Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
It occurred to me that the market for theme parks seems to be shifting in some way. What are your opinions about HOW the market is shifting? Is there a place for a park like EPCOT anymore? What does EPCOT need to do to survive? (and try to be more specific than "Eisner needs to spend more money.")
That's why Las Vegas has canned the "family friendly" bit and is now advertising show girls and lounge singers again. And it is why "family" theme parks like Disney are going to have to start appealing to the thrill ride and golf'n'spa crowds. (The first is the kids of the baby boomers, now teenagers and young adults. The second is the baby boomers themselves, many of them empty nesters approaching retirement age.)
What does this mean for EPCOT? Ironically, after years of being passe because it wasn't family-friendly enough, now EPCOT is uniquely positioned among Disney theme parks, IMO, to appeals to these important markets.
Fine dining, wine festivals, and international shopping brings in the baby boomers. Disney needs to refresh those components of EPCOT, bringing in some "name" chefs from non-U.S. restaurants and holding more food and wine-type festivals.
The second part is thrill rides. And that's the direction that Future World should go. Lose the "educational" veneer and just go for visceral thrills. Make Universe of Energy an indoor coaster with attacking dinosaurs, and you've got a BIG winner right there--and one that would slap down IOA pretty quick.
Turn over Communicore to some real projects on topics that interest the Baby Boomlet. Don't expect a lot of gate or income--run it as a loss leader to get good PR and political contacts for the company.
Unfortunately, Disney's not much into loss leaders, from what I hear, these days. Everything's got to make money.
Well, education won't. So if you're not gonna do it right, why pretend to do it at all?
Even if EPCOT draws fewer
people than Disney's other parks, we must remember what
a huge number of people
we're talking about multiplied
by the $$$ each person spends.
Even if park attendance
isn't optimal, it's still
Any theme can be successful,
if there's enough imagination, resources,
common and business sense,
Disney certainly has the
resources and promotion
IMO, EPCOT's main problem
since its inception (keeping
fully in mind that despite
any "problem," the park has been very successful) is that
there hasn't been a clear focus.
What is EPCOT's theme ?
Originally, it was the
"prototype community of
tomorrow," but what is
really the theme now ?
It's basically two half-parks
in one. The one half supposedly deals with the
"future," although some of
the attractions seem more
like it than others.
"In the future, there
will be many commercial
The other half has the
countries - the "international" theme.
What they should've done
is made two completely
The "future" one should've
combined the current
"future" section with
some thrill rides connected
with space-themed movies, etc.
While "The Land" and "The Living Seas" are among my favorite EPCOT attractions,
these attractions would have
been a better fit with
the "Animal Kingdom."
The "international" side
would be an effective
draw for the large number
of international visitors.
Basically, the countries
seem like a "start" of
being a solid attraction.
There's just not much to them.
They can do much better. Look,
for instance, at the Polynesian Hotel. Now, that's
the sort of large-scale theming they need in the
Done right, the countries
could be much more effective.
Still, Epcot has been having several problems unrelated to its theme. Test Track was the last new thing they added. That was three years ago. Before that was what? Honey, I Shrunk the Audience in 1994? And that wasn't exactly new, was it?
They have had a few changes, but the only improvement was Ellen's Energy Adventure. JIYI 2 was horrid. Food Rocks is about the same. The Circle of Life movie was cheapened. The Living Seas has gotten worse.
Robert is right, to a point. They need to add a little excitement to the place. I don't think they should dump the educational theme, though. It is the only original theme out there. Besides, they can fit thrills in there and still maintain a minor semblance of educational value. Epcot is rumored to be getting a clone of StormRider, which could get some educational pre-show and fit in nicely. Plus, Space seems like it will fill that exciting-yet-educational niche nicely.
