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Why America needs Epcot... and other 'non-fiction' theme parks

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Published: February 4, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Should Disney replace Epcot's Maelstrom with a Frozen-themed attraction? Should it put a clone of Disney Studios Paris' upcoming trackless Ratatouille ride in the park's France pavilion? What about an Alice in Wonderland ride for the United Kingdom?

Many Disney fans have tried their best to fuel rumors about each of these ideas, no doubt reflecting a frustration with a park that's not added a new national pavilion since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. But beneath the issue of whether Disney should develop these specific attractions lies a deeper question: Should Disney develop Epcot as a non-fiction theme park?

Mission Space
The Mission: Space pavilion at Walt Disney World's Epcot

Epcot was Disney's first theme park that didn't copy the original Disneyland "Magic Kingdom" template. Inspired by World's Fairs, Epcot offered a blend of corporate-supported, forward-looking exhibits promoting technology coupled with national pavilions celebrating the cultures of selected nations around the world. What Epcot didn't offer was Disney characters. The stories Epcot told were non-fiction. Sure, the national pavilions might reference their nation's folk tales, but that was done within the context of a non-fictional look at each nation. (Disney created new cartoon characters for Epcot's Imagination pavilion, but imaginary characters are as necessary in an Imagination pavilion as plants in The Land and fish in the The Living Seas.)

Not long after the park's opening, Disney accommodated visitors' many requests, and scheduled regular appearances by Mickey and friends in Epcot. But the non-fiction focus of the park remained otherwise non-diluted until the Finding Nemo overlay of The Living Seas pavilion in late 2006 and Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros revamp of El Rio del Tiempo in 2007. Still, these fictional characters served as "hosts" of what remained, at their heart, non-fictional tours of real places.

While a Frozen ride might fit well thematically within Epcot's Norway pavilion — and any well-executed new attraction would provide a welcomed upgrade from the unloved Maelstrom — Epcot would cross a line that separates it from other non-animal theme parks by introducing an attraction driven by a fictional narrative, with fictional characters, in a fictional setting. That's the realm of the Magic Kingdom, Islands of Adventure, and all other narrative-driven theme parks.

Why is this important? Wouldn't fans love the introduction of additional wonderful stories and characters in complementary settings within Epcot? Of course they would. But there's an opportunity cost to those additions.

A devil's advocate might consider non-fictional themed entertainment to be the work of museums, not theme parks. And many museums have hired creative design firms that have worked on theme parks to develop exhibits for their facilities. (Look at BRC Imagination Arts' award-winning work on the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for one example.) But museums' first responsibility is to educate —, to engage the mind, even if it sometimes goes for the heart to get there.

Theme parks flip that script. They work first to entertain, and that allows theme parks to serve a complementary role to museums. Talking with many people who worked with Walt Disney, it becomes clear that one of Walt's distinguishing characteristic was an insatiable curiosity. Walt loved science and technology. The world fascinated him. He devoted episodes of his Disneyland TV show to space exploration, working with rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. Disney produced more than a dozen True-Life Adventures nature documentaries. Disney both reflected and helped cultivate a Modernist viewpoint in popular culture that inspired curiosity about the world around us as well as the belief that we, collectively as a human race, could help make that world better.

Of course, Disney didn't create these projects just to satisfy his curiosity. Those projects created IP [intellectual property] that helps populate the Tomorrowland and Frontierland sections of Walt's Disneyland park. As Imagineer and Disney Legend Tony Baxter said in his interview with Theme Park Insider last fall, everything that went into Walt's theme park reflected some company IP. If the park designers wanted to do something original, Walt and his team worked to create some IP in other media to support the project in the parks.

Such as it should be (and, financially, would have to be) with any new "non-fiction" attractions in Epcot. Any new project in Epcot, or any other theme park, needs to make money for the company. But producing non-fiction entertainment lies within the Walt Disney Company's DNA, from yesterday's True-Life Adventures and Disneyland episodes to today's DisneyNature feature films and ESPN "30 for 30" documentaries. If the Walt Disney Company wanted to create non-fiction IP to support a complementary attraction at Epcot, it employs and contracts with the talent to do that.

And it should. Why? Because we don't live in Walt Disney's world anymore. Popular curiosity in, and support for, science and culture can't be taken for granted, as it could in the United States more than a generation ago. While Walt Disney's passion for science and culture reflected his Modernist era, public figures today too often embrace hostility toward science, education, and multi-culturalism — the thematic foundations of Epcot. Just look at the increasing number of attempts to attack the teaching of science in our schools, the harassment of climate scientists, and, most recently, the xenophobic freak-out over a mere soft-drink ad, for heaven's sake.

Forget about teaching people about the world around them. We need someone to step up and help people fall in love with the very idea of learning something about that world, first. Unless people open their minds to discovery, they'll never bother to listen and learn. And the best way to get people to open their minds is to start by touching their hearts. Love, then learn.

That is why we need a non-fiction theme park. A society where science, education, and cultural diversity are under attack needs a place where people can fall back in love with the wonders of discovery. Museums can teach, but theme park entertain, and in doing so, have a wonderful opportunity to create emotional connections between people and ideas. (Update: I first decided that I liked history not because of any class in school, but because of Mr. Peabody and the Wayback machine. And my first thought of science being something cool was when the Mighty Microscope "shrunk" me in Disney's Adventures through Inner Space.)

No company has done a more effective job of that over our lifetimes than Disney. Walt Disney knew that his creative team could make people fall in love with Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, and Mickey Mouse. But he knew that team could make people fall in love with space exploration, nature, chemistry, and other non-fiction topics, too. We could use a little bit more of that love in America today. A reinvigorated Epcot could help cultivate that love. And that is the opportunity cost of letting Epcot slide into just another cartoon-character theme park.

Update: [Feb. 5, 5:22 pm] I chose in this piece to make explicit some example of how modern American society disrespects science rather than just playing it vague. Aaaaaand, predictably, some Theme Park Insider readers who get their information from people who don't stand on the side of science have reacted negatively in the comments.

Theme parks, obviously, don't want such conflict among their fans. They want happy customers, spending money. So ditching non-fiction themes in favor of cartoon characters allows them to keep everyone happy and spending. That gives Disney many millions of reasons to bring in Frozen and let the World's Fair stuff go.

But if I could quote a Universal-licensed property for a moment and reference Harry Potter: "We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy." Those who oppose science can't win because they have no evidence on their side. They can, however, gin up an ugly "controversy" that kind, reasonable people would rather avoid. And by conditioning people to avoid all those "controversial" things that science discovers, they turn a society away from science. Mission accomplished.

So Disney faces a choice with Epcot: To do what is right, or to do what is easy. The easy thing is to bring in the 'toons, and quit talking about science. (As the easy thing for me to do as a publisher would be to avoid this issue altogether.) But that, alas, is not the right thing to do for a society that needs to reconnect with the enlightenment of great science, once again. That's why I wrote this post. And that's why I hope the Walt Disney Company rediscovers its founder's love of science and world around us and starts using its theme park story-telling talents in the non-fiction realm once again.

(And, by the way, we love *all* our readers here. Everyone is welcomed to participate in the community. Just play nice, as Woody says.)

