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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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Frozen’s Future in the Parks?

August 22, 2014 3 comments

Disney’s Frozen has proven to be a much bigger hit than they or many others ever imagined it would have been. Raking in more than $1.2 billion in 2013 at the worldwide box office, it’s popularity didn’t just stop there. In the parks, demand for Anna and Elsa has been huge, especially at Walt Disney World, where waits to see the sisters quickly exceeded 5 hours most days and stayed in this range throughout the day. The long waits have actually led Disney to change the way guests wait at the Magic Kingdom to see these two and try something very similar to the old Fastpass method, where everyone would get a paper ticket indicating a return time. Disney also added some summer festivities at Disney Hollywood Studios, called, Frozen Summer Fun Live with several events and activities featuring characters  from the movies. Originally, this was supposed to end September 1, but it was recently announced (as many expected), that it would be extended thru September 28th. Many are speculating that it might go away for a little while but be brought back around Christmas time in some form or another.

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And, if all that isn’t enough, there have been several rumors in the wild stating that Disney will soon shut down the Maelstrom attraction at the Norway pavilion in Epcot and re-theme/design it around the movie. Personally, I think the attraction is long overdue for an update or some kind of refresher. However, I’m not sure how I feel about a re-theme to this movie. Not that it couldn’t be done well and make for an enjoyable new attraction, but ideally, I think an update that was more representative of Norway and it’s traditions would be the best move. But, I’ll wait until this alleged re-do is completed before casting judgment. 

Regardless of the rumors, and what some seem to think might happen, I’ve had my own thoughts I’d like to share. I started thinking about alternative ideas for adding Frozen themed attractions, after I heard the rumors regarding Maelstrom. Nothing from the movie really popped out at me right away other than maybe the sleigh ride scene with Kristoff and Anna, being pulled by Sven, the reindeer. Thinking about this a little more, it might just be in the realm of possibilities for what Imagineering is thinking of doing with the Maelstrom ride, considering the ride tracks and style of vehicle. And, even though I kind of like this idea, it wasn’t the first one that came to mind for me.

I was actually thinking of something a little more festive and formal that would re-create Elsa’s coronation ceremony. I’ve never been in the restaurant Akershus in Norway, because every time we’ve looked at the menu, it just didn’t sound very appealing. But, if the area is big enough, why not transform it into a royal hall to celebrate the coronation. They could make it a premium kind of experience with light snacks (especially chocolate), h’orderves and drinks served, and then Anna and Elsa would come out to greet everyone. Set it up for about 100-200 guests at a time, and repeat every hour throughout the day.

Disney is wise for trying to capitalize on the popularity of this movie, in fact, I think they would be foolish not to considering it’s made more money than Pixar’s Cars from 2006, and has been called the best Disney movie since The Lion King. Hopefully, they will find a way to give the movie a somewhat permanent park attraction that will be enjoyable for years to come.

UPDATE 8/27/14: Inside The Magic reported yesterday about a special event called “My Royal Coronation Character Breakfast” coming September 24th, 2014. This seems to be a one-time event put together by travel agencies, A Time to Treasure Travel, Family Fun Travels, Go See Mickey and Magic of Mickey Travel in co-ordination with Disney as they are providing/sending official Anna & Elsa characters to meet and greet at the event. 

 

 

 

 

Soarin’ More!

July 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Soarin_Sign Soarin’, at Epcot is one of mine and my wife’s favorite attractions. However, with  wait times for this popular attraction frequently reaching 2+ hours, it’s one those attractions that is best enjoyed with a Fastpass.

Recently, a couple of ideas came to me about how the wait times might could be decreased and throughput maximized. These ideas focus around two different, but similar strategies the first utilized by a few roller coasters, the second borrowing an idea from Carousel of Progress.

Like many attractions, Soarin’ seems to struggle with loading/unloading of passengers in a consistent and timely manner. Some of this can be attributed to the usual issues related to guests and the many things they bring with them as well as seat belts and just getting everything set. On occasion, it might be operator or mechanical/ride-related, but this is usually rare. Regardless, this would seem to be an area for potential improvement. So, the question came to me, how would you optimize loading/unloading in a more efficient manner?

