A little over eleven years ago, on February 17th 2009, I posted a TPI discussion thread titled "Is It Insane For Orlando To Be Looking at 2021?" Ironically, I began that conversation by asking "In an economy with an uncertain future, would it be wise to look BEYOND the horizon?"
These days it's difficult to even see the horizon. From the moment we wake world events (cringe-worthy chaos) seems to be staring us in the face -- six inches from the tip of our nose.
Lately, as you might imagine, when I'm spending time with family or friends (some of whom are CMs) and the topics discussed inevitably shift to the parks, the conversation teeters back and forth from a small amount of cautious optimism to a sense of genuine despair. It's hard to watch old clips of parades or character meet and greets. There's genuine fear that those experiences may be gone forever.
For me, what is especially heartbreaking is having to accept the fact that we will likely never see the full realization of the new EPCOT Future World concepts. That cash flow and value engineering will whittle away at the original plans – leaving little more than a nicely gardened hardscape. For me, a WDW fanboy, that one's especially tough to work through.
But, revisiting that old thread gave me a small dose of hope. Back in 1986 I worked at EPCOT Center in Guest Relations. It was Walt Disney World's 15th anniversary, and the celebration/promotions began on January 1st. The anniversary would be celebrated all that year -- a strategy that I believe that pre-pandemic Disney likely would have followed for the fiftieth anniversary in 2021.
Of course, even though that's still six months away, saluting the 50th next January would seem to be problematic. At least at this point, it's difficult to believe the parks will be far enough beyond the thermoscans and face covers to launch the celebration the company envisioned.
But what if the company reconsiders? Every TPI regular knows that one of the most important dates in theme park history was October 1, 1971. So, what if the celebration doesn't start at the beginning of 2021? What if the company begins the celebration on October 1st, 2021 -- the actual date of the resort’s fiftieth anniversary?
It seems impossible (at least from where I sit) that the staggering economy, the fallout from the pandemic and the current political discontent will be gone in just six months. But stretch that to 16 months.
In that moldy old post I asked two questions: First, (in 2009) "should Orlando start to focus on Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary in 2021?"
Today I would pose the same question adding a more specific "October 1st, 2021."
The second question I posed directly to Mr. Niles: "And Robert, should we start to plan the ULTIMATE TPI WDW 50 party in Orlando?"
I think that might help us look a bit past the insanity sitting beyond the tip of our noses. And, in what I would contend is a reasonable assertion, October 1st, 2021 could very well be the light at the end of this maddening tunnel.
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