We belong to a Disney Crew, or a Disney Squad, as the kids might call it these days. This is a fellowship of a dozen or so family and friends who are all long-term Disney fans; and who have spent excessive time, money, and brain cells in service to the Mouse. We have occupied many happy hours with members of the Crew, talking comprehensively* about all things Disney.
[*I do mean comprehensively. From Disney history, to trivia, to debates about rides, movies, and park amenities — right down to the very ideas and concepts behind the whole empire — these conversations are high-level nerdery.]
So, when The Walt Disney Company announced that one of their oldest theme parks will be the focus of a multi-billion dollar makeover, we got all excited to talk about it with the Crew. More specifically, we wanted to wildly speculate about what it might mean when Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek declares Disney would be doing “…some major transformation at Epcot in the future.”
For this Deep Forest Outpost Disney Conversation, Amy and I sat down with frequent collaborators and fellow travelers Rich and Hydee. Both are deeply intelligent and well versed about a great many things, including Disney. We tend to lean on Rich for his analysis and linear thinking, whereas Hydee is our keeper of “Disney Lore” and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the characters and media.
Selections from the conversation below:
The Past of Future World
Nate: It sounds like the majority of the changes will take place in Future World.
Amy: It needs it. We just don’t spend a lot of time there.
Hydee: That’s just it, you spend half-a-day in Future World and the rest of your Epcot time in World Showcase.
Nate: So, what would break our hearts if it disappeared from Future World?
Rich: The Seas with Nemo and Friends. In fact, that whole area should be expanded with another major attraction.
Hydee: The Land pavilion is fun; I enjoy Living with the Land.
Nate: I like that one, too. So, Living with the Land stays?
Rich: Not necessarily. We enjoy it because we love it, but I don’t think there is anything genuinely untouchable in The Land.
Hydee: They should keep Soarin’, though. That can fit with a lot of concepts.
Nate: Spaceship Earth stays, right?
Rich: I guess you could do a new ride inside the dome?
Hydee: It stays. I really like Spaceship Earth.
Nate, Amy, Rich: (in unison) Me too.
Nate: I think Mission: Space can go, though.
Rich: It could. It’s a $100 million dollar attraction that I don’t care about at all.
Amy: It’s still pretty popular.
Rich: But it’s just not a great ride.
Rich: No one likes Ellen’s Energy Adventure, that should go.
Amy: One online rumor is they will replace the whole Universe of Energy pavilion with a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.
Nate: Does Guardians of the Galaxy fit in Epcot, though? It’s supposed to be an educational park, in theory.
Rich: In the announcement they said everything would be more “Disney.” So, it will probably become less educational.
Amy: Journey Into Imagination with Figment can go.
Hydee: Nooooo, you can’t get rid of Figment! He has to stay!
Amy: But, the ride can go.
Hydee: Yes, the ride can go. Actually, I would love to see them bring back the original Journey into Imagination with Figment. It was far superior to the current version.
Nate: So, maybe Figment can stay as a character, but the whole Imagination! pavilion needs updating.
Nate: What are the sacred cows?
Rich: There are no sacred cows.
Amy: Spaceship Earth.
Hydee: Figment, but the character, not the ride.
Rich: Mission: Space was too expensive, that isn’t going anywhere. They will keep Test Track, too.
Nate: Is Soarin’ a sacred cow?
Hydee: Yes, that needs to stay. It probably needs a new entrance and queue, though.
What’s Next for Future World?
Nate: I’m stuck on how they will add Disney elements to Future World. Do they just throw Mickey on everything?
Amy: Well, what did they do in Disney California Adventure? I feel like that park is much more “Disney” after their big remodel.
Rich: It was improving the overall attention to detail.
Hydee: Making Buena Vista Street immersive from the moment you walked in. You step into Walt Disney’s 1920s Los Angeles.
Rich: Right. You wouldn’t have to change every single thing, just improve the detail. Put the Disney time and effort into it.
Amy: That’s it. I was having trouble putting my finger on it, but it’s the detail.
Hydee: That’s also what makes World Showcase so good. You are immersed in theming from the second you enter.
Rich: Future World is just cement and old design. It feels like the most non-Disney part of any park at Walt Disney World.
Nate: Maybe they need a grand entry, like at the other parks. A Main Street, U.S.A. for Epcot.
Amy: Definitely! Something other than buildings that look like warehouses once you get past the Spaceship Earth dome.
Rich: Honestly, the Imagineers have endless possibilities with Future World.
Hydee: It definitely needs more Disney touches. That element isn’t really there compared to World Showcase, and if you love Epcot, it’s probably for World Showcase.
Rich: It could have both. How about a really well done attraction with Pocahontas in The Land, with a good conservation message?
Nate: How about a Scrooge McDuck ride that teaches kids about money?
Rich: Yes, right, teaching you about finance.
Amy: Wow, that’s so… futuristic.
Rich: I thought the redesign of Test Track was great. Maybe that doesn’t need any attention.
Nate: It’s not very “Disney,” though.
Rich: True, it’s not at all.
Hydee: So add some Disney elements, but it doesn’t need to be Radiator Springs Racers. It’s okay to let Cars Land in Disney California Adventure keep that attraction.
Rich: But it would be okay if it’s based on Cars. It just doesn’t need to be a direct copy.
Hydee: Turn it into a Herbie the Love Bug ride! It can be a Disney throwback.
Amy: The kids will have no idea what to make of it.
Hydee: How about Iron Man in the Universe of Energy area? That’s a natural tie to the movies, with the arc reactor. It could even be a retro thing with Howard Stark’s convention.
Rich: That’s a really good idea. I like that better than Guardians of the Galaxy.
