When EPCOT Center opened, Future World had a cohesive vision: to look at life in the 21st century. Each monolithic pavilion had its own circular logo and examined one segment of life in the future. When Horizons opened one year after the rest of the park, it became the embodiment of Future World’s theme. Horizons took the themes of all the Future World pavilions and combined them into a possible future. However, as the future began to catch up with EPCOT Center’s early 1980s view, Disney and the pavilion sponsors were not as interested in updating the pavilions to adapt to the changing times.
Instead, we began to see the original EPCOT Center pavilions close down. Horizons was the first to close in 1993 after General Electric dropped its sponsorship, although it reopened while Test Track was under construction and Universe of Energy was undergoing refurbishment. CommuniCore was stripped bare and reopened as Innoventions when the name changing began in 1994. The closures, replacements, and pavilion refurbishments have continued all the way through the recent Spaceship Earth refurbishment.
While the animatronic portions of Spaceship Earth have arguably never looked better, the narration has been dumbed down. The interactive portion, seemingly a way to bring the idea of Horizons back, seems to be more of a Jetsons vision of the future than a realistic one. Thrill rides now dominate Future World East between Test Track and Mission: SPACE. The most popular attraction in Future World West is in The Land pavilion: Soarin’, a Disney’s California Adventure transplant, is a hang glider simulator. The educational attraction Living With the Land is much less attended. Journey Into Imagination with Figment is a shell of its former self, and the accompanying Honey I Shrunk the Audience isn’t helping the pavilion.
World Showcase for the most part remains untouched except for the princesses taking over Norway for a character breakfast. Guests can still experience many different cultures throughout the World Showcase pavilions. The biggest new attraction in World Showcase is the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. The cell phones beeping are a little annoying, but it’s getting kids more interested in the pavilions.
Let’s imagine for a moment that Disney chose to update the Future World pavilions to coincide with the original park’s mission instead of replacing and dumbing them down. Instead of making “Epcot” a meaningless word, the park is still EPCOT Center and the acronym still has meaning. The public still recognizes the park’s mission of looking to humanity’s future. EPCOT could be spun off into other media. Instead of the Discovery Channel, Disney could have created the EPCOT Channel. I think the content would be similar to the Discovery Channel or possibly the Science Channel. The channel then creates more interest in EPCOT Center. The new Disneynature series could be tied to EPCOT, The Land pavilion, and The Living Seas pavilion. For a company that looks for synergy and marketing strategy at every turn, I wonder why something like this has never materialized and instead “Epcot” is left to struggle on its own.
How do you feel about Epcot’s current situation? Is the park today the direction you wanted? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@scottinwdw).