Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(10/11/16) Muppet Mobile Labs Returns (MORE...)
(9/23/16) 2016 Food & Wine Fest Update (MORE...)
(9/22/16) Universe of Energy Pavilion Rumored To Close Soon (MORE...)
(9/14/16) Extended International Food & Wine Fest Starts Today (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Nothing is known to be scheduled for rehab at this time.
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (10/11/16) Remember back in late July when I said you could expect to see the return of the Muppet Mobile Lab interactive characters to Epcot? Well Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew have returned earlier this month and our friends at Attractions caught the new presentation in action. Check it out below.
(9/23/16) This week we take a look at what’s going on over at Epcot Food & Wine Fest, courtesy of OrlandoParksNews who has posted a three-part overview of the entire event.
(9/14/16) Just a quick reminder that the always popular Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will kick off an extended two-month long run starting Sept. 14th and run through to Nov. 14th. For all the details check out the event's official page.
(9/8/16) I failed to mention this before, but it was pointed out that a few of the remaining Innovations attractions at Epcot will be closing after Sept. 14th, including The Sum of All Thrills and the Hurricane themed simulation. Beyond this, there isn't much left of the old Innoventions areas, some of which has been turned into character Meet & Greet areas in the past few years. Not sure what the future holds for the concept at all anymore, if anything.
(7/29/16) Screamscape sources tell us that the Magic Kingdom wont be the only park in Walt Disney World to see Muppets added to the line-up. I'm told that we can expect to see the return of the Muppet Mobile Lab interactive characters to the pathways of Epcot in the near future.
If you don't remember, the Muppet Mobile Lap appeared back in 2007 as part of a "Live Character Initiative" program intended to try and bring certain characters to life in the parks as living, breathing things able to interact with guests. We haven't see much from these developments in quite some time, and I'm not sure if this is a rebirth of the original Muppet Mobile Lap vehicle and characters, or if this is a rumored new version of it built from scratch just for Walt Disney World to use. Either way, if this is like the old version, it will feature Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew interacting with park guests.
(7/2/16) With the opening of Frozen Ever After and Soarin' Around The World a floodgate of new rumors have broken free about possible new attractions on the way for Epcot. Some are old rumors resurfacing like adding a copy of the Ratatouille ride in Paris to the France pavilion, others seem to have spawned from Shanghai... where some claim that a copy of the Tron Power Run coaster could take over the closed Wonder of Life pavilion building. There are various rumored proposals to add more attractions to World Showcase, and even a new pavilion once again, but the wildest rumor so far claims that a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction could be on the way to Future World.
My first take was that, if legally allowed, a Guardians of the Galaxy makeover of Mission: Space may actually be a great idea... but according to the latest rumors it may be Universe of Energy that could get closed down to make way for the Guardians new thrill ride. Little is known at this point, so stay tuned while I try to dig up more details.
???? - Guardians of the Galaxy - Rumor - (9/22/16) According to the latest rumors the Universe of Energy pavilion at Epcot could close down forever as early as January 2017, just after the busy winter holiday period is over. The persistent rumors claim that the attraction will be demolished to make way for a new Guardians of the Galaxy themed attraction, also heavily rumored to be some kind of new indoor roller coaster. Anyone able to confirm the upcoming closure?
(8/22/16) Remember those rumors about a Guardians of the Galaxy themed ride coming to replace the Universe of Energy? The latest rumor claims that the ride will actually be an indoor high speed roller coaster style ride that would likely see the old attraction building taken down and a new structure rise instead. This is still a pretty far out rumor however, so I'm not sure how much truth there is to it, especially after Epcot just added two major new rides this summer. We'll have to wait and see I guess.
The Failure Of Epcot
(10/8/14) I’m going to throw this right out there first so it has time to sink in…
Epcot has Failed.
There, I said it. It is worth noting that I actually wrote most of this piece way back in July… long before it was ever confirmed that Maelstrom was going to close down to make way for a Frozen themed makeover, but for whatever reason, I just wasn't ready to finish it until now.
