Wednesday, May 23, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 8 - E.P.C.O.T.

"To all who come to this Place of Joy, Hope and Friendship


Epcot is inspire by Walt Disney's creative vision.  Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.

May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."

E. Cardon Walker
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Walt Disney Productions
October 24, 1982


Those are lofty goals.  And for the first decade of EPCOT's life, the park really lived up to them.   It pioneered a new form of edutainment that inspired dreamers of all ages to reach for new achievements.  Through attractions like Horizons and Journey Into Imagination, millions of guests imagined their future or explored their own imaginations, igniting that spark in future scientists, artists, engineers, and imagineers.  Future World conveyed that sense of exploration of the world around you, while World Showcase encouraged a cultural exchange and appreciation of the people that make up this tiny blue speck.

EPCOT now is in danger of becoming just another theme park.  Thanks to inappropriate tie ins with intellectual property and a disregard of theme and identity, EPCOT has lost that magic inspiration that it once had.  Future World is largely abandoned to a dated aesthetic, with a few primary draws for attractions.  World Showcase, while still beautifully maintained, has become little more than an oversized mall.

EPCOT is in dire need of a re-focusing, to hopefully bring it back to the goals stated in its mission.  To be true to the spirit of inspiration and vision that make it one of the most unique parks ever created.

Primary Goals:

  • While the World Showcase is a very solid section of the park, Future World is in definite need of an identity.  There seems to be no central theme for this area of the park, no core identity that is driving expansion and refurbishments.  Revisions and additions must be weighed for appropriateness of theme to the pavilion that they are in and to the overall goal of the identity of Future World.
  • EPCOT is in need of attractions.  EPCOT is able to absorb many more people than the Magic Kingdom, but it does not have the drawing power needed to pull people away from the Magic Kingdom.  It is in need of attractions with a large hourly capacity that are proven draws to get people into the park, and potentially away from the Magic Kingdom.  In particular, there are many pavilions in the World Showcase that could use and attractions, and there is a need to add countries to the World Showcase to fill out the guests experiences.
  • EPCOT is in need of family or child friendly attractions.  EPCOT has long been thought of as the adult park.  It has tried to add attractions that will draw in younger guests, there is still a lot that could be added.
Unlike the other posts in this series, I will not be adopting a clockwise approach through the park. EPCOT, as laid out, does not really lend itself to this kind of exploration.  Instead, I'll move from Future World to World Showcase, going from Future World West to Future World East, then to the central spine, to Showcase Plaza, and then to Canada around to Mexico in the World Showcase.

Future World:
Future World represented the exploration of human achievement. Through the Sea, Land, and Imagination in Future World West and the future, Energy, and Motion in Future World East, Future World explored the history of human achievement and the possibility of our future.

Thanks to the neglect of maintenance and refurbishments, Future World is currently a little dated and in need of a cohesive identity.  And I think the easiest place to find an identity for Future World is in the past of the company.  Specifically, EPCOT was supposed to represent a continual World's Fair.  And I think doubling down on this identity will pave a pathway forward for the park.  Looking to the 1964 World's Fair for inspiration and specifically Walt's involvement in the fair, can provide a blueprint for what Future World should look like.

At the 1964 World's Fair, Walt introduced four attractions: it's a small world, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Carousel of Progress, and Magic Skyways.  EPCOT already has its Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyways.  The American Adventure is a grander version of Mr. Lincoln.  An exploration of American history.  Magic Skyways shares a lot of similarities with the World of Motion and Test Track, even down to the look of the building and the track outside wrapping around the pavilion.  The park needs its Carousel of Progress and it's a small world.

This inspiration will also provide a guide for the rest of the park.

Spaceship Earth - Spaceship Earth explores the history of communication and it's impact on mankind.  It has had a rich history of narrators: Walter Cronkite, Jeremy Irons, and Judi Dench.  Currently the attraction works, apart from the attempt at interactivity added to the end.  The attraction needs its descent completed with something to look at on the way, beside the screen on the ride vehicle.  Should a new narrator be needed, suggestions would be Benedict Cumberbatch, Chwitel Ojifor, Idris Elba, James Earl Jones, Dan Rather, etc.