I think Epcot's biggest problem is how much they have been ignoring the World Showcase section of the park. Poor planning caused the demise of the Mount Fuji roller coaster. But what about the other pavilions? Do the Mexico and Norway flumes have to be so lame? And why so many attraction-free pavilions? How about a Big Ben freefall ride? Or a Moroccan magic carpet ride? A gondola-flume ride in Italy? I can't think of anything for Germany, but the free-flowing beer may just be enough of an attraction there. Yes, these may all be a little extravagant, but would a motion simulator or two be too much to ask for?
New countries have been proposed for a decade, so where are they? The Millenium Celebration proved that even a half-baked pavilion could get people into the park, so imagine what the proposed Switzerland pavilion with a Matterhorn could do?
What is killing Epcot, besides the lack of new attractions, is Disney's insistence on having sponsors for its Future World pavilions. This is understandable, somewhat, since Epcot can't add simple attractions like at Disney's other parks. Any addition to Epcot requires a PAVILION. Until Disney decides they are going to spend some money (which they are making hand over fist, I might add) then Epcot will continue to languish.
But even scarier than the animatronic dinosaurs attacking the riders would be multiple jumbotron screens with Ellen DeGeneres roaring and making political commentary!!! Now THERE'S an attraction where people would have the willies scared out of them!
Perhaps they could convert Spaceship Earth into an indoor, looping rollercoaster...all while providing the same audio-animatronic communication education that SE porvides now. You could even use the same cars tourists ride in now on SE, but with the standard shoulder harness/lap belt! At the conclusion of the ride, the coaster would ascend straight up out of the top of Spaceship Earth, do a double-triple-quadruple helix followed by a dozen or so loops, and then descend back to the station, while holograms of the members of N'Sync are projected on the tracks ahead of the coaster, acting as if they just got plowed by the coaster train. Pure entertainment!
As far as the World Showcase is concerned, here is the "piece de resistance"!
Have a steel rollercoaster installed that travels through all the themed areas...from Canada to Mexico! Then have the coaster complete its journey with an plunge into a tunnel under the WS lake, rising up again to a triple loop, double cobra roll...all above the lake!
If the suits at Disney would do this, they will pull off the greatest comeback story in theme park history!
Any other ideas for improving Epcot?
It wouldn't require 10 new major attractions; just 1 new one every 2 or three years. Epcot has the space, but Disney is just against building on it for some reason. I think the main reason is money. And almost any attraction can include some sort of educational side.
Unfortunately for me, plurality rules in America (well, not in Presidential elections, but that's another story....). And if there are more consumers in their teens and 20s, than in elementary school, entertainment companies are going to go after that larger market.
Disney's going to struggle if it doesn't adapt. It can't earn the profit margins it did during the past decade, by still going after a now shrinking pool of elementary kids and their parents.
Disney's decision to throw a bunch of kiddie rides into California Adventure, and plow money into animated sequels tells me that Disney's not going be able to adapt anytime soon, and that the company is at risk of losing market share to firms like Six Flags and DreamWorks, which do appeal to an older audience.
The family market is still there. But it's going to be a niche market in the U.S. for the next decade or so. (Reid's right: It would take just one or two rides to make EPCOT a leading player again, family-oriented or not. Even a niche company could do that.)
If Disney's comfortable being a niche player, great. But given everything I know about that company, I really, really doubt it.
That said, theme park companies have plenty of new markets to work outside the United States. Couple that with the demographic changes in the U.S., and that's why I think you'll see the bulk of innovation in the theme park industry happening outside the U.S. for the nexy several years.
(And that's why I'm working so hard to include coverage of theme parks outside the United States on this site.)
I stand by this: EPCOT needs more "name" chefs. More world-class shopping. More food and wine and garden festivals. And more thrill rides.
More of the same won't help. More of things I've mentioned, whether they be in new pavilions or the existing ones, will.
