Thursday, June 30, 2016

How Epcot Can Learn from Disney California Adventure

By Brittany Bell

The Disneyland Resort is home to Walt’s original Disneyland park; it is also home to Disney’s newest park on U.S. soil: Disney California Adventure. Although Disneyland has been used as a model for sister parks across the world, there is much to be learned from Disney California Adventure as well. The Park, inspired by the state of California itself, brings together vastly different “worlds” and seamlessly ties them together in one wonderful adventure. On the East Coast, Epcot seemingly does the same thing—tying together various countries around the world, celebrating their cultural differences, while still bringing them together through their humanity. However, this newer park in California could teach a thing or two to what has evolved out of Walt’s idea for Progress City. Join us in today's new article and let's discover how Epcot can learn from Disney California Adventure…

My family and I recently visited Disneyland Resort for the very first time after 16 years of trips to Walt Disney World. Though we were nervous entering our vacation (we weren’t sure how we would like “downsizing”), not only were we pleasantly surprised, but absolutely blown away by the charm of the Disneyland Resort. In particular, we found that we not only enjoyed Disney California Adventure, but it quickly became our favorite Disney park among all the U.S. Disney parks.

photo by Brittany Bell

We found the park to be fairly large, but manageable, and the theming to be immersive and impressive. Of course, of the lands, Cars Land was absolutely amazing. I found the Cadillac Mountain Range to be the most impressive of the entire land, between its sheer size and beautiful, realistic details. The rest of the park tied in perfectly with the “California” theme, and the entertainment, characters, food, and experience were all wonderful. We also got the opportunity to see the Frozen show not once, but twice. Let’s just say, I cried multiple times…it was awesome!

However, no matter how nice the park is now, one must not forget one thing about Disney California Adventure: it is almost entirely a complete second draft from the original concept. When the park first opened in 2001, it was gaudy, rushed, and strayed so far from the Disney touch of magic that served them so well in all of their other parks. The attendance in the first years of the park showed that Disney had missed the mark, and it prompted them to make a change. The entire park got a complete overhaul, taking it from imitations of modern California to a classic, idealized version of the streets of Hollywood, the piers of famous Cali beaches, and the dense redwood forests of the northern part of the state. The different lands of the new park tied together beautifully, and with new attractions such as the World of Color and Cars Land, California Adventure now serves as a concrete example of exactly what WDI can do…and all I have to say is “wow!”

photo by Brittany Bell

Now, back in Walt Disney World, I believe that Epcot is in a state much like California Adventure was in its early years. EPCOT Center is no longer what Epcot (notice the name change there) represents. Instead, Future World is only a shadow of what it used to be, and the idea of progress and tomorrow that it is supposed to embody is a distant memory. Attractions such as Ellen’s Universe of Energy and Journey Into Imagination are outdated and tired. Innoventions used to serve as an area where guests could try and see first-hand new technologies and discoveries; now, it barely serves as a character meet-and-greet area, with most of the space used for nothing. Though Epcot has had some renovations (Test Track, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After), the majority of the park has lost sight of its original identity.

The problem with Epcot is similar to the problem that once plagued California Adventure: it has lost sight of what should make it great. For the original California Adventure, Disney attempted to create a park on the cheap and forgot that their brand, quality and memorable experiences are what makes their parks successful. Similarly, Disney has forgotten why the original EPCOT Center was so groundbreaking, and why, in the first few years, it was so special. When it first opened, the technology and ideas seen in the park were so progressive and innovative, everyone flocked to see it. However, things that were state-of-the-art in 1982 are almost obsolete, or totally evolved, in 2016. What Epcot needs is exactly what California Adventure needed, a complete redo, a fresh start.

photo by Brittany Bell

In my opinion, Future World needs the most TLC. And while closing multiple attractions at once can be a recipe for disaster for some parks, in Epcot it may work. Spaceship Earth, Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: Space, and The Seas are already the most popular attractions in the park and see the most guests in a day. Those attractions, along with World Showcase and the new Frozen attraction in Norway, could easily handle the extra crowds if Ellen’s Universe of Energy, the Imagination Pavilion, some of the Land, and both Inventions were closed. As far as World Showcase goes, what they currently have doesn’t need to be redone necessarily, but rather added to. Though the new Frozen stuff took up one of the pads still available for expansion, there are still multiple left. Rather it be an entirely new country, or just some new additions to the current ones, World Showcase could benefit from a few new attractions, as well as to assist with crowd control in Future World. And, while they are at it, maybe even refresh the entrance area like DCA did by taking down those faded Leave A Legacy boulders and returning the area to its early days of openness and beauty...

I understand that there are a lot of expensive projects going on at Walt Disney World right now, and that budget issues at Shanghai led for the U.S. parks to take quite a financial hit. However, among the four parks at Walt Disney World, Epcot really is in desperate need of a change. And though it may not happen in the near future, it needs to happen before the park starts to deteriorate even more. I don’t think that Epcot is hopeless by any means; in fact, the idea that inspired the park assures us that Epcot will always have something new to add, and that as long as progress and innovation are in the world, Epcot will never be complete. And, if California Adventure is any indication of what Disney can do when they’re given a second chance, I’d say that Epcot is in pretty good hands when the time for change eventually arises.


Brittany Bell grew up in Lewiston, Maine, about 45 minutes away from Portland. She is currently studying Public Relations and Journalism at Boston University, and hopes to one day work for the Mouse himself. She grew up in a Disney-loving home, and would watch Sleeping Beauty on repeat as a little girl. Her first trip to Walt Disney World was in the summer of 2000, at four years old. Ever since then, Brittany and her family take annual trips to the World, and have no intention of vacationing anywhere else. Her favorite places in Walt Disney World are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Magic Kingdom. She can’t go without seeing Fantasmic! at least once each vacation, even though she chokes up a little at the final scene. Brittany is fascinated by how one man’s dream became an empire—one that makes dreams come true every day.

Before she became obsessed with Frozen and Queen Elsa, her favorite Disney characters were Princess Aurora and Mulan. She loves everything and anything Disney, from the parks, to the movies, to the Broadway musicals. In the near future she hopes to participate in the Disney College Program and work as a “friend of a princess”.

You can find all of Brittany's articles here

1 comment:

  1. Carol Maples AxtonJune 30, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    Great article! I wanted to disagree with this until I read it. I agree completely. Being from California, we got to know CA from the start, which I'm reminded each time I go there, "oh yeah, it has improved!" It was awful when it began. Epcot, on the other hand, is still my favorite park. It was amazing when I first went, 1993, and I forget what changes it has had until I go. Technology is faster than Disney. I hope they do learn from CA and make EPCOT amazing again.