I still believe in EPCOT – do you? RT and share what EPCOT means to you with the hashtag #BelieveInEpcot ???? pic.twitter.com/dNFT6VJWfG— Matthew Gottula (@DLthings) September 19, 2014
Their tweets offer a rebuke to Disney's current direction, in which the thematic distinctions between Disney's theme parks seem to be disappearing, and the company's focus appears to be settling on its own franchises, at the expense of the exploration of technology and culture that Epcot once offered.
Epcot made me curious about science, about culture, about geography. Epcot made me want to learn. #BelieveInEpcot— Deborah Bowen (@DisneyDeborah) September 20, 2014
I #BelieveInEPCOT because it taught me that learning could be fun; that history is fascinating; that every culture has things to teach us.— Mark Willard (@MarkWDW85) September 21, 2014
I #BelieveInEpcot because Beauty & Majesty don't always come from festivals of fantasy. They can be real things too.— Spencer Parks (@SpencerParks) September 21, 2014
I #BelieveInEpcot because it encouraged me to travel beyond my nation's borders and into new territory. #wanderlust— D.K. Peterson (@deekaypee) September 21, 2014
Epcot shows me everything that's magical about the real world and all the plants, animals, and cultures that inhabit it. #BelieveInEpcot— Eve (@PinkeminaDPie) September 20, 2014
I #BelieveInEpcot because as a kid it helped fuel my passion for history and different cultures and now I am a social studies teacher— Elizabeth Rasmussen (@TheRaz2007) September 21, 2014
I #BelieveInEPCOT because it opened my eyes to an underlying truth: we are all here on Spaceship Earth. So let’s do this together.— Jack Cummings (@jackacummings) September 20, 2014
Wow. I don't know about you, but now I'm fired up!
What #BelieveInEpcot illustrates is an enduring hunger for something real — a desire not just for truth in experience, but to be inspired by things real. This conversation rejects the ignorance, simplism and xenophobia that too often is promoted and even celebrated in modern media. #BelieveInEpcot acknowledges that people cannot live all their time in fantasy and still prepare for a better future. And it rejects the cynical counter-argument that places like Disney World serve merely as escapes from reality. They can serve as an inspiration to create a better reality, too! Indeed, Walt Disney built theme parks because of his passion for what we now call "urban planning," as much as (if not more than) a way to promote his film and television properties.
Several tweets in the conversation acknowledged that the Walt Disney Company, after Walt's death, built Epcot not simply out of a sense of altruism, but because the company could leverage an enormous amount of sponsorship money to finance the project. That money simply isn't flowing from those sources anymore. Epcot's largest single original sponsor might have been Exxon. (In fact, Marty Sklar has said that the park wouldn't have been built without Exxon's money.) Today, Exxon doesn't spend money to promote science. It spends money to deny science. Without money flowing to build and expand the types of pavilions that Disney developed for the original Epcot, the company's made a smart business decision to start promoting its own properties, instead.
But the market for the original Epcot remains. There is public demand for "inspirational reality," from Neil deGrasse Tyson rebooting Cosmos to Matthew Inman lauding Teslas in The Oatmeal [link maybe NSFW]. As Gottula tweeted:
Now the question becomes, does @DisneyParks #BelieveInEpcot?— Matthew Gottula (@DLthings) September 20, 2014
If Disney doesn't want to meet this market demand anymore, will some other business step forward and try?
C'mon Anon, you know Robert's got a thing for Fox News, and global warming skeptics, and those anti-evolution religious zealots. They're the problem. Progressives and scientists with an agenda and bureaucrats never cause a problem, do they? So if anybody doubts these people and their motives, they are just plain ignorant. By default, they have the high moral and intellectual ground and only the woefully uninformed dare to question them. ;>)
But back to theme parks. You are dead on the money when you say that the people who want to return Epcot to its non-fiction roots are denialists. Epcot needs to progress to a more sustainable and a greater income producing model. Considering the investment in Epcot and the cost to maintain it, the return on the park has been underperforming when you compare it to the other Disney parks in central Florida. Epcot needs to change into a park with a greater appeal to the mass market, and if that means that it moves away from its nonfiction roots and add more Disney IP, so be it.