Readers' Opinions

From 173.230.2.219 on February 4, 2014 at 12:07 PM
No thank you to Frozen. While on Maelstrom I thought about how it could be altered for thrill-seekers, but that's not the point of the ride. Anyway, it should stay the same, unless they add more trolls and stuff. That would be fun.
From Tim Hillman on February 4, 2014 at 1:39 PM
My goodness, Robert! First you slam the anti-animal captivity crowd, and now you're after the folks who dare to question the motives of the global warming crowd and the evolutionists. That's kicking over ant nests on the left and the right. Some people try to have all of the fun. ;)

Seriously though, I didn't look at the Colbert link in your post because I find the man and his humor detestable. It's okay to knock public figures when they cross the line, but Cobert just goes way too far and seems to have respect for no one but himself. No matter how right he may be in the point he's trying to make, the way he goes about it is vile, and I don't care to listen to him one bit.

As far as the global warming scientists go, you need to keep in mind that a good portion of their income is derived from getting grants to conduct more studies to confirm the same results they obtained with their previous studies. They have a bias, and that bias is going to affect my life and the lives of my children in adverse ways. Right now, their solution to global warming is to take money out of my pocket and give greater control of my life to environmentalists and the government.

Until the global warming scientists can conclusively prove that global warming is caused by man and not a naturally occurring event and that there are concrete actions that we can take that will actually make a difference, I'm not buying into the hype. All I've seen so far is pie-in-the-sky nonsense like carbon credits making snake oil salesmen like Al Gore even richer. I guess that helps him pay for heating and cooling that humongous house of his and putting fuel in that private jet that he travels around the world in. Meanwhile, the efforts of the global warming scientists are giving the government the power to tell my kids that they have to drive smaller cars and live in smaller houses than their parents did and they have to pay higher taxes for that privilege.

As far as the evolutionists go, who cares if they get a little heat when they try to present their theory as fact? I'm a conservative christian who doesn't exactly buy into everything I read in the book of Genesis, but I start to bristle when people try to force me to believe that I'm a thirty-second cousin, once-removed from a gorilla. I won't try to cram my "man is divinely inspired" belief down their throats if they agree to not to play "monkey-business" with my beliefs.

I'm not in agreement that science is under attack in our culture. I really don't think people are more anti-science now than they were a generation ago. If anything, the embrace of technology and ability to view more non-traditional sources of information than just the one that the liberal press wants us to see has gotten more people involved with the application of science in their lives. The big difference is that now people are able to express their thoughts and opinions about science and our society more easily, and the thought control "progressives" aren't happy about it. Sure there are some nut jobs out there on the left and right fringes, but overall I feel that people are more science focused than ever. It may not be the focus that the liberals like, but when you look at it, isn't that just another form of diversity?

Lastly, whether Epcot gets more or less non-fiction as a theme park, it needs fixing. The original Frankenstein's monster concept was flawed, but Disney has done exceedingly little in the last several years to fix the problem. They need to find a theme and then put their money into setting and keeping that theme. Putting patches on patches just doesn't work anymore.

From Brian Emery on February 4, 2014 at 1:52 PM
Colbert is awesome…. Funny, intelligent, light hearted… No need to be serious all the time..

It is obvious what political side you are on, which is just fine and I have no problems with it….But…… “Loosen up Francis…” There is global change and it is not good. Polar ice caps melting, rising sea levels, hotter planet, All Lies... What a joke…

Sure Epcot could use a lot, but education in a Theme park is a great concept. All Day…

From Anon Mouse on February 4, 2014 at 2:32 PM
I am exasperated by the attack on people who have an opposite opinion. Post 2 said it well and I'm not going to add more.

I'm not against adding Frozen to replace Maelstrom. Give me a break. The ride is a fictionaized story of a national folk tale that Disney already bastardized. Frozen was based on a Dutch fairy tale (The Snow Queen) that Disney bastardized and they created Disney characters out of it and set the story in what it could be Norway. It isn't much of a stretch.

Epcot might be a non-fiction park, but it is largely fiction with its presentation. The "blurred lines" is when the reality of science, technology, and present day world showcase cannot be presented with all its character flaws. The debate is ongoing in the outside world. Disney is just a rosy imitation.

From David Ackerman on February 4, 2014 at 2:53 PM
EPCOT has not been about technology or information for quite some time. Disney's few lame attempts to "freshen" it gave us Fast Track 2.0 (a huge decline from 1.0), a Nemo overlay for The Seas, 3 singing birds making fun of Mexico, and an ancient Captain EO.

It slowly evolved into a group of restaurants with some interesting fascades. And it makes a nice backdrop to 3 annual festivals (which are growing until they become almost continuous, with only the signs changing).

If this is the future of any sort of theme park, we may as well give up and just build a large mall with shops and a giant food court. We could call it "Food Kingdom".

From 96.51.210.217 on February 4, 2014 at 2:55 PM
I really like this article. One of my favourite rides is Spaceship Earth. This is largely because it explains the history of human communication in a very interesting and fun way. By the time I reach the top I am always excited about what humans have accomplished and what the future holds for us. I think more rides that use history and nature as the narrative would be a benefit to Epcot.

In my opinion Epcot as a whole is lacking direction. Mission: Space and even the new Test Track are pretty boring rides, physical thrills aside. I rather go on Living with the Land and see veggies grow. I know this is not for everyone, but I do not think that throwing in characters from the animated films is an answer to Epcot's issues.

From Melanie Howe on February 4, 2014 at 2:57 PM
I, for one, agree with Robert completely. I hate the Nemo overlay at Living Seas--it really takes away from the original research and education feel of the original pavilion. And the 3 Caballeros in Mexico are just annoying. I would love to see Epcot put more effort into original rides and pavilions -- there's enough of the Mouse and his animated brethren in the rest of the parks :-).
From 98.21.98.126 on February 4, 2014 at 3:13 PM
The Food Kingdom comment made me laugh. I have to say, the restaurants are some of Epcots biggest appeal.... and its kind of funny that we pay a theme park admission to then pay like $50 for a meal.

I do really enjoy the whole world showcase thing. Probably more so than the whole technology focused stuff. Really though, any new attractions in that park would be nice. It's just been a long time since it has gotten something truly new it seems like (I don't count revamps of Test Track, etc.). Even a new 3D movie or something would be nice.... something.

From Ron Schneider on February 4, 2014 at 3:20 PM
You are SO right.
From 98.21.98.126 on February 4, 2014 at 3:29 PM
Also, they can put attractions that may be somewhat educational in without it having to be focused on subject matter that a large group of Americans may see one way and another large group may see another. This is why the Sea exhibit is a great exhibit to me. It allows you to appreciate the animals. The thing I enjoyed about Living with the Land was how it showed interesting ways of Farming (nothing really controversial there). Test Track, is a great attraction at Epcot because it fits the whole technology and learning.... but it does not really go into subject matter that I'd consider controversial. Bottom line, Epcot just needs some new fun attractions.... and if you happen to learn about something non-controversial, or not trying to focus one groups opinion down the throats of the riders, then fine. If they can't figure that out, then just give me the Matterhorn under a different name in the world showcase (as I have heard suggested and discussed many times in the past).
From Annette Forrest on February 4, 2014 at 3:53 PM
I adore Robert Niles and think he's bar none one of the best, if not the best, writer covering theme parks...but I disagree with him on the "Global Warming Crowd". Robert, these people have been lying and fudging data for years. The carbon credits thing is a giant scheme cooked up by a few people to drain a lot of money from the West and put it into the hands of unscrupulous types abroad. These "global warming experts" are con men and they set out to find data they could warp and twist until it met their conclusions. Go watch the movie Pleasantville. In the first ten minutes something really interesting happens. The movie was made in 1998. In one of the first scenes, there is a classroom scene...and a science teacher tells the kids that global warming will have melted all the ice in the Arctic Circle by 2012 and then goes on to describe all these other disasters that were supposed to happen within the next ten years (meaning, up until 2009 or so). Watch that movie...it was deadly serious when it was made and Hollywood really believed what that teacher was saying was true. But here we are in 2014, and the Arctic ice is thicker than ever.

