Thirty years young

In September, Disney will be marking the 30th anniversary of the opening of EPCOT with a full day of celebrations. Seeing that it opened in 1982, I reflected on the fact that EPCOT, Walt’s pet project, not only is completely different from his expectations and dreams, but has changed from the first time I was there 18 years ago. Yes, 1994. I couldn’t believe when I did the math and realized that I am only 6 years younger than one of my favorite parks at Walt Disney World.

So let’s mark this anniversary with the fond remembrances of some of the attractions that I knew and experienced that no longer exist, or at least not in the same capacity as when I was five. I plan to go more in-depth with most, if not all, of these attractions, but, for now, I’ll just give a nice little overview:

Spaceship Earth (rehabs in 1994 and 2007): The addition of Judy Dench has been a blast, but the interactive section at the end leaves a bit to be desired. Though the technology portion of the ride needs/needed to be updated, I don’t believe this was the appropriate way to do so. Interactive is fine, but this was a cheesy way to do it. I think focusing on WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN or could still be someday would have been more useful, more like it used to be. And the history of technology remains fantastic. This you MUST see.

Journey into Imagination (rehabs 1999 and 2002): Why would you EVER get rid of the Dreamfinder? This is a big issue for me, and I have every intention of making another post about this beautiful attraction. As a writer, I found this attraction inspiring, and maybe it even led me to the career I’m pursuing today. Figment is cute and silly, but educational, while the Dreamfinder was a wonderful narrator, teacher, and straight man. He needs to come back to his home, as does the upstairs of the Imagination pavilion, and there are talks that this could happen. More to come…

Universe of Energy (rehab 1996): Definitely a nice attraction to rest and see some dinosaurs, and the addition of Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye added some humor to keep children’s interest. I don’t remember being terribly interested as a five-year-old, but I know that it is an attraction that should be seen, in whatever form.

Horizons (closed 1999): I can’t remember much of this ride, but seeing how technology could have happened is really interesting and shows us the imagination that Disney and the Imagineers have. I wish they had simply updated this attraction rather than killing it, but, as I understand it, it really wasn’t making it. It’s a shame that the audience has such a short attention span.

World of Motion (closed 1996): See how cars evolved! Definitely historical, I think Test Track is a much more interactive and exciting way to learn about cars. It’s informational AND entertaining without too many animatronics or pure history, like the old attraction was. And a new rehab is coming. Let’s just hope it’s better than some other rehabs have been…

The Living Seas(rehab 2006): An attraction that originally creeped me out, I’m glad Nemo is there, though I find it a bit harder to find the sea creatures that originally inhabited the exhibit. Don’t forget why the pavilion came about in the first place!

Really, almost everything from Future World has changed in those 18 years since my first visit, and I know that it had changed a great deal in the twelve years before I ever got there. It’s a shame, really, since many of these old attractions were interesting, educational, and actually very fun. Yes, many of the newer rides are great, but part of me wishes I could go back in time and see what I saw in 1994 with a new, more mature appreciation. Are we losing the educational edge for simple entertainment, cheap laughs, and excitement? Almost every attraction in Future World is either almost purely fast-moving or so kid-friendly an adult could be turned off. Wasn’t this the park that was meant more for the parents? I understand that we want to cater to children for family time, but we went from one extreme to the other. Please don’t underestimate my or anyone else’s intelligence, Imagineers! Do not follow in the footsteps of former CEO Michael Eisner, who, in the 1990s, cheaply redid many attractions to appease visitors with little cost, which was a complete travesty and did not work at all. Don’t insult us! Let’s go back to the roots of what Disney is all about: imagination. Let’s not forget our past as we move towards the future. Let’s bring the focus back to imagination and innovation and commemorate what has come and gone, or is still here and evolving. Let’s teach children that learning can be educational AND fun, not just one or the other. Let’s look back at the literature, technology, music, etc. that has led us to where we are. Let’s NOT forget. Disney lived for progress, but he also strived to make this world a better place through learning from our past. So let us now remember the attractions that have gone before us as we celebrate what is yet to come at the beautiful (and hopefully forever educational) EPCOT.


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