Tuesday, May 2, 2023

EPCOT Center - Resurrected

  EPCOT Center of the 1980s into the 90s as created by the original team of Imagineers - an inimitable group of visionary geniuses - aimed to inspire and instill in the visitor something of value about the real world, from the culture of Mexico to the history & future of Transportation.   It had a clarity of Vision and Purpose and a rare, now-lost Harmony in presentation.  Its scale, ambition and newness made the park awe-inspiring, electrifying and hugely impactful on many return visitors, including me.  In my opinion, EPCOT Center in its first decade represents the pinnacle of the art of theme parks.  

  When I draw an illustrative for EPCOT, I typically maintain a lot of the original park, i.e. with Horizons, CommuniCore and World of Motion intact, because if it ain't broke...   But in this case, I'll be looking at how EPCOT might have been revamped/refreshed beginning circa its 25th Anniversary to return to something closer its original spirit, instead of taking the opposite path and devolving into a less-beautiful, less-sophisticated, less-cohesive, less-unique and less-timeless IP park.



   Here I've changed the entrance and spine of the park, though it would still maintain the established "Future World Style".  Not really necessary, but something to differentiate this version from what was there for the first 25 years.

   Of course the legendary Norm Inouye iconography and font return throughout Future World.  The entrance plaza features "disc fountains" of the pavilions' symbols.

  Spaceship Earth drops the horrible Seimens descent jibjab video and reverts to the scenic Jeremy Irons descent or something new and worthy of this great attraction.

   CommuniCore is a new, smaller version of the original hub, opening more space for landscape, vistas and fountain shows.  Its dining and retail venues would reflect the two halves of Future World, FW West with its Life-based pavilions/organic paths & FW East with its Tech-based pavilions and more geometric paths.

  The monorail has a switch and spur track, so some trains can bypass this park on their way to other destinations at WDW.


  This attraction, my all-time favorite ride, rises from the ashes in a new body (former Universe of Energy building).  It has the same spirit, style, narration, music & scene progression as the original, taking advantage of some tech advances for the Choose Your Adventure ending.


  Combining the Mission:Space and Wonders of Life buildings, this attraction begins with a flight to a future Martian colony (Mission:Space revamped).   Once guests "land" on Mars, they egress down a long hallway with glass viewing portals showing the landscape of the Red Planet, until the arrive at the domed Mars Base (the old WoL central area).  This area has interactive science exhibits, a restaurant, and two attractions - a SFX theater on subjects such as the Big Bang or Terra-forming and a re-tooling of Body Wars for a more science-based exploration adventure, maybe using wormholes.  

  In order to "return to Earth" (and for those that don't want to experience the red or green centrifuge ride, a Tele-Transporter Lab could be used in a similar manner to the Hydrolators at Living Seas).


   In this pavilion I envisioned combining the humorous vignette and scenic elements of the Marc Davis, Ward Kimball, Claude Coats original with the heart-pumping finale of TestTrack.   The clean-lined, futuristic ride vehicles would go through the original "Fun to be Free" scenes at a leisurely pace, including the initial spiral over the entry-way.  Where the speed rooms started in the original WoM, the music and tone would change as vehicles take off into the future, following the now enclosed track (no more backstage views) out of the original building for high speed, banked whirl around a vast, detailed and animated "CentreCore" diorama of a future city before returning to encircle the original building.    

 Aquatopia, replacing the Odyssey Restaurant, falls under the World of Motion umbrella.



   The pavilion here reverts to its original color scheme (see above).  There's something new for the 3-D Theater.   The spirit of the original ride (music, characters, general expression of concepts, such as the Dreamport, flying machine, genres of literature, theater, film, etc.) return in a more advanced form.  I feel like an LPS system might be a good fit for an imagination-based ride, replacing the original system and adding some diversity to the park's ride types.  

    The Soarin' ride system remains, but no longer has the 'airport' theme and current ride film (world wonders) that has little connection to the Pavilion's purpose (Agriculture and Environment).   Instead, the queue and preshow would be a biogeopgraphic research base that introduces riders to earth's terrestrial ecoregions or biomes (e.g., Boreal Forest, Tropical Savanna, Desert, Temperate Forest, Tundra, Temperate Grasslands, Tropical Forest, etc.), and the Soarin' ride experience would be an aerial survey of these various landscapes in their unspoiled state, using a slot-machine system for ride variability.

   Replacing the Awesome Earth
theater (we get much better specials on TV with David Attenborough) would be an attraction in the vein of The Land's historic animatronic musical comedy shows on nutrition.


   Here the pavilion doubles in size to provide multiple experiences: two entrances and two unique ways to reach SeaBase Alpha.   The original method, with the brilliant 'The Seas' film and epic hydrolator reveal is back (never left in an ideal world).   

