Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reimagining EPCOT's World Showcase

Given my persona non grata status with Walt Disney World you may wonder why I care about it anymore. The truth is I care because with this, as with most things in my life, I am very protective of my favorite memories. So I felt a little bit of snark was justified...

It was big news on social media, in the press and here in central Florida last week when Disney made the formal and long-expected announcement that they were shutting down the Maelstrom ride in the Norway Pavilion at EPCOT to make way for an attraction based on the hit movie Frozen. Reaction has been loud and very mixed. I loved the movie, and understand why Disney execs have rushed to get something Frozen related in every park. However...I do have some questions. Although putting a ride in Norway is certainly the easy way out, it was not the only EPCOT option. The former Wonders of Life (long live Buzzy!) building still sits empty in Future World, begging for something new and exciting. And it seems to me that by making such a change at Norway, the company is throwing the the entire future of World Showcase up for grabs. And that scares me.

I have long loved World Showcase. My memory goes back to a time when everyone spelled EPCOT with all caps, there were no Disney characters there at all, dining reservations HAD to be made the day of and when IMAX movies were a technological marvel. I love the restaurants. I love the cultural aspects, the street performers and the fact that it is so different from the rest of WDW. There have already been changes over the years that no one bothered to run past me, such as changing the opening hours so we couldn't take a stroll in a nearly empty World Showcase early in the morning or changing the  menu at Alfredo's & The San Angel Inn. But change happens and you move on. But this feels much more significant. This feels like a real game changer. So today I have allowed my mind to wander. What if putting a Frozen attraction in Norway sets a precedent? What if every country in World Showcase were to become just another opportunity for Disney corporate synergy? There have long been crossover character events outside the Pavilions (think Mary Poppins at the UK, Beast at France)- but this seems different to me. In my nightmares, World Showcase would start to look like this...


  • The China Pavilion - The movie on the cultural history of the country would be replaced with The Making of Mulan, narrated by Eddie Murphy. A simulator ride could take us through the battle to save the Emperor, as we fight side-by-side with Mulan, Cricky, Mushu and Captain Li Shang. And the Nine Dragons restaurant is replaced by Mulan's Delight, a counter-service place featuring chicken chow mien and other dishes USAmericans think are Chinese.
  • The France Pavilion - So many movies to promote, so little time. The Boulangerie P√Ętisserie would become Hunchback Croissants- because Quasimodo is shaped like one! The main restaurants would have a Ratatouille theme, with giant rat-costumed servers bringing you the daily specials and making jokes about how they are not Mickey. And instead of Impressions de France the movie theater is not showing a 10 minute blooper real from Beauty & the Beast. Just think of the merchandising possibilities with all of those movies to choose from! Oh...and the Eiffel Tower too...
  • The Italy Pavilion - Lady & the Tramp once ate spaghetti. Therefore they must be Italian. I'll let you figure out the details!
  • The Morocco Pavilion - There would be magical appearances by the Genie, and the flying carpet ride could be moved over from the MK. And a kissing booth with Jasmine. Actually, all of those things would be an improvement to this Pavilion. Never mind.
  • The UK Pavilion - Again, there are so many movies to choose from, but I'm partial to Robin Hood. The Friar Tuck Pub could serve Long John Silver's fish and chips and really cheap beer. There could be live archery tournaments. Throw in the Spoonful of Sugar Bakery (Mary Poppins), the Winnie the Pooh petting zoo (with live hephalumps, woozles and Tiggers) and bring back Mr. Toad! Then you're all set for a big adventure!
There are many more possibilities (like Pinocchio in Germany or The Three Caballeros in Mexico), but I think I have made my point. Obviously my ranting is over-the-top and ridiculous...I hope. But the truth is that World Showcase was designed to be "a place apart" from the rest of WDW. In my humble (and totally unsolicited) opinion, adding a Frozen attraction is a step in a very dangerous direction. And a final warning: if anything ever happens to Voices of Liberty or The American Adventure over at the U.S. Pavilion, I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Just sayin'...

Because of Walt,

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous9/16/2014

    Epcot is boring anyway, and I never even go to the countries. Anything they can do to make it better will save it, not ruin it. - Matt. K.

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    1. Yes...these are my readers! Sorry Matt, but we will have to agree to dis...no, I just can't say it. We will will have to agree that you are wrong! But thanks for weighing in, and go watch the movie at the Canada Pavilion. Awesome Sauce!

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    2. Anonymous9/16/2014

      Epcot is my favorite park. Although I will say if you have done the countries Once that's probably all you ever need to do them.

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    3. I love all of EPCOT, but it was actually Future World that I was growing weary of when I used to go often. World Showcase always seemed to surprise me with something new. Plus, there are all those amazing restaurants...

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  2. Anonymous9/16/2014

    I'm with you CJ, except I like Morocco the way it is. Sarah and I had passes for awhile when we lived nearby and almost always ended up at EPCOT wandering around the World Showcase. We will be making our annual trip down for Food & Wine soon, can't wait. -Josh F

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    1. Thanks Josh! I was just kidding about Morocco- didn't want sound like too much of an old fart! Hope you guys are well- would love to see you!

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  3. Anonymous9/16/2014

    It is a little scary, even as much as I can't wait to see what they do with a Frozen ride. If it loses the flavor of Norway completely and becomes all Arendelle themed then that will be the true sign of things still to come. ~ Mandy Martin

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    1. Well said, Mandy. If we wind up with another Disney souvenir shop and a generic restaurant, then that will be a great loss.

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Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!