Friday, June 18, 2010

Fear and Nausea: Now THAT’S Entertainment!

As I was being turned upside down at sixty miles per hour, I understood why EPCOT Center was never as popular as it should have been.

Perhaps I should explain that.

I have a longstanding phobia of roller coasters and coaster-like thrill rides. I’m okay with simulators; Mission:Space or Star Tours give me no problems. I just can’t handle steep drops, barrel rolls, hairpin turns, and inversions. Nevertheless, everyone’s always saying how much fun these rides are, and how they or someone they know used to feel the way I do, but then they rode <insert coaster name here> and now they can’t get enough of them. And so I bowed to peer (and spousal) pressure, screwed up my courage, and climbed aboard Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As the ride took off at sixty miles per hour and sent me though a dizzying array of turns and inversions, I realized that rides like this are specifically designed to trigger your brain’s automatic fear and nausea circuits. I couldn’t just relax and enjoy the ride because the ride doesn’t let you relax. And this is what people consider to be fun. Heck, I could’ve experienced the same level of enjoyment by standing on my head and sticking my finger down my throat. And that, my friends, is why we don’t have EPCOT Center any more.

You see, EPCOT Center’s designers thought that the general public wanted Animatronic dark rides and CircleVision films. It’s easy to understand why they thought so; the dark rides and CircleVision film attractions at the Magic Kingdoms in Anaheim and Orlando were consistently popular with park visitors (although I admit that I don’t get the CircleVision thing. Who wants to stand in line just to go into another room and stand some more?) But unlike Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion, EPCOT’s attractions had a more scholarly tone. Aside from Journey Into Imagination and  World of Motion, there was no fluffy escapist fare. EPCOT Center was designed to engage your brain on a higher level. And judging by the general public’s disdain for EPCOT Center, and its corresponding love for rides like Rockin’ Roller Coaster, it’s safe to say that people don’t want their brains engaged on any higher level. They want them engaged on the level that makes them sorry they had lunch at Pizza Planet.

It’s a point of view that I acknowledge. Just don't ask me to understand it.

Well, my business trip to Orlando at the end of the month has been canceled. However, my wife and I will be heading down there at the end of July to check out the Summer Nightastic festivities. We’ll be there long enough to squeeze in a visit to EPCOT, so I should have some pictures for you and a review of the Coral Reef Restaurant. Thanks for reading!


  1. I love this post. I share the same sentiment as you when it comes to thrill rides. I am terrified of drops and generally do not enjoy that type of "excitement" I miss EPCOT Center as opposed to Epcot. Even on my first visit at the age of three in 1984, I can remember enjoying EPCOT more because of all the awesome hands-on technological exhibits. I just wish that I was an adult in the 80s so I could have taken even more out of the old EPCOT Center. I do have to say that I feel Siemens has done a pretty good job as far as SSE goes. The descent leaves something to be desired, but I think they are headed in the right direction especially with the post show area. Nothing is going to bring Horizons though. That was the true death of the idea of EPCOT Center.

  2. While I don't have a fear of these types of rides, and am happy my boys like them now, too, I think you're on the right track with your analysis. As far as the science, hands-on types of exhibits, I think my local science museum (Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago) does that sort of thing as well if not better. What they don't do nearly as well is ride you through something, and animate history and tell the story in a unique way.

    My kids like Epcot but their favorite rides are Soarin' and probably Test Track (my youngest puts Spaceship Earth in there, too) and my wife favors that park for the dining choices and the World Showcase. We never experienced a lot of the stuff you and others talk about, but Epcot still does stuff that no other theme park does or tries to do, in my opinion.


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