The fact is that Earth is a warm planet. Our climate is regulated by the sun. We are actually in the middle of an Ice Age period. The Earth is normally about 30 degrees warmer than it has been for thousands of years. The Renaissance and Roman Empire periods were much warmer than things are now...and the time of the dinosaurs and even the periods of life after were much warmer. There is no cataclysm coming...but certain people are making a lot of money pretending there is.

I'm old enough to remember in the early 1980s when the catastrophism of the day was "The Ice Age is Coming!" This stuff comes in cycles. It's not wrong to call out scientists who fudge their data to meet the conclusions they want.

I love and respect you Robert, but you're wrong on this one.

From James Rao on February 4, 2014 at 6:16 PM
Interesting article and some well constructed and considered comments (here's looking at you, Mr. Hillman). Thanks for sharing Robert.

Epcot is my favorite theme park on this planet (at least of the ones I have visited). But educational or not, it needs new stuff. And to be honest, all those "attraction rumors" you mentioned at the beginning of your article sound wonderful to me. Add in a Mystic Manor clone for the Imagination Pavilion, and Epcot might just surpass the Magic Kingdom for the #1 draw in Orlando.

From James Trexen on February 4, 2014 at 6:28 PM
I've never been a fan of bringing cartoon characters in Epcot. When you think about it, there's plenty of good places in the rest of the parks where they can go. Besides, Frozen is so more deserving of a ride built from scratch rather than an overlay of a good, but way too short ride that most people overlook in favor of their next thrill and/or meal.

BUT....

My thoughts resonate exactly with Mr. Rao. Epcot is in such a sorry state of affairs that I'd rather see it get the new work it so richly needs over keeping out cartoon properties that provide basis for new attractions. Maybe it's time to revisit your "Fix This Park" series Robert.

From 23.117.40.233 on February 4, 2014 at 7:31 PM
I think they should create an event such as the flower and garden festival, only geared towards science. For example, with special exhibits, experiments, and guests such the Mythbusters and Bill Bye! This would make for great field trips for kids. Another idea that came mind is the Doctor Who franchise, let's face it with Universal's Harry Potter expansion, Disney is up against some serious competition. That is a successful franchise with a huge fan following. They really need to amp their game. I personally adore Epcot,for what it represents, but it is "stuck" right now, it needs to be brought out into a brighter and more exciting future. And they really should add more countries, and as well as special experiences representative of each one.
From Jonah Sirota on February 4, 2014 at 7:35 PM
"The big difference is that now people are able to express their thoughts and opinions about science and our society more easily"

Tim, I think the 24-hour news cycle, the Fox News vs. MSNBC thing, is causing more and more people to get entrenched with their beliefs and less open-minded. Feel free to express your thoughts and opinions on science. However, how you or anyone feels about science should have nothing to do with the findings uncovered by scientific inquiry. Science shouldn't care whether Fox News or MSNBC wins the ratings for the week. The scientific community, strictly defined as those doing active, peer-reviewed research that can be recreated by any other scientist, will always support evidence-based research findings. In areas of science where the research is conflicted and inconclusive, you will find competing theories and much further research done to try to settle the question. Evolution is not such an area. The "theory" of evolution is settled science. Indeed, the theory has been so well-tested that a great deal of modern biology and medicine rests on its shoulders. The only "scientists" arguing the theory are Christians with an agenda based outside of the evidence (i.e. scripture). By saying "I start to bristle when people try to force me to believe that I'm a thirty-second cousin, once-removed from a gorilla," you are admitting that you don't believe evolution to be a plausible explanation for the origin of man. Your faith dictates that, and I accept that. That doesn't, however, make your perspective good science. In science, an explanation needs to be proven wrong to discount, not be unappealing. Nor does it make the scientists who study evolutionary biology, and who have centuries of strong evidence to support evolutionary theory, anti-religious.

What I think I'm getting at is that no one is forcing evolution down your throat, but rejecting it on religious grounds is based on faith, not science. It has been a brilliant P.R. move on the part of some Christians to try to attack the scientific foundation of evolutionary theory by confusing the difference between "theory" in popular usage (one possible explanation of many) and in scientific usage (the best and most accurate model to date, based on the evidence, for why something happens).

By the way, I am a Christian, but I think fundamentalist Christianity is on the wrong side of history with this, just as it was when Galileo challenged the scripture-based assumption that the Earth was at the center of the solar system.

From Kelly Smith on February 4, 2014 at 7:35 PM
Thank you, Robert. Well said. And I'm laughing at the comments illustrating exactly what you mean, attacking science and getting offended. They're probably lost causes, but I hope future generation aren't!
From Roy D. on February 4, 2014 at 7:46 PM
I'm sure Robert doesn't want this to derail into political speak but I am surprised at the amount of science doubters on a theme park website. I like to think science is pretty spot on when strapping into something 200 feet tall with 7 inversions and pulling 5gs. I want science on my side!

And really...I just don't understand the doubters. Majority of scientists believe in climate change. I trust them more than conspiracies. If they're wrong, I just devoted time and energy into something that didn't pan out. If they're right, I want to do what I can to stop it. We only have one earth, people.

At least people are not defending the hate speech with the Coke commercial.

But back to Epcot, it seems like the perfect park to experiment with original attractions. I just don't understand why the Disney corporation is not doing more to fix it. I guess because the crowds keep coming. It's my least favorite Disney park I've visited. I think the FB+ tiers is evidence something is deeply wrong here.

From 74.103.164.44 on February 4, 2014 at 7:50 PM
Great article Robert - I would just like to add that at one time Epcot inspired my family, I hope that someday it will again..........
From Phil B. on February 4, 2014 at 7:54 PM
Global warming is the best...I love beach weather!

Great article Mr. Niles. I wholeheartedly agree with with your views and sentiments. It's a shame Walt's insatiable curiosity for science and technology, as well as his imagination, determination, creativeness and love of multi cultural diversity can't find it's way to the top ranks these days. All of the things that made him a great man and helped to build this company into the global powerhouse that it is today has been split up into different departments throughout the company.

Anyway, fantastic job as usual. Time for me to get back to burning the rest of those old tires that have been lying around my yard, before any hard evidence comes in to tell me it's bad for the environment.

From James Rao on February 4, 2014 at 9:04 PM
^Hey, I need new tires, Phil... hold on!! Hilarious.

Mr. Trexen, until Mr. Niles brings back the old "Fix this Park" threads, here's a link to the last one he did on Epcot - and I think most of the ideas are still pretty darn good!

And Jonah, FWIW, FOX News is the highest rated cable news network and it has been #1 for a very long time (check tvbythenumbers.com for ratings to all your favorite and most hated programs). However, since all 24 hour "news" channels are biased, slanted, and useless, I get my real news, the important stuff anyway, right here on TPI! TV ratings were definitely not the main point of your comment, but I felt it necessary to point out that the real news happens HERE first. ;)

From 98.85.104.160 on February 4, 2014 at 9:05 PM
Disney needs to ca$h in now with Frozen because WDW is reclaimed swamp land that will go back under water with global warming.

