If you criticize a theme park, are you still a fan?
Theme Park Insider readers started a great discussion last week, following my post ranking the world's top Disney theme parks
. Thanks to everyone who contributed, and I'd like to continue the debate over what I thought was the strongest disagreement:
Where to rank Epcot?
The Imagination pavilion - one of the targets that most needs help at Walt Disney World's Epcot
I ranked Epcot ninth of the 10 Disney theme parks I rated, beating only the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. My reasons? According to Theme Park Insider reader ratings, Epcot has fewer top-rated attractions than any other Disney theme park in the United States. I agreed with those numbers, and believe that, with Epcot, Disney's failed to reach a park's potential more than with any other of its U.S. theme parks.
Placing Epcot last among Disney's U.S. theme parks was a tough call for me. Whenever I visit Orlando, Epcot's the first Disney park I want to visit. It's home to one of my all-time favorite attractions, Impressions de France, and I love walking around World Showcase, sampling food here and there, and browsing the shops.
But looking in stores and noshing is what you do at a mall, not a theme park. Without more top-rated attractions, Epcot's devolved into Disney's Fancy Outdoor Shopping Center. People paying Walt Disney World rates deserve a full-day, world-class, themed-attraction experience from Epcot. While attractions such as Mission: Space, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin' have their fans, your own cumulative reader ratings say they simply don't match the line-up of top attractions found at Disney's other theme parks in the United States and Japan.
Disney can do better with Epcot, and as fans, I think we have an obligation to say that. It's our money Disney wants to earn. If we fail to tell Disney - or any other business - what we want, clearly and repeatedly, none of us have much standing to complain when we they offer us weak choices instead.
That's why I cringe when some people react as if fans should be volunteer public relations staff for their favorite theme parks, always focusing on the positive, and trying either to ignore problems, or at least give them the best possible spin.
While I appreciate the passion these fans show for their favorite parks, I think, ultimately, they're being played for fools. Positive word of mouth, in person or online, tells a business all's well, and that the public loves its product. It doesn't need to make changes. When when the rest of the skeptical (and silent) public fails to buy in, all that happy talk online encourages a business to blame external factors, such as the economy, the weather, or something else, instead of taking a hard look at its own, inferior product.
I prefer to see fans be as willing to stand up to businesses as they are to stand up for them. Look, Disney World's doing a lot of great things - it's substantially improving the Magic Kingdom, and it offers a wide variety of themed hotels with sometimes excellent value. But I also believe that Disney World's cruising on its reputation. Many fans simply assume Walt Disney World's theme parks are better than those at Universal Orlando or Disneyland. Or they believe it's impossible to afford a vacation to Tokyo. Let's face it - the average Orlando theme park visitor isn't as well informed about global alternatives as the average reader of websites such as Theme Park Insider. So long as public consensus says Walt Disney World's the best, that's what they will believe.
Of course, over time, that public consensus will change, as more people visit alternatives such as Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney California Adventure's Cars Land. But if Disney waits until that perception changes to address Walt Disney World, it will left its flagship resort crippled for years to come.
Look at what's happening in Florida now, and it's apparent that Disney realizes this. The next phase in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland Expansion opens this November. Disney's said to have begun construction on Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Help is on the way for two of WDW's four theme parks.
But what of the Disney Hollywood Studios? And what about Epcot?
I want Disney theme park fans to keep up the pressure - to keep their focus on what needs improving in the Disney Parks chain even as we celebrate all that's Disney's done right within it, as well. That's why, starting next week, I'll be launch a new weekly miniseries on Theme Park Insider, where we talk about a popular theme park that needs some fixing to return it to world-class status. We'll be soliciting your ideas on what these parks can do to earn not just your money, but your well-deserved praise. So let's start thinking about what we'd like to see from the parks that want our business.
Monday, August 13 Tuesday, August 14, we'll start with... of course, Epcot.
If you are a child or someone whose main purpose of the trip is thrill rides, I can see Epcot not being your favorite park.....
Constructive criticism is a sign of true love. However, tearing down without building up - we reserve that kind of ire for Six Flags parks! =)
Spot on Robert! I love everything Disney, however, Epcot does need a good injection of "pixie dust" to liven things up.
