Out of all the Disney Parks, EPCOT has perhaps been undergoing the biggest changes. Even before the events of the 2020 pandemic, it feels like Disney’s park dedicated to innovation, exploration, and imagination has constantly been in a state of construction. While these new additions are all being made in the name of advancement, many fans find themselves intensely divided.
EPCOT has been known as Disney’s futuristic park, designed as the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. However, some fans believe that there’s been a little too much Disney in that equation lately. While the Park prepares to welcome in a new Moana exhibit and experience, many fans feel that EPCOT needs less Disney influence and more original content. On the other hand, there are also those who believe that Disney’s frequent use of IP could be what’s keeping the Park relevant. So why is there a divide?
In order to thoroughly understand this, we need to look at what Epcot “used to be.” Previously, EPCOT was divided into two main areas, Future World and the World Showcase. While the latter remains generally unchanged, many guests are growing dissatisfied in what’s become of the former, now divided into three “worlds.”
Originally, Future World was home to a variety of futuristic and technological inspired exhibits and attractions that catered to a more scientific identity. Horizons, Body Wars, and World of Motion are only a few vintage attractions that captivated Guests and ignited a spark of discovery in them as they traveled through the Park. Has that all really gone away? Some Guests seem to think so.
The original idea was something of a separation from the traditional Disney Park archetype seen in places like The Magic Kingdom. Mickey and his friends were present, but they were more like backup singers to EPCOT’s melody. EPCOT still has a dedication to technology and innovation, but fans are seeing a different side these days.
We’ve discussed EPCOT’s changes quite a few times in the past, but a common consensus amongst some dissatisfied fans is that there seems to be no originality in the Park anymore, as more and more Disney characters encroach on the territory. Many Guests have come forward on Inside the Magic’s comments and shared how they really feel about the Park’s disappearing identity. Needless to say, they’ve had some words.
“Royz” writes on ITM’s comment page their thoughts on the Park’s genre shift by saying,
“Epcot 1982….needs to make a come back. Yes the Moana attraction is so out of theme/place….been better if that was part of a new addition to Animal Kingdom. Epcot lost its creativity /direction when Mission Space and Test Track were put into place, along with Soarin’… Now Disney can interject some of their IPs to fit within such as Living Seas, with Nemo, or Frozen at Norway, or Ratatouille in France while not completely offsetting the original attraction. 1982 era Epcot was kind a break from the characters and such from the MK. Thats why it stood out and made guests want to see it.”
The same user writes on another page an even more in-depth critique of EPCOT’s changes, and still with the same perspective on what the Park has lost. Such observations include,
“Attractions like Test Track, Mission Space, Guardians Rolercoaster, are evident minimal a thrill ride can be, how minimal the themeing is…it doesn’t matter how thrilling the actual ride is without a good theme and storyline. Epcot was opened in 1982 and the idea it was a showcase of learning and reveals of future commercial products…CommuniCore use to showcase upcoming gaming systems, video games, products that were all seen as futuristic at the time.”
In a similar vein, “Heather W.” writes,
“I prefer the Old Epcot, and when I was a kid in the early 90’s, I preferred Epcot over MK back then. I loved the country pavilions, the post-ride science display on the Energy ride, and the post-ride concept car display on World of Motion. And I would give anything just to ride Horizons one more time.”
Related: EPCOT Attraction Ridiculed By Guests
It’s more than just a nostalgia for retro rides from the ’80s. Guests are claiming that EPCOT has purely forgotten what it is and what it was meant to be. A user identified simply as “Morris Fraser” bares it all when they write,
“EPCOT no longer truly is Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It started as a break from traditional Disney, looking to the future (not just Disney future). At some point (maybe with the Three Caballeros theming in Mexico’s boat ride?) the concept began to change. Land, Imagination, Horizons, Communicore all were a way of displaying concepts interesting to everyone apart from The Mouse and Sleeping Beauty. I fear even the backstage tour of the Land will feature only Mickey-shaped gourds. World Showcase allowed those of us who couldn’t travel abroad a sense of different and legitimate cultures, dining and entertainment. Today, it seems even the Imagineers are not imaginative, and their engineering seems to be limited to re-jiggering what The Nine Old Men created.”
