Thursday, April 12, 2007

Epcot: New and Improved!

The big buzz today is about the announced changes to Spaceship Earth at Epcot that will be occurring over the next year or so that relates to Siemens recent sponsorship of the attraction. Both the Disney Blog and All Ears Net have very good articles on the details of the refurbishment.

Despite the misgivings of a very vocal but still relatively small minority of Disney Park enthusiasts (who seem to read negative into every proposed change for Epcot-- i.e. Caballeros in Mexico, Alfredo’s closing in Italy), there is clearly the very positive perception recently that post-Eisner Disney is really making an effort to extend some much needed TLC to the 25 year-old park.

Put it all together--
  • The very much needed overlay/enhancements to the Mexico pavilion, resulting in the Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros.
  • The forthcoming new CircleVision 360 film currently in production that will hopefully debut at the Canada pavilion later this year.
  • The updating of the American Adventure attraction via additional elements added to finale montage.
  • Ongoing refurbishments to World Showcase restaurants, notably the already mentioned Italy and also China and Canada as well.
  • Another extensive wave of refurbishments to Innoventions.
  • And the totally unconfirmed but somewhat reliable gossip that the Wand will be coming done by year’s end.
I wouldn’t be surprised that when much of these smaller scale enhancements are completed, we’ll see more announcements relating to the park’s larger venues. There has been blue sky gossip circulating about Imagination in the last year that certainly isn’t completely fan-contrived, and Honey I Shrunk the Audience is long overdue for retirement.

And one way or another, the company has to at some point address the embarrassment that Wonders of Life has become. It appears it’s time to throw in the towel in the quest for corporate sponsorship. The attractions under the golden dome have become so worn out and dated that there is little incentive for a corporate partner to come on board with the pavilion in its current state.

A couple of personal wishes on my part--
  • Relocate the Leave a Legacy monoliths and restore the entrance plaza to the more open and welcoming environment it once was.
  • Revisit some of the early attraction ideas proposed for existing World Showcase countries. There has been no new World Showcase attraction since Maelstrom in 1988. Extreme wait times at Soarin’, Test Track, and even Mission Space and Nemo during off seasons demonstrate the need for some crowd-eaters outside of Future World.
While I am still disappointed that the will be no public 25th Anniversary celebration for Epcot, I have to say I’m happily encouraged by all the recent efforts being made on the park’s behalf.


FoxxFur said...

You know what the great thing about the recent re-exposure of Caballeros to the outside world is? It will have the same effect on kids that Mr. Toad's Wild Ride had on me - I just had to figure out who this Toad guy was, which led me to The Wind in the Willows, one of my favorite books. Since Caballeros is one of my favorite movies, and El Rio was my favorite ride at EPCOT, it makes me feel very warm and fuzzy inside that I can get both in one experience, and it's true to both.

Anyway. People who complain about what's going on in that park these days just can't be satisfied. Things look and sound great even if the actual content is questionable (I still find Turtle Talk appalling), something that can't be said for Magic Kingdom...

John Dedeke said...

Although I could still see some naysayers contending her point (Mr. Toad was an original installation, not a refurbishment of an existing ride, as in the El Rio/Gran Fiesta switchover), Foxxfur makes a really great observation, one that hadn't even occurred to me.

I'm very excited to see how the Spaceship Earth enhancements play out, and I'm much warmer toward this idea than I was to the rumored "Time Racers" coaster-ish attraction that was at one point scheduled to go into the sphere. How can any Horizons fan not get excited about the mention of touch-screen controls to influence the course of one's ride?

I know Disney has publicly stated that there are no major plans to commemorate Epcot's anniversary this year, but does anyone else get the feeling (with the various enhancements announced and the rumored removal of the wand) that maybe, just maybe, there might be something of a surprise celebration planned? Maybe that whole "Discoveryland" transformation that was talked about for Future World a few years back isn't off the drawing boards quite yet...

Caddy Wumpus said...

You're dead on with the Leave a Legacy monoliths, it spoiled the entrance for me almost more than the wand did. After that, they can get rid of all the other visual clutter that's spoiled the scenary.

I'm willing to give the Mexico rehab the benefit of the doubt, despite the toon-y aspect of it. The original pavilion is charming, but also slightly embarrassing. Still, it set a fantastic mood.

I'd love to see more pavilion attractions, if only for revising dining options. Class it up a bit.

Then they can work on bulldozing the Swan for ruining the view...

Unknown said...

I agree with the Leave a Legacy remarks. I always thought they looked like ramparts. Like Spaceship Earth was under siege!

SE is my 8yo's favorite ride at Epcot. We always do it twice per visit. I hope the refurbs go well.

We just introduced my 3yo to The Three Caballeros last night. He loves it.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Foxxfur: Hopefully the upcoming Haunted Mansion refurb and rumored refurbs of Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain are hopeful signs that MK is going to get similar TLC. Whether it was Iger, Lasseter or another, it seems post-Eisner someone in Disney had a real wakeup call concerning the declining states of much of WDW's parks and attractions.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

Regarding Three Caballeros--

This is one of Disney's most underrated and underutilized properties. That's why folks like foxxfur and I were so excited when the overlay was announced.

I have consistently heard from so many folks how children really love the film once the are exposed to it.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

An afterthought about Leave a Legacy--

With all the empty panels, it's become more a monument to its own failure than the celebration of community it was intended to be.

FoxxFur said...

(Deleted and reposted for better English)

Leave A Legacy can be relocated to a landscaped area in the maze-like trapezoidal pathways of Future World East without any damage whatsoever to the aesthetic features of that area. Make it less a graveyard of commerce and more of a hanging gardens, lushy landscaped area, and it'll go a long way towards classing up that end of the park, currently overrun with water play areas, food carts and things themed to Test Track (which is to say, badly).

I was paying close attention to the festival scene near the end of Gran Fiesta Tour my second time through and the backgrounds are VERY accurate to the film - silhouteed extras lit from both sides with pink and blue, and the background a pulsating mesh of orbs of colors.

The people who did Gran Fiesta really cared. And I was touched.

Anonymous said...

In the press release for the SSE rehab, Disney stated that they have no plans to take down the wand. It's staying folks, let's all get over it.

I know a CM that said he's heard rumblings of an addition of Spain to the World Showcase in the near future. That would be a welcome addition, although I've always hoped for Greece.

Jeffrey Pepper said...

The press release I’ve seen reprinted on various sites made no mention of the wand. The Orlando Sentinel article on the subject did say this—

“Spaceship Earth's overhaul is not expected to affect the controversial, giant Mickey Mouse arm and wand structure that was added in 1999. The structure has been the target of heated criticism from some Epcot fans who say it clashes with the park's architecture.

Allen said all the changes will be on the inside.”

That reference from a company spokesperson, while discouraging, is a bit ambiguous to be not altogether conclusive.

While I wouldn't consider myself an extreme anti-wand crusader, I’m still hopeful that it will eventually come down.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love EPCOT, even though i am only 14 I love the Caballeros ride, i hate the new seas, what a lame ride , i agree with many of you about the wand and leave a legacy. I wish that they had made the Rhone River tour in Germany's pavillion, that would have been cool, they could have made it a little like Soarin' with scents and sounds. I luv WDW!