  The new section follows the original concept with Oceanus: a longer omnimover ride narrated by Poseidon.   As seen in the model above, the track passes through numerous "dry" undersea scenes, providing a more stylized experience of environs like kelp forests and coral reefs, with some shocking encounters with predators (animatronic), before eventually visiting the future of undersea exploration as riders are deposited at the opposite side of SeaBase Alpha.    Return-to-surface hydrolators maintain the undersea illusion.  



   In this plan, the ruinous IP-mandate dies: there are no movie-based attractions.  No Aladdin meet & greet in Morrocco or Snow White in Germany.  Not even character topiaries are present.   There are other areas of WDW with an abundance of characters and film stuff.   World Showcase was never better than when it felt different and pure.  This park is about presenting a romantic, postcard picture of various countries, staffed by citizens of those countries, for genuine enrichment & cultural exchange and not about cross-promoting the Disney film library.   The only character moments (that aren't EPCOT-originated) I would be okay with here are the occasional pop-ups of members of the base group, wearing representative dress, e.g. kilt-clad Goofy in Canada, kimono Minnie in Japan, etc.

  The other aim is to have parity in terms of attractions among the countries: one country shouldn't get an E-ticket & theater while others have no attractions whatsoever.    Each country needs a draw.   And these experiences ought to vary in terms of type (e.g., one circlevision show for WS is enough).  

  All the great "inbetween" things that have been lost to time return in this plan, such as the Omnibus and abundance of live acts, e.g., the World Showcase Players comedy troupe. 

  Finally, some may ask why I haven't filled in every planned plot in this idealized "build-out".   Answer: I tend to prefer the wooded space breaking up most pavilions because it makes the cross-lagoon views better if the countries aren't squeezed up against each other.  Also, I believe the pedestrian experience is enhanced when a small forested stretch is traversed to get to next country (Norway-China is currently the only area without this kind of planted transition).

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/crashmattb/13593663373/in/album-72157623982382117/


   The changes include the return of the Cantina and a revamp of the El Rio del Tiempo ride.   The film parts felt dated as long as I can remember...  maybe replacing these film bits and switching out the Small World style dolls for Sinbad (TDS) style mini-animatronics would improve the ride.  I'd also add a leopard to the jungle ruins scene as concept art once showed.  


   No more princess dining at Akershus.  To me, Maelstrom has always been a model D-ticket for World Showcase: atmospheric, great music & narration, nice FX & AAs, medium length, small thrill.  Never intended to be a mind-blowing E-ticket, it was a fun, memorable experience that gave visitors a glimpse of Norwegian cultural touchstones.  I'd be really satisfied if every country in WS had something simliar in scale & execution to Maelstrom.   Here, Maelstrom returns, but in an ideal world, the attraction would be reworked so that the film plays every half hour on a loop in the queue and the post-ride theater space is re-worked into a better queue or an additional scene for the ride.    It was always awkard to rush out - or watch others rush out - of the theater after the ride instead of sitting for the film.  


  Not much to change here... Did the seamless CircleVision that was announced  ever happen?


   Since Africa would get cultural representation in Animal Kingdom's Harambe, which, ideally, would be entirely staffed with International Program people, just like EPCOT, the space once slotted for it (and for Spain) goes to Brazil, the 12th country of World Showcase.  


   In the fore of the pavilion is the colorful colonial townscape inspired by places like Ouro Preto or Salvador, dominated by a baroque church, which could house cultural exhibits.  In the village is the main sit-down eatery, a Brazilian steakhouse.  

   The middle of the pavilion is occupied by a rainforest where guests board double decker riverboats for a tour of Brazil in something that might be like Jungle Cruise meets Storybookland Canal boats.   Iguazu Falls is one of the sights on the voyage.   At the rear of the pavilion the boats approach Brazil's most famous visual icon: the harbor of Rio de Janeiro with its Surgarloaf mountain, favellas and Cristo Redentor.  Inside the showbuilding Carnivale could be underway as festive scenes from Copa Cabana and Ipanema unfold.   

   When viewed from a distance, the famous rounded peaks of Rio rise in the distance behind the treeline, for a sight worthy of the other World Showcase pavilions.


   Germany finally gets its long-overdue water ride.   Similar to the Rhine River Cruise, but the version I'm imagining here has a small backwards drop, and showcases the Fairlytale roots of Germany, possibly with comedic vignettes of the Grimm Brothers.


   Ruins of Ancient Rome, dominated by the Coliseum, mark this country's attraction, which would be a special effects walkthrough (e.g. Tokyo's Castle Mystery Tour or the Shanghai Castle tour.  Guests are separated into small guided tour groups and explore the ruins, as vignettes covering the history of the Roman Empire would come to life using projection mapping (e.g., Ruins-->Pristine) &/or AAs.  As part of the tour would enter the dusty floor of the arena for a Gladiator's view.


