news about its transformation of Epcot, many of us focused on the new entrance, since that was something we all could wrap our heads around. It's relatively easy to imagine the new entry plaza with the concept art that Disney provided. Just take away Leave a Legacy, add some trees and greenery, fill in a new version of the original fountain and add some flags, and we're there.When Walt Disney World announced its latest round of
But it's the other news that Disney dropped that I want to talk about today — that new "Play" pavilion in the old Wonders of Life. What's up with that? Disney didn't offer much detail about that new project, not even its name. But if you've been following what's happening at Disney, especially with its Imagineering division, it might be possible to put together a picture of what a visit to this new Future World pavilion might be like.
As I mentioned in our initial report on the pavilion, the interior looks straight out of Disney's Ralph Breaks the Internet, with its techno-pop/futuristic vibe. But what's behind all those facades? What is there to do in this pavilion?
Here's how Walt Disney Imagineering portfolio executive Zach Riddley described the pavilion, in Disney's press release: "This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot. Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive 'city' where you can explore, create and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters."
Okay... that doesn't help a whole lot. So let's frame this another way.
It's Disney's Imagineering Pavilion.
Like many businesses in the creative industries, WDI works on countless projects that never make it to the public. That's because there is a Great Filter in the attraction development process. A new experience must scale to the park in which it will be placed, complement the other experiences in the park, be consistent with the company's image and support its promotional needs, and then run reliably — all within a desired budget. Many great experiences fail to pass one of the tests of the Great Attraction Filter, never making it to the public.
That doesn't mean that those concepts and experiences couldn't work in a different environment. But until the right opportunity with the right client at the right time comes along for a particular concept, these ideas linger in some stage of prenatal form. Perhaps they're just a sketch, a schematic, a treatment, a model, or a prototype.
Having enjoyed the good fortune to tour WDI's headquarters in Glendale, California on several occasions, I have sampled a few of the experience prototypes that Imagineering stores in its facilities. It's easy to imagine some of these finally getting to debut for the public in this new Epcot pavilion.
The Play pavilion effectively opens the Great Attraction Filter by lowering the barriers that keep engaging concepts from the public. Within the context of the pavilion, an individual experience does not need to scale up to handle hundreds or thousands of guests per hour by itself. It can be built around a character or franchise that Disney might not have deemed popular enough to carry an entire attraction or that Disney thought was better served with an alternate experience. Yes, an experience must still work reliably and come in under a certain budget, but the Play pavilion concept allows WDI to bring more treats from its skunkworks out for the public to sample.
And some of these are amazing.
Imagineers have created character interactions powered by artificial intelligence that take the experience of something like Turtle Talk with Crush to another level. They've extended what can be done within theme park attractions to include radically immersive environments and social experiences. This goes far beyond the glorified arcade games of Disney Quest or the corporate exhibits that guests have found in Epcot's Communicore and Innoventions halls over the years.
Just like filmmakers learn their craft making short films before taking on features, the Epcot Play pavilion could provide Imagineers the opportunity to develop skills and concepts on a smaller and more experimental scale. The single most informative moment for any creative professional is that moment when the public experiences your work for the first time. No committee meeting, mentor review, or charrette can replace that experience. Peer review is great, but public review ultimately determines the winners and losers in the theme park business.
Unfortunately, the economics of the Great Attraction Filter prevent creative design professionals from getting that feedback for so much of their work. A Play pavilion could provide Imagineering with the invaluable opportunity to give more of its concepts, and more of its creators, the benefit of that ultimate test. If that's the direction of that Disney ends up taking with this pavilion, Epcot's Play pavilion might become the single most influential project now under development in this industry. And that's exciting to imagine.
So let's play.Tweet
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