Monday, November 3, 2008
On the World of Motion
I'm going to admit something that an old-school EPCOT fanatic never should: World of Motion wasn't perfect. Sure, with a cast of 188 Audio-Animatronics it was quite a technical achievement. And the song "It's Fun To Be Free", written by legendary Disney music men X Atencio and Buddy Baker, was one of those pleasantly catchy melodies that stayed stuck in your head long after the ride was over. The fact of GM's sponsorship, however, doomed the ride to irrelevance.
Consider an example: for the majority of its existence, Spaceship Earth was sponsored by a telephone company. What if its sponsor had insisted that the wired telephone be presented as the absolute pinnacle of communications technology? The 1994 rehab never would have happened, and the pavilion would have lapsed into irrelevancy. Why? Mostly because the Internet and mobile phone technology transformed the way we communicate. Of course, since Spaceship Earth's sponsor in the 1990s, AT&T, was also a purveyor of those technologies, it had a business interest in seeing them spotlighted within Spaceship Earth and so all was well.
Regarding World of Motion, the same cannot be said. Transportation dinosaur GM makes automobiles with internal combustion engines, and that's it. Sure, they made an early foray into the electric car market with the EV-1, but I challenge you to name one other automotive innovation by GM in the last twenty years. The truth is, Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Honda are at the forefront of innovation these days, while GM and the other American auto makers are flirting with bankruptcy. And of course, the most forward-looking futuristic transportation concepts don't include cars at all, which is why World of Motion ignored them. In order to please its sponsor, World of Motion had to present automobiles as the be-all, end-all of transportation. As pleasantly nostalgic a ride as it was, imagine the cynicism World of Motion would engender were it still in operation when gas costs $4 a gallon. After all, how "free" are we when it costs an arm and a leg to fill your gas tank?
Of course, World of Motion was replaced by a firmly automobile-centric attraction that reflects the shift in guests' tastes from Audio-Animatronic dark rides to thrill rides. Judging from the FastPass wait times, Test Track seems to be more popular than its predecessor ever was. I can't really make a thoughtful comparison between World of Motion and Test Track, however, because the fact that I'm a huge wimp where thrill rides are concerned has prevented me from experiencing Test Track thus far. When I visit EPCOT again next year, I plan on overcoming this silly phobia so I can write an informed review of Test Track. I'll let you know how it goes.
Given GM's worsening financial problems, however, I wonder if they'll discontinue their Test Track sponsorship. If that happens, what would the future hold for one of EPCOT's most popular attractions? Whatever happens, I hope that it won't suffer the fate of the Wonders of Life pavilion. It would be a shame to see Future World East turned into the Graveyard of Extinct Attractions.