What Does Guardians Mean for EPCOT?

July 16, 2017, 6:27 AM

It was confirmed at the D23 Expo yesterday that a new Guardians of the Galaxy ride will, in fact, be replacing Universe of Energy at EPCOT. This is the first time an EPCOT attraction will lose its theming entirely in favor of IP.

So, what do you think that means for the park as a whole? Is it a way to modernize the park? Or are they trading away their ideals for a cash-grabbing scheme?

My Thoughts

This is a slippery slope. I'm not saying Universe of Energy is a great ride, or that it doesn't need to be updated, but it seems like a bad idea to create a pavilion with no link to the real world at all.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a great IP, and I'd love to see it in the park, but removing Energy isn't the way to do it. How long until other pavilions are changed, removing any trace of the real world in favor of money-making IP attractions?

EPCOT was designed as a foil to Magic Kingdom, which exists entirely in the world of fantasy. EPCOT stands firmly in our real world, looking at how we will live and work in the future, and how we live and work now around the world.

I'm not opposed to IP in EPCOT. The Seas with Nemo is pure genius, and I love the idea of a Ratatouille ride in the France pavilion. But, this is a sacrifice of what EPCOT is, losing its real world connection. And, I fear, if this is the way of EPCOT in the future, it will lose any trace of what the park was meant to be.

But hey, what do I know? Tell me what you think in the comments below!

Replies (22)

July 16, 2017, 8:23 AM

People don't really want the real world. This means using fossil fuels AKA oil/petro. The lecturing must stop. Guardians has real world implications. Haven't you noticed Peter Quill visited Epcot while a kid. At least have a David Hasselhoff tribute.

July 16, 2017, 9:04 AM

Oh look! Someone is questioning the the decision to adapt a billion dollar IP to themed entertainment within a Disney park.

How ... ordinary.

July 16, 2017, 11:07 AM

I think Guardians is a great IP and works perfectly in Future World

July 17, 2017, 7:17 AM

Come on TH, give it a break. I think it's a perfectly valid point to discuss. There'a absolutely nothing wrong with Disney using the Guardians IP (or any of their other Marvel IPs) in their parks. However, first with 3 Caballeros, then Nemo, then Frozen, and now Guardians, it makes EPCOT a little less EPCOT-y. I personally don't have a problem, because it's clear that EPCOT is broken, but it does seem like Disney is taking the easy way out. Energy and Imagination have been left to rot (Wonders of Life was so broken it's not even rotting anymore, it's as extinct as the dinosaurs in Energy), and instead of coming up with an original concept to fix it, like they did with TestTrack, they sold out to an IP. That seems to be Disney's M.O. these days, and if that's the way they want to do things, fine. However, it doesn't mean people can't criticize them for it. I hope at the very least this new Guardians attraction has some level of "edutainment".

The one thing we do know from this announcement is that Disney feels it can apply this Marvel franchise in Orlando. The only question is did they write a check to Universal to do this, or are Disney lawyers confident that Universal has no basis to sue even with the Guardians participating in next year's "Avengers: Infinity War"?

Edited: July 17, 2017, 7:42 AM

Given that Epcot isn't the real EPCOT but a pretender to the name, isn't it a bit silly to talk about whether or not a developement ruins the vision of EPCOT? The vision of Epcot the Theme park is "How do we pretend we're honouring Walt's vision by not honouring his vision?"

July 17, 2017, 8:36 AM

It's almost like Disney Parks is giving people what they want... weird, right? Seriously TH, calm down amigo. IP brings in dollars, which bring in new attractions, something I believe you were complaining about in the comments of another post. Ease up - you'll still get your Disney fix!

Edited: July 17, 2017, 9:53 AM

I think there's some truth to that Clayton. Nothing is going to please everyone 100%. However, you have to look at the WDW parks and think to yourself what differentiates them. When DAK was completed, each of the 4 parks had a distinct theme. Because of this, each park by its own nature had a slightly different target audience. Like any great movie studio, you'd prefer your release schedule to have some releases that touch each demographic while still having cornerstone/blockbusters that hit all the demos in a single release. MK is that blockbuster movie for WDW, while the other 3 parks catered to specific demos/tastes. With these announcements, the 3 "lesser" parks are losing their identity/uniqueness in the attempt by Disney to create 4 "blockbuster" parks. If they're successful, more power to Disney, but I think it's going to be tough to pull off. They had a great thing going trying to create unique identities to each of the parks, but now instead of each park having its own identity, each one is going to be a mishmash of IPs and random attractions gathered together under a loose theme (though I have no idea what DHS's theme will be anymore). DAK and World Showcase will be the only parks/sections with any sort of unifying theme. To be fair, IOA and USF don't really have unifying themes anymore either, so maybe that concept just doesn't fly anymore.

