal fun. People don't pay the big bucks to go to an educational seminar.
    That's why you can blend entertainment and education together to create edutainment.




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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by frollofan View Post
    That's why you can blend entertainment and education together to create edutainment.
    Exactly. And Edutainment is the way I love to learn. You have fun and learn a thing or two at the same time. When you associate being educated with a happy moment, you're more apt to remember it much more.

  14. #14

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    I love the World Showcase! I'd like them to add a few more countries in the "gaps." ...and yes, we love to eat in the different restaurants.

    As far as the "E.P.C.O.T." portion of the park - it NEVER WAS what Walt Disney envisioned, was it? An "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow." In Walt Disney's words: "EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise." Disney had actually gone that route, and had people living there, actually have cutting edge technology being used there - it might have been more interesting. Think of the new technologies they could try out. It could have been interesting to see it play out - like a long running reality show. Fact is, most guests have more technology in their pocket today than EPCOT showcases. So that was an original execution mistake...

    So then, what happened to EPCOT "as built" was destined to happen. They built all of those pavilions, and a third of them were duds. That's probably normal in the theme park biz. But why haven't they replaced Wonders of Life??? It looks bad for Disney to have it mothballed. The old Communicore has lost it's way - and Imagination and Energy always seem sparsely attended. Why not replace them? I'm turning this into a multi-billion dollar re-investment... so I guess that's why they haven't done anything with it.

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    Re: The Epcot Conundrum

    Quote Originally Posted by Whatsthegoodword View Post
    But why haven't they replaced Wonders of Life???
    Because it's used as a Festival Center during both Flower & Garden and during Food & Wine.

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