Daily Figment 28


(Experimental Prototype Community of What We Thought Tomorrow Might Look Like in 1982 but Undershot and Actually got 1992 at Best)

With so much attention being placed on the developments at Epcot recently (i.e., the wand coming down, the addition of Nemo

to The Living Seas and the updated Three Caballeros attraction), I thought I would add my three cents. [ed. note-that’s one better than two.]

With so many positions and so many of them in direct opposition, even the majority of the posters out there that reside on either side of the fence would agree that Epcot is still fun, even though its mission may have become diluted or watered down. The intent of these ramblings is to bring us back to the center of the target; a collection of quotes and other media that will paint a broader picture of Epcot. To help us see this Disney Geek’s opinion of Epcot’s missed mission and therefore, its missed opportunity.

Let’s start with the obvious, an excerpt from a speech written by Marty Sklar and delivered by Walt Disney in 1966, outlining the tense of Epcot. Even if you have read this a thousand times, read it again and judge where we are today in the life of the park in the context of this concept introduction speech.

Epcot will be an experimental prototype community of tomorrow that will take its cues 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 systems. And Epcot will be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise.

Obviously you can make an argument whether or not these directives are being accomplished, but I would say that Epcot has strayed far from these concepts with the current changes at the park. While the mission above seems to be pretty clear, even in some of Disney’s own literature that came out later (Walt Disney’s EPCOT Center, 1981), the mission becomes a little more diluted. The focus of the passage below seems to move more towards entertainment:

While entertainment will continue to be a highly visible attraction of Epcot Center, it is the underlying educational value of Future World that is its most important contribution. Exciting, amusing, and fascinating as each pavilion is in itself, it is but an element of a project that may well be viewed as a springboard to our discovery of new worlds.

1966–no mention of entertainment as a focus. 1982–EPCOT seems to be about edutainment more than being a true city of tomorrow.

My main problem is that the city of tomorrow as envisioned in the 80’s was outdated in the late 90’s. I have visited Innoventions five times in the last 11 years and the last truly innovative thing I saw there was HD TV on display in 1996. I have made it a point, as I visit there, to look for the next new technology that blew my mind like HD did back in 1996. Since then, nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Soarin‘. Who wouldn’t? But is it a fulfillment of the Walt quote above? See, I think we are missing the point with all of this stress about the wand coming down and the Nemo overlay. It is certainly worth discussing, but for goodness sake, we are taking our eye off of the ball. The next person that argues that Mission: Space is an example of partnering with American free enterprise to showcase our ingenuity for the world is going to be flogged sixty times with a churro. Cool ride, yes, but innovative, not really. The centrifuge has been used since the 1700’s in scientific applications and has been used in the same application as Mission:Space for over forty years to train astronauts and pilots. Epcot has long missed the point. Until Disney frees itself of the nostalgia crunch it is currently in with this particular park, Epcot will never be what Marty and Walt envisioned in the sixties. It lived up to its original honus for approximately 12 years until the future the Imagineers dreamed of quickly passed them by.

Can we rip down attractions and put new ones up every time a new technology is invented? Of course not, but that is why the centerpiece of the park is the cradle surrounding Spaceship Earth…INNOVENTIONS. (Note to Imagineers: Sonic the Hedgehog video game is not innovative anymore)

My view of Epcot is colored to the point that I will always love it, no matter what future direction it takes, but how has missing the mark colored the park for the average ticket buyer? Watch this and laugh:

At first this upset me a little because I love Epcot so much that it made me feel defensive. But really, though, no really….this is so funny and so exaggerated that it reeks of the truth. Oh how I pine for what it must have felt like to walk through Epcot in 1982 and be blown away by Disney’s vision of the future.

Blow our collective minds Disney. We all know you can do it and we all have had it done at some point in the past. For the sake of Epcot and not Epcow, do it now.
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8 thoughts on “Daily Figment 28

  1. I don’t really think it’s fair to say that EPCOT is a failure today because it’s not what Walt Disney would have built – because EPCOT was never what Walt Disney would have built. What Disney wanted to build was a really creepy company town wrapped up in a hi-tech blanket which, assuming it wouldn’t have refired the public’s interest in utopianism, would’ve been embarassing and hated by the time American optimism died post Vietnam and Watergate. I’m not being severe; American taste changed in the mid-70’s from the futuristic to the nostalgic and EPCOT probably would’ve looked pretty tasteless.

    So let’s stop equating EPCOT Center with Walt Disney because the two shall never meet in the middle and instead say that yes, EPCOT has strayed from the goal of the park that was built – the whole place was a ticking time bomb anyway, ready to go off at the slightest unforeseen innovention. Although it did, for example, forsee the home computer, it didn’t forsee everyone using the internet.

    So in the spirit of further bringing us back to center, I’d like to plead for everyone to ignore Walt Disney in the EPCOT Center computation and instead focus on what the 1982 / 83 pavillions actually did. That’s one thing. What Disney wanted was another. What EPCOT is now.. well, that’s neither here nor there. =)

  2. I was at EPCOT its opening year. I found it fascinating as an emerging teenager that wanted to be ahead of the curve.

    I found that to this day, I look forward to Spaceship Earth and yes, the nostalgia of that noisy, almost scary geodesic sphere. The engineering feat to handle so much weight, turn you around backwards in a time when that wasn’t commonplace and stay cool as well.