Knowing how cheap Disney is they will probably wait 20 years before until they build a cheap attraction like Little Mermaid that doesn't even try to make water look real with projections, black lights or glue it just has blue concrete floors.

Disney does not even target educated people because they are smart enough to not waste their money on outdated theme parks or junk.

It's the simple minded masses that flock to character meet and greets and drop wards of cash on pins and rubber rat dolls painted different colors which is Disney's target.

Look at the three hour wait to meet the Frozen characters and the always empty non fiction stave church. Educated people don't like theme parks they like actual historical sites or national museums. Epcot is dumbed down and watered down anyways. The food is not even authentic

From 23.243.37.222 on February 4, 2014 at 9:41 PM
Wow, lots of polarization in the comments! I find the responses confusing. One quick comment in the entire article about Global Warming and that is what most of the commenters latch on to.

Epcot is about science and the spirit of human progress. I would assume that the people who would be reading the blog love Epcot for what it stands for. It just seems that generally, a person hostile to the science of climate change would just not be interested in Epcot when there is a great fantasy theme park down the road.

Climate change is a complicated issue and few serious scientists claim to know the exact results, but we do know that temperatures and seas are rising, faster than they have in recorded history. Kansas will be fine. But New Orleans, Miami, San Diego and half of the US population will have a lot of work to do in the next 100 years if we ignore that we can do anything to our planet and there will be no consequences. To pretend otherwise does not benefit anybody. I always wonder about people who espouse theory of the "Global Warming Hoax". Who benefits by tricking us into believing Global Warming? I can't think of a single person, except maybe Noah...and he's dead.

Anyways, my main point is this: I agree the the main thrust of Mr. Theme Park Insider's article because Epcot needs a bit more EPCOT and a little less Magic Kingdom. I love Magic Kingdom, but we already have one. Disney could just go for a complete sex change operation and rename the place Magic Kingdom 2, in lieu of the incremental plastic surgeries its done to Epcot over the years.

I also think the country could use a little more spirit of human progress and a little less science hostility.

Walt Disney was very pro science yet he was by all accounts a practicing Christian. He was also, as far as I can tell, a Republican who believed in American free enterprise. He never missed an opportunity to laud this concept. How was he able to rectify these two warring identities? He wasn't an absolutist or partisan. I doubt he voted Democrat but I also doubt he was hostile to government spending on things like roads, schools, military and minimal social welfare programs. We should all take a cue from him, especially in these virulently partisan times.

And Epcot should return to its roots: by moving forward, evolving with science and technology, not away from it. I guarantee there is a way to do that and still make money.

Sadly, that goal is not a priority right now for two reasons: 1. Walt is dead. 2. Investors are now in charge of Disney and they have to see quarterly returns. Big capital improvements are off the table unless everyone is convinced they'll bring in way more dough. And right now investors lack that kind of faith. Maybe if these investors ever went to Epcot and got a whiff of the spirit of human achievement they might change their tune. We can only have faith that things will change. That's why Mr. Theme Park Insider writes these blogs. That's why all these readers posted some sort of response. That's why I took the time to write this response.

--futureworldaddict

--futureworldaddict

From Phil B. on February 4, 2014 at 9:42 PM
Hey no problem James, I actually finished up in the yard, but I have a few more I dumped down by a fresh water stream where I usually get rid of all my used motor oil ;o)

On the topic of Epcot, I would love to see at least one new country in World Showcase. As far as Future world, I think new Pavilions covering such topics as Aviation, Physics, Advanced Robotics and even the hot button issue that is the Weather, would all make for fine additions. I love the idea the anonymous poster had about bringing in the Mythbusters as a part of a new attraction. They would be right at home in the Physics Pavilion.

From Anthony Murphy on February 4, 2014 at 10:25 PM
Even with the current EPCOT, it still is pretty void of Disney characters. Personally, I think Nemo is fine at the Living Seas. It seems that the changes were only made to attractions that were pretty much empty.
From Roy D. on February 5, 2014 at 12:23 AM
I think a weather pavilion is a great idea. Robert mentioned Port Discovery. That land has the perfect ride to bring over for it already: StormRider!
From Stevo B on February 5, 2014 at 1:59 AM
So then what was the last nonfiction attraction added to ANY theme park in the last 3-5-10 years?
From Nick McKaig on February 5, 2014 at 6:36 AM
Of the four main Disney parks in Orlando, I think EPCOT has the least distinctive theme. Magic Kingdom is all about glorifying popular Disney stories and characters, Hollywood Studios is all about looking into the movies, and Animal Kingdom is pretty self-explanatory. But what is EPCOT? A world showcase? A focus on science and technology? A case for the environment? A park encouraging thinking and discovery? Maybe all of these things combined? I challenge anyone (in a positive way) to describe the purpose of EPCOT in four or five words.

I always loved EPCOT from the first time I visited when I was four, but I would say my love comes from nothing more than my own sentiment and experience in the park, not because I have a strong association with its meaning. I believe that in an effort to make the park accomplish an array of goals, it has become unfocused and therefore not as powerful a draw as it could be.

I also think that expecting any theme park business to attempt to tell any kind of accurate story of history or science is a failed mission, for exactly the reasons found in these comments. People will never agree when it comes to these subjects, and it seems illogical, if not unprofitable, to isolate part of an audience for some ideal of science or process of thought. Parks serve the purpose of entertainment, and while there can certainly be some base in reality, people go to theme parks to escape it, not to have an agenda of social motivations thrown in their face.

I think EPCOT brought in familiar Disney characters because attractions without them just don't have the same power, unless they tell really strong, convincing original stories (which come along only every once in a while). I don't think there is anything wrong with introducing Nemo or the Three Caballeros, as long as those overlays bring fresh entertainment to a long-standing attractions (unlike failed attempts with the Tiki Room, for example).

From Brian Emery on February 5, 2014 at 7:05 AM
One simply question, Why do all of the Fox news watching Rush Limbaugh loving right wing nuts jobs post on a Theme park insider web site while pushing their Christian book is irrelevance on us?

IF you are reading the Book of God, Why was it edited? Who are these editors and who gives them permission to edit Gods words? I just saying……..

Go Epcot….. I guess Epcot stands for – Emotional pursuing Christians on ThemeParks… hahahhaha All Day……

From 192.195.66.3 on February 5, 2014 at 7:53 AM
Well-expressed, excellent analysis and writing. Too bad such skills are taught to fewer and fewer children and the abilities to analyze, critically think about things from all angles, and express opinions logically and completely garner little respect today. The peak of respect for learning and curiosity and openness to different ideas is, sadly, long past for America as it continues on its downward spiral. Thank you for the fine article.
From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 8:57 AM
Brian, your latest comment has no basis in fact. The discussion has been mostly high minded (except for me of course) and all view points have been expressed with sensitivity. Your latest post is more trolling than anything else. I expect more from a seasoned TPI veteran not named James Rao or TH Creative!

Nick, I agree completely with your post. Whether we like it or not, this nation is divided on many subjects - which is the spice of life, I guess. Debate sometimes fuels progress. However, if Disney wants to appease all audiences and maximize income, they should stick to nonpartisan attractions!

Steve B, the Lincoln attraction at Disneyland was recently (within the last two years) upgraded. But that's all that comes to mind right now.

From 76.29.145.95 on February 5, 2014 at 8:44 AM
@Nick McKaig, the central theme of Epcot in my opinion is Discovery. Discovering other cultures. Discovering technology. Discovering space. Discovering the ocean. Discovering your imagination.