So what’s wrong with Epcot you ask? Historically, Epcot was Disney’s big experiment, opened in 1982 by Disney management after Walt’s death, to create a permanent World’s Fair style theme park environment, with a unique sponsorship focused business plan concept. To this day Epcot is a theme park like no other, and is often cited as the favorite park for many Walt Disney World fans.
But I tell you that Epcot has failed… or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the business model created for it has failed.
While the Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland before it) were designed to run as huge cross-promotional marketing machines, sharing and promoting the various Walt Disney Studios films, TV shows, and characters, Epcot was designed to be a different kind of beast. Inspired by the temporary World’s Fair / Expo events that took place across North America during most of the 20th century, Epcot was designed to run under a similar business model, with each pavilion being sponsored by a company, or approved along with a similar co-sponsorship deal by the world nation it represented. In the case of the later, the staff of the World Showcase pavilions are part of a Cultural Representative Program, where natives of that country agree to come work at Walt Disney World for a year at a time and represent their native homeland. Some are sponsored directly by their governments, while most use a mixture of private funding from select native corporate entities.
The business model worked at first. Each pavilion was built and later maintained through various sponsorship deals and for many years Epcot worked like a well oiled machine, with guests traveling from across the globe to visit, inspired by the messages of global unity, great technological progress, and the overall concept of “If you can dream it, you can do it.” It wasn’t until the 90’s when the first signs of trouble started, and the problem only got worse as we crossed through the waves of financial and political turmoil of early 21s century.
Like many deep set problems, the first signs of change started to bubble up from the core… CommuniCore. In the early 90’s, it became clear that the now decade old futuristic technology on display within CommuniCore was starting to show it’s age.
The huge costs of a full pavilion sponsorship made it difficult for many early technology companies to justify the cost to buy their way into Epcot, so the old CommuniCore was removed to make way for Innoventions, a midway of small sponsorship opportunities that could be changed out as quickly as needed. Innoventions had the right idea at heart, but the cheaply made temporary display areas were a turn off to many guests. The American public too had begun to wise-up and sour on the idea of having too much corporate sponsorship.
It wasn’t long before many of the Future World pavilions began to lose their sponsorships as previous deals expired and the sponsors would opt out of renewing. While the exact details of these deals are closely guarded secrets, I’ve been told that sponsorship length is typically for a 10 year term. Currently however, there are more pavilions without official sponsorship than those with, and some of the current deals are estimated to be approaching the end of their terms very soon.
- Horizons, while no longer in the park, was the first to lose a sponsor, seeing the relationship with General Electric go dark in 1993 as soon as the 10 year deal came to an end. Horizon stayed open for a time without a sponsor, closed down, only to reopen while Test Track was under construction next door, then close again for good in 1999. It was replaced by Mission: Space in 2003 which was sponsored by Compaq, who was purchased by rival HP (Hewlett Packard) before the attraction even opened. I’m actually not sure of the attraction’s current status to know if they have signed an extension of some kind, or if the terms of a new deal are actively under negotiations.
- The Wonders of Life pavilion which opened in 1989 with a sponsorship from Met Life, also lost their deal at the end of the first term. Before long it too would experience a sporadic operational schedule, opening in the busy months, before it was closed entirely in early 2007.
- Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon (later ExxonMoble) up through 2004, and while it hasn’t closed down, it has remained sponsor-less ever since.
- Imagination’s longtime sponsor, Kodak, ended their relationship with the attraction in 2010, and it has thus far remained open and sponsor free.
- World of Motion is one of the big success stories, as it started out with a sponsorship by GM (General Motors) who has managed to maintain their sponsorship with the attraction through the transformation into Test Track, and even through their own bankruptcy problems, renewing the deal again with the latest update to the Test Track attraction (Version 2.0) just a few years ago.
- Spaceship Earth has gone through a series of sponsors over the years (BELL, to AT&T and then Siemens in 2005) but as the icon of the park itself, it has been lucky enough to be a popular sponsorship opportunity. But the question is, will Seimens stay on beyond 2015?
- The Land has also had a number of sponsors over the years: Kraft from 82-92 and Nestle from 93 to 2009. Nestle dropped out however, and it wasn’t until 2011 when Chiquita signed a larger deal with the entire resort and cruise line, that they became the sponsor of the Living with the Land ride.
