Why theme park fans #BelieveInEpcot... and why theme park companies should, too
Over the weekend, many Disney fans, led by Matthew Gottula, spread the #BelieveInEpcot hashtag on Twitter, to declare their support for what Disney did by creating a non-fiction theme park.
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.
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:
If Disney doesn't want to meet this market demand anymore, will some other business step forward and try?
I really hate that unnecessary swipe towards Fox News. I suppose you will recoil in horror if Fox News sponsors an attraction. Then you'll take a swipe at Koch and Global Warmer denialists.
(Sigh) and the Big Lies in the Cultural Wars continue....
There may be a very small segment of the population that has the thirst for the non-fiction theme park that EPCOT strives to be. However, that segment is just not what drives the needle of investment and innovation. I actually consider myself in that segment of the population, but look at Mission: Space for the most defining example of how non-fiction just doesn't work for the theme park visitor.
Wow, that's a lot of cynicism about EPCOT in just two comments. We'll have to agree to disagree on a lot of points.
A swipe at Fox News and then a swipe at anyone who does believe in man-made "global warming" or "climate change" or whatever it's being called these days. Not a friendly start to a science and unity rally.
I absolutely love this -- almost makes me want to get a Twitter account (almost....). I don't consider myself in denial but, like Dan above, I just believe EPCOT could be something MORE than just a another place to buy a stuffed Mickey Mouse.
"It will do more for increasing the desire to learn more about Norway than the mediocre Maelstrom did."
The key isn't simply to do something non-fictional, but to do some
I noticed some of you are using the name EPCOT to describe that park in central Florida with a large geodesic dome as its signature attraction. EPCOT may have been the original name of that park, but Disney did not build EPCOT as Walt Disney described it. Disney built Epcot which was a more sustainable concept as a theme park instead of the unsustainable utopian community known as EPCOT.
Uh... Mission Space has a capacity of 1600 riders per hour.
Hmm, I wonder if those multiple, reputable social science research studies that found that you were worse informed by watching Fox News than if you didn't watch anything at all were done by the same organizations that did studies and found out that the vast majority of network news and print news organizations and journalists were liberally biased with about only Fox News on the conservative side of the equation? I don't think so. This sounds an awful lot like that old trick of attacking the messenger when you can't argue with the message.
Cable news has a very low audience by default due to the very low number of subscribers compared with free television. The fact that Fox News scores significantly higher audience than CNN and MSNBC has caused much angst.
The original name was actually EPCOT Center, and turning our arguments about the direction of the park into being against change is misleading and an over simplification.
"a ride based in a fictional world would inspire people to learn about a real place is a bit of a stretch."
I don't think keeping the original idea is that important. As long as it's enjoyable to go to each area. I think a mix fiction and non-fiction is not a bad idea. My favorite part of EPCOT is the food, drink and atmosphere in each land. Making sure everything non-fiction is not as important.
I love Mission Space. Like Russell it is my favorite Epcot attraction, and one of my favorite attractions at any park. And yeah, the buttons don't do anything, but if you give into your imagination and "go with it" the interaction with your other family members in the ride vehicle can be a whole lot of fun. Sometimes attractions inspire you to do things when you leave the park, but sometimes attractions inspire you to fire up your imagination while IN the park. That's the result I have found when my family visits Mission Space.
Everyone has bias, whether Fox, NBC, your "reputable social scientists" or whatever. Bashing Fox will not accomplish anything on this site other than distract from the purpose of your article. Instead of discussing EPCOT and its growth, we are now going to discuss politics. Does not seem like the place for it.
I wonder if the improvement of local museums has changed EPCOT's trajectory. This park made me want to go into science and I think I have learned quite a bit at this park that I can use in everyday life.
Personally I do not understand why Epcot can't merge both.
Robert is absolutely correct about Fox News viewers being the least informed/most misinformed. Repeated studies have shown this:
After sitting and thinking, the Frozen ride might be breaking new ground as the first EPCOT attraction with no educational purpose. Everything at EPCOT (including Nemo) does have some educational value. Captain Eo might be the only other attraction, but I think they are showing off the camera technology.
...and the Big Lie continues.
@Anthony Have you heard any details about what the Frozen attraction will be? I am curious why you think it won't have some edutainment incorporated into the excursion? For all we know the attraction could be a ride through the real places in Norway that were transformed into Arendelle, similar to one of the segments in the recent "making of" show on ABC. At this point we don't know much, and until we hear something definitive, everything we predict is just armchair imagineering.
I really don't care if there is educational value attached to an attraction or what the original intent of Epcot was. Theme Parks evolve over a period of time as does most of society. Just give me some good quality new attractions. That's all I ask.
@James: From Disney: "The new attraction, which replaces Maelstrom, will take our guests to Arendelle and immerse them in many of their favorite moments and music from the film."
You're probably right, James, and I think we are largely on the same side in this debate, however that description tells us nothing about the attraction. Yes, it will have Frozen music and Frozen characters, but if you saw the “The Story of Frozen: Making a Disney Animated Classic” on ABC a few weeks back, it too immersed viewers in many of their “favorite moments and music from the film” but also showed how many of those moments were inspired by a visit to Norway itself. In fact, for all intents and purposes, they explained that Arendelle
Just now saw a story on NBC Today about this controversy. Not only did thy quote Robert Niles but they also quoted James Rao. Congratulations on your comments going international on this growing controversy.
Still waiting for the job offers and groupies to roll in, Rob. But not holding my breath!
I'll be in Norway the weekend Malestrom closes, which is both good and bad! EPCOT encouraged me to travel the world and broaden my horizons, including a desire to visit Norway. So while I am sad to see such a classic dark ride be replaced by the flavor of the week, I am forever thankful to Disney and EPCOT Center for opening my eyes to all that is out there to be seen!
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