Robert is right about better shopping and better chefs and such in World Showcase. The right side of the park seems to get all the buzz when it comes to restaurants. Mexico's is popular because of the setting, not the food. Norway's just has food that is a little too weird for most of us. Germany's is a little variety-free. Italy's and China's are okay, but nothing you can't find on I-Drive. And I have never heard one word about Japan's or Morocco's. If you don't eat in France, the UK or Canada, then your dining experience here will probably compare unfavorably to a day at the Studios. Epcot should NEVER be compared, food-wise, to any other Disney park. If so, then they are failing at one of the things that makes Epcot unique.
Reid was pretty accurate on the something-new-every-couple-years theory. I believe if WDW added one E-Ticket (and crap like Primeval Whirl is SO not an E-Ticket) to one park and one lesser ride to a different park every year, they would pack in the peeps for years to come.
BUT, the challenge is to keep EPCOT qualitatively different than the other parks. Each park has it's own different theme (although I share the confusion about what EPCOT's theme really is anymore).
So the question is: how does EPCOT retain it's unique theme? How do they incorporate thrill yet maintain their "educational" theme? I think Test Track does that fairly well. I realize that many dislike Test Trake because it is not as rough as a roller coaster. BUT, it is not supposed to be a roller coaster. And, as fun as roller coasters are, I don't think that they fit EPCOT's theme/culture.
Another issue that EPCOT struggles with is: How big is big enough? A park cannot simply expand infinitely. From a management perspective, if you add a ride, then it needs to replace something. So, what needs to go?
I seriously doubt they would get rid of EPCOT. Spaceship Earth (or 'the golf ball' if you prefer) is such a Disney landmark I don't think they'd take it away. Personally I hate the Living Seas, I think they could either spice it up or change it altogether... But perhaps I'm biased because it made me sick (I know, of all the rides to get sick on, but for whatever reason looking through the glass did it). I miss Figment. I'm bitter. I love going to the different countries as well, I like the rides in them a lot, although it seems as thought some of you find them boring. Personally I think they should keep EPCOT how it is and hang in there, I think people will go again. If not for enjoyment then for nostalgia.
Wow, looking back I don't think I made much sense. Hope you got the idea, though.
Epcot doesn't necessarily need rides, just more variety in its attractions. Two slow flumes and four movies all in World Showcase! But then they have the completely different American Adventure, which is excellent for its novelty as well as its presentation!
As for Future World, I am fine with Test Track, IF there was a little more emphasis on the educational aspect of car-making. Making the queue into more of a science-exhibit-type place for the mechanics of a car would make that ride fit in a little better.
For example, since Robert is so desperate to put a coaster into FW, I decided to come up with a concept that would work. Well, why not just a Physics pavilion? There can be a coaster with a looooong straight track where you learn about coasters and their physics. You continue to learn about them on the lift hill, then you REALLY learn about them. There can be smaller rides in the pavilion also, like a swinging boat or some spinny ride. Yes, they are all flat rides, which many of us have trounced at DCA, but if they all get a cool theme, and the educational aspect is focused upon, it could work nicely. If the flat rides were all indoors, then it could be made to seem more like an experimental lab rather than some cheap carnival. Hey! The pavilion could be called The Science Fair and each ride could have one of those science-fair exhibit displays out in front! Education and several thrill rides all in one batch!
This is a bizarre idea that just popped in my head when Kevin was discussing the "experimental lab" approach to Epcot. For some reason, the idea popped in my head of having a giant maze in the park for people to find their way out of. Instead of cheese as a reward, they could hide discount food or merchandise coupons in different areas of the maze. Kind of like the maze in the movie "The Shining", but with a Disney/Epcot twist! :)
Anyhow, this wouldn't be a volcano, but one of those cheesy Brady Bunch looking things. So it could actually be a parody of a volcano coaster.
This statement written previously really made me cringe. Epcot has been like that for many years, and yes, it does bring people in but a park can't exist that way anymore. There's too much compitition from other nearby parks for Epcot (and the rest of WDW) to rest on it's laurels.
