Walt Disney World
---- THE LATEST BUZZ ----
(5/22/17) First Permits for Universe of Energy Replacement Discovered (MORE...)
(5/9/17) A Figment Survey? (MORE...)
(4/10/17) Disney Imagineer George McGinnis Passes Away (MORE...)
(4/5/17) Mission: SPACE Closing For Most Of The Summer! (MORE...)
Ride Rehabs - The following information is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate.
Mission: SPACE - June 5 through July 28, 2017
Click here to read: EPCOT HAS FAILED
General Park News - (5/9/17) An odd report posted to WDWNT claims that guest surveys about Figment and possibly the future of the Imagination Pavilion may be taking place inside Epcot near the attraction area. Anyone visit the park lately and notice anything like this? I'd love to know what they are trying to determine, though some of this report claims some of it is a general information survey about Figment himself to determine if the typical park guests even still know who he is.
(4/10/17) Walt Disney Imagineer George McGinnis has past away at the age of 87. According to a couple of wonderful posts over at Disney & More this week, they mention that George was a primary creator behind not only the first two Space Mountain coasters, but also what may be Walt Disney World's most beloved extinct attraction... Horizons.
While you can see a quick overview of George's career highlights in Part 1 of their tribute post, I'd like to really point out Part 2 where they go into detail on Horizons itself. While Horizons was sadly replaced by Mission: SPACE in 2003, to me Horizons itself was perhaps the biggest loss of a dark ride yet at a Disney theme park.
Ok... well perhaps tied at least, hitting the top of the list right up there at the top next to the loss of the original Journey into Imagination dark ride, also at Epcot's Future World, and the nearby World of Motion. The combined back-to-back loss of these three dark rides from Epcot (World of Motion in 1996, Imagination in 1998 and Horizons in 1999) really just altered the entire personality of Future World going forward, but in many ways the loss of Horizons pained me the most. While Spaceship Earth was always the icon of the park, to me Horizons was really the attraction that best captured the true spirit of the Future World half of the park. If you never had a chance to see it, follow the second link to see what it was all about, and while your at it, click here to listen to the "Horizons Loop and Remix Tribute" audio-track while you read the tribute article. Kinda gets you right in the feels...
(4/5/17) So what's going on with Mission: SPACE? In a surprising twist it was announced through the various channels that Mission: SPACE will be closing for an unexpected rehab... that will see it closed for almost the entire summer of 2017. Yep... Mission: SPACE will be closed for an unknown rehab that starts on June 5th and will last through to July 31st.
While this could just be a good old fix-it-up rehab... Mission: SPACE isn't your typical Disney attraction. As a simulator experience with four separate but identical ride-units inside the attraction building all major rehab work on the ride can typically be done without closing it down at all, and simply just closing each of the ride units individually and then moving on to the next. So closing the whole thing down kind of speaks to this being a much larger and much more involved rehab project... perhaps one that could see some big changes made to the overall attraction experience.
While I wouldn't expect this to suddenly become a surprise makeover into a Guardians of the Galalxy themed attraction (though that would be cool) I am very curious about what the future holds for Mission: SPACE. Anyone know more?
(11/28/16) The first piece of the puzzle of what Epcot could be planning for the next generation version of Illumination has leaked out. While Disney has been all about projection mapping technology as of late, the lack of any sizeable structure in the center of World Showcase pretty much means that projecting mapping is out. That said, according to the latest rumor, the next Illuminations will jump on the new 'Drone' bandwagon concept, and is looking into ways they can use a flying army of coordinated light-up drones around Epcot's sizeable airspace. Epcot also presents what may be the perfect place to put on just such a show, as the drones could be kept flying over the large central lake, giving them a safe location to crash into if something were to go wrong.
Now I've got to wonder how well they can mix drones and fireworks... as it just wouldn't be Illuminations without some really killer pyro to go with it. Meanwhile it looks like WildGravityTravels is hearing a little info that helps support this as well, claiming that some drones could be added into the existing Illuminations show as a test as early as next Spring as they continue to develop and refine the technology.
In other news, Disney has confirmed that the 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival will take place from August 31, 2017 through to November 13, 2017. So make your plans now so you too can eat and drink your way around the world at the park's most popular annual event.
(11/21/16) During a presentation Disney's Bob Chapek mentioned that Epcot would be the next park to undergo a "major transformation" in the near future. According to some of our sources, nothing is 100% set in stone yet for Epcot, but there are major plans in the works with a multi-year budget that is said to dwarf what Disney spent on fixing Disney California Adventure.
So what's rumored to be in the works? We've heard a number of things so far... including the obvious and long-in-the-tooth rumor about installing a brand new edition of "Illiuminations" to entertain park guests each and every night around World Showcase. Speaking of World Showcase... despite what people may be hoping for, I'm hearing that new country pavilions are NOT being planned right now. However, I am hearing that a new dark ride IS being planned for World Showcase that will be added into an existing pavilion. While I'm not sure exactly what this would be right now, perhaps the easiest idea may be to clone the Ratatouille dark ride that was built in Paris at the France pavilion, though I'm all for something brand new as well.
So with all that in mind, it seems obviously that the lion’s share of the budget will go towards a complete overhaul of the Future World side of the park, including some much needed overhauls to many of the existing pavilions. The rumor that has been getting the most attention latest has been a plan to build a Guardian of the Galaxy themed dark coaster ride to take the place of the Universe of Energy pavilion, and I can only assume this plan will likely move forwards sooner than later. Then to address the elephant in the room, the idle former Wonders of Life pavilion is also in dire need of being given a new purpose. Other projects I'm guessing we'll see is another upgrade to Spaceship Earth, maybe Mission: Space, fix up the old Innoventions/Communicore areas and time to try something new at the Imagination pavilion.
(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 - (5/22/17) In an interesting update, WDWNT reports that the first permits have been filed for work at Epcot that seem to indicate that the end may be near for The Universe of Energy. Like what seems to always happen in Florida, the first signs of an impending construction project involve the paperwork and permits involving how the project will handle the issue of drainage and if any existing water retention ponds need to be moved, adjusted, or replaced.
In this case the work site mentioned includes the removal of a water drainage canal that runs behind Universe of Energy and the closed Wonders of Life Pavilion which will be replaced by adding bigger ponds (or expanding the existing connected canal) that runs through a green area out into the last section of the parking lot behind there.
One fun item of note however is the marking that show off the overall construction site for the project includes not just the huge green area where the new ponds and drainage canal will go, but mentions that the existing canal route (which will be filled in) but the project site boundary also includes the entire Universe of Energy structure, the area behind it, and a substantial section of the park's pathways in front of it. Essentially everything north of the pathway that runs from the Electric Umbrella / MouseGears area over to Mission Space will be affected. In another image there is a rather large rectangle shaped new structure, about the size of the Universe of Energy building, to go into the space directly behind Wonders of Life. Something that big must surely be for a major new attraction of some kind.
And we know previous rumors were pointing to the arrival of the Guardians of the Galaxy in this general area not too long ago.
(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.