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Disney Parks, Opinions and Commentary, Walt Disney World News

The biggest change coming to Epcot: A colorful commentary

Written by Steve Rhodes.

Many an announcement was made concerning all of the Disney Parks during the 2017 version of Disney’s D23 Expo in California. This will serve as a recap and opinion concerning those pertaining to the most controversial announcement about Epcot, Guardians of the Galaxy.

artist renderings of Guardians of the Galaxy coming to Epcot
Let’s jump right the fuck into into it shall we. This for Disney fans is the most controversial as this new ride will be replacing Ellen’s Energy Adventure at the Universe of Energy. While most fans can agree this 45 minute long, aging, and fairly mundane dark-ride has seen better days and needed a refresh or replacement. Many folks are still stuck on what they perceive to be Walt’s original concept for EPCOT Center. To them, placing Guardians of the Galaxy into Future World isn’t part of the that vision.
I’ve had an internal struggle with this myself being born in the year EPCOT Center launched, 1982, I have fond memories of my early visits to the Park, with the jumping fountains, luminescent concrete walkways and the original Figment, I loved Future World. Hell, I even liked World Showcase as a youngster. Maelstrom was always one of my favorite rides so when I heard it was being replaced by a Frozen inspired ride, I began the get-off-my-lawn-esque rebellion against such fuckery. “Frozen” wasn’t even set in Norway it was a fictional land called Arendelle!!!” I would spout this to whomever would listen to my tirade. So, you know I’m about to go ape shit about this Guardians ride coming into my beloved Future World, right?  Well, not exactly and here’s why.

1. EPCOT Center Died Along Time Ago

EPCOT Center became simply Epcot 23 years ago, yes in 1994.  Disney began to let the Park fade away from that “original” ideal (more on that fallacy later) ever since. Originally there were no characters inside the Park. As the late J. B. Lindquist would argue with then CEO Michael Eisner People don’t go to Epcot without going to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, so having Mickey at Epcot isn’t going to bring people there. If they want Mickey Mouse, they can go where he is. This all changed as Walt Disney World grew (and Eisner overruled Lindquist), realizing that they had a need to draw small children and their families to the Park and the popularity of the Magic Kingdom wasn’t going to be hindered by their second-gate over at Epcot. Disney characters were now seen at Epcot (wearing some shitty “space gear”). The technological revolution was barely in its infancy then, the rides in Future World still spoke to the actual future. But this couldn’t last as the internet and all things tech took off, Future world got left behind. There’s been little done from an imagineering standpoint to keep the park fresh, outside of Soarin’ which is a wonderful ride, and I guess you can count the cool video overlays they did at the Living Seas to include Nemo and friends but outside of that nothing has changed in 10 years (Nemo was added in 2007). The original iPhone came out that same year, so it was hardly ubiquitous to even own a smartphone back then, think about how things have progressed technologically since. So much has changed and Future World hasn’t, so while I can feel the pain of Guardians of the Galaxy not fitting with the motif, in reality nothing in the so called Future World does. Maybe it’s time for a name change.
Disney characters in shitty “space” gear. Late 80s-ish

 

2. E.P.C.O.T

The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. This was actually the vision of Walter Elias Disney not the EPCOT Center we received in 1982.

Original concept art for Walt’s E.P.C.O.T.

Walt wanted people to actually fucking live and work here. It was one of the reasons he bought 43 square miles of land. The Magic Kingdom was to be the theme park portion and E.P.C.O.T was a plan to show the world “what American communities can accomplish through proper control of planning and design.” It included high density apartment housing along with low density suburban like dwellings all centered around a central hub. There was to be a hotel, restaurants, even its own airport etc, but not a fucking theme park to be found. So when I was doing all the bitching and moaning I harkened back to this and realized it was time to move on. Walt didn’t envision it this way so we cannot use him as a reason to reject changes to this Park (or any for that matter). One thing he did actually say was that it will be an “experimental prototype community that will always be in a state of becoming.” That is something that Walt embodied throughout his life. Walt knew that change was inevitable. He was one adaptable son of a bitch. He never let the comfort of the old way keep him from journeying into unforeseen horizons. If you haven’t seen the PBS Documentary on Walt or haven’t watched it in a while, I encourage you to do so in times like this when things are changing. Walt didn’t get to where he was in life through stagnation. His legacy will continue in these Parks through the constant evolution of them. So while I can agree that Guardians of the Galaxy would be a more perfect fit for the Hollywood Studios Park, who the fuck cares. It’s going to draw crowds to Epcot and that’s what theme parks are for. The entertainment inside the ride itself is all that matters once you’re on board. If it’s enjoyable you’ll be back, the folks at Disney know this as did Walt. The only way the Guardians ride will suck for Epcot is if the ride itself sucks, which is obviously yet to be seen, but I’ll bet my money on the imagineers.

Bob Chapek on stage at 2017’s D23 Expo showing the new concept art for Future World

Wrap-up

To reiterate, I don’t think Frozen or Guardians or any other of Disney’s intellectual properties really fit into EPCOT Center. But this is not EPCOT Center, it’s Epcot. The evolution of this park has been slow developing at best in regards to Future World. So if staying “on theme” is the gripe then all of so called “Future” World fails at this in 2017. However, one of the underlying themes to our beloved EPCOT Center was entertaining education which later became known as “Edutainment.” This theme can still be seen throughout Future World, though the entertainment side of things is lacking a bit due to the aging to many of the attractions there, but it’s still there nonetheless. Who’s to say that the Guardians ride can’t fit into this mold. If guests can learn something while simultaneously enjoying characters they are familiar with from a popular movie doesn’t that still “fit” the narrative we all loved about EPCOT Center? By that metric I think it certainly can deliver. So my new gripe is to just change the damn name of Future World. As with any Disney fanboy or fangirl, “thou must always have something to complain about, whilst simultaneously handing over hard earned cash to a mouse and being overly excited to do so. Feel free to join me on my soon to be unsuccessfully wordy Twitter hashtag campaign to #changethedamnnameoffutureworld.

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