When I came from Europe 25 years ago I was going to fulfill a dream I had as a kid, visiting Disney World. A kid from my school had been there and his vacation slides he presented made me want to go there (the second dream was visiting the pyramids in Egypt).
Your not a true fan of themeparks if you don't have ideas of your own to male it better. I'm a diehard miami dolphins fan an I criticize them everyday
You can absolutely be critical of something that you like/love. The problem I have is when people seem to be "destructive" in their criticism. For example Robert, you say Epcot needs more top rated attractions. You don't say things like "Why are they redoing Test Track? It was fine the way it was. It looks like Tron. Tron is stupid. They need to spend money on a new e-ticket. But if they made a new e-ticket, TDO would cut the budget in half. How come they can redo TT but they can't bring back Lights of Winter?"
Nothing is perfect, including Disney. Wherever there is room for improvement, there is room for criticism. And considering that just about any Florida theme park would be my second home if I had the money, I say criticize what could be improved. You are still a fan.
I think there are faults with damn near everything. Yes, I criticize my favorite parks (which, for the record are Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point, and Disneyland) as I want to see them get better. I absolutely adore Busch Gardens Williamsburg, love every aspect of the park, but I want them to make it even better. Strive for constant improvements.
If you criticize, it means you care. I friend of mine put it eloquently (we were both cast members at WDW at that time): "My favorite park is Animal Kingdom. And Epcot. And Magic Kingdom of course. But not MGM."
Of course you can criticize something and still be a fan of it… Heck, are you married.. Hahahah
I'm all for constructive criticism. That's what the American Idol, America's Best Dance Crew, and X-Factor fans don't understand. The judges aren't being mean, they're trying to provide feedback for improvement. Disney needs that for WDW.
Epcot's Future World was a great concept, but the upgrades changed the original concept; Horizons and World of Motion were rides about learning the past, present and future of humanity. On the other hand, Mission Space and Test Track are rides just for thrills. Epcot is losing its original appeal.
Hey, don't take criticism of you personally although it might hurt. The best way to punish bad behavior is the criticize it and you felt it with your own criticism. Thus, keep up the criticism of Disney.
I like Epcot. Sure, it doesn't have a ton of super-awesome rides, but it's mildly nostalgic, and the World Showcase is one of the coolest places in a theme park. As far as what's already there, sure, Horizons is gone, and so is Body Wars and the majority of the pavilion it was in, but Mission: Space and Test Track are pretty cool rides. Imagination is a great way to beat the heat, since it's never full and it's a pretty relaxing ride.
The world showcase should not have anything done to remodel it at all. It is highly enjoyable by fans of young and old, and it truly does immerse you into all the different countries while you are there. AKA "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Now, on the other hand, Future World needs some work. I'm not saying go and remodel all of spaceship earth; simply put, the rides are not the reason people choose to go there. I cannot think of the last time I can remember someone actually being excited to see The Land or even the Living Seas for that matter. Maybe a coaster (Tron anyone?) and a animatronic ride (Wall-E??) would make it a much longer stay for everyone
i think disney world capitalizes on the idea that the sum of all the parts makes up for each individual park....3 of the 4 parks need a lot of work in them but its not going to happen (at least for a while) nobody is really pushing them attendance wise...
Excellent points, Robert! I have long found EPCOT to be such a beautiful park with so much potential that just seems to fall short on the attractions side of things. They have so many roads to take with the theming in World Showcase and Future World, all they need is the thought and planning to be targeted towards some stellar Disney rides.
You are absolutely still a fan if you criticize. It means you still care. The problem, as I see it, is that the super "pixie dust" addicted fan base's screams of FOAMER!!11! sort of drowns out the voices of those that want the parks to reach their full potential. That's why I like this site so much, is the levelheadedness of the users and authors. Anyone else frequent other fan forums and sites? It gets scary. Anyone that criticizes is automatically labeled a "hater" and told "not to go anymore if they don't like them so much." Of we course we still like the parks, we just want to them to be the best parks that they can be. Disney set the bar high, they should keep striving to reach and exceed that level of greatness. It's not the guests or fans fault that Disney sometimes fails to meet those standards. I am looking forward to your new feature Robert!