As far as the Nemo overlay to the Seas, I think it is very well done, effective in its purpose, and was absolutely necessary. There was a period of time in which the Living Seas was referred to as the Dead Seas. Not enough people were going into the pavilion. People either didn't know it had real animals, or didn't care because it was too science and research based. Disney was fully prepared to get rid of the pavilion all together. WDI already had plans in place for a new attraction to replace it. The construction walls were ready to go up. Until Kim Murphy, who helped design and open the original pavilion in 1986, and was now working at Disney corporate in California, stepped in to fight for the Seas, giving Disney the idea to theme it to this new movie that came out, "Finding Nemo" to draw more crowds.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends has been one of the most popular attractions at Epcot since. Families come for Nemo and Crush, and stay for the real animals in the aquarium. There is still a lot of education going on, with lock-out chamber, fish feed, and dolphin presentations, educators throughout the building doing games and biofact carts, Mr. Ray's pop quiz, and lots of really cool research still goes on for guests to see with the dolphins. Inspiring our youth to care about the ocean and the animals that live in it are paramount to saving the oceans for future generations. The Nemo overlay was necessary to get kids into the building in the first place. You have to touch the heart to teach the mind. The kids go on the clamshell ride to touch their heart, and then their minds can be taught exploring the pavilion afterwards. Teaching children about the ocean and animals is so much more effective when Crush and Nemo and Mr. Ray are the ones teaching them, helping them to create an emotional connection to the animals necessary for the information to really stick.

From Brian Emery on February 5, 2014 at 8:53 AM
Sorry James…. These right wing nuts shoving their religious crud down my throat pissed me off… There is no place for it on an Epcot thread. So I let them have it….

I personally do not care what religion one is, political views/ affiliations, I except all. But don’t try to put that crap here…. Not the place for it….

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
SO how is Epcot doing these days......

From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 10:28 AM
I just don't see where anyone was shoving anything down your throat... but harassment is in the eye (throat?) of the beholder, I guess.

Epcot is doing well... second most popular park in Florida, third most popular park in North America.

From 85.150.173.168 on February 5, 2014 at 10:31 AM
IN the 80's I loved Epcot Centre. The whole world fair vibe was fun. To call it education is a stretch. If it was perceived that way there is something very wrong with the educational system in the US. It were views of the companies that sponsored the pavilions. But after 10 years it got old and at the moment it's just sad. No pavilion shows new technology or anything. The tweaks even dumbed things down and watered down the original vision into a more entertainment focused way (all done very poorly).

To go back to it's original vision Disney needs new investors and companies that use cutting edge technology. After the recession non of that exists anymore in the US.
If it would happen the way to continue it is heavy investments on a yearly basis to not become the old and dated mess it is now.

Disney would be better of the kill off the whole Epcot idea and do something more long term with the park.
To do that Disney could cut the park in two.
World Showcase, the kitsch representation of a bunch of countries with a few rides, many movies and lots of Americanized food and cheap souvenirs for high end prices is the only pull now for the whole park and could live on it's own. Sure overload it with characters and fictional stuff, it suits the place and guests want it.

Leave them with the huge buildings of Future World. This park could be themed to Marvel (sure they can buy it from Universal if they throw enough money around), Star Wars and villains (something fans are begging Disney for for years).

But with money coming in at a steady flow and guests buying crap to put on their wristbands that rape their privacy and are ok with it so Disney is not going to do anything and keep it the mess it is.

From 72.37.244.28 on February 5, 2014 at 10:32 AM
I think this is why we're all here. We love to celebrate the hopes and dreams of the future. We love to learn knew things and we are curious about our natural world.

Disney management has long concluded that these days the original goal they set out to do: fuel the hopes and dreams of the future with a glimpse of what may come, along with a celebration of human achievemant, is no longer a winner.

I was pumped up watching the Superbowl and it had nothing to do with football. I saw a commercial for Neil deGrasse Tyson's sequel to Carl Sagan's epic series of the 1980's: Cosmos. The rebooted Cosmos says that "it's time to get going again" in our journey to discover our place in the cosmos. The new series will be on Fox! It looks to be pretty awesome and I am excited about it.

Fox, of all organizations, is betting that there is an audience for a big budget general audience science documentary series. I hope it does well and I hope that Disney takes notice. You have a huge potential asset that is so underutilized and underappreciated by just slowly trying to mimic the fantasy theme park down the street. Magic Kingdom is a truly wonderful place. But 1 Magic Kingdom in Florida is enough. Slapping a few characters cheaply over old existing infrastructure does two things: it dilutes what Epcot still pretends to be about and it dilutes the unique aspects of Magic Kingdom.

From 108.184.244.102 on February 5, 2014 at 10:35 AM
The idea of putting a Frozen attraction in Norway is just so appalling that I was shocked to discover they were actually considering it. Someone should get the Norwegian media all riled up about it - replacing Norwegian culture with a marketing ploy for something that has nothing to do with Norway besides snow.

If Disney really does go through with this, it will signal a total abandonment of what Epcot stands for. It's bad enough (and pretty racist, actually) that they stick Aladdin as a character in Morocco - this is sticking a fictional land into a real country.

It's like turning American Adventure into an Oz ride - but at least part of Wizard of Oz actually took place in Kansas.

Disney needs to get their crap together when it comes to Epcot. Not every park HAS to be the same thing. Epcot did very well for a long time as a "science factual" park - making it just like every other theme park misses the point entirely.

From 74.202.118.163 on February 5, 2014 at 12:10 PM
"I challenge anyone to describe the purpose of EPCOT in four or five words"

I think Walt himself did that already - Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The man had Vision. What can I say?

From 209.44.133.160 on February 5, 2014 at 10:55 AM
Can Disney copy the best attractions from overseas and put them in the Orlando parks? Journey to the Center of the Earth, Aquatopia, Stormrider, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mystic Manor, etc. How many Americans ever visit Tokyo DisneySea? Or Hong Kong Disneyland? Or Disneyland Paris?

What about other off-the-shelf improvements that Disney could make in Orlando? Copy Indiana Jones Adventure, CarsLand and Matterhorn Bobsleds from California. Upgrade Space Mountain in Orlando to make it equal or better than California's Space Mountain. How many Americans east of the Mississippi ever visit California Disneyland? It would be awesome if they could enjoy these rides too.

These are all improvements that Disney should have made with the $1 billion to $1.5 billion that has reportedly been spent developing Magic Bands and "NextGen" technology.

From Tim Hillman on February 5, 2014 at 12:04 PM
Brian, I suggest that you go back and read Robert Niles original post on this topic. He was spot on for his analysis of Epcot and the problems that exist as to the identity and condition of the park. There were also three links included in the post that led to a Colbert site, a site in defense of evolution, and a site where a global warming scientist was whining about receiving unfair scrutiny from the global warming skeptics. (Thanks, Robert. :/ )He based a fair portion of his analysis of the problems that Epcot faces on the material in those links.

I disagreed with some of his analysis as did a few other people. In the course of that disagreement my religious beliefs were mentioned. When it comes to the topic of evolution, it's inevitable that people will disagree with it on the basis of their deeply held convictions. If you have a problem with me and others mentioning our religious beliefs on an Epcot thread and choose to police it, perhaps you should take the issue up with Mr. Niles, since he introduced the topic into the discussion.