If somebody wants to experience true nonfiction and history, they can go to Washington DC and visit the museums and monuments there or for that matter visit any of several large cities with excellent museums and attractions. If somebody wants to experience other cultures, they can save up their money and catch a flight to Europe or Mexico or Asia. The cost of airfare is far lower now than it was 30 years ago and for the price of a Florida theme park vacation, they could easily afford to explore other cultures.
Mission: Space took over a space that was once occupied by the popular Horizons attraction, which was promoted as a sneak peak of the future of human innovation and society. The attraction represents what is quite possibly one of Disney's most realistic attractions that was ended up being too real for the average guest, as evidenced by the "non-spinning" option now offered and the toning down of the original spinning version of the attraction. For me, it is my favorite attraction at EPCOT, but even on busy summer days, the lines for it are typically less than 10 minutes for an attraction that has a relatively low throughput for a Disney ride between 1,000 and 1,400 people per hour. The ride, despite it's realism and cool factor, simply does not draw interest, and pales in comparison to an attraction like Soarin' which is nothing more than a bunch of aerial IMAX footage with a catchy soundtrack.
Maybe it's theme park guests not wanting to be taught or lectured to over their vacation, or perhaps the increase in interactivity of local museums, zoos, and aquariums, but the idea of a non-fiction theme park, which seemed like an amazing concept, just doesn't work in today's world.
The biggest problem with the original concept of EPCOT was that it needed to continuously change as the world changed. When Disney and its sponsors refused to update attractions at the speed of human advancement, the original vision for EPCOT began to die. If Disney wants to sustain it on their own, they must come up with concepts that don't require constant updating, which appears to be where they are going with the park.
To me, a belief that EPCOT can be something better is optimistic about what they accomplished originally. It was quite a challenge to find something that still felt tonally similar to Walt's vision while being practically different.
To clarify: I'm not someone who believes Disney should go backwards and just bring back all the old rides (despite many being superior). What I'd like to see a balance between turning EPCOT into a bland "Disney Parks" commodity and realizing there is potential for something greater there.
We can be cynical and buy the party line that EPCOT needs to evolve into more of a generic theme park order to survive, but that's not really true. EPCOT had massive crowds when I went there as a kid. Its most popular ride today is Soarin', which has that feeling of an old-school ride despite being a DCA clone. People still love Spaceship Earth, including the slow-moving ascent. The countries are still very popular, and it isn't because they've added a few characters.
I'd love to see Disney introduce more new experiences at EPCOT. What I want is something more imaginative that actually pays tribute to the sense of optimism about the future and our world. Visitors to EPCOT aren't all there to visit the Character Spot and see The Three Caballeros. If you build something with scope and vision, the park can be great again.
Robert, I loved the swipe at Fox News, by the way. I don't see any issues with calling them out and think it totally fits within this discussion. Nice job!
I look forward to the Frozen changes at Epcot. It will do more for increasing the desire to learn more about Norway than the mediocre Maelstrom did. I greatly admire Walt Disney. Walt Disney was first and foremost a story teller -- did you hear the one about Mickey Mouse being created on a train ride home from New York? Fiction.
I still remember how the original Living Seas fed right into my middle and high school obsession with all things oceanic. It was a wonderful pavilion. Since Nemo showed up....not so much.
Great article, Robert!
So how is having kids sing "Let it Go" on a ride themed to the fictional Arendelle going to inspire anyone to learn about Norway? The original story for which Frozen was based, The Snow Queen, was written by a Dane, Hans Christian Anderson (also penned The Little Mermaid). What are guests to the Frozen attraction going to learn about Norway? It's cold, there are pretty write princess, reindeer, and trolls. That's such an improvement over Maelstrom which showed actual Norwegian cultural elements, occupations, and a tourist film at the conclusion of the ride.
I do think that Norway is the best place in the World Showcase to build a ride around the movie Frozen, but to say a ride based in a fictional world would inspire people to learn about a real place is a bit of a stretch. If that's the case, then Disney should show Mulan in the China 360 theater, and buy the rights to Strange Brew to show in Canada.
