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THEN AND NOW: Epcot World Showcase [Part 1]

World Showcase, Epcot





I hope these comparisons are a breath of fresh air for you as they are for us. By “fresh” I mean “little change over the years”. It's unusual for a space this large to see such little change throughout a 28+ year period. To us, this is a great thing. Great because the World Showcase was done well in the beginning. As they say, "if it's not broken, don't fix it", right? Fightin' words indeed. (So El Rio del Tiempo and Oh Canada must have been "broken"...?) That said, fanboys everywhere pine for a few additions- rides to be specific. Are we greedy? No. After all, Disney did announce such things AND they showed us concept art all those years ago.

Still no Rhine River Cruise in Germany. Still no Meet the World nor bullet train attraction in Japan. Definitely no Matterhorn-type coaster mountain. Let’s not mention the many once-announced countries that never saw the light of day. But for now we still have half a park with little relatively little change, far far different than the fate of it’s neighbor to the north, Future World. 

As a youngster, World Showcase was wonderful for it’s two boat rides, it’s two CircleVision attractions, and it’s American Adventure animatronic marvel. But Future World hosted what seemed to be an endless array of things to do, all phenomenal. The tides have surely turned. Although World Showcase is not the endless wonder that Future World once was, it has so much to offer. My relatives argue that it is “not Disney-like” but on the contrary, it is extremely “Disney-like” in my mind. A couple additional rides wouldn’t hurt but the unprecedented and immersive environments are more “Disney” to me than those environments that go out of their way to scream “I’m Disney” (Toon Town, Tiki Room Under New Management, the introduction of Tarzan to Adventureland, etc.).  

On that note, isn’t it ironic that for decades Disneyland was largely free of permanent character references in all of its lands minus Fantasyland? I don’t refer to the occasional character walking through a land but I’m talking about how Adventureland was very “Disney-like” without Tarzan or Indiana Jones. Tomorrowland was very “Disney” without Buzz Lightyear or Nemo. Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was extremely “Disney” without Stitch, Buzz, or Monsters Inc. I find it ironic. Or short-sighted. Disney is not nor should it be synonymous with ONLY its animated films. Before you burn me at the stake for this statement, here’s my point: I love and have always loved Disney animation. It’s been a huge part of my existence. Animated characters have their place. But Disney is also synonymous with live-action films and the themed environments of it’s parks. Fantasyland is a PERFECT environment to retell those beloved stories. Tomorrowland and Future World, in this blogger’s opinion, are not. Sure, “people come to see their favorite characters”. Yes, and they should be able to. But we can still have clear standards for what each land stands for and what does and does not reside in those lands. 

Alright. The point is, World Showcase, though it could offer more, is pretty darn great. It’s great because they haven’t messed with it the same amount they’ve messed with everything else. 


Dear Disney decision makers, Please consider this when you decide to add some D-list comedian or The Jonas Brothers or even Lumiere and Cogsworth to a new France film. If you think this will draw the young crowd to this part of property, it won’t. (Remember how Timon, Pumba, fart jokes, etc. can’t draw any more of a crowd to that part of The Land despite what you once thought?) It will, however, offend everyone else who cares about the W.S. And after the two weeks of press coverage and people’s curiosity wares off, your attendance numbers will be no better off than they were for 28+ years. 


.....Oh wait. Disney decision makers don’t read this blog.


Related posts:

THEN AND NOW: Epcot Future World [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: Liberty Square [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: MK Fantasyland [Part 1]
THEN AND NOW: MK Tomorrowland [Part 1]


Reader Comments (7)

Great post! I'm a huge fan of all of Epcot and World Showcase, spending at least half of every trip there, and I love the fact that the WS attractions have generally stayed true to their beginnings. My wife (who's Cuban) says the new land should be Cuba. They can all sing about how lucky it is to be free and it can have a water ride where everyone gets their own door.

It does irk me that they have 2 buildings in Future World's prime real estate, void of permanent attractions. That and the old Odyessy building is covered in dust & cobwebs.

I agree with your sentiments about animation & live character movies. Live action deserves more nods, even if characters aren't as easy as costumes. As Stitch proves, we all know some suits should be scraping gum off Main Street at 3am. I even wrote an article about it...(

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWDWFanBoy Brett

I never like W.S. much as a kid, mainly for the lack of attractions (and the maelstrom scared me) but I really enjoy it now, especially because I've gotten the chance to travel to some of these places. They bring back good memories and I love the shopping and dining. I would be ok with a new, well done attraction (and personally I don't mind the new O canada or el rio de tiempo). But the last thing that I want to happen is a total takeover ala WDW tomorrowland.
As for characters, I don't mind some here and there. Personally I think characters are best left to fantasyland, hollywood studios and as meet and greets in world showcase.

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterme

There's a fascinating dichotomy happening with World Showcase. It has so much going against it: huge distances to walk, lack of completed attractions, crossing a no-mans-land to get there from Future World; and yet it still seems to work beautifully in spite of these. Perhaps it's the grand scale of it all, the vistas across the lagoon, and the wide promenade past the pavilions that makes it an extremely successful social experience. I hope that additional attractions get added in the near future and that the lack of significant overall changes to WS is due to the fact that management understands the concepts behind it.

Count me as one of those who feels that the Disney characters should have attractions only in Fantasyland. I remember the earlier days at Disneyland when it was just as exciting to visit the Swiss Family Treehouse as it was to go on Peter Pan. Characters were treated more as ambassadors of Walt Disney's good will and hospitality and less as celebrities in their own right. Now they seem like an intrusion that stifles more creatively designed attractions. I which those in charge could understand that fundamental difference though I fear that marketing is just too strong a push over creativity. Even so, when it came time for the characters of Finding Nemo to inhabit The Living Seas I thought that at least it could be a wonderful experience to have these friendly and well designed characters take us on an amazing journey to help us to appreciate the incredible richness of the oceans and yet we ended up with a rehashed telling of the movie. Talk about a wasted creative opportunity.

January 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOmnispace

I remember my family's only trip to Epcot less than a year after it opened and trying in vain to get to the Eiffel Tower, only to be disappointed after finding out from a cast member that it was just a background prop. As kids, we found Epcot underwhelming and as an adult I have found it dismaying that Disney has done little to improve the park or bring in additional nations into World Showcase.

January 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterunitedstyle

There is no "h" in O, Canada.

January 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLAla

I couldn't agree more and I am sad to see that the characters have become such a major part of attractions. I think the natural beauty of the architecture, music, cast members from that country and unique rides, etc is why there has been little to change World Showcase. I am all for characters and attractions that are created only for the parks. Take, Journey Into Imagination for example. This is a ride that people STILL adore because of a character that was soley developed for Epcot. People loved Figment and the message he shared with the world. I think Disney's animated characters take away from the authenticness of an attraction. I am all for a Nemo ride, but did it really warrant taking over the Living Seas? People come to the parks to escape reality and to do or see something they cannot see in their everyday lives. At at given time, you can pop in Finding Nemoin your DVD player and have him come alive in your home. It is not everyday you can descend in a Hydrolator to Sea Base Alpha and explore the ocean.

January 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChrsi

Right on Chris! Loved living Seas once upon a time. Now it's Nemo'd to death! That clamshell ride would be a much greater attraction for ALL ages if it showcased real fish, real coral, real sea life and not some squawky forgetful fish looking for a clown. It's distracting. Is the technology great? Sure, but overused! Living seas should be a place where you can slow down and be fascinated by what is in the aquarium. Nemo themed nonsense EVERYwhere is tiresome. Turtle talk is great and could be a bigger venue. But that is all the 'added theming' needed.

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterL montin

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