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The Failure of Epcot

October 8, 2014 2 comments

In response to a recent post on Screamscape regarding Epcot’s failure.

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I believe Epcot’s “failure” began a long time ago, when the remaining execs at Disney launched the idea and began building the park. It was an idea that I think existed solely in the mind of its creator, Walt Disney, and nobody in the company had the vision or any idea of how to bring it to reality. So, they came up with this idea, that wasn’t bad really, and had some merit, but lacked a true leader who was charismatic enough to make it successful. Businesses and even some countries bought in to it, only because of the Disney name, which was known for several successful ventures prior. However, as they quickly found out, this wasn’t exactly an idea that Walt dreamed up, and it didn’t have the kind of creative vision and sustaining entertainment value that the public would embrace more than once. Without this, the park soon began to falter and they started tweaking the model to try and stem the flow of bad press, attract guests and hopefully have them return. But, once word got out that it was a dull and boring place with little entertainment value, crowds died down, businesses turned away as did the flow of money to sponsor attractions and pavilions due to little or no return for their contributions. Which is kind of where we are today. Without major investors willing to commit millions of dollars for essentially advertising, not too many are willing to jump in with Disney. The name is no longer known for success and more importantly, investing in a Disney park provides very little return for a company.

So, where did it all go wrong? In my opinion, it was the death of Walt that killed the idea of Epcot. In the absence of a charismatic visionary who could lead the company and sell its successes in such a way that businesses would eagerly buy into and even line up to be a part of, it became more of an expense for the companies that did buy in rather than an investment that yielded returns as well as recognition. Without investors to help fund the parks and attractions, Disney is left developing and funding them out of their own pockets, which means they have to find something suitable and entertaining enough to draw the public in order to produce a quick return on their investment. Good or bad, this means that many of the attractions are going to be based on pop-culture or current, proven entertainment media such as movies like Frozen or even Avatar, because, developing and building original attractions and stories is expensive and a risk that nobody wants to gamble millions of dollars on.

That’s not to say that I’m displeased with what’s happening, I’m just a little let down. Because, like many, I liked the idea of Epcot, and specifically World Showcase, a place where you could get a small taste of a variety of real cultures from around the world. But, in the spirit of Walt’s famous words about Disneyland, I know that Epcot (as well as all the parks) will never be completed and will continue to grow and change, based on imagination and the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar.

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Categories: Randomness Tags: , , , ,

AVATAR at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

March 31, 2012 2 comments

Since Disney announced in September of 2011 that they were partnering with James Cameron to bring AVATAR to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I’ve been wrestling with the idea. Initially I thought that somebody was making a joke. When I realized it was for real, I can’t say I was overly wild about the news. However, over the course of a week or so, I warmed to the idea when I started thinking about the incredibly colorful visuals from the film and how they might be able to re-create these in the park. But then, recently, I watched the film again and realized there are a few hurdles that Imagineering will have to overcome to sell the AVATAR story in the parks.

First, everything depicted on Pandora is huge. Re-creating park versions of the sets will most likely be scaled down significantly. There are also many elements and visuals from the planet that will be near impossible to duplicate in a real-world setting. I suppose they can re-create the trees that the Na’vi lived in on a smaller scale, but will they have the same effect and feel as in the movie? Also, the air and environment on Pandora is not very human friendly. The air is not breathable without an oxygen mask, then there are numerous wild animals that are less than friendly. None of these are really show stoppers though, as they could be dealt with somewhat easily in an imagined setting, kind of how its done in Little Mermaid or Space Mountain or other Disney attractions.

Another issue I see is in crafting a story line that will magically transport us from planet Earth to Pandora (and back). The movie set it up quickly and easily by beginning at the end of the 5+ year trek from earth with the characters waking up from cryosleep. This problem isn’t as big, because it could be handled in the same manner as it’s done on Mission:Space at Epcot. On this ride, the narration simply tells you that it’s time to go to sleep, then just moments later wakes you up. But, even with the supposed 5 year journey simulated, what would be our reason for visiting Pandora. Since we’re at DAK, I’m guessing it has to be something tied to the conservation theme, along the lines of helping the Na’vi for some reason.