Hydee: There could be an E-ticket ride about test-driving an Iron Man suit.
Amy: That would make me sick to my stomach, but everybody else would love it.
Nate: That’s almost exactly what they are doing with the Iron Man Experience coming to Hong Kong Disneyland. I am not sure if Iron Man is a property they can use in Florida, though, because Universal Studios owns a lot of the Marvel theme park rights.
Any Changes to World Showcase?
Nate: Bob Chapek said most of the remodeling will be in Future World, but let’s talk about expanding the World Showcase.
Hydee: I love that idea. I would definitely like to visit more countries.
Amy: Which ones should they include?
Rich: There is nothing from South America, so maybe Brazil? Or Argentina?
Amy: Something in the Caribbean?
Hydee: Another from Europe? Maybe Holland?
Rich: That would be interesting, with the tulips.
Amy: And the windmills.
Nate: It’s already pretty Europe-heavy, but Walt Disney World gets a lot of European visitors.
Rich: Maybe Switzerland?
Nate: I’m not sure how that would be substantially different from Germany. I mean, I would love for them to have a Sweden pavilion, but it would end up being pretty similar to Norway.
Hydee: That’s a good point.
Nate: What about Spain?
Rich: That would be a phenomenal choice. Spain is so influential I’m not sure why it wasn’t one of the original ones.
Amy: What about Greece?
Nate: I love that idea.
Rich: Me too. Just because I wasn’t impressed with Greece when I was there doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered.
Nate: Other than that Outpost area between Germany and China, there is no representation from Sub-Saharan Africa. I guess a big chunk of Animal Kingdom is like an African pavilion?
Amy: Yeah, but those are different parks. They still have the American Adventure pavilion even though Magic Kingdom has the Liberty Square and Frontierland areas.
Nate: So, out of all the brainstorming, what would be our top four choices for new countries? There are currently nine open spots in the World Showcase based on the original plans, and four of them are not in use right now.
Rich: Well, a top five would probably be: Spain, Russia, Argentina, Australia/New Zealand, and Holland.
Hydee: Holland would be amazing, but I don’t think it would take precedent over the other four.
Rich: True, if I had to kick off one, it would be Holland.
More Likely Changes to World Showcase
Rich: As cool as new lands would be, I want to see them bring the Ratatouille ride over from Disneyland Paris.
Hydee: Me too. Now that they built the Frozen ride and added the Three Caballeros to the Mexico ride, why not add more characters to more attractions? That adds the “Disney” elements, too.
Rich: How about a cool Mulan ride in China?
Nate: How would a Mulan ride go, though?
Amy: Maybe her journey in the war, with Mushu?
Rich: Yeah, a classic dark ride.
Hydee: Or it could be mostly about China, with Mulan and Mushu sprinkled around.
Rich: Oh, I like that better; explore China with Mulan.
Amy: That would keep with the overall spirit of the World Showcase, too.
Rich: Whatever they do, having more attractions in World Showcase — even an E-ticket — might be interesting.
Amy: No more Circle-Visions, though. Those are an open invitation to throw up.
Nate: Is changing Maelstrom to Frozen Ever After the wave of the future, then? Is that how they are going to “Disney-fy” Epcot?
Hydee: I want to reserve judgment for Frozen Ever After until after we ride it. If it’s like the Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico it will be fine. It has the Three Caballeros, but it is still about Mexico. I just don’t want the Norway pavilion to turn into the Arendelle pavilion.
Nate: If it works though, then what is the next step? A tour of Germany with Snow White, theoretically?
Rich: I’m sure I will think Frozen Ever After is cool, but it won’t be about Norway. It will be about a movie inspired by a certain area. So, if that’s the direction they are taking, then maybe they should just go all the way with it.
Hydee: Actually, I don’t really want changes to the World Showcase. I just want more pavilions.
Rich: Exactly. All we need is more of it.
A Radical Concept for Epcot
Nate: Here’s a crazy idea they would never do, but what if Disney completely blew up Future World and made a second ring of nations for the World Showcase?
Rich: That would be the best solution of all.
Hydee: Totally agree.
Nate: So, now we need to brainstorm some more countries.
Amy: Representation from the South Pacific area would be awesome.
Hydee: Maybe Greenland or Iceland?
Hydee: Mongolia? A Mongolian restaurant might be really good, too.
Rich: You know where we are completely overlooking? India.
Nate: Good catch! That is a pavilion that would have fantastic food and iconic buildings.
Nate: Are there any other major areas we are overlooking? There is no representation from the Middle East.
Hydee: How about Israel?
Rich: Israel and some of the other Middle Eastern countries would be tricky, politically speaking.
Nate: That’s a really good point. Iran would be amazing, but it’s hard to see now how that could ever happen. What about Turkey?
Amy: I love it. My favorite sandwich.
Rich: It’s a great meal.
Nate: Ah, turkey/Turkey jokes. Every geography fan’s favorite.
Hydee: How about Egypt? The Imagineers could really make something amazing with their history.
Nate: So, if we need ten countries for a second ring of World Showcase, and we already have Russia, Australia and New Zealand, Spain, Brazil, and add Holland back. What are the other five?
Hydee: India. Which country from the Middle East? Egypt?
Amy: What did we decide about Thailand?
Hydee: Yes, Thailand for sure. The food would be amazing.
Rich: With an entire second ring, you could really break out the Polynesian area, and not just lump it in with Australia.
Nate: We still need something in Africa besides Morocco.
Amy: How about East Africa? Kenya?
Nate: So, here is the lineup of the new ring: Russia, Australia/New Zealand, Spain, Holland, Brazil, Greece, Egypt, Thailand, Polynesian Islands, and Kenya. Are we happy with that?
Rich: Love it.