    Two more notes…
    I hated the wand.
    Walt Disney was an amazine visioneer in the fact that he knew what he did not know and asked those who should. His drive to manage tasks and time is today a long lost work ethic.

  3. Foxx,

    First and foremost, semantically, Epcot IS a failure. Please understand what I am saying. I am not calling the fun place I visit every year with my kids a failure. That is not a real Epcot, though. Walt had a vision for a C.O.T. and it never really happened. Did the Imagineers make a cool park? Yes. Do I think it is a failure? No. But does it really fulfill the mission of being an experimental city of tomorrow? Failure….
    I simply believe it has become diluted/separated from what the original mission was. For goodness sakes, the name is Epcot. Community of tomorrow? Not hardly. If they couldn’t fulfill Walt’s original concept, they shouldn’t have called it Epcot. I cannot be the judge of how American tastes changed in the 70’s, but I can say that regardless of how they changed, they should have called it something else. A dream unfulfilled for certain… hence, the name of my post, Epcow.

    In addition, you ask that we ignore Walt in the Epcot equation because the two will never meet. I could not agree AND disagree more. I agree that we should not associate Walt’s Epcot vision with the current park because they don’t exist in the same philosophical stratosphere, but to separate Walt from anything Disney seems completely irrational to me. To separate Walt from even the current diluted Epcot is like separating the apple from the apple juice; it’s just water. Take Walt out of the Epcot equation and you have Busch Gardens. I just cannot agree with that concept…and that’s OK.

    Every successful vision to reality at Disney gives Walt credit in some way or another. Even the negative stuff I read about the company pushes the core concept that Walt drives what the firm does every day. (ie-Disney War) Every CEO has alluded to it, as well as honored and respected it (until they saw themselves as Walt, and not Walt’s stewards). I would guess (yes, just a guess) that if we asked a thousand Imagineers past and present that 990 of them if we should EVER separate Walt from the parks, the answer would be a resounding no.

  4. I say that a work of art has nothing to answer to except its’ own aesthetic principles and ideas, which is why I continue to say: disregard Walt Disney in the EPCOT equation. He wasn’t there for its’ creation, and holding EPCOT to task because it was not what he would have built is the same as saying Star Wars was invalid because it didn’t take place on a farm in Nebraska.

    EPCOT was the most unified park, conceptually and aesthetically, which had been built up to that point and I say that it ought to be held up to its’ own standard, not that of Walt Disney. I think that it surpassed the standard of Walt Disney personally, and as such can only be considered a success. Should it have been called EPCOT? No. It wasn’t really an EPCOT, but it was pure Disney in spirit. Regardless, and I again say, do not hold it up to the vision of Walt Disney; don’t make the same mistake Disney itself made in 1982. Because they didn’t build his crazy utopia city, based on finally seeing the infamous “EPCOT film” in its’ entirety a few years ago, ought to be taken for granted… Walt Disney was the only man in the world who would’ve done it.

    I’m simply arguing that from my standpoint and for my purposes (which admittably aren’t really the purposes of most people in the world), EPCOT should only be judged on what it itself brought to the table, and nothing more. And if, for the sake of a clearer picture, that means giving Walt the boot, so be it. I’m kind of crazy that way! =)

  5. Foxxfur is absolutely right, except that I don’t think the name Epcot is bad. The Community of Tomorrow in the Epcot ’82 refers to the community of the World Showcase, where one can visit the cultures around the world and where the countries get along.

    The name of EPCOT (1982), though standing for the same words, means something different from EPCOT (1966). Because of the exposure of the word, but not the universal understanding of the meaning, the EPCOT acronym is appropriate.

  6. I believe the point that everyone is missing here is that fundamentally you are in agreement. Shortchanging your review of someone else’s perspective simply because as humans we lose our ability to review critically when we have pre-determined a sense of attack.

    Everyone knows EPCOT is not a Walt Disney envisioned park as it is, but what it is, though brilliant and within its purpose, falls short of some individuals expectations of the Walt Disney experience.

    I think the point is that the corporate image understood that they were ready to let go of that expectation when they knew that the willingness to only make enough money left with Walt himself. Walt reinvested in his vision and was willing to fail for the faith he had in it. Any attempt to maintain a Walt’esque’ philosophy would have been a mistake.

    Some things you can copy flawlessly, some things you can attempt in vain and suffer failure, others you do the best you can to emulate.

    I am quite pleased that the readers of this are confident in their philosophies and intelligent enough to make their points effectively. Not the mention the writers are not intimidated by disagreement. Walt Disney couldn’t have been prouder.

  7. I can agree with that.

    And you are right about the riskiness of such a project as EPCOT ’66. Only someone with complete conviction in the ideas of such a venture, and I think that Walt Disney was the only man with money on the line in the project with that conviction.

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