Theme Park Insider

Robert's Rant on Epcot's Death Star

December 9, 2016, 11:19 AM · Should Walt Disney World have transformed Epcot's Spaceship Earth into Star Wars' Death Star?

The 180-foot geosphere seems the perfect canvas for a projection mapping of the Empire's ultimate weapon. And Disney has a big new Star Wars movie to promote. Of all the things people have said about Disney over the years, turning down the opportunity for a viral photo opp ain't on that list.

So Disney did it. But should it? What does this publicity stunt say about the way Disney views its creative works these days? Because our second favorite thing to do β€” after visiting theme parks β€” is to overanalyze them, those questions provide the topic for our video show this week.

If you believe that there's art in theme park design - and I do - then you have to start thinking about theme, and setting, and conflict and all the stuff that leads you to wonder if transforming an iconic symbol of human communication, cooperation and survival into the ultimate symbol of death and destruction really was a good idea.

But, hey, Disney got huge social media buzz for the stunt and the company's hauling in record cash from the box office this year. So from a PR and business perspective, what Disney is doing is working.

What do you think?

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Replies (12)

December 9, 2016 at 11:50 AM · A very good video Robert. Disney as a company is doing a great job. But Disney is doing a poor job at respecting its history and traditions. Disney keeps making live action versions of stories they've already told before. The bought Marvel and Lucasfilm to profit off extending their biggest franchises(to be fair, Marvel was already making the Marvel Cinematic Universe before Disney purchased it, they bought the company so they could profit off it).Disney Animation is making sequels to Frozen and other recent hits, and Pixar has been doing the same.

I love Disney, but not because they use their library of classics to make sequels and remakes of them. I love Disney because it was, and to a certain extent remains, the leader in entertainment, in live action, animation, and theme parks. I love Mickey, Woody and Buzz, Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and others. But I already can watch them and don't need want to kee seeing them again. And Disney needs to remember that they are the ones that created the modern THEME park.Turning Spaceship Earth into the Death Star is worse than adding a Frozen attraction in Norway. Frozen is at least inspired by Norway. The Death Star and Spaceship Earth have nothing in common except that they are both a giant ball.

I love Disney, but they need to realize their theme parks are not giant billboards. And people want to see new stories and new characters, not just the same ones in a different medium, or in sequel after sequel. Disney is a for profit company, and I expect them make projects that they think will be profitable. But they can't just ignore the theme of an attraction, or just make the same things over and over again. Disney would not be around today if they just played it completely safe, and never built Disneyland, or rejected making original movies, because they thought a sequel or a remake would be more successful. Disney does a lot of great thing, but they also make a lot of cash grabs. That's what the Death Star photo opp seems like to me.

December 9, 2016 at 12:25 PM · Nice rant although I didn't made the link you did conflicting with spaceship earth. The only thing I tough seeing the few video's of the event was that the globe wasn't suitable for a quality projection.

I have a problem how you talking about 'Disney'. I have a huge respect for him, his creativity, his spirit and innovations in animation and theme parks. I know you mean the Disney Company but I wanted to clarify that.
I feel nowadays there is a huge gab between the core values of the man that started it all and the short term money printing machine that bares his name.
They kicked Walt out of his own cinema at DHS to show overlong spoilery trailers for paying customers to keep the cash flow going. So we can rule out cultural integrity for it's founder and his legacy, it went out the window long before the pitiful projection on Spaceship Earth.

As a Star Wars fan I have a lot of problems with the Disney Company and use the ip. In the past we had the horrible dance offs and then we got the parading of imperial soldiers trough the streets of Hollywood at DHS and the lost goes on. That's what I respect about J. K. Rowling and how she wants Potter to be handled, not in parades, not outside the themed area etc. Sure she could and approve every single thing a theme park and it's PR department can come up with but in the end it's trowing the ip and it's fans under the bus for a quick buck.