- The Living Seas opened in 1986 and was sponsored by United Technology up through 1998, but this is where things get interesting however. Unlike the other pavilions which could be closed down if Disney chose to do so, The Living Seas is inhabited by a large number of marine animals ranging from fish to dolphins to protected manatees. Closing down the pavilion was not an option as the pavilion would still have to be staffed and the animals fed and taken care of, regardless of sponsorship status. It also helped by the pavilion is home to the popular Coral Reef Restaurant, which offers underwater viewing into the main exhibit tank. Unable to find a new sponsor, Disney cut the pavilion’s budget where they could for a few years… axing the preshow film as well as closing the “Seacab” omni-mover ride in 2001 when it started to fall into disrepair.
What happened next with The Living Seas pavilion may be paving the way for the future however. Disney found themselves with a huge hit on their hands, thanks to Pixar’s Finding Nemo film hitting theaters in Summer 2003, reeling in the second highest gross for the year at $936 million world-wide. The marine life themed film was the perfect fit for The Living Seas pavilion and Disney began to experiment by adding Finding Nemo themed decorative elements to the pavilion starting in late 2003 and by late 2004 they opened the first Nemo themed attraction within, “Turtle Talk with Crush”. The mini attraction was a smash hit with guests who overwhelmed the limited capacity of the theater it was in, which led not only to it’s own expansion, but the transformation of the entire pavilion into “The Seas with Nemo & Friends” by late 2005. At this point Disney opted to go all in here, and began work transforming the attraction’s old entrance, pre-show theaters, hydrolators and the closed Seacab ride into a new Nemo themed dark ride experience that opened in early 2007.
While this was the first time that an Epcot pavilion has been entirely re-themed to tie into a Disney or Pixar animated films, this was not the first time that a Disney film has been brought to life in Epcot.. that honor would go to the 4D “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience” attraction at the Imagination pavilion that opened in 1994 and closed in 2010, with the theme of the 4D film’s “Imagination Institute” was used as the theme for the 1999 version of the revamped dark ride experience.
While Future World has thus far received most of the attention in terms of sponsorship and new attractions, the World Showcase pavilions are aging. They have been quietly getting small updates when they can get the countries to agree to help pay for them, but none seem very eager to do so anymore. The last World Showcase pavilion to be added to the park was Norway which opened in 1988 and all negotiations to design and build new country pavilions have failed since then due to disagreeable financial terms for both the building of the pavilion as well as ongoing annual operating expense payments. For example, until the government of Norway opted to step away from their deal with Disney, they were said to have paid $200,000 a year to keep the Norway pavilion running.
While Canada and China have all received new films for their show theaters, and Mexico revamped their boat ride about five years ago as well, which saw the introduction of the Three Caballeros characters to lighten the mood and bring a little more entertainment to the experience. However, their presence is said to be scaled back quite a bit from the initial proposal, as the Mexican government resigned a new deal with Disney and asked to keep more of the cultural information in the attraction intact.
Norway however, found themselves on the block as the last untouched major attraction in World Showcase, but as the government opted out several years ago and Disney found themselves sitting on top of another runaway animated hit in the form of Frozen this past year. They tested the waters with something small (Anna & Elsa character Meet & Greet in Norway) in much the same way they did with Finding Nemo at The Living Seas, and the response was huge… and now the rest is history as Maelstrom has now closed and a new large Frozen themed attraction will open in 2016.
It is with this in mind that I say that Epcot has failed… but it is fixable. The old business model isn’t working anymore as we’ve seen Disney forced to take over more and more pavilions… and this isn’t a bad thing, as otherwise I think Epcot would sit stagnant. So while there are those who are upset at Frozen coming to Norway… I’m not one of them and I’m looking forward to it. I look at it with the eyes who remember what happened over at The Living Seas and that pavilion is not only better for it, but I’m hoping we see Disney start to take more of a creative role throughout Epcot, especially in World Showcase, where it would only make sense to add a copy of the new Ratatouille dark ride that just opened at the Paris resort as a starting point, and then look how they can expand into the other World Showcase pavilions as well to breathe some new life into the park.
Because Epcot IS a great park… it just needs to evolve and grow to realize it’s true potential.