Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Feasible EPCOT Improvement #4

Bring Universe of Energy into the 21st Century

Since it opened in 1982, Universe of Energy has assured us that our future energy needs would be met by a variety of sources, but mostly fossil fuels provided by the Exxon corporation. And yeah, fossil fuels were technically a nonrenewable resource, but we didn't need to worry about that because more deposits of them were constantly being discovered thanks to the selfless efforts of (you guessed it!) the Exxon corporation. Of course, people not in the employ of Big Oil were warning us all the time that fossil fuels were going to run out one of these days, and we had better start exploring other options, but we mostly ignored them. After all, there was always fuel at the gas station, and it cost less per gallon than renewable liquids such as milk or beer. And then gas hit $4 a gallon in the summer of 2008, and we soiled our collective underpants as we realized that the transition away from fossil fuels was not likely to be a smooth and affordable one.

Before then, the show playing inside the Universe of Energy pavilion was decried by EPCOT purists for its dated 1990s pop culture and its attempts at hip, ironic humor. After gas spiked at over $4 a gallon, though, we realized that Bill Nye and Alex Trebek's mustache were the least of the Energy pavilion's problems. The show was hopelessly outdated because it only paid lip service to the fact that the oil would run out one day, and we were in big trouble if we didn't start changing our habits and looking for new energy sources. Then, in late 2008, Disney responded. They took bold action! They closed Universe of Energy! They gave it a new . . . paint job? To be fair, the return to the original exterior color scheme really looks good. And the minor rehab was probably scheduled well before the spike in oil prices. Still, the Energy pavilion is badly in need of a relevance infusion, and here's how they can do it while keeping costs at a minimum:

First, try to avoid a redo of the dinosaur diorama by keeping Ellen. She's personable and funny, and unlike Bill Nye modern audiences still know who she is. Of course, since her show is carried by NBC, not the Disney-owned ABC, it's possible that bringing her back to shoot new scenes for the filmed portion of the ride would cost more than just removing the Ellen animatronic. But if bringing Ellen back isn't too expensive, then they can produce a new film that generally follows the lines of the current one, but talks more realistically about our energy problems. Making movies isn't cheap, sure, but a thirty-minute film about energy has got to be a lot less expensive to film than a two-hour movie about secret-agent gerbils, you know? Best of all, since Exxon no longer sponsors the Energy pavilion, Disney won't be obligated to tailor the show to their interests.

So come on, Disney. Give us a new film at the Universe of Energy. Because the old one's not just out of date, it's getting moldy and starting to smell.

And that's #4. Only three posts left in this series, and you can probably guess what they are. Thanks for reading!


  1. Realistically I don't think Disney will ever spend a cent redoing this ride until they get a new sponsor, unless they can figure out a way to "synergize" with a Pixar movie (not likely.)

    So I think they should use the *threat* of a non-biased, full-throttle, guns blazing approach to this subject to force Exxon or one of its many competitors to take up sponsorship of this attraction. ;)

    (in any case I would be happy if they gutted the whole thing - but keep the ride mechanism & building & musical score!)

  2. then again those 90-foot ceilings at the back of the pavilion (in the diorama) are high enough for a full-sized house lifted by balloons...

  3. I feel that Disney should never use named talent for their attractions. It will always date the attraction. Don't use Ellen. Don't use Bill Nye. Use someone we don't know. Of course, the content matters as well and they need to update that, like you said. There's so much potential for "energy" as there's so many sources. Forget Sponsorship. Disney has the money now to make great stuff without needing outside financing.

  4. you assume companies are motivated by "the right thing to do" whereas for-profit companies don't spend money if they don't have to...

    the question is how do we convince Disney they need to spend money in these areas?


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