Yes, you can criticize a park and still be a fan. In fact, you should do so if you are a fan. No matter what people say, I don't think it is possible to make a perfect park. Even at my favorite parks, I always find things that could be improved. Of course, criticism should be constructive, and should be intelligent. I hate it when people say "tear down xx and build a 500 ft coaster" or "Disneyland is a kiddie park, they need more extreme thrill rides," etc. because comments like these are meaningless. I highly doubt most parks have the budget for a 500 ft coaster, and Disneyland will never be a thrill park. However, something like "Six Flags Magic Mountain really needs to train the Tatsu crew to be more efficient" is perfectly valid since it is a major flaw that can easily be corrected by the park.
sooooo much to say and so little time... mmmm. im going to write a nice response to all of this im just going to post this for now :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC5zts4ZsGo
The problem that Epcot is having with Future World is how to keep the sense of Future. Instead of creative rides about the future in a classic "DISNEY" way, they're building rides that contain futuristic technologies and concepts. It's hard NOT to compare old Epcot to new Epcot.
I sent this to screamscape. I hope Lance posts it for I know a lot of people do read his website as well. I think we really bring this whole issue to light.
I am a huge fan of Epcot, although it does show a very romantic view of all the counries in world showcase i guess that what really appeals. I think EPCOT is a very misunderstood themepark, its nice to actually get away from the Micky and co for a day and see rides and attractions that dont have the your usual disney characters plastered all over everything. I guess like anything new themes and rides will be very costly, if i had a say in what was going in I would certainly love to see more country centric rides for example China maybe a ride with a flying Kite theme or a 3d tour of chinas diverse flora and fauna.. Japan the bullet train ride ( which i hear has been an idea that has been knocking about for a while ) Germany maybe some kind of ride on the history of music making use of the latest audio technology. Canada Grizley river rapids as mentioned by other readers, UK, Mary Popins or a replical of the London eye ( maybe not as big ), these are some of my ideas, certainly it seems that the back end of world showcase US and beyond they either ran out of time, money or ideas or all 3 but that park of the park seems a bit weak. As for headline rides, well I'm kinda in the camp that says EPCOT isnt IOA or Busche Gardens it has its only very unique feel and atmosphere so I hope it keeps its core values. Given the choice of missing out on a park i'd happily miss out on IOA and keep EPCOT... so maybe EPCOT is just doing what it set out to do appeal to those people that want something a bit different and stimulating... in my opinion I hope that themeparks dont go down the Micheal Bay route... lots of noise lots to look at but nothing that stimulates the brain......
The best parts of EPCOT are not rated on this site. The shows, the experience, and yes, the rides.
Although Epcot is still my favorite park, it does need some help and has been ignored for several years.
I personally think that USF is severely lacking good attractions compadres to IOA and USF really needs some changes. BAD.
I like the points made by the number person! I will admit, Future World does need some rehab. I actually like Innoventions, but I am a science nerd! I always enjoy the House of Tomorrow!
I've named EPCOT my favorite theme park for years, but I've begun to wonder. I still love the overall atmosphere of walking through Future World and World Showcase. No park can match it; the closest for me is Disneyland. But there's a point where the attractions are getting embarrassing. Ellen's Energy Adventure, Journey Into Imagination, the Mexico boat ride, the descent of Spaceship Earth, and parts of the Living Seas. Plus, we have an empty Wonders of Life pavilion and Mission Space, which is just okay.
Part of the success of DCAs reopening is by putting more of Disney characters and stories into the park...little mermaid, cars, classic 1920s and 30s characters in Buena vista street and more. That being said wouldn't the new rattatouille ride fit in perfectly in the France pavillion? How about a Mulan dark ride in China?
I've been mulling over this post for a few days.
Thank you, Robert! I get so tired of people saying you are a "hater" if you have the least criticism of their favorite park. Nothing is further from the truth!
Epcot was actually designed to be an actual city of the future by Walt, it never happened and became just a park. Why I criticize WDW so much is that I used to love going down to Disney when I was a kid to my teen years. I loved and was amazed at everything even before downtown disney, animal kingdom, and MGM now Disney Studios. I remember getting this card, it wasn't a dinner card but a full access card that let you do anything like dine at the most fantastic restaurants or use the speed boats from the Polynesian sipping the pineapple mixture through the actual pineapple there. We stayed at the Polynesian when the Grand Floridian wasn't even built. My parents said it was one of the best vacations we ever took because to stay and get those cards was a great value. After that year they stopped doing the cards and started having multiple price level hotels in years to follow and prices sky rocketed to where we could not afford to stay at a place like the Polynesian and they took out the pineapple drink in the pineapple....damn them lol. We stayed at a "moderate" hotel about 12 years ago and it was like staying in a motel 6 dressed up. The prices were astronomical for the "grand" hotels and they still are.