I also ask that you refrain from trying to stifle others in such an impolite way. Your petty insults and doublespeak do nothing for your position other than to negate your arguments. As James Rao told you twice, nobody on here was trying to proselytize you, yet you took offense at some imaginary wrong. Did it ever occur to you that attitudes and words like you used and displayed are the precise reason why so many christians want the "experts" and the "know-it-alls" in the world to leave them and their beliefs alone?

You also need to stop making assumptions about other people. If you want to be respectfully treated as the complex person that you are then try to show the same courtesy to others. Putting labels like "right wing nut" on people is a lazy man's way to disagree with someone's opinion without providing any thoughtful analysis of why you disagree with them.

Enough said.

From Robert Niles on February 5, 2014 at 12:16 PM
I'll just jump in with one comment:

Global warming, attributed to mankind, is a scientifically accepted fact at this point. If you do not believe that, or you believe that scientists are fudging the data, because you've been told those things by a news source, that "news source" (I'm betting, Fox News?) is lying to you and you really need to stop watching/reading/listening to it. Please.

Really, this is settled stuff, people — like evolution, and the fact that vaccines don't cause autism. ;^) It shouldn't be controversial in the least. The fact that such things *are* illustrates how we've lost respect for science in America today. And why we need someone to step forward and begin rebuilding that respect by getting some kids to fall in love with science once again.

From Flavio de Souza on February 5, 2014 at 12:35 PM
I completely agree with you Robert! With every word!!

Nick, I will try your challenge: EPCOT= Experience the Future and the World. 6 words. At least that was Epcot’s original task.

Unfortunately American audience has lost their love to science, specially the younger generations.

I will do a controversy suggestion. Dismantled Epcot and send it to China, fast tracking Disneyland Shanghai second gate. Shanghai 2010 World Fair was a huge success, Chinese people (and East Asians countries as well) love science, and there are a lot of tech companies in East Asia that would love to patronize attractions. I would rather have a true EPCOT in the other side of the world than to see the original be perverted.

… and with the money put a full Star Wars park in its place.

From 209.44.133.160 on February 5, 2014 at 1:13 PM
Epcot is the poster child of neglect. "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" as imagined by people living in the 1960s. It's a joke.

Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios are all under-developed parks. Each of these parks attracts barely half as many visitors as the Magic Kingdom attracts.

It's common knowledge that these parks don't have enough good attractions. Each park has a few good rides and the rest is garbage.

How is this situation ever going to change unless visitors start boycotting these parks and force Disney to do the right thing?

From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM
I dunno, Robert, if these topics are really settled "like evolution, and the fact that vaccines don't cause autism" then they are really not that settled at all.

But forget all that non-essential info....Mystic Manor to replace the Imagination Pavilion - who is with me?!?!?!?!?

From Rob Pastor on February 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM
Fox News is a very dubious news source. Generally, their extreme one sided simplistic perspective gives me a good laugh. Simpsons, on their basic network, has more credibility in my eyes. It's probably more of an opinion network. That said, even in it's present state, I still really enjoy Epcot. But it can be so much better with a little loving care.
From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 1:25 PM
^What 24 hours news source is not dubious, biased, and simplistic? Besides TPI, I mean.
From Jonah Sirota on February 5, 2014 at 3:08 PM
James, yes, those items that you mention are settled. The research is as conclusive as possible. Some kids get autism after having a vaccine, but the evidence has not been able to prove any link. Similarly, some people get heart attacks while walking around a theme park, but you can't prove that the theme park caused the heart attack.

The reason that a search online for these topics brings up so much controversy is because, in both cases, there is a large population that doesn't want to believe what the research says (and "news" outlets like Fox News continually stir up this pot). That is fine, but it doesn't mean that the science is muddled or controversial. As I was trying to articulate in an earlier post, evolution is NOT CONTROVERSIAL in the scientific community. It is the accepted model, because it fits the observed data. End of story. It causes theological issues and debate, but these are not scientific debates. The attempt to turn a theological debate into a scientific debate is part of the reason why science is so mistrusted.

By the way, if you want to know what I consider to be solid news reporting, I'll list is below. It is still politically biased in all cases (I'll list from political left to political right) but these are all better sources than almost any cable news, which is just trying to get people to keep watching at any cost:
New York Times, NPR, Washington Post, Economist, Wall Street Journal.

AND, to REALLY argue with you... I loves me some Mystic Manor, but I want to see Imagination rise again in glory, Figment, Dreamfinder and all! Mystic Manor at Animal Kingdom could be really cool though, don't you think? (and they need a dark ride that isn't terrifying for little kids!)

From Rob Pastor on February 5, 2014 at 3:11 PM
James: You have a good point on the cable/internet news, especially in reference to TPI !
From 69.138.125.122 on February 5, 2014 at 3:19 PM
I have enjoyed TPI for many years and even purchased your fun 1st book, why ..because it represents a closer look into the theme park world.. Great insights , great theme park opinions and Robert's history in the industry make this sight special. BUT WHEN IT TURNS POLITICAL..it loses its whimsical escape from the real world that theme parks give me... I don't want to read about Fox vs MSNBC,,, commercials are shown and people have opinions, people are for it and people are against it ..that is America,,, opinions are allowed... that is life... but leave it for the political sites... This is a theme park site... I went to Disneyland in 66 and Disneyworld on Opening weekend, I was a preferred vendor, supplying Epcot and was at the Inaugural opening.. ditto Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom...I knew Kissimmee before and after Disney.... Just saying - I have a history with theme parks , I enjoy them ... But I am sick of politics...
From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 4:07 PM
So, Jonah, you're saying that these things are settled and that 50% of the population is just too stupid to know it? So let it be written and so let it be done. The ruling 50% has spoken! =)

(By the way, all my kids are vaccinated.... but I can't tell the difference between autism and teenager-ism).

At this point in this endless, but (unbeknownst to me) settled debate, I am largely trolling anyway, so rather than continue the descent into madness I will address your second point - it is FAR more worthy of all our time.

The imaginative aspects of Mystic Manor would be perfect for the Imagination Pavilion especially since the manor itself does not have to be part of the addition. It is just the box in which amazing things happen. WDI could reshape that box to better fit with the Future World theme. As long as the imaginative nature of the excursion is brought to life the attraction could reside in almost any box. Heck, they could even reuse the Imagination Institute and Figment and Dreamfinder if they wanted.

However, Mystic Manor at DAK would be a great choice as well due to the "explorer" storyline behind the owner of the house. Shoot, the attraction appears to be so great they could just bring it to the states and stick it ANYWHERE. It would even work in Adventureland at MK since the only real similarities between MM and HM are that they are both set in a big, impressive looking house. It might be a bit of a stretch to operate both attractions at MK but no more so than having Mummy and Gringotts at Universal Studios.

Whatever or whenever...just bring Mystic Manor to the states!

From 209.44.133.160 on February 5, 2014 at 4:03 PM
World Showcase should be split off from Epcot and built into a separate theme park with it's own E-ticket attractions.

Epcot should be reinvented as DisneySea plus Soarin' and Mission Space.

Epcot can not hope to keep up with the rapid advance of technology. Future World will always seem outdated.

Epcot can not hope to keep up with museums that cater to the most educated segments of the population.

The reimagined Epcot/DisneySea should focus on entertaining and inspiring the public. Leave education to the institutions that won't dumb it down.

From Anon Mouse on February 5, 2014 at 4:26 PM
Robert said " that "news source" (I'm betting, Fox News?) is lying to you and you really need to stop watching/reading/listening to it. Please."

