Educational Entertainment in Epcot

Louie Mantia
Oct 17, 2016 · 7 min read

Epcot was unveiled to the world in 1982 as a world’s fair style park full of learning and culture for children and adults. As the park ages, most attractions have been redesigned and reconfigured, and in some cases even replaced. (There’s a wealth of information about Epcot’s history from my friend Joshua at his website E82 — The Epcot Legacy.)

Introducing Disney franchises like Frozen into Epcot for pure entertainment is a controversial issue, and while I firmly believe Epcot should continue to focus on education, entertainment value can be improved with the right franchise involvement.

What’s necessary is a complete overhaul of Future World in a way that will create Educational Entertainment. (Note that “edutainment” is a portmanteau The Walt Disney Company coined in 1948.)

While these two ideals are often seen at odds, I will combine them to create what would be an incredible experience for guests young and old that makes each pavilion as entertaining as it is educational.

Being that Epcot is a permanent world’s fair with attractions sponsored by companies, each pavilion will be fictionally “sponsored” or hosted by an appropriate Pixar franchise.

Universe of Energy — Sponsored by Monsters, Inc.

From its original opening in 1982, the Universe of Energy has taught guests about fossil fuels, current and future energy resources, and how we benefit from and harness energy.

This concept painting for the Universe of Energy shows an array of screens like the Monster’s, Inc. Scare Floor, where guests look up to them before entering the attraction. On the Scare Floor, it is used for the monsters’ energy totals.

My proposed update brings the world of Monsters, Inc. to our world. Here, monsters visit the Universe of Energy through their door technology—now powered by laughter—to learn about how we gather and collect energy in our world.

We (and our monster friends) will learn about our energy history and its future through short films and a grand diorama. The monsters function as a tool to ask questions from scientists about how we collect energy and to provide humor when it relates to their world.

Horizons — Sponsored by BNL

Horizons opened at Epcot in 1983 as a dark ride which took guests to the future, showcasing modern technologies and how they will be used to build tomorrow. Omnimovers traveled through futuristic cities in very different climates and locations.

In 2003, Mission: Space opened and replaced Horizons. Its goal was to transport guests into space, simulating what astronauts experience on their journeys.

Strip away the omnipresent advertisements in WALL•E, and the futuristic style of living is very similar to that shown in Horizons. Also featured in WALL•E are structural similarities to Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the Peoplemover.

The story and characters of WALL•E can be used to tell a story that combines elements found in both of these attractions. Buy n Large (the fictional corporation) will take guests into space via Omnimovers to learn about modern and future life in space. From there, guests will travel to various future settlements. Guests will learn how we might adapt and live on different planets like Mars.

World of Motion — Sponsored by the Piston Cup

World of Motion took guests on a tour through scenes depicting the history of transportation, from the invention of the wheel to the future.

World of Motion closed in 1996 and reopened as Test Track in 1999. In this attraction, fast cars zip guests through vehicle testing, including a speed test.

The World of Motion pavilion’s circular design has a lot in common with motor speedway arenas and stadiums, including the spiral ramps seen here in Cars for the vehicles to travel to upper “seating” levels.

The new World of Motion—like my Horizons proposal—will combine these two ideas with the Cars franchise. In this attraction, the citizens of Radiator Springs will take guests on a tour to learn everything from vehicular design to race day. Unlike Radiator Springs Racers, this ride will focus on teaching guests the ins and outs of driving, design, speed, and power consumption.

Journey Into Imagination — Sponsored by Dream Productions

This pavilion has gone through more changes than most, but suffice to say it has featured incredible and memorable attractions within it. In Journey Into Imagination, the Dreamfinder took guests on a tour to collect dreams and ideas with his newfound companion, Figment. This Figment is described as “two tiny wings, eyes big and yellow, horns of a steer, but a lovable fellow.” Although very clearly a dragon, he has different animal components. Together (with the audience), they learn about imagination and how it unlocks the hidden wonders of the world.

The Journey Into Imagination pavilion has always featured a wide array of color like Pixar’s Inside Out, with a prominence on pink and purple. Bing Bong himself can compare to both Dreamfinder and Figment in style and character.

I believe Inside Out is a perfect match for this pavilion in several ways. Not only is there a new “figment” of imagination named Bing Bong (who is similar in color and like Figment features many different animal components), but also in the film, Joy and Sadness visit Dream Productions. The Imagination! pavilion to this day features a theater, which will be a perfect venue to show unique Pixar shorts, designed to be more of Riley’s dreams created by Dream Productions.