July 17, 2017, 10:12 AM

I totally see what you're saying, Russell. And I completely agree. However, I don't think the general public shares the same opinion. With Disney continuing to raise their price points, people are demanding more entertainment value. DAK had to adjust, because charging $100 for a glorified zoo just wasn't cutting it anymore.

July 17, 2017, 10:25 AM

The big draw of EPCOT is the World Showcase and Future World. Whether or not various IP are brought into the park, these themes will still shine through and differentiate the park in theme.

A theme park can never really do justice to the "real world" because it's job is to entertain, not to inform. AND people go to theme parks to escape reality, not to be reminded of it. The sooner EPCOT incorporates familiar IP, the sooner the park can rise to the level of the Magic Kingdom.

Edited: July 17, 2017, 10:52 AM

DAK adjusted, but stayed within it's general theme. Even with Avatar, ecological preservation and nature still are central to the park's purpose, which is why Avatar makes so much sense even though it is otherworldly. I think the Ratatouille ride can work in France, and would hope there's some variation in the story from the Paris version to make it work within the pavilion's setting (perhaps an exit that leads guests pasts windows looking into kitchen for Chef's de France).

There are no details on the Guardians ride, so perhaps Disney will make it work within the Future World concept. However, with Mission: Space nearby, it's difficult to imagine any sort of attraction that would utilize the full effect of the IP without overlapping with Mission: Space. If this had instead been Tron, it would have worked perfectly within Future World as a portal into the world of computers (a Tron coaster was rumored for years to take over Spaceship Earth until they realized the sphere could not not support itself if the omnimover attraction were removed from the interior). I'll reserve judgement on EPCOT's Guardians attraction until more details are announced, but I'm not thrilled at this point, especially since the Future World pavilion in most need of attention (and most visible to park guests) is Imagination.

EPCOT doesn't need to rise to the level of MK. That's my whole point. Disney thinks every park needs to pull MK numbers, but there's something to be said about parks that fill voids that MK cannot touch. EPCOT has always been the "adult" theme park, and gussying it up with Frozen, Ratatouille, Guardians, and Nemo degrades that experience from an adult perspective. I loved the authenticity of the World Showcase and the slow addition of Disney characters causes it to loose that for me. You felt like you were literally walking around the world in the span of a few hours, but soon you'll feel like you're just walking between auditoriums of your local multiplex. I concede that the original Future World concept is a lost cause, but the attractions there still relate back to the ideas that propel our world. Perhaps Guardians will still do that (as well as whatever they decide to do with the Innoventions Pavilions), but I'm not crazy about what they've announced thus far.

Edited: July 17, 2017, 3:59 PM

I read so many columns about the need to preserve EPCOT's unique character. Okay, then what?

Say if you want to still educate while entertaining with IP. How do you achieve it?

Some suggest adding a new framework to still make it "seem" like you're educating the public about any general topic. Going to outer space and seeing the cosmos.

Education: blah blah SPACE blah blah ENERGY blah blah
Entertainment: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Thus, the education aspects are preserved and the attraction itself never needs to be updated (minor rehabs excepted).

Disney will find itself to still be in a dilemma if the educational exhibits become outdated when seen in the queue line or the gift shop exit. Eventually, the whole educational exhibit must be replaced entirely. Disney may also balk at the cost if few guests care to see it. It finds a near empty room like at Test Track where most guests quickly walk out instead of seeing the nice auto exhibits. (The sponsor paid for Test Track's exhibits so Disney is relieved of it.)

Okay, let's not pretend these educational exhibits are interesting no matter how Disney does it. Lofty high minded slogans can be insulting to guests with different educational levels, political philosophies or religious perspectives. I have an engineering degree. Based on how science has been politicized in the name of global warming, I do not trust how Disney will treat the subject with President Iger's own advocacy or political leanings.

So assuming indifference, what if they are omitted. Head straight to the meat. I can live with that.

As for science, you need a lot of math. If you haven't done college level Differential Equations and Physics, don't come to me saying you need Disney to force feed you science education.

July 18, 2017, 5:50 AM

For a long time I have viewed EPCOT as two parks: Futureworld and World Showcase. My preference is to go straight to Soarin then to Mission Space, then go into the second park, the Showcase, and forget Futureworld entirely. It KILLED me when Frozen was put in Norway. The World Showcase was like an Oasis in the Disney vacation. It was a place where I could truly fantasize about being in other countries. No lines. Few crowds. Very good food. The 360 films are wonderful. Then the next day it is back to IPs and crowds. Maybe they can shoehorn these new attractions in gracefully, and I do agree the pavilions were dated and needed changing, but I hope they realize what that park is for many guests.

July 18, 2017, 7:12 AM

The thing is JC, when you can fly Norwegan to Europe for Peanuts, why would you go to world showcase when you can experience the real thing?