@David Brown: You missed some attractions and shows that are new:
The number person made good points. After Pandora, Epcot is going to need some work.
I like WDW, but also enjoyed going to IOA and Sea World. EPCOT was probably the last original park idea at Disney. It seems that DHS and AK were made to offer alternatives to USF and Sea World or Busch Gardens. Also, I've heard that the DCA expansion had more to do with crowd control at DL. If we apply that template to WDW, then it becomes apparent that the other parks serve as crowd control for MK. There are just enough attractions to draw crowds to lessen the impact on MK. I wonder if the bean counters are a little slow on the draw because they like this idea. New E-tickets are nice, but they increase attendance and congestion for an already overcrowded resort during peak season. They seems to only respond to threats -- WWOHP leads to Avatar. However, it seems they still follow the current paradigm. Just enough of an alternative to keep the crowd at the resort and crowds under control.
Todd...you can easily find a hotel across the street from Disneyland for 75-150$ a night depending on your budget. Its just not smart to stay on site when you can stay off site and only a 5 - 10 minute walk from Disneyland for a fraction of the cost. My favorite is best western pavillions. Its usually 80-90 $ and is very good quality feeling for the price. And some offer free shuttle service to the park also so you may not even need to walk! I stayed at the Sheraton(looks like a French castle) for 150$ and it had free shuttle service. Just find Disneyland on Google map and type hotel in the search bar and you'll see there are many affordable options for you!
I have always LOVED EPCOT and no trip would have been complete without visiting that park. But on our last visit earlier this year, I found myself "tired" of EPCOT. I couldn't wait to get off of those boats in Mexico. It used to be my favorite attraction (the atmosphere of the marketplace, the restaurant and the "ride" all worked together). I totally agree the "ride" needed to be updated, but this Duck Three Caballeros mess destroyed whole experience. The ride has been "disneyfied"... it's a cartoon experience that belongs in the Magic Kingdom. Gone is the true visit to Mexico. I don't think I'm alone with this opinion-- there are NO lines. Nobody wants to ride it.
Your missing my point, I know there's a lot of places to stay right next to disney land for a fraction of the cost and I'm looking at a couple cause I am never going to pay that for a hotel room thats basically a lodge, wouldn't pay that for any room anyway. My point is the cost of staying, eating, and being disney is not what the man that created disney was all about. It's lost its magic for me. I'd rather spend it at universal or cedar point where my dollar goes farther than disney and at universal it exceeds many of the qualities that disney held for so many years. Cedar Point is adding elements and rides on a yearly basis and I've grown up with cedar all my life so it holds something special for me, why go to MK for some pretty average rides, pay more than 100 dollars for a day, eat subpar food for outlandish prices, and for most have to travel a long distance. Instead I have to go about 2 hours, stay in a pretty nice historic hotel for less than half what I would pay at an equal disney hotel, get into a park that is less than 50, has world class thrills, is named the best amusement park by golden ticket like 12 years in a row, and now has some good restaurants that won't put a hole in your wallet. I've been many times to Kings Island and is owned now by the same company and I've had similar experiences. This expansion that MK is doing is not nearly enough. Going back to Universal especially when they have the new potter rides is almost a must because that story invites all not just little kids that want castles. I am sorry to any Disney fans but the whole theming of the WWoHP is the best hands down, from the people dressed up in costume in the middle of summer and the chilled butter beer tasting like pure tasty deliciousness, not to mention the buildings and the the tasty meals at the three broomsticks. Thats what I want on vacation to have a total sensory overload and disney's falling short on value, theming, thrills, and good food for a reasonable price.
Here are a few attraction ideas I have for EPCOT.
Yes, of course! Proper criticism is used as trying to help the park become better. If you don't tell the manager in a restaurant about bad service or food, how do you expect it to get better?
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