Although these voices have reason to feel the way they feel, it can come off more like complaining in some circles. The point of EPCOT was to focus on the future, right? So why does it feel like these very vocal fans are still stuck in the past?
Walt Disney always believed in the maxim of “keep moving forward.” That’s how EPCOT came to be in the first place. The ’80s went out with Day-Glo and disco (despite what Cosmic Rewind might suggest), and the Park Guests were exposed to decades ago could not exist by todays standards.
True, there are indeed some EPCOT features that are still stuck in the past, but they have been greatly maintained to keep them relevant. We’re looking at you, Spaceship Earth. However, this doesn’t mean EPCOT has lost its primarily progressive identity. In fact, many Guests have pointed out the reasons EPCOT needs Disney’s involvement to keep running.
On a Reddit post concerning the subject, u/Biggoof1971 makes an astute observation by writing,
“Epcot from before can’t exist in a world where we have tiny computers in our pockets. They can still do fun exhibits here and there but they have to be extremely interactive and fun in order to take up valuable time from a society that has entertainment at their fingertips.”
On another thread, u/Smagnaferous adds a similar notion when they add,
“People have all the information they could want at their fingertips 24/7, so they don’t want to sit through slow rides and movies that show them what they can google and watch a youtube video at home about anymore. That’s just change, that’s what EPCOT was telling us for decades was coming. Well, it’s here.”
Related: Disney Replacing Harmonious, New Nighttime Spectacular Taking Over EPCOT
To recap, EPCOT needs current technology and exhibits to stay relevant. Disney has been continuously flooding the Park with more Disney-focused experiences to keep the place up and running. Logic dictates Guests need something to keep the Park in the future to maintain the appeal, so why does this continue to be a wedge issue for longtime EPCOT fans?
The answer calls back to a statement made several times before, Disney fans thrive on nostalgia. As stated previously, the frequent criticisms coming from fans often involve how a EPCOT “used to be.” While the park was undoubtedly in its heyday during the ’80s when all of its technology was novel and new, that time has passed. Of course the Park is going to rely heavily on alternative sources to attract its crowds.
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Keep in mind that while Disney might be more involved in EPCOT by filling it out with more of their intellectual property, they are still delivering on the dedication to science and discovery while doing so. Cosmic Rewind introduces a lot of first time visitors to the concept of the Big Bang, the princesses of the World Showcase explore international cultures, and even Journey Into Imagination has its sensory exploration. EPCOT hasn’t changed all that much, just been given a different aesthetic.
Iconic rides such as Soarin’, Test-Track, Mission Space, and Spaceship Earth aren’t going anywhere any time soon, so its not like fans can say they are being robbed of the core EPCOT experience. The critics aren’t upset that Disney is getting more involved, they’re upset that they can’t re-experience current technology and innovations for the very first time again. To a point, that’s somewhat understandable.
Just because EPCOT is going in a new direction doesn’t mean it isn’t still moving forward. Look at the technology and effects created for Cosmic Rewind. There’s no way the indoor coaster isn’t technologically impressive. Even the updated lighting effects on Spaceship Earth are an enormous improvement from just a few short years ago. EPCOT is still all about the future, it’s the Guests that choose to remain in the past.
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The original EPCOT experiment might not have been the success that Walt Disney originally imagined, but the original park did deliver fans a vision of the future. That doesn’t mark it as a failure, but rather some thing that needed further evolution with the passage of time. EPCOT today will pale in comparison when stacked beside the EPCOT of the next decade or maybe even the next two years. Either way, all we can do is keep both hands and feet inside the car at all times and enjoy the ride.
Do you think EPCOT is still looking toward the future? Tell Inside the Magic what you think in the comments below!