I would rename the post-show space to CommuniCore to bring back an old EPCOT IP.  It would be a bit more fitting since the attraction is about communication and it is in the core of the park.  The illuminated globe would still be fitting, but I would add new/old attractions like SMRT-1 for voice recognition and living character/AI interaction and the EPCOT Discovery Center for answers to questions explored in EPCOT pavilions.

Future World West
The Living Seas - the Living Seas is a pavilion that largely works.  The combination of attractions and aquarium works.  I would suggest two minor changes. First, the Living Seas with Nemo and Friends attraction should be reworked so it is no longer a retelling of the Finding Nemo movie.  It should focus on Mr. Ray teaching us about the seas and exploring the various ecologies.  Second, I would rework the layout of the pavilion so that the secondary entrance is no longer through a gift shop.  I would put exhibits in this space and move the gift shop to a side, essentially swapping their locations.  Turtle Talk would remain as is, with a light refreshing to bring into the Marine Life Institute feel of the pavilion.

The Weather Station - between the Living Seas and the Land there is room for a new pavilion, and I would add one focused on weather.  The Weather Station would feature the StormRider attraction from Tokyo DisneySea (Tomorrowland would be getting a StormRider-like attraction using the moving theater aspect, Future World is getting StormRider almost exactly down to flying into the big storm).  There would also be an Armageddon like experience where you are in the middle of a hurricane/tornado, along with a Storm Struck followup.  Finally, this would be the perfect pavilion to have a rain room like was exhibited at MOMA.  Several partnerships spring to mind that would be extremely advantageous (beyond the obvious Weather Channel, which is an NBCUniversal property) - Accuweather, The Weather Company (Weather Underground), NOAA, National Weather Service.

The Land - the Land again is probably one of the strongest pavilions that Future World currently has.  Very strong attraction line up, well respected table and counter service options.  Again, I would make a couple of small modifications to the pavilion so that it is stronger.  First, I would commission a new Soarin' film so that it has a stronger connection to the pavilion - Soarin' Over the Land.  This particular film should focus on scenes flying over the natural wonders of the world.  To focus on the land itself.  This way, Soarin' Over the Land is in EPCOT, Soarin' Over the Horizon is in Shanghai, and Soarin' Over California is in Disney California Adventure.  As with California Adventure, the films could always be swapped and promoted as a limited time offering, but the default film would be Soarin' Over the Land.

Living with the Land, the boat attraction, would remain the same, but just well maintained and tightened.  The highest part of this attraction has always been the greenhouse.  That would remain the focus.

The film would be replaced with a new film entitled Listen to the Land.  This would bring back the song "Listen to the Land" as a theme song for the movie.  I would even bring in a character for the movie called the Landskeeper.  This was an original character designed for the pavilion that was never used.  I believe the character could be smartly updated and used to great benefit to round out the attraction presentation.  Soarin' Over the Land shows us its beauty.  Living with the Land shows us how to grow with the land.  And Listen to the Land would show us how we need to care for it.

Imagination - In Future World West, Imagination is the pavilion most in need of a near complete reworking.  First, Journey Into Imagination would receive a complete overhaul.  The attraction would be restored to Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Dreamfinder, using all of the newest tricks that Imagineering has in its playbook.  LPS technology, projection mapping, living character technology, advanced audio animatronics, the works.  This ride should be a signature attraction for Imagineering.  It should represent the best that they can offer.  And it needs Dreamfinder and Figment.

The Imagination Theater will get a new movie with Bing Bong from Inside Out.  If Journey Into Imagination is about setting your imagination free, this movie will be about putting your heart into your imagination.  Finally tying the two attractions together.  Bing Bong and the Imagination Studios will be the focus of the attraction, using the best 4D effects imagineering can come up with.

Image Works will be reopened on both floors, including the sound floor and the Rainbow Corridor.  All the newest technology of Imagineering should be put on display like the Magic Bench.  This should be the most interactive and fun museum that was ever conceived.