The faux international fantasy theme park theming model isn't sustainable long term - it's already dead in Europe where LCCs have been taking us to these places for next to nothing for decades.

Edited: July 18, 2017, 8:21 AM

Chad, I understand your point, and I love to travel to other countries and locations, but I love theme parks too, which is why I am here. I like going to Disney and Universal with my family, getting up early and doing the Space Mountain Marathon at rope drop and everything else. The World Showcase is kind of an oasis in all of the lines, crowds, and attractions. I can calmly stroll around the tiled areas in Moracco, have a fantastic lunch in France, have a perfect pint of Guinness, listen to a band or two, stroll around, and have a dinner in a German village with a stein of beer. All taking it slow. The next day can be back to roller coasters and dark rides. The think is, I want EPCOT to keep that difference.

July 18, 2017, 8:51 AM

James Gunn responded to a passionate person on Twitter yesterday with this: "I know what's in store and I think it's absolutely in line with Walt's vision & couldn't be more so."

Take it with a grain of salt, but even the person responsible for the entire tone of the movies is aware of our concern.

July 18, 2017, 1:08 PM

And I will say this: The Guardians movies are my favorite of all the Marvel movies. What I would find amusing is if the characters in the ride comment on the location and the irreverence of the attraction while not detracting from the World Showcase. Disney gets credit for hiring a Troma graduate to helm a major franchise. Gunn is one of the few directors that gets an automatic watch from me for whatever he makes.

July 18, 2017, 1:51 PM

Good Sci-Fi often draws parallels with societal issues or current (or potential future) dilemmas. Fahrenheit 451, I Robot,Gattacca, Wall-E all look at very interesting social dilemmas or the potential issues with technology.
This is why Avatar (not necessarily good Sci-Fi) is a fit for DAK, one of its basic themes is about environmental balance.

If GOTG is done well as a ride, the story can raise attention to things in a similar way. It could look at energy and the value of renewable energy vs the impact of using coal as a power source for instance. Not in a didactic information overload way, but as the basis for whatever adventure they're taking us through.

I don't think that having a GOTG label on the ride necessarily means Epcot USD losing its identity any more than a Ratatouille ride will.

July 19, 2017, 5:11 AM

Ratatouille actually shows some of Paris in the ride. I am still not sure how Guardians falls within the relm of increasing human knowledge for a better tomorrow.

EPCOT made me want to study science! As Robert Niles once wrote, no wizard or super hero is going to save us in the real world. EPCOT shows the REAL world magic and how we can work together for the betterment of humankind. World Showcase is a perfect example. Sure, the China Pavilion is not 100% authentic, but it gets people interested in learning more about China and possibly visit in the future. World Showcase provides international experience to those who can't afford or won't travel overseas. It isn't perfect, but its better than nothing.

The one thing that does make me hopeful was James Gunn's twitter response. I know that at least he is aware how much of a fine line he is running with EPCOT fans. His statement of Peter Quill loving EPCOT as a child actually fits quite well in both IPs since Quill is all about the 80s pop culture (EPCOT being a BIG part of that) and Quill, generally speaking, is looking for that better tomorrow.

July 19, 2017, 12:35 PM

I just trademarked the word "EPCOT-y" ... HA!

July 19, 2017, 9:02 PM

Good idea TH!

To Chad's point, it still is very expensive relatively for an American to go to Europe (or anywhere for that matter).

I live in the third largest city in the United States so I could theoretically go to Chinatown or Little Mexico, or Germantown. I could probably get just as authentic of an experience from them, but that is not the case for a majority of the USA. World Showcase gives people a taste (pun not intended) of those countries and maybe they will save money and go there one day.

One example is pizza. I am lucky to be in a city where I could easily get an authentic Italian pizza. We have hundreds of "Via Napolis" in Chicago, but there aren't that many in Omaha or Little Rock. Via Napoli brings the authentic pizza making from Italy to the masses.

To the discussion at hand, I do think the Universe of Energy needs to change/go, but I just hope it is done differently than shoehorning something like Frozen into Norway. Maelstrom was a much stronger attraction and it got IPed (can I trademark that?)

From a Disney nerd perspective, the one thing I do morn for in the Universe of Energy are the dinosaurs. Especially the Stegosaurus and the T Rex fighting is a classic Disney parks scene that can also be seen on the Railroad at Disneyland. Its a "thing" that Disney parks share. I might be the only person sad to see the orange scent gone from Soarin since it has always been sprayed somewhere in Future World.

July 20, 2017, 11:29 AM

Lol TH!

July 20, 2017, 3:41 PM

>>>To Chad's point, it still is very expensive relatively for an American to go to Europe (or anywhere for that matter).

Check into Norwegan Air Shuttle (or if you're willing to go via Canada, AirTran and WestJet). Given how much I'm being milked to get from Orlando to Canada, I think you'll be surprised.

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