To begin with, let me just say that I never hated the Wand. It was an eye-catching, festive adornment that enhanced Epcot’s position as the center point of Walt Disney World’s Millennium Celebration. It had a New Years Eve party style to it that directly related to the festivities it represented. I viewed it in the same manner that I viewed the birthday caked-themed Cinderella castle back in 1996—a fun, short term bit of whimsy. Nothing more. Nothing less.
But unlike similar “temporary” redecorations over the years, the Wand remained. There have been mountains of speculation as to why. Marketing strategies, branding and financial issues have all been cited at one time or another. But let’s face it, the decision to keep it there was never the result of creative sensibilities. Outside of a specific marketing strategy such as the Millennium Celebration, would such a structure have ever been seriously considered or executed otherwise?
No, and there is a very good and fundamental reason why, that seems to have gone largely unaddressed in this long and very often contentious debate. While Spaceship Earth is without question the iconic representation of Epcot, it is also an attraction with a very specific theme and purpose. And to create a long term aesthetic that in no way relates, and in many ways runs counter to that theme is just plain bad show.
Here is an excerpt from the 1982 book Walt Disney’s EPCOT that tongue-in-cheek addresses Spaceship Earth’s somewhat familiar nature, but at the same time explains how the overall theme and purpose of the attraction extends beyond its interior:
Now the sphere, 180 feet in diameter, rises some eighteen stories high—a stunning silver ball dominating the landscape for miles around, with little to rival its rotund majesty. Although at first sight it looks like nothing so much as a gargantuan golf ball on the putting green of the gods, it takes on another aspect as we begin to appreciate its purpose—to reproduce the form of our spaceship, the planet Earth.
You see, Spaceship Earth, both as the icon and the attraction, was designed with a very specific aesthetic in mind. It represents Earth, both physically and philosophically. And those representations are an integral part of the message it communicates. An oversize wand and hand would be inappropriate positioned over such attractions as Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for clear and obvious reasons. Why is it then acceptable to attach these embellishments to an attraction that is just as equally distinct in theme and purpose?
Because, Epcot just ain’t what it used to be. If you don’t like it, just shut up and leave.
This seems to be the common mantra lately of those who seem intent on characterizing anyone who acknowledges and respects EPCOT’s original guiding principles as irrational, misguided “foamers.” Many of these folk wear their disdain for pre-21st century Epcot like a proud emblem, deeming anything associated with the park that is beyond their frames of reference as irrelevant and unimportant. They consider Epcot’s original themes of futurism, forward-thinking idealism, education and international community passé and old fashioned, yet are at a loss to describe what their current perception of Epcot is or what they believe it is evolving into. So what if it becomes a collection of totally disconnected compartmentalized experiences. As long as each experience is well done and a successful crowd-pleaser, why is there a need for a central, overriding theme. And who needs those annoying underlying missions of education and technological innovation, anyway?
Epcot purists (as they are so frequently labeled) are not opposed to change. In fact, most agree that change is a necessity dictated by the very principals upon which Epcot was conceived. But changes to Epcot should be consistent with the concepts and themes brought forth by the very talented and remarkable individuals who were responsible for its creation in 1982.
Do I think the Wand was somehow emblematic of everything that’s wrong with Epcot? Of course not. It was just simply a marketing gimmick that had overstayed its welcome.