Future World East
Test Track -  The updated version of Test Track is a very successful revision to the attraction and brings it in to the classic EPCOT spirit.  While there is a post-attraction segment, what the area really needs is to truly feel like a pavilion.  More than one attraction and informative space.  Particularly, Future World East has very little children or all ages can do together.  To that end, I would resurrect a Project Gemini proposal and add an Autopia Jr.

I would also tie Odyssey to Test Track to really flesh out the pavilion and give it a restaurant, retheming Odyssey to the TransDiner and focusing it on new American food.  I really want to bring visible unused spaces back into consistent guest use and this would help move Test Track from just a good attraction to a fleshed out pavilion in the tradition of the original EPCOT.

Mission: Space - Mission: Space likewise got a great boost with the addition of the Soarin' over the Earth style Green Mission.  This splits the missions and gives two unique experiences, giving many more people an opportunity to enjoy this space (Orange for thrills, Green for enjoyment).  Likewise, the upcoming addition of the Space restaurant will really help cement this pavilion as an exciting space.  The Space restaurant is probably the truest EPCOT addition in ages.

I would continue to flesh out this pavilion with a domed planetarium, partnering with Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Hayden Planetarium to for a show with a potential tie in to the COSMOS program (another benefit of the Fox/National Geographic acquisition).

Progressland - the World of Life pavilion has been turned over to festival space and needs to be reclaimed.  There are better places to use for festival planning.  In this space, I would create the Progressland, a space to focus on invention and achievement.  To focus on the forward march of progress.  This would be the spiritual successor to Horizons, by bringing in a predecessor. I would move the Carousel of Progress to this location, getting it out of the ill-fitting Tomorrowland and into a World's Fair atmosphere where it belongs.  This attraction would go in the back box area.  In the front, there would be a couple of different exhibits.

First, a Blue Sky Exhibit.  This pavilion should be the preview center for the entire Walt Disney World Resort.  And given that something should always be in progress, it should be a very exciting place to come explore.    This would include exhibits from the One Man's Dream space in Disney Hollywood Studios as well as concept art and models for any and all upcoming attractions.

Second, there would be a continual exhibit on the history of EPCOT.  This is the exhibit that was displayed during EPCOT's 30th anniversary and would include materials from the exhibit at the archives for the 35th anniversary.  A reminder of where the park has come from in addition to where it is going.

An offshoot of this space would be a theater that cycles through the One Man's Dream and the original EPCOT film, where Walt Disney explored his dream to get into city planning.

There would also be space for exhibits of additional Disney patents.  In many ways, this is a sister pavilion to Imagination.  While Imagination is where the Magic is shown off, similar to Disney Quest, Progress is where the more practical Disney patents are displayed.  Like the whole room wireless charging patent.

It would even be great to incorporate a Skydome Spectacular in the space, projecting on the domed ceiling at regular intervals, like in the Progressland pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair.

Universe of Energy - this space is currently being replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster.  For many reasons, this is a poor fit.  Instead, I would look to partner with Tesla to revamp the pavilion to focus and promote renewable energies and would replace this space with a reworked Universe of Energy.  The 45-minute attraction definitely needs to be broken up and replaced, but Guardians is not the way to do it.  Rather, the space needs to be broken up into several different attractions/spaces.  I would bring back the Kinetic Mosaic and show a film in this space that is designed to be the atrium for the entire pavilion, not unlike the main lobby of the Animation Academy building at Disney California.  It's a background attraction.

The roller coaster could even be added, but it needs a different theme than Guardians.  An experimental vehicle to harness a new energy source, etc.  Then rounding out the pavilion with hands on exhibits that explore the amount of energy obtainable from various sources.

This could also be a great space to show off a new House of the Future, showing various ways it could be powered, like Tesla solar roofing tiles, Powerwall batteries, geothermal heating, and even good old-fashioned wind mills.

In the center of Future World, there would be a little rebranding.

EPCOT Central Spine
The unnecessary and decorative shade sails are removed to open up the plaza.   Likewise, the stage is removed from the fountain so the full fountain can be displayed again.  The fountain will be put to good use and synchronized with the night time shows to offer an alternate experience during Illuminations (and any replacement).