I don't think anyone is advocating changing what Epcot is...instead I think most people here believe Disney can ADD to the park in such a way as to keep the educational/informational aspect but put in more for those guests looking for something new to see or experience.
Here's a list of suggestions Disney can do: 1. Get rid of the Land. This pavillion is a total waste of space. Replace it. 2. Add a cool underwater ride to Living Seas. This could get people back there. 3. Bring back Figment to Imagination that way you can still bring kids to the park. 4. Please get rid of Ellen. She is so annoying. 5. Make Maelstrom more exciting. 6. Add lots of attractions to World Showcase like a coaster or two, a "Soaring over a Country", and a dark ride.
Mexico, France, Canada, the American Adventure, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, and Wonders of Life should be left alone for now. If Disney changes any of those, I ain't going back to EPCOT. That's the end of my rambling.
I personally would like to see it renamed something like World Showcase (real original idea here) and then developed with a coherent theme instead of the Jekyll and Hyde situation they've got now.
If they also put some money into some E-ticket attractions they might get some more repeat business from people like me. If these E-ticket attractions had a little oomph to them, they'd also diversify their visitor mixture. Right now, it seems to appeal to the older set. The kids in the adolescent and teen market are not interested.
The “World Showcase” certainly does not live up to this name. It is by no means “experimental”. With its shortage of rides, Disney would be better to segregate it from the rest of the park and make it into an international Downtown Disney of sorts. The biggest compliment about the showcase is the food. So, close it off to the rest of Epcot or make it indirectly accessible, start cooking up some world class cuisine, and let it start pulling in some money. With that, you could start making Epcot what it is supposed to be.
I think that they need to start putting some “experimental technology” stuff into EPCOT. They are already doing this with Inventions. They just need to incorporate this into some new rides as well. Don’t get me started on Ellen’s Ride. If any ride should be put out of its misery, that is certainly it. The animatronics are far out of date, and the story line was Elmer’s glued to the ride to “update” it. In my opinion, that space is much more valuable.
The key to bringing people into a park, it to lure them with a new attraction every year or so. The best example is Cedar Point. They are consistently putting new stuff in that park, and they are bursting at the seams! Disney has the space; they have the money, why not improve EPCOT. I am sure that the Imagineers have some new technology that they are dying to implement. If any park is suited for cool rides, EPCOT is it! Bring them on. Change the park, have fun with it. “Cool Stuff” will get the people in. The jumping fountain does it. The Firework fountain does it. The whole “Make it educational” thing probably won’t work. Let’s face it. We come to the park to have fun. If we are going to learn, it will be about one second’s worth of “Oh! So that’s how it works! How cool!” and that is it.
Technology, New Ideas, and Fun. That is what EPCOT is about, and that is what EPCOT needs.
I don't think what Epcot stands for is really all that important to Disney anymore. Disney doesn't even capitalize it any more. Furthermore, most people don't even have a clue that it stands for something in the first place. So I think Epcot is here to stay, which is just fine with me. Otherwise Disney might rename it Disney's World Adventure or something stoopid like that as long as they beat that Disney name like a dead horse.
Finally, as much as I would love to see Epcot add an attraction a year, I do realize that it isn't feasible. I think my plan of an E-Ticket alternating with a mid-level attraction every two years in each park would be both feasible and a boon for tourists.
Rumors are out about Disney funneling money that was going to pay for a fifth WDW park into Epcot instead. Reports have about $600K going into Epcot in the next few years. Some of the ideas sound great, like something exciting inside Spaceship Earth and new country pavilions. Others seem less so, like cloning some DCA attractions. Check them out - and RATE THEM - here.
I think the park has to have a clear brnad message. Nobody really understands it.
Anyhow, I think Epcot does have a brand, of sorts. Infotainment! They should stick to that!
But I like the idea of having some sort of celebration for OTHER pavilions. How about a Dia de los Muertos party? How about turning Oktoberfest into something BIGGER? I say pick a month for each pavilion and celebrate that pavilion for the entire month. THAT would be cool!
