Feature: The Disney-fication of Epcot

maelstrom

Bob Iger’s announcement that Elsa and Anna are coming to Epcot’s World Showcase via a meet and greet as well as the characters overtaking the Maelstrom attraction upset many people within the Disney community. I understand the complaints, especially to an area that didn’t really need the Frozen touch. What’s more upsetting to Disney fans everywhere is that World Showcase already lacks attractions and it’s most popular attraction, the Maelstrom, really didn’t need to be touched. For many fans, the overall Disney-fication of Epcot hasn’t been too bad as the additions of Three Caballeros, Agent P, and the Finding Nemo cast hasn’t been overly outrageous.

The purpose of adding more Disney to Epcot is the overall appeal of the park to a younger audience. Since it’s opening in 1982, Epcot has struggled with entertaining children. The parks addition of Kid-cot, an interactive and creative outlet for children never really made it past the “yeah, I think we need a break so let’s do this” phase. Usually the arts and crafts here are something you would do on a rainy day at home, and making popsicle stick paper bears is cool but it isn’t captivating the attention of the average family. So what does captivate the entire family? Disney’s go to answer is those box-office draws and there hasn’t been a box office draw like Frozen in a long time.

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The solution of adding hit characters from films like Frozen might bring in the bucks but it also takes away from the integrity of the park. Walt’s initial ideas for the utopian city brought technology and world cultures together so it was a fitting homage to the man himself when Imagineering opened EPCOT Center with the first half of the park dedicated to technology and the changing world, while the back half of the park was dedicated to world cultures. Epcot has had changes of the years, adding new countries to it’s World Showcase, and updating the technology that lives within Future World, but not all of the changes have been welcomed with open arms by guests and Imagineers alike. Regardless, Disney continues to push forward with cartooning up the park. So what should the solution really be?

Starting with World Showcase, embracing cultures and adding new countries to World Showcase is what this area needs. The last country to be added to the pavilion was Norway in 1988. Seriously that is the last country they added. It’s been over 25 years! There have been numerous rumors of countries being contacted by Disney or countries being interested in being represented but nothing has ever come to fruition. It would be so nice to add another country where that weird African bridge is holding land. (That area was supposed to be a country anyways!)

What about just adding in a new attraction? Many folks don’t have problems with the Grand Fiesta Tour in the Mexico pavilion being overtaken by Donald, Jose, and Panchito because they belong in that attraction more than any other if they were to be added in and the characters don’t overtake the story of Mexico itself. Frozen takes place in a country like Norway but not Norway so it most likely won’t be showcasing lush landscapes and cultural heritage from the country. What about an attraction where Remy from Ratatouille shows us the ins and out of Paris, showcasing the exciting bustle of the town with the heritage and ancient cultures of France as well? What about a show where Mr. Toad takes us on a journey through the English countryside where he gets all of the facts wrong only to be corrected by his counterparts Mole, Rat, and Mr. Badger. Using animatronics or cartoon characters on a screen can be a great way to teach kids, but keep the lesson to teaching about the country, not just being silly for the sake of it.

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Future World is a bit more difficult but can definitely work out. Using characters that are scientists in animated films or timeless characters works. Using hot celebrities of the day doesn’t. Ellen’s Energy Adventure is beyond dated, and Honey I Shrunk the Audience was too before it got taken away. Using characters like Ludwig Von Drake to explain science ideals and the human mind is perfect as he is a timeless character and will never be dated. Same goes for Muppets Dr. Honeydew and Beaker who can teach us about anything because they are hilarious. Better yet, get out there and make up your own characters. Figment has been an extremely popular character throughout the years thanks to the Imagination Pavilion. The same can be done anywhere else. Upgrading attractions in Future World will cost money, but creating attractions that make sense with characters that fit it should not be hard. Disney has a catalog of great characters in their back pocket.

So yes, I’m all for adding Disney characters to Epcot. It desperately needs it, but adding these characters doesn’t mean we lose the integrity of the park and Walt’s ideology. Disney just has to be smart about the moves they make and the things they do. Frozen might be on its way to World Showcase but let’s hope that Disney sees the light and approaches the characters in a different way. One that highlights the cultural heritage of Norway and not cartooning up an area built on cultural heritage.

Josh Taylor
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Posted on September 14, 2014, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice article. I have heard a lot of complaints about Frozen not even being set in Norway but one of the things I remember most about the Norway pavilion was all of the Northwestern items for sale. The Northwestern, a boat made famous on American TV fishing in American waters that happens to be owned by a Norwegian family. To me its not like the first time Norway has had some commercialization.

    Also see a lot of people talking about how great Maelstrom is. In any other park people would not even ride it. The only reason it was considered great, and I never did consider it great, was there was nothing else to do!

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  1. Pingback: Modern Mouse News: Frozen Takeover and Josh’s Big Mouth | Modern Mouse Radio

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