The Pin Central location would be replaced by an expanded building that would become Information Central.  The Wait Times boards would be here, as well as park maps, information guides, tour central, etc.  During festival times, this would become a centralized location for distribution of festival guides and materials.

Fountain View Starbucks and Electric Umbrella would remain, with the increased capacity for Electric Umbrella.  Likewise MouseGears remains unchanged, though I would love to see a second floor brought back for nostalgia.

Expo Center - Club Cool would become the Expo Center.  This would be a flex space that would be used as a centralized location for festival shows, distribution, etc.  Much like World of Life and Odyssey are being used now.  This space would take up Club Cool, the entire back corridor, and the Character Connection Spot.  Meet and Greets can be spread through the park and while grabbing the soda sample from the different countries is novel, it is something better placed in each unique country and is served by the Coke store at Disney Springs.  Having this area for the nearly year round festivals better utilizes the space in a more heavily trafficked area.

Masterworks - Innoventions West would become Masterworks.  This area would become a celebration of the arts, shifting the focus of the area from STEM to STEAM and tying into the Festival of the Arts.  The Art of Disney store is already on this side, so it could be expanded into a Disney Gallery and Art of Disney Store.  The atmosphere would be art museum style, with a Masterworks Theater for Disney Performing Arts groups, which can also be used as a space to show Fantasia Clips or the like in the interim times.  There would be teaching spaces for Disney YES programs.  And the Animation Academy would be brought over here to this space to teach how to draw.  As you are walking from under Spaceship Earth, this side is on the right, so it is representing our right brain or artistic side.

Innoventions - Innoventions East then becomes just Innoventions.  This area focuses on scientific endeavors, particularly through the lens of Disney "mad" scientists.  The Baymax meet and greet in Hadashi's lab would be moved over here.  The Sum of All Thrills would be placed here again allowing guests to be an engineer themselves and design their own roller coaster.  A new Adventures through Innerspace via Wayne Szalinski of Honey I Shrunk the kids would be added utilizing new technology to breathe life into this classic attraction.  Throughout this space would be scattered references to The Computer that Wore Tennis Shoes, The Strongest Man in the World, Now You See Him, Now You Don't, The Absent Minded Professor, and the Honey, I Shrunk the... series.

it's a small world - Finally, as discussed in the previous entry, it's a small world will be added to Showcase Plaza.  This rounds out the World's Fair attractions and provides a great people eating attraction for the park.  The facade would allow for projection mapping and a restaurant or amphitheater could be built on the lagoon side.  I would add the Tower of the Four Winds to the front (Spaceship Earth facing) of the attraction to provide another visual weenie to draw people through the central spine.  It would have been too big in a castle park, but should be perfect here.

it's a small world in Showcase Plaza
And the attraction provides the perfect transition to World Showcase.

World Showcase:
The World Showcase is a little easier to go through.  There are a few pavilions that need attractions and generally some pavilions that need to be added.  Where I have added countries, I have focused primarily on un- or under-represented cultures and continents, and have looked at what would be good food options to round out the available palette.

Canada, India, and United Kingdom
Canada - Canada is nearly complete.  There are additional spaces that need to be opened up on the upper floor, even if just for additional shops.  Perhaps we could get Tim Hortons in here?

I would additionally add a carousel, named Le Galopant for the oldest galloping carousel in the world, to the garden area.

India - Between the Canada and United Kingdom pavilions, I would add an India Pavilion.  India checks off the boxes of an un-represented sub-continent and culture, as well as adding a popular food offering not represented in the park currently.  The Taj Mahal would be the obvious architectural weenie, but there are many temple designs and many variations in architecture that would be a beauty to explore.

This closes off the Millennium Village, that is currently being used for festival preparation and rental space.  With the focus on maximizing usable space and moving to a more continual festival atmosphere, these operations can be moved slightly off site.  The blessing of size.

India would also allow for a Holi festival/celebration at the appropriate time of year.

Space would be reserved for an attraction to feature a planned Bollywood-style Indian princess/adventure animated feature to come.

