Epcot Gets the Spotlight at This Year's IAAPA Legends Panel

September 27, 2022, 8:34 AM · The history and future of Walt Disney World's Epcot will get the spotlight at this year's IAAPA Expo Legends panel.

Bob Rogers of BRC Imagination Arts will welcome four Disney executives who have led the park and its development for this year's panel, which will take place on Wednesday afternoon, November 16, at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando. Panel participants will be:

2022 Legends panel participants
Photos courtesy BRC Imagination Arts

Rick worked on Epcot from its start, contributing to attractions including The American Adventure, Captain EO, and Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, as well as directing the original Soarin' over California. Bob served as President of WDI from 2016 to 2021 and today curates the Marty Sklar Archives, which includes plans and other documents related to Epcot's creation in 1982.

Kartika oversees the park and its operations today as its leading executive, reporting to Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle. Meanwhile, Jodi oversees teams working on many of Epcot's new and future attractions, including Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Moana: Journey of Water, and World Celebration.

Bob Rogers also has extensive Epcot experience, as the writer and producer of Impressions de France as well as two generations of the GM pavilion post-show.

Epcot celebrates its 40th anniversary on October 1, 2022, and the panel will discuss why the original Epcot proved so popular with theme parks fans and what today's theme park leaders can learn from the park and its development over four decades.

I am planning to be at this year's IAAPA Expo to cover the Legends panel as well as the rest of the show, so please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter for all the latest news leading up to and including the Expo.

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Replies (8)

September 27, 2022 at 9:23 AM

I would really like to know how WDI views EPCOT now compared to Walt's original concept and if they feel that corporate has pushed the infiltration of IP throughout the park or if Imagineers feel that leveraging IP is a natural evolution of EPCOT's vision?

FWIW, we'll be in Central Florida in a couple of weeks, and this will be the first trip to the region where we will be spending just a single day at WDW, which will be at EPCOT.

September 27, 2022 at 10:34 AM

I would really like to know how Walt would view the original EPCOT theme park compared to his original vision. Gone is the innovation in city design and urban planning. I know the original EPCOT vision gets a bad rap for being a company town, but I can't help but think it would have ignited competition and interest in fundamentally improving people's lives through better infrastructure, more transportation options, and overall better living conditions.

Enjoy your $10 12oz craft beer, I guess.

September 27, 2022 at 11:26 AM

Considering when asked about Harmonius, the guy who was leading the Epcot project said [paraphrasing from memory] "Bob Chapek wanted to make the nighttime show a concert of Disney songs...it was Bob Chapek's idea"
I'd say not very favorably.

That being said Epcot/Epcot Center/whatever you want to call it even when it was first built obviously was totally different from what Walt wanted (and in my opinion the right choice compared to what Walt wanted). But what it is today is obviously also totally different from what they built originally.

IMO what they originally built was too avant-garde, lets not forget it cost two billion dollars at a time when the company was struggling financially and proceeded to get absolutely roasted in the reviews, with people calling boring and not good for families with kids. And what they are doing now IMO is too much IP. Would have been better to meet somewhere in the middle.

September 27, 2022 at 11:28 AM

RM: "FWIW, we'll be in Central Florida in a couple of weeks ..."

Me: Interesting.

September 27, 2022 at 11:32 AM

If I believed that Disney was working _toward something with Epcot, I might have some hope. But the only strategy for growing the park seems to be "throw popular IP at it," which is a guarantee that in a few years the park will have zero coherence at all (if it has any now).

And to think it was once a wildly inspiring place to both kids and adults alike. Now it's little more than a bar with a Space Mountain knockoff.

September 27, 2022 at 12:37 PM

I am not sure that the Kitchen Kabaret could be described as "wildly inspiring". But then that comment comes from thecolonel. So ...

When EPCOT Center first opened (I was a CM at the time), the constant question from Florida tourists was "What is it?" It certainly was not the urban center that Mr. Disney envisioned. As EPCOT "Center" the rational was it's an exposition that exhibits the technology (Future World) and cultures (World Showcase) that would play a role in the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.

In that way its role was never clearly defined -- beyond a broader description of being an entertainment center, if not a theme park. And frankly it plays that role pretty damn well every day ... except maybe during hurricanes.

September 27, 2022 at 1:06 PM

I agree TH, but I think EPCOT started "breaking" when corporations and countries no longer saw value in partnering with Disney. EPCOT was the first major park to make sponsorships a front-facing part of the experience for guests. Corporate (and national) propaganda was as ubiquitous in EPCOT as character meet and greets and parades at MK. I'm not sure if Disney began to ask too much from their corporate partners or if those partners just soured on the ongoing costs to put their name on a theme park attraction, but the loss of that revenue has forced WDI to internally take more of the burden to maintain the park and to bring it up to Disney standards as they could not longer blame substandard attractions and spaces on naming rights holders. The basic premise of EPCOT as a never ending World's Fair is not longer achievable without those corporate partners, leaving WDI to turn to develop original concepts or already established IP to fill in the gaps.

The question is, if Disney could have predicted that the corporate money would eventually dry up and better develop a "long game", would executives still have forced WDI to create replacement attractions out of internally owned IP? Personally, I think Soarin' and Mission: Space showed that WDI could develop original non-IP based attractions that fit within the EPCOT concept, but it seems that the overwhelming success at retheming of Maelstrom to Frozen Ever After proved to be too lucrative to allow executives to give WDI latitude beyond Disney's owned IP.

I have yet to experience Ratatouille, HarmoniUS, or GotGCR, so I'll reserve judgement on the most recent IP additions before claiming EPCOT is "dead", but it certainly seems to be trending further and further away from my idealized version of the park.

September 27, 2022 at 3:50 PM

"But then that comment comes from thecolonel. So ..."

See you next Tuesday!

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