December 9, 2016 at 2:05 PM · Meh, the Death Star > the 2000 Wand.
December 9, 2016 at 3:08 PM · Another contradictory rant...

While you have to respect Disney Theme Park diehards, you also have to refrain from laughing at their purist mentality that allows for Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Frozen Ever After, Buzz Lightyear, etc.

When die hards start their complaining I ask them to join me in my quest to remove the above rides as they are not true to Walt Disney's spirit. They attack me that these rides are classic and should be considered part of the park's Day One treasures.

To each his own... continually changing reality!

December 9, 2016 at 4:41 PM · Disney is the new Evil Empire. Walt Disney's grand vision has been perverted by greedy marketing and finance guys with bad taste. Fire Iger. Fire Chapek. Hire a good CEO who understands hospitality and customer service.
December 9, 2016 at 7:49 PM · The rant is appreciated, but the public at large don't see the problem. Tying Death Star to Spaceship Earth is obscure for most people. After the park closes, who really remembers what the ride was. Besides, the ride is covered up as Death Star. It isn't Spaceship Earth anymore for a few hours. I remembered when they projected Scully's eye on the globe for the Monster's Inc promotion. The Mickey's Sorcerer Wand was odd. Life moves on. The park changes. Nothing stays the same.
December 9, 2016 at 8:07 PM · Honestly, in my opinion this was little different than the projection mapping Disney does during their regular nighttime spectaculars. If turning Spaceship Earth into the Death Star temporarily is bad, then so was turning the Matterhorn into Mt. Wannahockaloogie during Disneyland Forever. While I never want to see a Star Wars attraction in Epcot, creating a Death Star temporarily for a special event is actually pretty cool in my book (at least in theory...the projection itself looked awful).
December 9, 2016 at 10:29 PM · Temporary things like projections don't bother me at all...particularly when they are during special events.

I definitively agree with the "death and destruction" part, though. Maybe it's the pacifist in me, but I think having soldiers carrying weapons (Storm Troopers) marching through a theme park is in poor taste. Clearly, I'm holding a minority opinion here, as most guests seem to love it.

December 10, 2016 at 7:10 AM · Well, the Darth Vader / Stormtroopers doing the running man dance in the parks was the last straw for me. I just laugh at how many ways this company can embarrass themselves.

I am having a bit of fun watching my brother and sister-in-law stress out over trying to plan a Disney vacation for September 2017. They have no idea what they are in for. He is incredibly impatient and goes nuts over nothing and she is sort of mousy and just caves to his every whim.

He said, and I quote: "This is the most stressful thing I have ever done"...

I respond: "You think you hate it now, wait till you get there"

Lucky for Disney, people are mostly oblivious and keep flushing hand fulls down the commode to spend the entire day in their parks, mostly waiting in lines.

December 10, 2016 at 9:37 AM · I usually don't agree with Robert on many of his rants, but this one was spot on!

With much of the Western world making this right tilt (Brexit, Trump, Italy, etc), places like EPCOT are ever more important to give hope for that "Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow".

Then again, probably to the average guest, they see Spaceship Earth and say "golf ball". I do not think many know that it is an artistic representation of the actual Earth.

December 11, 2016 at 5:26 PM · I guess this is where Get off my Lawn starts
December 12, 2016 at 6:57 AM · I think precedence was set all the way back before the year 2000 for Spaceship Earth to be fair game for promotions. I did not like the year and Mickey hand with wand, or even the words Epcot thereafter. I was happy to see them gone and Spaceship Earth returned back to its simple, elegant self. However, I do enjoy the projection technology and find it non-invasive. It’s an instant gratifier and with a simple flick of a switch it transformed Spaceship Earth to the Death Star and before you know, its back to normal once again. Everyone knows the Death Star is not real, right? I remember a similar treatment was used to project Mike Wazowski onto Spaceship Earth when Monsters University was released. The projection technology should appease everyone – those that enjoy the cool photo opportunities and those that want landmarks to remain physically unchanged.

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