Both ideas involved creating more than one load/unload area for the carriages (seats), but how to do this. My first thought involved building a (huge) pivoting arm that would move the carriages from a load position/room to the projection room. There would be two load rooms, one to the left of the projection room, the other to the right, where guests would stage and load or unload.  Carriage A on the left side would load while carriage B is positioned in front of the screen. When the film finishes, the carriage would move back to load position B and carriage A would move into the theater, when finished, it would reverse and then repeat.

The only problem with a strictly left-right movement compared to the up-down of the current mechanism would be the sensation of ascending to “fly” and then the descent  on finale’. Another issue might be if the arms are connected and the carriages move together, how would an emergency evacuation work? If there were an emergency, both carriages would need to return to the load position quickly and independently. I still think this could be done with a set of pivot arms, but it might be best to go another route.

The need for independently movable carriages, led me to think maybe an overhead roller-coaster type track would be a better solution. There would still be two load rooms left and right of the screen, but they would be self-powered(?) and move into and out of the projection room on their own. The rail would ascend to the screen, appropriately timed with the start of the film, then descend upon finale’.

Alternatively, and in order to better accommodate the three rows, the lift rail could be vertical or at a steep angle in front of the screen and the rows would just be lifted and rotated into position, similar to the way 4th dimension roller coasters work, where there is a separate rail that controls the position of the seats.

Soarin Fastload Rail

 

Taking this just a step or two further, another option for what might actually be a smaller footprint than the existing designs in California and Florida, would be something similar to Carousel of Progress where the carriages would rotate from load/unload to the projection room, then lift into position. A quad system with 2 screens and 2 load/unload rooms that would rotate left-right or turn every time. 

Soarin_Fastload_Quad

 

In general, either of these ideas would speed up throughput and ride capacity greatly since one carriage would always be in front of screen while the other was unloading and re-loading. But, the question comes to mind, how long is this really, and what is the time between?  The film itself is reportedly 4 minutes, 17 seconds long, and the estimated unload/load time is between 3 & 5 minutes. This equates to each screen cycling every 9-1/2 minutes, or 6.3 times per hour. Having two load positions would shorten the time between the film showing significantly and, in theory, allow for slightly double the amount of riders per hour per screen.

Obviously, neither of these solutions could be applied at Epcot nor any other existing installation without some major reconstruction, but they could be utilized for future installations of the same or similar attraction.

Side-note: Right about the time I finished writing this up, I read a couple of allegedly confirmed rumors from two different sources that said Disney is planning to build a third theater for Epcot’s Soarin’ to help alleviate some of the long wait times.

2013 Food & Winefest

October 30, 2013 Leave a comment

 

 

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival has gotten out of hand. Too big and too popular for it’s own good, maybe? Kind of like the final days of Pleasure Island before Disney shut all the clubs down. I’m not advocating that Disney goes the same route as they did with PI for F&W, but I do think the time has come for them address the situation and what it has grown into.

My family and I (wife + 3 older teenagers) visited the Epcot Food & Wine festival, October 21st. In general, we prefer to visit WDW during times of the year when the Flower & Garden or the Food & Wine festivals because of the lower crowd levels, lower temps (sometimes), and the atmosphere that those two events offer for the events, not to mention the food! Plus, Epcot is one of our favorite Disney parks, so those events are just an added bonus. However, this year, our experience was far from enjoyable. Everything started out okay, as we arrived at the park around noon, and proceeded to the Canada pavilion where we had lunch reservations. Our meal at LeCellier was a bit pricey for lunch, but still enjoyable. After lunch, we took a break and walked over to the Beach Club where we relaxed for a while, enjoyed some ice cream at Beaches and Cream, and then made our way back to Epcot around mid-afternoon.

Upon our return, we headed toward France where we caught the balancing chair act of the "waiters", which is always entertaining. The crowds were pretty thick in the area, so we headed on around World Showcase, smelling the variety of foods, and really wanting to sample some, but were turned off due to the long lines at all the stands. And, if the long lines weren’t enough, some of the guests "on tour" were already getting pretty sloshed. While most kept to themselves and their group, some were confrontational and bordering unruly, at least in the sense of a normally family-friendly Disney park.