United Kingdom - the United Kingdom will be getting a Mary Poppins dark ride in the space between the pavilion and the International Gateway.

France, Jamaica, Morocco, Brazil, and Japan
France - France is already getting the Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity attraction and expansion that will be required to get access to the location. Thankfully it appears that Impressions de France is also staying, so this will be a well-rounded pavilion.

Jamaica - In front of the Ratatouille attraction, I would add a half pavilion for Jamaica.  This pavilion would be a shopping and dining pavilion only.  Bringing in the flavor and culture of the Caribbean island, especially with a lagoon side restaurant.

Morocco - Morocco would remain largely the same.  I would love to work an attraction into this space, but am not sure what could be approved by their government (since theirs is the only pavilion truly sponsored by the government of the country that is represented).

Brazil - In between Morocco and Japan, I would add the long proposed Brazil pavilion. The focal weenie in the back would be the Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain.  The pavilion would finally bring a South American country to the showcase and would be perfect to add a churrascaria restaurant.  With Coco rumored to go to (and better suited for) the Mexico pavilion, I would love to see the Three Caballeros added to a ride here.  Maybe a Baia ride or a Blame it on the Samba ride from the two good neighbor films.

Japan - Japan is already a very strong pavilion, going to get stronger with the new restaurant.  I would add a ride to the already constructed but empty attraction space.  I would hope to add a Studio Ghibli ride.  For recognition, it would likely need to be a My Neighbor Totoro ride.  This would also help fulfill the goal of adding things for all ages to do.

American Adventure, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Polynesia, and Thailand
American Adventure - For the America pavilion, I would be looking to flesh out the host country.  What is there works, especially the American Adventure attraction and the Voices of Liberty.  I would look to push through the gallery out that side, and see if America Sings could be revived in a single Country Bear type theater using more combinations of projections and rotating animatronics.  Further, while the Liberty Inn provides essentially classic American food in quick service form, it would be good to have a signature dining experience.  I would look to add this space on the Italy side of the attraction in a separate building.

Italy - Italy works as it is and has blocked itself off from an attraction expansion to the South with the addition of Via Napoli.  If there was a way to a gondolas and gondoliers in the lagoon, that would be great, but I'm not sure how the logistics would work there.

Switzerland - between Italy and Germany, I would sandwich in the previously planned Switzerland pavilion.  It's an appropriate geographic location that could start to blend the architectures, it would add unique food offerings via fondue, and could serve as the basis for the Matterhorn Bobsled attraction.  This one would be minus the Abominable Snowman, Harold, with scenic goats and cows on the mountain side.  The climbers and yodelers would still be fun though.

Germany - Germany is well developed, but needs to use the previously planned attraction pad. There are even doors existing that would have taken guests to the ride.  While originally the ride was planned to be a Rhine River Cruise, I instead would add a LBG train dark ride, replacing the lost train garden with a ride by a miniature representation of the German countryside and model trains going throughout the rides.  An indoor real place version of the Storybookland Canal Boats.

The next space currently represented by the African Outpost is large enough to handle two country pavilions.  Given the location and fireworks fallout, these pavilions would have to be largely indoor (or at least one completely indoor and one partially).  I would fill this space by

Polynesia - the Polynesia pavilion would be the partially indoor pavilion, with a Moana ride anchoring the back.  This would bring in a set of cultures that have not been represented in the World Showcase and can be explored in a little more authentic way than Adventureland.  Additionally, it would bring in an entirely new set of flavors to the park.

Thailand - the Thailand pavilion would be completely enclosed in a temple like the Mexico pavilion.  This would allow a pavilion that is presented at night internally and would again allow for new but recognizable cuisine.

China, Norway, Mexico
China - China pavilion would remain as is.

Norway - for Norway, I would add a moored Viking longboat on the lagoon in front of the pavilion that could be explored.  Norway is already taking up two country pads, so there is no need to add more.

Mexico - Mexico would remain the same, but the Grand Fiesta Tour would receive an extensive Coco overlay.  The movie is perfect for the pavilion and would be a great draw for kids.