And, by the way, the swipe at Fox News was very necessary. When the nation's top-rated cable news channel leaves its viewers worse informed than people who don't watch news at all (a conclusion that's been found by multiple, reputable social science research studies), then, yeah, we have a different social context for the presentation of facts than we had 30+ years ago, when Epcot opened. But many people are turning off cable news, including Fox, unsubscribing from poorly-reported newspapers, turning off bad talk radio, and looking for alternatives. There's a demand for something out there, something real, and inspiring. But we need someone to provide that before we can measure the true extent of that demand.
Which brings me to ask this question: If the very genesis of Epcot was a change from the concept of EPCOT why in the world are so many of you opposed to changing the park now after so many years of mediocrity?
If there is one concept continuous throughout both Future World and World Showcase, it is the concept of change. Yet, so many of you don't want it to change. I just don't get it.
The concept of journalistic integrity is a farce and has been from the time the first news papyrus was plastered on the side of the pyramids. Most jounalists are good people with a fairly well defined code of ethics, but news organizations are businesses that seek to increase circulation by whatever means necessary, and if that means expounding upon the nefariousness of the liberals (if you are Fox News) or the evil-hearted nature of the conservatives (if you're just about everybody else) or writing stories about the latest exploits of the Kardashian clan, they are going to do it.
The challenge for the real adults in society (which there are far too few of) is to sift through all of the detritus of the rabblerousers and find the nuggets of truth hiding in the noise.
Yet you claim that "But many people are turning off cable news, including Fox, unsubscribing from poorly-reported newspapers, turning off bad talk radio, and looking for alternatives." So you also blame Fox for what it doesn't do? This is not logical.
"There's a demand for something out there, something real, and inspiring."
There is no such demand. How you can suggest there is demand when people are not listening to non-fiction news from all sources like cable, talk radio, newspapers? Maybe it's the news that they are disinterested. Maybe they don't want to spend money on reality, thus the low number of viewers for cable news.
Since you "believe" there is a demand from something "real and inspiring," this is different than a mere non-fiction park. Facts and reality does not inspire belief. Usually I find Disney's approach to inspiration a bit heavy handed and too rosy. It glosses over contrary points of view. Since we know that Disney is a liberal organization that produces ABC News, ESPN, and The View, I am sure its politics drips into the theme parks. For the most part, thank goodness it isn't so apparent.
Epcot's original vision is utopian, but since they are realistic and know the limitations, it is reduced to a theme park. Perhaps Disney can go back to its World's Fair Concept in logical way. How about an updated Small World ride? Some will argue it's dystopian.
Like many people have said, we want change to happen at EPCOT. The Universe of Energy needs a huge update, Imagination needs help, and the Wonders of Life is dormant except for special events. I'd be thrilled to see an expansive effort for EPCOT to change.
However, wanting something to change and accepting any bad change like it's great are different things. Disney throws out the Walt Disney quote about change at every opportunity, but they don't really believe it. He was constantly working to make Disneyland better. Change was recognizing when an attraction didn't work and trying something new. It's way too simple to think all the negative reactions are because we want EPCOT to be exactly the same.
Finally, saying that no one wants anything inspiring anymore essentially is just an easy way to end a discussion. Why try to do anything in life? Let's just go to the lowest common denominator since it doesn't matter. Sure, some people think that way. But that's always been the case! There are still plenty of people who want to be inspired.
But why would people be interested in Norway at all? Frozen and the fictional world Arendelle can be about Norway even if the original source material wasn't. Disney has created a fictional world and it could be embellished further with a touch of inspiration.
Why do little girls like to dress up like Elsa? She really isn't the Snow Queen in Frozen anymore. She is The Queen of Arendelle and her sister Anna is the Princess of Arendelle. The story was inspired by Norway. So Visit Norway someday (which is unlikely anyways).