Okay, we need to stop listening to it. Here's Obama trying hard to not explain to O'Reilly how Fox is unfair to him.

http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/03/oreilly-part-2-obama-stammers-through-incoherent-explanation-of-why-fox-is-unfair/#!

exerpts:

O’REILLY: But if it’s unfair — I wanna know if it’s unfair.
OBAMA: [Laughs]
O’REILLY: Criticism is criticism! It’s my job to give you a hard time.
OBAMA: Here — here’s what I would say. I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, it has made Fox News very successful.
O’REILLY: But if I’m unfair, I want –
OBAMA: Here’s — here’s the thing you guys — here’s what you guys are gonna have to figure out, is what are you gonna do when I’m gone? I’m tellin’ ya.
O’REILLY: Our ratings were high when you weren’t here!
OBAMA: Oh, man, you know — [Laughs]
O’REILLY: OOOOH! [Laughs]
OBAMA: I’ve been a big money-maker for you guys. [Laughs]
O’REILLY: Ask President Clinton, or President Bush. I gave President Bush a real hard time.


The bonus is he compared himself to Richard Nixon.

From Robert Niles on February 5, 2014 at 5:27 PM
I added this as an update in the main post, but I'll post it down here in the comments, too, for anyone missed that:

I chose in this piece to make explicit some example of how modern American society disrespects science rather than just playing it vague. Aaaaaand, predictably, some Theme Park Insider readers who get their information from people who don't stand on the side of science have reacted negatively in the comments.

Theme parks, obviously, don't want such conflict among their fans. They want happy customers, spending money. So ditching non-fiction themes in favor of cartoon characters allows them to keep everyone happy and spending. That gives Disney many millions of reasons to bring in Frozen and let the World's Fair stuff go.

But if I could quote a Universal-licensed property for a moment and reference Harry Potter: "We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy." Those who oppose science can't win because they have no evidence on their side. They can, however, gin up an ugly "controversy" that kind, reasonable people would rather avoid. And by conditioning people to avoid all those "controversial" things that science discovers, they turn a society away from science. Mission accomplished.

So Disney faces a choice with Epcot: To do what is right, or to do what is easy. The easy thing is to bring in the 'toons, and quit talking about science. (As the easy thing for me to do as a publisher would be to avoid this issue altogether.) But that, alas, is not the right thing to do for a society that needs to reconnect with the enlightenment of great science, once again. That's why I wrote this post. And that's why I hope the Walt Disney Company rediscovers its founder's love of science and world around us and starts using its theme park story-telling talents in the non-fiction realm once again.

From Jonah Sirota on February 5, 2014 at 5:37 PM
I like you, James! I'm not in any way arguing that 50% of the population is stupid, or that there is anything wrong with being disturbed by scientific findings. Lots of research uncovers uncomfortable truths that force us to grapple with how we view our world and our place in it. Darwin did this with his ideas. But you best believe his ideas would have just gone away within science if they weren't shown to be true over and over again. As someone who also views the Bible as a true document, I have had to figure out how I can square the two. Living and working within the research community, I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that there is simply no debate among scientists about whether evolution exists, and functions in basically the way described by Darwin. That's why he is famous. Call me a snob, a radical, an intellectual, whatever you want. That doesn't change the science. Public opinion, as I said above, doesn't have anything to do with it. The controversy is a culture wars creation, not a scientific discussion.

When Galileo said that the earth rotated around the sun, and not vice versa, he set off a debate very similar to this one. The parallels are striking. His findings landed him in prison. It wasn't until the 20th century that the church decided he wasn't a heretic. One interesting thing: not long after Galileo's theories came out, the church started using his model to make more accurate calendar measurements, this tacetly accepting that his research was legitimate while publicly denying it. The entire field of genetics is based on evolutionary biology. If Darwin were wrong, it would all fall apart. Plenty of folks who don't "believe" in evolution (it's not a religion or a deity!) are still saved by cutting-edge cancer therapies made possible by Darwin's work, for instance. Believe me, when you're in the hospital, you want the care you get to be based off of the most sound research possible. Can we, as religious people, accept that perhaps God reveals truth over time, and that maybe science and scripture don't have to be natural enemies?

....Getting off high horse........now!

I would gladly take Mystic Manor anywhere I could travel to with a domestic plane ticket. ;)

From James Rao on February 5, 2014 at 6:50 PM
I like you too, Jonah. And I have largely tried to stay out the the real debate, keeping things as light as possible. However, with this discussion of Galileo, you force my hand. From a strictly religious perspective, I am puzzled how anyone would think the sun is NOT the center of our universe as it is a type and shadow of the love of Christ. Just as the sun sacrifices itself each day to give us mortal life, Christ sacrificed himself that we might have immortal or eternal life. As for the debate on evolution vs creation, my "science" book says God formed man out of the dust of the earth and *pop* he was created. Now whether that creation was instant or over years and years, I don't know. And I don't really care. Furthermore, science doesn't make me uncomfortable, but killing God does. When we try to remove him from the equation and instead put man's intellect on a pedestal, that's when I get a little worried. As a race we seem to spend an awful lot of time learning but never coming to a full knowledge of the truth. And even with all that learning, at the end of the day, what we discover is all that really matters is (to paraphrase Harry Potter and so many other "Christ Fables") LOVE.

So I love you, bro, and you can have your facts/beliefs and I can have mine. And someday, one way or another, in spite of the current proliferation of lousy 24 hour news channels, we'll all know the truth - or we'll be dead and our bodies will lie rotting and stinking in the Earth.

In the meantime, the most sensible truth is for Disney to put a version of Mystic Manor in each of the four parks at WDW and see which one everybody likes the best!

From Tim Hillman on February 5, 2014 at 7:19 PM
For those of you who are somewhat new to the site, I would like to welcome you to Theme Park Insider circa 2003. Back in the rough and tumble early days of TPI we used to have some pretty heated discussions between our well-meaning but misguided resident liberal (Mr. Niles) and our opinionated but always right conservatives. ( I think I may be the only one of those dinosaurs left. Anon Mouse may be another one. (Whoops! That's evolutionary! Dinosaurs never existed!)) After repeatedly beating each other over the head with our best and most righteous arguments, we all pretty much agreed that we disagree, and tacitly chose to avoid discussing politics, religion, and anything else that would bog down the pleasure of sharing our enthusiasm for all things theme park related.

Once in great while we would mess up and slip over into a debate about something incredibly boring to the vast majority of the patrons of TPI, but for the most part, the old arguments died out, and then this little conflagration flared up, and I got a distinct feeling of deja vu. From my perspective, I suspect some moronic ideologue on the Right (Yes, they do exist!) set Robert off and he's taking out his frustrations on the unwitting (not witless, mind you!) conservatives on this site.

So Robert, even though you shamelessly laid out the initial argument that would provoke a rather heated response, and you added fuel to the fire by telling us not to watch the news source that brainwashes us into distrusting everything scientific that comes our way, I forgive you. I know that it must be particularly galling to see Fox News dominate cable news, and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity dominate the radio waves while MSNBC is a laughingstock that has trouble keeping their opinion personalities from making every kind of offensive slur imaginable, and Air America is no more. You really should be thankful for Fox News because other than George Bush who else is President Obama going to blame for all of his failures?

Now, with that little bit of self-indulgent and over-the-top sarcasm out of the way, can we all stop trying to be righter than each other? I like what most of you all have to say, and I would prefer that we find areas where we can agree rather than waste time on this endless cycle of putdowns and look downs. Life is too short to waste on telling each other why me is more righteous than ye.