Third, and probably most critical and difficult (for me) to get around is the fact that the antagonist in AVATAR is us, the human race! In our greed to possess the treasure of Pandora, unobtanium, we nearly destroyed the planet (moon actually) and it’s native people, the Na’vi. The way the movie ended, we were being kicked off the planet. So, why would they now welcome us back? Two possible solutions to this problem:

1) Rewind the timeline of the story and take us back in time on Pandora when Grace and the others are still running the school referenced in the movie. Since it’s a part of the story that was only lightly brushed over in the movie, it could be re-told in a way that would put both us and the Na’vi on more friendly terms. We could be part of the new education staff sent to teach and study the Na’vi and Pandora, before everything fell apart. This story-line would seem to fit in well with DAKs teaching/conservation theme.

2) Go back even further in the timeline and make us some of the first visitors sent on a mission to explore the planet and establish peaceful relations with them. Each of these still requires a transport method and story to take us there, but as pointed out earlier, these are minor aspects that could be dealt with any number of ways.

Update: 4/27/12 – I came up with another possibility/idea for the story-line.

3) Pandora training center. The development company, RDA, has established an earthbound laboratory that replicates the more human-friendly aspects of Pandora that is used as a training and education facility to familiarize employees with the environment before making the 6-year trip. This one sticks with DAKs teaching theme, and eliminates the necessity to develop a “transport method” to get us to the real Pandora.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that they could just throw all of these issues to the wayside and tell a whole new story without any regard for what the movie portrayed or the issues raised above.I mean, they could just plop a big show building down in AK or build a re-creation of the foliage and animatronic friendly versions of the wildlife with little or no story to introduce or explain the area. Regardless, I’m somewhat eager to see what they plan for this new section and how they plan to take us there.

Circlevision 2.0?

December 10, 2011 Leave a comment

A new patent application that was discovered this week has sparked a good bit of buzz in the Disney fan community. The patent is for a unique styled gondola type vehicle supported by cables and winches that can move thru a specified space via a track. Some have described it as a giant version of the suspended, robotic camera system used at most major football games seen on TV nowadays. In the application there were a couple of different variations of a concept vehicle and attraction. The first, would appear to be a transportation type vehicle/attraction almost like a newer version of the old Skyway attraction.

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The second variation would appear to use the same suspended gondola car, but is on a circular track and remains stationary. Of the two, this one got my wheels turning on feasible ways it might be used in the parks. Take a look at the drawings and description.

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FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrate another embodiment of a cable-suspended vehicle ride system similar to that shown in FIGS. 3 and 4 but using one track combined with three carriers each providing a winch to support and position a passenger vehicle (e.g. to alter cable lengths while the carriers are selectively moved about a path defined by the track to provide a wide range of vehicle positions (or work spaces)).

When I saw this and read the description, it triggered almost immediately something I saw sometime back at jimhillmedia.com. Jim wrote an article about Unrealized Epcot rides, in which he discussed several attractions that were at one time on the drawing board, but never made it to reality. One such of these attractions was a new concept using the Circlevison technology in use at the China and Canada pavilions. Here’s the description, with pictures following:

Quote:
Once these Epcot visitors got inside, they would have been treated to a unique variation of Disney’s CircleVision 360 show. These WDW guests would have found themselves standing on board a vibrating recreation of the passenger compartment of a Japanese bullet train. And — by looking out through the over-sized faux windows in this passenger car — these folks would then have been treated to a high speed travelogue. As some of Japan’s most beautiful scenery continually whizzed by all of the windows.

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Just thinking out loud here, but if the open spaces on this are encircled with walls, then they could project moving images on there from almost anywhere, including Japan as if riding the bullet train attraction here, or as some have speculated they could re-create different scenes from Avatar as if moving through space on a ship or flying in a “skybus” over the surface and thru the mountains of Pandora, or anywhere else. Since this is just a patent application, anything is possible here, and what exactly (if anything) Disney will ultimately do with it, remains to be unknown, at least for now.

Note: It has been brought to my attention that this patent application was filed June 8, 2010.

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