2010 has been a busy year for EPCOT. The World Showcase received a rare new addition with the opening of the Via Napoli restaurant this month, and the expanded Hacienda de San Angel is scheduled to open in September. In Future World, the return of Captain EO managed to shamelessly capitalize on the death of someone Disney would undoubtedly ignore were he still alive, and remind us of why some things from the ‘80s are best left there.
I’m not privy to any inside information, but I predict that 2011 will be a much quieter year for our favorite park, primarily because most of the company’s attention (and money) will be focused on the massive Fantasyland expansion project now underway in the Magic Kingdom. I seriously doubt that EPCOT will get any new additions until after Fantasyland is completed. Don’t be surprised if there’s a subtraction, though. On my last visit to EPCOT on a hot and crowded Sunday, every Future World attraction had a longer-than-average wait time. Except one, that is: Journey Into Imagination With Dr. Nigel Channing. Throughout the day, the tip boards in Future World consistently showed no wait time at Imagination, even as the temperature climbed close to 100 degrees. No lie: I saw more people drink Beverly at Club Cool than I saw enter the Imagination pavilion. When people won’t even enter your attraction to escape the Florida heat in August, you’ve got a popularity problem. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Disney’s bean-counters notice this and turn Imagination into a “seasonal” attraction a la Sounds Dangerous, reopening it only if Test Track, Mission:Space, and Soarin’ all break down at the same time. Maybe after the Fantasyland project is completed, Journey into Imagination will get the upgrade it so richly deserves. We can only hope.
In the meantime, I’m rolling out a new continuing feature here at the blog, a Star Trek: The Next Generation retrospective. It won’t be an episode-by-episode review; there are enough people on the Internet who do that sort of thing, and the vast majority of them are better writers than I am. Rather, it’s going to be a recounting of what it was like to experience TNG’s seven-season run as it happened. Too many reviewers make the mistake of evaluating the show by modern standards, and that’s not really fair. Simply saying that TNG’s first couple seasons were badly written and full of 1980s cheesiness is like making fun of Vanilla Ice; it’s too easy and anyone can do it. Clearly, the show was able to garner enough of an audience to allow it to survive to its third season when it really got good.
Just as it can be hard to remember when EPCOT Center was brand new and untouched by the ravages of Eisnerian cost-cutting and 1990s attempts to be “hip”, it can also be difficult to imagine a time when Star Trek only consisted of a cancelled television series from the ‘60s and four movies. A new series with unfamiliar characters seemed like a very risky proposition. Over the next few months, I’ll be looking back on some key moments in TNG’s evolution from an uneven not-quite-sequel to the original series to the launching point for the rest of the Star Trek franchise.
I hope you’ll stick around.