EPCOT has a number of issues that is true, declining numbers of visitors, perhaps the most glaring, however, Mission: Space will open in the late summer and will undoubtedly give a major boost to this 60/70s inspired themepark.
EPCOT and Disney have one massive advantage over its rivals, they offer an exclusive ticketing system that allows each Disney Passholder access to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and MGM, not to mention the waterparks, which makes Disney far more competitive, not to say that WetNWild is bad, its just not the same as Typhoon or Blizzard.
What amaze me here is that we seem to be forgetting the essential : the core business.
Point #1 : I'm designing a very new kind of attraction with a team of great creators. The most diffcult challenge we are facing is differenciation. We asked ousrselves what is unique about us? What is our core? We needed to come up with something in order to be able to build something that has a spinal cord and that can hold the test of time without being a me too product.
Disney, "Walt", should I say always said new that. It took him 15 years to come up with a concept for Dineyland, He needed to accomodate his core business which was telling stories with amusment park. That is when he came up with the Pirates type of attraction. So when people are asking what is missing at Epcot today I can only say : Ride that tell stories.
Point #2: How do you build your business offering around your core business?
Second most challenging decision is to decide what type of attraction to build. Do we build to answer fans multiple desires or do we build following our instincts? This is the creator's dilemma. Following your own sense of what is right or trying to please the crowd and disperse yourself by trying to be everything to everybody. What we have decided to do (my team) is to follow our core business but to adapt to the actual society needs. For exemple: Disney could still tell stories but stories of the new millenium. Plus they just need to find a way to tell those stories in a way that worked in the past. Exemple #2 : Pirates is definitely a classic. Why don't we decide to tell educationnal stories with the Pirate's attraction type? This would unify three things :
1- The core : Telling stories
2- The mission : Educate
3- The essence : Magic
That's it. It is not to difficult. If they keep going after the thrill, they will dilute their offering and come closer and closer to the Universal and SixFlags of this world.
Final opinion : It takes ball to follow our core business in tough economic times. But this is why we are in business. Because we are there to bring innovation to the world and lead the way. When we keep innovating, we expand the horizons of people. As a society, if we come back to only meet customer demand, we will cease to create, cease to evolve, cease to grow, cease to become a better, richer, greater society. Disney has a great potential. I only hope they realise it
A)Either keep/refurb or close WOL. If they decide to keep it, They need to seriously update the pavillion with a new "Body Wars" film shot and projected in digital with a new,matching digital soundtrack as well. Also,get rid of the "fluff" factor(Cranium Command,Making Of Me) and bring in some great permanent exhibits concering health and medicine.
If they decide to close it WOL,and we all hope they do, Keep the building and turn it into a weather pavillion w/excellent theming(Think Port Discovery at DisneySea), a Stormrider(also at DisneySea)and excitng,interactive exhibits on meterological sciences. Work with either NOAA/NWS or Weather Channel on this potential product as well
B) Take the old Communicore/Innoventions space and turn it into either an exhibit on geosciences,in particular earthquakes and volcanos OR turn it into food court. FW doesnt have alot in ways of eating and this could benefit the parks bottom line.
C) Living Seas: Either repair the Hydrolators ot take them out. Also, Refurb the theming a litte bit and give it a more "futuristic" look. Think Seaquest DSV(if ya remember the show) or ST: Enterprise in the design and implemntation. Make the guest feel like their truly 20,000 leagues under the sea. Update the exhbits to show all the new innovations in marine sciences in the past 20 years
Plain and simple, Add a new country. I cant stress it enough..I think its time they need to put in Australia. I say make the pavillion both reflect the modern and ancient roots of the country. Im thinking of something like an outback station myself. Have exhibits and attractions based around what life is like in the bush. Have aboriginal art permiating throughout the exhibit. Have a bar where you can get some good tucker and a oil can of fosters as well.
Walt Disney World
Tokyo Disney Resort