The main attraction—Journey Into Imagination—will be very similar in spirit to the original attraction, with Riley’s five emotions taking you on a tour of her mind. Guests—of course—will board the Train of Thought and travel from Long Term Memory (Dreamport) to Dream Productions (Performing Arts room) and the Subconscious (Literature room), through Imagination Land to Abstract Thought (Art room), finally ending up at Headquarters (Science room) with a panoramic view of the islands that define Riley’s personality, all the while guests will learn about the inner workings of the mind and how imagination fuels us.

The Land — Sponsored by the Wilderness Explorers

There are two main attractions featured inside The Land pavilion: Soarin’ Around the World and Living with the Land. The former opened in 2005 (with a new film in 2016), while the latter opened with the park in 1982.

Though today’s Living with the Land attraction is more focused on agriculture than wildlife, original concept paintings show exotic birds in a forest setting, not too dissimilar to Russell’s discovery of Kevin in Paradise Falls.

Soarin’ Around the World very naturally translates into Carl and Russell’s adventure to Paradise Falls in Up. Whether you travel with Charles Muntz in his airship or inside Carl’s house, flying over Pixar-stylized Central and South American landscapes will be a real treat. Though Soarin’ Around the World is an incredible attraction, I see a unique opportunity for Epcot’s version of this attraction to create a story where guests can learn about the landscape of the world with a whirlwind animated adventure “inside” Carl’s floating house or Muntz’s airship.

As for Living with the Land, Russell’s curiosity is the perfect tool to use to inquire—and for guests to learn—about nature, wildlife, and agriculture in this attraction.

The Living Seas — Sponsored by the Marine Life Institute

The original pavilion opened to the public in 1986. It featured the largest saltwater tank in the world, a short film about the oceans, and an attraction where guests traveled aboard a vehicle through the aquarium.

Today’s version, called The Seas with Nemo and Friends, opened in 2005 and has already transformed into a Pixar franchise attraction. However, the attraction replaced a very real and enjoyable attraction and perhaps imbalanced the aquarium portion of the ride with scenes featuring Finding Nemo characters. This identifies the fear of Epcot purists with updating attractions with Disney franchises (that later became more apparent with Frozen Ever After in the Norway pavilion).

Cylindrical design is a hallmark of aquariums, and both The Living Seas and the Marine Life Institute share this aesthetic. Aquariums are educational by their nature, which places M.L.I. within the same core ideals as Epcot.

I believe The Living Seas has a more apparent purpose now with the release of Finding Dory. Updating this pavilion to the Marine Life Institute will course-correct the pavilion so guests can learn about the underwater habitats of our fish friends, including the characters we see in the two films.

CommuniCore — Sponsored by Edna Mode and Syndrome

CommuniCore has undergone many changes and attractions through the years and has most always been a showcase of “modern” technology. Similar to the problems of Tomorrowland where it always feels outdated, Innoventions has to change (or stop changing as is the case right now) to keep up.

Today, this attraction features two distinct buildings: Innoventions East and Innoventions West. In an almost perfect mirror of the modern attraction name pun, it could divide into Innovations and Inventions.

CommuniCore and Innoventions were always about discovering and showcasing new technologies. In this concept painting from CommuniCore, we see guests observing a computer system, not unlike Helen’s visit to Edna’s studio.

In the film The Incredibles, we see opposing personalities in Bob Par (Mr. Incredible) and Buddy Pine (Syndrome). The conflict features Mr. Incredible’s innate powers and Buddy’s inventions. While Mr. Incredible fails to recognize Buddy’s inventions as valuable, Buddy becomes Syndrome and intends to sell his inventions to people around the world to become as “super” as Mr. Incredible himself.

Innovations by Edna Mode will allow guests to learn about the research that went into world-changing innovations. Edna, a superhero costume designer, is also an apparent technologist. She creates suits that not only look great but help supers perform to their full potential. In a similar fashion (allow me this one pun), she will invite guests into her studio and showcase exciting scientific technologies.

On the other side, Inventions by Syndrome will enable guests to learn about real-life inventions that have dramatically improved our lives. Buddy (now Syndrome) is the film’s villain who invents devices to make him feel powerful. This half of the pavilion will be Syndrome’s lab, exhibiting new devices that display feats of engineering.

Spaceship Earth

Closing out Future World, I need to address Spaceship Earth. While the attraction could use a minor renovation—with its historical approach—it is probably best to keep it as-is. It accomplishes the goal of Educational Entertainment as is, and is an excellent attraction.

Embracing Today in the World of Tomorrow

Updating these pavilions in the ways illustrated above would in no way sacrifice the goals of each pavilion. Instead, it would enhance them to educate guests about the world of tomorrow with the entertainment of today.

Louie Mantia

Written by

"America's Favorite Icon Designer"

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