This adds five countries, at least nine attractions and several new dining options.  Really fills out the lagoon in a meaningful way.

Seasonal Overlays/Festivals:
EPCOT is already a heavy festival park.  Between Festival of the Arts in the beginning of the year, Flower and Garden Festival in the spring, Food and Wine Festival in the fall, and Festival of the Holidays during the Christmas season, EPCOT has festivals for nearly 34 weeks of the year, or 65% of the time. And for a World's Fair type park, this is as it should be.  I would honestly expand the festival offerings to include a STEM/Technology festival in the summer, focused in Future World.  Disney has planned for such an event, with robotics fights and the like, but never implemented it.  I would expand to offer TED Talks during the time, opportunities to hear renowned scientists speak like Neil deGrasse Tyson, and exhibit space for the leading edge tech companies.  This would make the food booths scattered across the World Showcase essentially permanent, letting them cycle through offerings as appropriate.   With the structures now permanent, they could be better integrated into the overall flow of the lagoon.

Further, I would love to see EPCOT offer smaller festivals tied to holidays where appropriate.  Especially in the World Showcase.  A Lunar New Year celebration in the China pavilion with the Hurry Home Little Lantern show from Disney California Adventure.  A St. Patrick's Day celebration in the United Kingdom.  A Bastille Day Celebration in France.  Holi in India.  Navidad in Mexico, etc.  This is how Christmas is celebrated in EPCOT, but I would love to see it extended throughout the year, focusing on the celebration of the cultures represented.

The park does not truly lend itself to seasonal overlays in the attractions.  I would, though, bring over the it's a small world holiday overlay as a draw for the Festival of the Holidays celebration.  The new facade would also allow for the Christmas projection show currently seen in Disneyland.

Parades and Nighttime Spectaculars:
Currently EPCOT only has the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth show as its nighttime spectacular.  There is no parade or daytime show to draw the crowds attention.

I would look to create a daytime show on the lagoon.  The park is too congested for a parade, but the lagoon sits empty during the day and is perfect for some form of show like the harbor shows at Tokyo DisneySea.  Even a lagoon parade would be a good offering, with the floats on the water instead of in the walkways.

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is one of the best fireworks offerings in Walt Disney World.  The fireworks, fountains, torches, lasers, search lights, and globe provide a beautiful show that represents the creation of the world.  It could use a little upgrade in technology to make it more visible to all around the World Showcase.  I know there are rumors of an upgrade for the show to Illuminations: Windows to the World, which would add drones to the show.  This would be a wonderful use of the technology previewed at Disney Springs and is one of the few places that it could be implemented given the size of the lagoon.

I also think there are a couple of other options that could be offered in terms of fireworks shows.  I think a show could be created to mimic the fireworks at the 1964 World's Fair, or to at least pay homage to it.  The Globe used in Illuminations looks similar to the Unisphere and the fountains help contribute to the look.  The two most recognizable songs from Disney attractions at the fair, "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" and "it's a small world" really summarize the thesis of the park. You could even through in "One Little Spark" from Imagination which can work in counterpoint to "it's a small world" to create a really great show.

Whatever fireworks show is used, I would utilize the new it's a small world facade to help create an alternate fireworks viewing site in the central spine of Future World.  I would synchronize the Fountain of Nations with the fireworks show to create a unique visual experience, as well as add projections to Spaceship Earth and it's a small world.  This would create a contained, but wholly unique viewing for the fireworks, pulling part of the crowd into this location.  Not unlike the view of Disneyland fireworks from the it's a small world mall or the Rivers of America.

Cartoon Mascot:
There is only one choice for the cartoon mascot for this park.  He is the heart and soul of EPCOT.  Despite all attempts to remove him, he represents the best of what the park has to offer.


The spirit of imagination belongs in a park that should represent the best of the imagination of the Walt Disney Company and of Imagineering.  He is also a character that should be given greater exposure in the other arms of the company.  With his ride hopefully back at it zenith, the little purple dragon should be the park mascot for years to come.


As always, thanks for sticking through this with me.  Next up in the series is Disney's Hollywood Studios, one of my favorite parks with the most potential.

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