Now, neither my wife nor I drink too much these days, but we have in the past, even at Epcot enjoyed a Grand Marnier or other mixed drink, and normally others’ drinking doesn’t bother us. However, the masses at World Showcase on this day were too much! As we ventured further around, it just seemed that we kept running in to more and more people who were loud and unruly. After giving it a try in a couple of pavilions, we soon tired of the craziness and made out way thru the crowd back over to Future World, where it was somewhat quieter and less crowded.

While my wife and I were not really offended by the crowd, we did find it somewhat un-Disney like and out of character from what we’ve come to expect from past Disney trips. Mind you, not everyone there was inebriated, obnoxious or acting unruly, but as is the case for most things, it was a select few who just ruined it for our family. There seemed to be several large groups there who were on a quest or competition if you will to drink everything there and see who could survive and still walk out the park. We’ve made a mental note that for future visits during this event, we will avoid going on the weekend, however, it might be a good idea to at least inform guests who might be unaware of the crowds and their potential unruliness and the climate surrounding this event, especially on weekends.

I would like to add that after thinking about it for a week, we’ve come up with an idea that might offer a good solution for Disney that would allow F&W to continue. I would imagine that that the crowds that F&W draws is pleasing to Disney and their bottom line, especially in what would normally be a slower time of year for the park. And, I would hate to see them cancel the event, because we’ve really enjoyed it in the past. I just think there might be a better way to do it that would be enjoyable for all.

So, our suggestion (it was my wife’s actually) would be to only offer the wine and alcohol during the evening hours, maybe from 4 or 6pm onward. Or, better yet, during F&W, offer a special ticketed event for adults over 21 at World Showcase maybe one night of the week, then on both Friday and Saturday nights. I realize this would be somewhat unfair to families trying to come to the park as it wouldn’t allow them to tour and see Illuminations, but it might help to relieve the situation some. In the daytime, the stands could open around 11 or noon, and only offer food, and then maybe at 4pm, they could start serving wine and beer.

That’s my suggestion, I would love to hear yours. Again, I don’t want to see them kill off F&W, and I’m not really against people drinking and having a fun time. I just don’t think the large groups of drinkers touring World Showcase mixes well with families who are there with kids also trying to have a good time, but without the alcohol.

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:

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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.

Head for the Mountains

March 8, 2010 1 comment

No, this isn’t about (Busch) beer. It’s about Disney mountains at Walt Disney World. You know, Space, Big Thunder, Splash, and the latest, Forbidden mountain, which is where the legendary Yeti resides. But,  it’s not really about those mountains. It’s about what I think are the missing mountains of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood studios.

Epcot has actually had at least a couple of mountains on the drawing boards at different times over the years, but sadly, that’s as far as they ever got. Once upon a time there were plans for a Swiss pavilion which would include an east coast version of the famous Matterhorn twisting thru it much like the one at Disneyland.

Courtesy of Disney and more

There were also plans and models built that would bring Mount Fuji to the Japan pavilion at Epcot. Jim Hill has more details and some pretty neat photos on his site here.

Courtesy of Jim Hill Media

So, the question comes up, why weren’t either of these built. The short answer is money. The longer answer involves sponsorship, or lack thereof. It’s too bad really that they were never built, as I believe either one or even both of them would still be great additions to Epcot. Perhaps someday these ideas will be resurrected from the Imagineering archives. Until then, we can just drool over the photos and dream.

While I don’t know if a mountain has ever been considered for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one should be. Think about it, think about Hollywood and what image comes to mind almost immediately?

Look familiar?

Pictured above is Mount Lee and the famous H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D letters overlooking Hollywood, Ca.

You probably weren’t familiar with the name of the hill, until now, but you’ve probably seen it hundreds of times on tv and in movies. It’s an instantly recognizable landmark for the city of Hollywood and the movie business. DHS would seem to be a perfect park to have a replica of this mountain in it. In fact, the park would almost seem to be missing this famous icon. I mean, how can they have a park that is dedicated to movies and even has the name in it, and not feature this hill and those letters?  The imagineers did a fantastic job in theming and building this park, especially in the front of the park on Sunset and Hollywood boulevard’s re-creating the look and feel of California, but in my opinion, this one icon is strangely absent from the park.

I would love to see Mount Lee built-in DHS, in one of 3 possible locations in the park.