Education isn't going to happen in the country pavilions. At best, you're just going to get a quick rundown of the architecture (check), the national dress (check), the cuisine (check), the beverage of choice (check), the local music (check), the language or expressions (check), and the hotness of the chicks (check). That's good enough for me.
Going from reality to inspiration is a stretch without imagination. Thus, you're really talking about using non-fiction source material and re-imagining them in an entirely new way.
Where Epcot failed is the reality of science and fact is those have happened already and not news anymore. Predicting the future is fraught with risk and bad predictions. Thus, inspiration should be elevated to a higher level. Is Frozen that level? Better than what we got.
I will agree that Fox News television isn't the best. Not a fan of O'reilly. But getting stories that the others don't cover and a more conservative view when all the others are liberal, such as the Cartoon News Network (CNN) etc., is refreshing as a conservative. But if you ask me that conversation is for another forum and putting that in a front page story of Theme Park Insider is distasteful. We come here to get away from all that politics.
75% of the regulars on this site routinely blast Disney for not building all-encompassing themed fantasy lands within their parks à la Universal's Harry Potter 1.0 and 2.0. Even Mr. Niles (the author of this article) continually praises Universal as being the best in themed entertainment these days. So, where in Universal's flagship Orlando parks are they offering anything "real" or "inspiring"? Where is the outcry over Universal's lack of edutaining attractions? There isn't one, because for one thing we still don't hold Universal to the same standards to which we hold Disney, and for another thing, people on vacation don't want to be edutained, they want immersive, escapist environments that take them away from the oft-alarming realities of this world.
Epcot's World Showcase has always painted a picture of harmony and peace between countries that simply does not exist in the real world - and that's why I like it - because it isn't reality, it's fantasy. So, what's wrong with adding a little more fantasy to the equation by featuring Arendelle or Agrabah, or any of the other popular, mythical lands based loosely on reality? Nothing. Other than these additions will make non-Disney stock holders jealous as attendance (and $$$) soars at a park that can actually handle huge attendance numbers.
I believe in the Epcot that is, not in the romanticized version of Epcot that Walt Disney imagined but never was.
I would love for Epcot to stay a non-fiction park. And I love the idea of inspiring people to discover, think scientifically, and care for the Earth, but I hate the idea of having to be insulted in the process.
p.s- I do not deny global warming or anti-evolution. I do not watch Fox news any more than any other news station (all of which have a clear bias), I just always have a problem when people are so willing to post offensive, if not hurtful, things on a site that I see no reason for it being brought up.
Granted, it is not perfect, but it has allowed me to visit and experience other cultures and has made me want to actually visit the actual countries of World Showcase. As dumb as "drinking around the world" might seem to some, you at least get to experience some of what each country has to offer.
Everything at EPCOT has a point. Even Turtle Talk has a point (facts about turtles). Frozen does not have a point except to entertain.
I know that we kinda have stumbled into a political Pandora's box, but tonight's Daily Show proves the problem with not enough people knowing about science. Catch it on comedy central. Heck, an EPCOT attraction actually mentions climate change (Universe of Energy). While it does casually brush it off, it is an attraction that talks quite a bit about renewable and alternative energy (coming from Exxon no less). I like the "brainpower" ending.
While Walt Disney liked to make money, he was also into educating and seeing the fun in real world. I think he would be disappointed in the Frozen ride being fitted into Malestrom.
While I prefer the Seabase Alpha motif of the Living Seas, it doesn't bother me that they have replaced it with Finding Nemo. What does bother me is that the ride is a pastiche of the movie with no educational content whatsoever. This could have been a perfect opportunity to attract families, promote their properties, and provide some information about the ocean and their importance to the environment and ecosystem. Instead they waste it.
Similarly with the upcoming Frozen ride. Here is an opportunity to once again attract families, promote their characters, and expose people a foreign culture. Instead of setting in Arrendale (or however it is spelled) have the Frozen crew visit Norway and learn a little of their history and culture or have them go on a Scandinavian tour to visit several countries and learn a little about each.
And don't worry about the controversial stuff. There is no need to include it. Not to say issues like Global Warming isn't important but there is a time and place for everything and Epcot can do more good by inspiring people to learn than getting mired down in controversy.
