That means this is the opinion of one person, not a trip report or news article. Please keep that in mind as you are reading.
Today we have a new feature for you, RD is going to have his own section of the site where he's going to have some opinion pieces, not just about Theme Parks, but pretty much anything he wants to talk about.
So welcome RD to the site, and enjoy his first piece about the future of EPCOT at Walt Disney World. - Gregg
I know I've been joking about the future of EPCOT - and the conversion of the World Showcase into movie-themed lands, but there is a reason behind this - yes, Disney is out for a ca$h grab, but haven't they always?
Let's face it: EPCOT failed. It tried hard. It changed. It evolved. And it has been a megabuck$ failure. Walt's vision for a permanent World's fair was brilliant - in the era when Worlds Fairs were big ticket draws. However, they have declined in popularity over the past 30 years, not the least helped by destination parks such as Disney, Universal and to a lesser extent large destination parks throughout not only the USA, but also the world. In effect: Disney killed the World's fair... by building a failing World's Fair.
Everybody needs to remember the first letter of what EPCOT means: EXPERIMENTAL. Even Disney himself admitted that the process of what his vision for EPCOT would change and evolve - even from what he proposed for the Florida Project in 1966. He envisioned one thing, but knew that time would change everything, and he was right.
When EPCOT finally opened in 1982, it was a far cry from what Walt had proposed in 1966 - with very little actually retaining what he'd laid out. No big city, no major corporations building on Disney's property. Just about the only thing to actually come out of EPCOT was the enlarged Walt Disney World Monorail system - though even that has never been fully integrated & incorporated into the park - linking only two of the parks and three hotels. In the end, this too can be deemed a partial failure: Look at the number of buses that currently run around the parks, creating traffic & pollution - something the Monorails were anticipated to alleviate.
So Disney looked at EPCOT the park - and realized without some major changes, it would be a white elephant; a place where Gramma & Grampa and the parents would wander around - but not a full vision for families as intended. Some rides were built; some pavilions removed & exchanged with E-ticket thrills... but it still wasn't enough. Lacking the normal things a theme park needs in it (Water rides, flat rides, E-ticket coasters) has really been an anchor around the park's neck.
The addition of festivals to help boost attendance has been a band aid on a hemorrhaging bleeder - a temporary fix to a permanent problem. The crowds have never really materialized even on the most optimistic views.
So the E in EPCOT is over. The World Showcase is getting their first non-country themed land; EPCOT is going commercial after 32 years of being stagnant. Am I for this change? Not really. There were better ways to do an upgrade to the park - there is still quite a bit of space on the property to add on attractions without losing the general flair of the World Showcase. However, I'm not the head of Disney Parks, either.
Maelstrom (and Norway) were a kitschy addition to the park to help draw people in - and admittedly it was a basic ride/attraction. Frozen WILL draw the crowds in. And the families. And the money to keep the park operating - and for that matter potentially profitable.
Big Hero 6 looks to be another blockbuster for Disney's film unit. And with this comes the lingering threat of a huge change: Which pavilion is next? How many will go the way of the dodo and convert to a Movie-themed, country-flavored attraction area? Honestly - I suspect that in one way or another the head of Disney Parks, the GM of EPCOT and Bob Iger have sat down and talked about this - and come up with a long-range plan for the evolution of EPCOT into this.
Pavilions such as Japan, Germany & France already have not only space to do so - but have show buildings & space already built that could be converted in a relatively quick time into attractions - or have space where new buildings could be added on without any fuss. As we have seen with CarsLand, Disney has tremendous opportunity to build theme areas in that are totally immersive and surround the plot of a film entirely.
In the case of some of these country-pavilions, the conversion would be quick & mostly painless:
EPCOT - 1982-2014. New EPCOT 2015-????? I enjoyed you as Disney intended - but it is time for a change -for better or for worse. We may not like what is coming, but it IS coming - and Disney is going to make it their own.