   This buildout also sees the return of a personal favorite, the classic Ristorante Alfredo di Roma.


   Not much to change here.   Cast costumes would revert to the traditional Independence Era.


   Like Germany, the alreaady-impressive castle would finally be filled with a ride, in this case a C/D-ticket omnimover in the classic Disney/EPCOT tradition that explores historic and modern Japan, as the art below shows.

   In this expanded pavilion, the winding city alleys culminate in a square where another minaret marks the entrance to a madcap darkride.   I imagine this to be a stylized, Fantasyland type experience and and involve Morocco's connection with cats, similar to the trolls of Norwegian culture.   These are the kinds of fun as well as enriching & authentic aspects that marked the original EPCOT & World Showcase, rather than "a recent Disney-Pixar Movie took place in or near this country."

   Desert vegetation and a Bedouin camp mark another pathway to the rear of the pavilion.   Desert mountain rockwork hides the showbuilding (and France's) from any potential cross-lagoon views.


  To supplement the Impressions de France film, this pavilion gets an original boat ride that could provide a more chilling experience through the catacombs of Paris, possibly interweaving elements from French literature in this tour of the city's famous catacombs and sewers (e.g., Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback, Les Miserables, etc.) or simply be an original or history-based adventure. 


  The new Parisian street would be reached via a glass-roofed breezway where Les Halles is.   The originally-envisioned Moulin Rouge windmill could serve as the ride's weenie.


   Great Britain gets a pair of attractions with the first being an Audio-Animatronic carousel theater based on the works of Charles Dickens, as hinted in the Art of WDW book.   The theater here is housed in a building inspired by the Round Tower at Windsor Castle. 

   The pavilion's ride would be housed in a Victorian Exposition Hall at the back of the land, as also shown in early artwork.   



   O Canada circlevision is replaced by a Klondike-themed mountain coaster for a rollicking ride through Canada's wilderness and mineral-layden caves.


The End


BlueSky 05 said...

This looks great. I love your Epcot redesigns. Would you consider doing an all-IP version of Epcot? I designed my version of Epcot, which was just the Future World section. I would love to do my own version of the World Showcase and have the pavilions divided up by continents. Hopefully, your take on the country pavilions will inspire me on how I could design this park.

SWW said...

^Thank you. If you wait long enough, TWDC will do the all IP version for you.

I drew a plan years ago that was its own park with various small lands based on the animated films, in a loop around a lagoon, World Showcase-style. May have to revisit that one day.

Blue Sky 05 said...

Lol would you ever do a theme park based on different continents of the world? I also have done theme parks based on childhood, decades of the 20th century, holidays, and an aquatic version of DAK. I would love to see your versions of these theme parks.

blinkereye123 said...

Another great start to another great project. Personally, I'd love to see a fully fleshed out rendering of the 'original' EPCOT concept with the very first pavilion concepts added in (the original Life and Health pavilion, the Land, and Space). Also, some actual attractions for the WS countries just to make the area more family friendly could be fun.

SWW said...

^That's something I'll probably get to one day.

Nerdman3000 said...

Looking great so far! I’m curious if you’ll include either the proposed Switzerland pavilion with a Matterhorn ride or Mount Fuji for Japan (if you don’t go with the cancelled Meet the World show).

On a side note, back in Christmas on your Twitter account you posted a Disney-MGM plan. Any chance you’ll post that here or post the HD version? The way Twitter complies images causes them to lose a bit of quality.

Anonymous said...

Loving this buildout. If even 1/10th of what you've added here comes to fruition, Epcot would be a far more coherent and enjoyable park.

Would you ever do a fifth gate for WDW and if so, what would be its theme?

Anonymous said...

This is amazing as always! I would love to see your take on an original Westcot style park with the four corners of the world instead of individual countries. Epcot/humanity type parks are so great and I wish we got more of them.

Robert H. Orsin said...

I was thinking about having a Halloween event during World Showcase called Ghost Stories Around the World.

Anonymous said...

Amazing! What software do you use to create these?

megatron_85 said...

Are you still busy?

Anonymous said...

Have you thought of doing the canceled Disney Sea from Port Disney

SWW said...

^ That might be coming up...

megatron_85 said...

Is the book series still happening?

Anonymous said...

Amazing job, recreating the old Epcot Center mood from the 80’s and adding some very good new ideas! And Horizons was favorite place in Future World, too! Where do I sign to endorse you as a new (and so much needed nowadays) Imagineer? Best wishes, my friend!

SWW said...

I appreciate the kind words!