It is Disney World and every park should be loaded with as much Disney as it can stand but that doesn't mean each park can't retain their individual themes - if anything I think it is important they do.
More specifically, viewers who solely watch Fox News are more misinformed than viewers who watch no news at all. Viewers who solely watch the left-leaning MSNBC are slightly more informed than those who watch no news at all, but still rank near the bottom of knowledge of current events.
The key difference with Fox is that it has the greatest tendency to make things up and intentionally mislead its audience. Independent journalism studies have repeatedly confirmed this.
But because many Fox viewers have been convinced that its the only news source that they can trust - the rest have a liberal agenda - their viewers are more likely to only trust Fox, creating the epistemic closure so closely associated with their viewing audience.
See what I did there? Opposite view, opposite camp, opposite results. It is naive to trust a news source, it is also naive to trust research simple because it has been done by "experts". It is also naive to not think there is any bias in research studies, especially a survey.
But the point is not that Fox isn't bad. The point is, is this really the place to have this discussion? No, and Robert posting it with subtle jabs to people who have different views than him his completely unnecessary. We all love theme parks, why must we divide over politics? And why must we bring it onto this site at all. If you want to post about politics, I would ask you do it somewhere else, and not on Theme park insider.
Its theme park insider, not Fox news insider.
The great thing about surveys and statistics is that you can cherrypick questions and statistics to get the results that you want.
I went and looked at one of the surveys that you sourced and found that the questions were actually quite fair. So there's no bias there.
But let's look at the methodology. This was a phone survey, and I don't know about you, but most intelligent people that I know don't answer the telephone to an unknown caller. They use either caller ID or they let the call go to voice mail. So there may be an induced bias by the simple fact that the people surveyed may be the simpler and more trusting souls who may be uniformed about current events, and may not be representative of the population as a whole.
Then there's the statistic of "People who watch just Fox News score lower than people who watch no news at all." The operative word here is "just." Most people I know get their news from a variety of sources, and I really wonder how small of a subset of the survey got their news only from Fox News. There's a lot of room for error when you narrow down the results like that.
There's also an interesting little set of statistics included in the survey that says that liberals who watch Fox News score far worse on the current events survey than conservatives who watch Fox News. The same can also be said about the conservatives who watch MSNBC when compared to the liberals who watch MSNBC, but since Fox News has so many more viewers than MSNBC, the results are hardly comparable. If Fox does fail somewhere it looks like it is in their efforts to inform their liberal viewers. (Lord knows it is hard to explain anything to a liberal!)
So what do I take out of this? It all goes back to the old adage of "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics." Anybody with a bias can come up with the numbers in any of a variety of ways to support their position. You found the numbers to support your position in the survey, and I just demonstrated that I could support mine with largely the same data. Funny, isn't it?
I think there's almost a certainty here that this ride will have nothing to do with Norway itself and entirely with the movie.
As I wrote earlier this year when this was still rumored, like Mr. Pastor, I just want to see Epcot gain more credibility when it comes to park investment. Therefore, if Frozen can help bring updates to Imagination, Universe of Energy (but keep Ellen involved somehow please!), and especially Wonders of Life, so be it.
Long and short of it is we just don’t know what Disney has planned because they haven’t told us, and Robert’s informers haven’t come through with the “stolen plans” yet. So, I am just willing to wait and see.
Regardless, I will not shed a tear over the death of Maelstrom or the Norway travelogue that followed. They were both one-and-done attractions as far as I am concerned. Good riddance.
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Can't we be realists? I happen to think the market demand for a non-fiction park is an illusion. Besides the fact that Disney is totally unable to create non-fiction attractions in Epcot that engages the public and withstands the test of time. I can think of the #BelieveInEpcot as the denialists.
Previously, you were a realist. Now, you changed your mind (or so I think). And then you had to bring Fox News into the discussion.
Finally, the nail is in the coffin for non-fiction parks. You can certainly say the same thing with Animal Kingdom and DHS. They are all ripe for hashtags... #BelieveInAK and #BelieveInDHS