Friday, April 9, 2010

EPCOT Center, 1993

A couple weeks ago, Progress City USA posted Disney’s 1993 vacation planning video. This is significant because 1993 was the last “normal” year before the parks (especially the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT) began their mid-90s metamorphosis into what they are today. I highly encourage you to head over there and check out the whole thing (click here) but I wanted to comment on the section of the video devoted to EPCOT Center:

First of all, it’s interesting that the World Showcase has barely changed at all. Other than El Rio De Tiempo becoming the Gran Fiesta Tour, EPCOT’s southern half is pretty much exactly as the video describes it.

The Future World portion of the video, though, is what really makes you realize how much has changed. What blows me away is how much more there was to do at Future World in 1994 compared to today. Part of it, of course, is that Wonders of Life is now closed, and it housed two large attractions (Body Wars and Cranium Command) and several smaller shows and exhibits. But what about the existing pavilions? Horizons, World of Motion, and Journey Into Imagination were all replaced with rides that are significantly shorter. Soarin’ is also less than half the length of the Kitchen Kaberet/Food Rocks show that it replaced. So, even if you remove Wonders of Life from the equation, the fact remains that today’s EPCOT visitor spends less time actually experiencing attractions than they would have in 1993 simply because the rides are shorter.

In an article about Horizons that I read recently, one of the factors in the decision to close and demolish it was said to be that the current generation of theme park visitors gets bored during fifteen-minute dark rides. Is that true, I wonder? Have our attention spans shrunk over the past fifteen years or so, so that anything other than a five-minute thrill ride is incapable of holding our attention?

I encourage you to tell me what you think in the comments.

By the way, if you look at the right side of the page, you may notice that I’ve added lots more tags. Hopefully, they’ll make it easier to find the posts that interest you.


  1. Unfortunately, I would have to say that most people's attention spans have diminished. In today's world of instant news and expression (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), people rarely can savor such in-depth, immersive experiences like Horizons and the original Journey Into Imagination. I even enjoy Ellen's Energy Adventure and to me it seems like it is not that long, but looking around while experiencing it now, one will see people looking bored. I miss the old Future World as much as you do. Keep up the great posts.

  2. People's attention spans have diminished. It's not accidental, it's a trait that's been cultivated in us. Horizons was closed down partially because interest had waned, but mostly because there's a master plan for human society, and the vision put forth by Horizons and other parts of future world weren't compatible with it. People aren't supposed to care about the future anymore. It's all about buying as much crap as you can RIGHT NOW, and lining the pockets of richest 3% of the population. A future where automation has taken over the daily grind, and humans are free to spend their days enriching themselves and growing as a culture is not compatible with cheap plastic food and obnoxious 24/7 push advertising. Bad news, friends. This is it. We've peaked. The good news is that pretty soon everything will fall apart, and if we survive we can start over again. Maybe we'll pull off robot servants, flying cars, and space tourism in another few hundred years... but for us, the dream is over. And it's tearing me to shreds. I bought into the dream, and now I've watched it fall apart. I'm angry, and depressed, and I don't know how I fit into this world. I don't know if I want to. But at least I don't think we were lied to. Walt Disney was the real thing.. the ultimate dreamer. "If you can dream it, you can do it".. he truly believed that. But he wasn't God. He could't change the course of the entire species, and he couldn't live forever.

  3. It certainly looks like Future World was a better experience before it got remade. Have people's attention spans shortened? I think it's certainly true in many cases. I think a lot of the issue is that there are so many entertainment options these days, and Epcot (and any theme park) has to exceed the value of the others. It's like Avatar (I haven't seen it yet but from what I'm hearing...) - such a great visual experience that it makes other stuff seem lame by comparison. And then there's the whole "edutainment" thing - many local science centers (like the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago) are doing that sort of thing well, and the need to travel to Epcot to experience the same or even in some cases an inferior experience (not from the technology - presentation angle but from the quality-of-information angle) is not very high.

    So, in their infinite wisdom, rather than updating the info, they decide that the stuff is boring and change it to the latest thrill ride for the whole family.

    If that makes any sense...

  4. I totally disagree that people's attention has diminished. I just think it takes more to keep their attention. All you need to do is look at POTC or HM. Those attractions are 20 minute dark rides and quite old and still yield long lines.

    I think that people "think" they know what they want now because companies are now being reactive instead of proactive. Except Apple. Apple does well because they exceed expectations. They give people what they want before people even know what they want. That's why Disneyland was such a huge success. People said it was bound to fail because it was just another amusement park for kids. Nope, so much detail was packed into it that it exceeded expectations.

    EPCOT just needed upgrades and enhancements not Thrills and Disney tie-ins.

  5. Whoa!! I have that vacation planning video somewhere at my house still. Amazing because I figure I would have worn it out with how many times I watched it back in the day.

    "...and then you encounter...COMMUNICORE!"

    Brings back memories.

  6. WOW I think this video provides some insight into why Disney creativity collapsed. The nerds had too much power, to release a video with such awful quotes. It seems designed to keep people out of Epcot - and I'm saying this as a nerd.

    "It's better than science museums all over the country."

    "As you're waiting in line there's a lot of history about the oceans."

    "You get the smell of sulfur. It's absolutely terrific."

    "You go through the mixed up mind of a 12-year-old."

    Gee, how much can I pay to not go?

  7. According to a well-known former-imagineer who posts on a Disney forum, dark rides are now once again "in".


Thanks for taking the time to comment!