So, back to the original discussion about Epcot and where I really think Robert missed the point. Epcot doesn't need to be a park about science in a science-skeptical society when it would be far better served by being a park about exploration. We may all disagree about some aspects of science, but I think we can all agree on the thrill and the joy of exploring our world whether it is the land, the sea, our imaginations, science and technology, space, and other countries. With that vision and a ton of cash, Epcot might be able to reach its full potential.

From Jonah Sirota on February 5, 2014 at 8:41 PM
James, your articulation of your faith is poetic and beautiful and I have absolutely no beef with it. I'm not sure what it is about science that makes you feel that it is putting human intellect on a pedestal. I certainly try not to do that. But I may just read the Bible differently from you. And that's okay. Agree to disagree.

Tim, thanks for the bit of TPI commenter history. Helpful, and good to keep in mind. We'll avoid religion or politics, we'll be like the theme park Shriners!

One last thing, since it came up (and for the record): Maelstrom is the weirdest dark ride in the US and I love it for that. Please don't get rid of it!!!

From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 5:33 AM
Eh? What's that, laddie? You say I am pathetic and boastful? Well, I never! I may be hard of reading, but I can still box your ears, whippersnapper!

New website: ThemeParkShriners.com! I love it. For the more geriatric, dark ride crowd, of course! Those coasters hurt way too much! ;)

BTW, to the anonymous poster from earlier in the thread, the idea to split Epcot into two parks, which I have now read a couple times in this thread and others, does not get my vote. Epcot is a unique wonder, and while it is diminished because of neglect and a lack of vision, it is only diminished compared to its own ideals (kind of like humanity). Compared to the rest of the theme park world (at least the theme park world I have visited), Epcot is still best in show.

From Brian Emery on February 6, 2014 at 7:44 AM
I love this site… I wrote 3 rebuttal lines of truth and all of the Tea party fools come out swinging….. Yes Tim’s comments were political and religious… And righteous for that matter.

“And the Truth shall set us Free…”

Robert wrote a great thought provoking article and it there is controversy; he is doing a great job at writing.

I am enjoying this immensely…



From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM
Brian, it is interesting how you decided to quote scripture in an effort to bolster your point. But do you even know what that scripture means? It means that if you know truth, all truth, yes, even God's truth, you will be free from the bondage of sin and temptation. How can you be tempted when you can't be deceived? The knowledge of truth prevents deception.

I am not sure what that scripture has to do with your post, but at least it gave me an opportunity to teach. Thanks!

And yes, good writing inspires debate at which Mr. Niles almost always succeeds. However, personal attacks should be discouraged as they kill the debate, reduce it to a shouting match, and stifle progress (see Washington DC for plenty of examples).

From Tim Hillman on February 6, 2014 at 8:37 AM
Um, Brian, I'm not sure who you are referring to as "the Tea party fools come out swinging" but the only people that have openly disagreed with you are James Rao and me, and I've never been to a Tea party event in my life, so I guess that you are referring to James.

Wow, James! I never knew you were one of those subversive, gun-toting, Bible-hugging, Fox News-watching, "right wing nut jobs"! How awful!

Seriously though, Brian, if you want to be part of an adult conversation, try to act like an adult. Look at Jonas Sirota and James Rao. They may disagree, but they find common ground, they respect each others opinion, and they make excellent points.

...and another point.

None of us has a monopoly on the truth. What we have are opinions, and you wrote three lines of your opinion just as I have written far too many lines of my opinion. Please don't try to excuse your ugly comments and insults by claiming that you speak the truth. The folks on this website are far too smart for that nonsense.

From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 8:47 AM
I don't even like tea, and I am too old to party.
From Brian Emery on February 6, 2014 at 9:03 AM
Wow you guys are easy, That time I used a back spinning bait…

And yes, I do agree - James is a classy guy.

Adult conversation – hahahaha – All day…

I will make this real easy for the Adults – Do you believe there was Noah’s ark?

From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 9:07 AM
Sure.

Do you believe in a last universal ancestor?

From Brian Emery on February 6, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Sure do – Much more believable than an ark with 2 of every species and somehow got them all to fornicate…..

Back Spinning bait – I say…

From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM
"Much more believable" (which I don't necessarily agree) does not make it true. And getting animals to do that which is natural, should not be too difficult (not sure how "fornicate" applies to animals, anyway).
From Brian Emery on February 6, 2014 at 9:44 AM
Well James, I guess you are correct… Noah knew just which 2 of every species to pick; he knew which ones were fertile and healthy. I bet he even played some Johnny Mathis to get the in the mode.

And how does one tell if a mosquito is male of female anyway?

From James Rao on February 6, 2014 at 10:00 AM
You know not of what you speak. If you are truly interested I suggest a reading of Genesis chapter 7 (KJV, is fine), and then follow it up with three verses from Matthew, 7:6-8. Regardless, this debate is fruitless. We can pick at individual or collective beliefs all day long and never get any closer to the truth.

Thanks for playing, but this fish just swam away. Your bait is returned empty. Have a good day, brother.

From Brian Emery on February 6, 2014 at 10:17 AM
Thanks James, have a great day…. I am not angry or hold no ill will to anyone who is honest…

If you do not debate with someone, then you loss all respect for that person. If folks have different opinions, Great. I dislike those who do not have their own opinion.

And no thanks, No bible reading for me.
Not my Cup of Tea....

From Tim Hillman on February 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM
James, you just had a classic Matthew 7:6 encounter. Congratulations on maintaining your dignity.
From Anon Mouse on February 6, 2014 at 12:42 PM
I'm all for new science exhibits at Epcot. The thing is Disney abandoned them. More than 10 years ago, Bill Nye the Science Guy was featured prominantly in the park. Disney and Bill Nye discontinued their relationship and then science wasn't much on the plate at Epcot. Instead "Food and Wine" are on the plate.

The hockey science attractions like Horizons were discontinued for more expensive hockey science attractions like Space. The energy exhibit is still a homage to dinosaurs. No one is offended with dinosaurs.

I think the debate over science is mostly over a few things like Evolution and Global Warming. It should definitely be studied without the "settled science" bit. How can it be science if it is settled? These are contradictory concepts. The science and fact should be approached differently, otherwise, it causes unnecessary grief.

From John Hensler on February 6, 2014 at 10:22 PM
Fantastic post, Robert — all of it — I recall the early years of Epcot when there was a Teacher's Resource center full of free lesson plans and the like -- that space is now occupied by the Disney Gallery store, and in a way that's as much an indicator of Epcot's educational "fall from grace" as anything: profit over purpose. Parts of Epcot Center's spirit still live on; Living With the Land is probably the best survivor of the original lot of attractions. But much has been sacrificed for the "easy" route as opposed to the much more interesting.

Future World needs love in many areas, but a good start would be the re-imagination of "Imagination;" a Mystic Manor ride or something derived from it could be a worthy successor, perhaps with a tangential tie-in to the upcoming Pixar "Inside Out" movie. And there's a lot of space there to work with: ditch the Magic Eye theatre -- 3D is everywhere now; I'd say that the 3D in "Get a Horse" was certainly theme-park worthy, so annex that space and make the new Imagination pavilion something really special. Perhaps with a 2nd-floor terrace restaurant with views of Illumiations.

I will add that a pavilion themed for weather and climate -- and notably illustrating the difference between the two -- could prove very enlightening to some of the climate change denier folks commenting here, provided it was well executed. The stunning power of our planet's environment -- and the ways we are altering it -- isn't something to be trifled with.

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