  1. The first, which would seem to make the most sense, but be the most complicated would be at the end of Sunset Boulevard behind Tower of Terror and Rock N’ Rollercoaster. This is probably the least advantageous location because most of the view of the mountain would be blocked. However, there would also seem to be lots of room in the area to build it.
  2. The second location would be at the end of Hollywood boulevard in front of, or on top of the Great Movie ride building. I’ve heard various reasons/rumors over the years as to why the sorcerer Mickey hat was built in front the Great Movie ride. Most fans seem to think that it was built to hide the face for Grauman’s Chinese theater due to a licensing issue, however, I don’t know that I agree with that, as I think Disney could have just as easily changed the face of the building if that was the issue. Regardless, most of those fans seem to agree that they dislike the hat and think it should go. Personally, I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t think it belongs there. But, if for some reason they can’t use the Grauman’s image any more, and they were wanting to re-design the theme it would seem to be a great spot to build either a faux backdrop like the one on the streets of New York, or build a full-scale mountain on top of the buildings in this area.
  3. The last thought would be the area currently know as Catastrophe Canyon and is only accessible to guests via the Backlot tour. It’s been a couple of years since I last went on the tour, but I remember thinking that it’s looking pretty rough and has seen it’s better day. I think building Mount Lee in this area would make for a worthy and very suitable replacement. If done right, they could also make it visible enough to be seen from World Drive as well as the entrance for cars to DHS. They could build it so the letters could be seen on both sides from inside the park and on the outside from World Drive. I really like this idea the best. There is lots of space back there and it would seem to be the area for the most potential.

The only thing left would be to figure out what to put inside the mountain. Several ideas come to mind, but none that I feel strong enough at the moment to support a ride or attraction worthy of it’s name and image. However, I would love to hear your ideas as to what kind of attraction could be built into Mount Lee at DHS.

Epcot Eateries

January 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Epcot is one of my family’s favorite parks, mainly because of all the great food choices. However, I really think the Imagineers missed out on creating some incredible and dramatic views by not incorporating more overlooks of the lagoon at World Showcase. Consider Magic Kingdom, Seven Seas Lagoon and the 3 resorts built around there. All 3 of the resorts offer full service restaurants with a view of the water as well as the Magic Kingdom, although, it’s a bit restricted from Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian because of it’s elevation and closer proximity to the Magic Kingdom. But, California Grill atop the Contemporary resort provides the best view in all of WDW, and Ohana at the Polynesian offers a good view as well, and when night-time sets in, and the fireworks are shooting off, either of these provide a unique experience that is quite memorable.

Back to Epcot though. Think about it, most of the restaurants at Epcot are located at the back of their respective pavilions, and in most cases offer no view of the lagoon. Was this on purpose? Did they do it to help preserve or create the illusion that you are actually in that country? There are a few exceptions, like Rose and Crown in  the UK, Les Chefs de France in France, Tokyo Dining in Japan?, and the Cantina in Mexico probably has one of the best, and soon to be even better spots for water-side dining. However, Norway, China, Italy, Germany, US, Morocco, Canada don’t really take advantage of the great location that hosts these restaurants. Perhaps in the future, if/when some of these pavilions and restaurants get remodeled they could somehow take better advantage of the lagoon view. Of course, I might have to give Le Cellier a pass on this as it would certainly ruin that restaurants’ theme.  However, I would love to see several of the pavilions take on a similar approach as Japan and have their restaurants on the second floor so as to offer an even better view. Sure, many of the structures probably weren’t built with this in mind, but this is Disney Imagineering, the same people who built an entire theme park, the Magic Kingdom, on the second floor and transformed swamp land into a resort, I’m pretty sure they could handle a restaurant or two.

Another thought along these lines, would be to remodel Odyssey, you know, that seemingly unused building between Test Track and the Mexico Pavilion. BTW, in case you weren’t aware, Odyssey was at one time a working restaurant that hosted a character meal at Epcot. Why not raise the restaurant high enough so it offers a big window or windows over-looking the lagoon? Even better, build a round restaurant that is elevated and rotates offering diners a changing view of some of Epcot’s great entertainment options. Epcot has a lot of great restaurants, and quite possibly having another might be too many, regardless, this is still a great spot for something that could be truly unique, if they were so inclined.

Perhaps sometime in the future should they ever build a new pavilion or even re-design or remodel an existing one, they will take the water in to consideration and incorporate more of it into their design, at least I would like to hope so. Anybody else?

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