Five Divisive Changes at EPCOT
Not all changes at Disney theme parks are good ones. Some prove regrettable with the benefit of hindsight.
Perhaps the most recognizable example of this is Rocket Rods at Disneyland.
Park officials repurposed the beloved PeopleMover into a thrill ride, which promptly nearly collapsed under its own weight…literally. As a result, Disney had to shut it down quickly.
On the East Coast, one Disney park has similarly miscalculated on multiple occasions. Here are five changes at EPCOT that proved extremely divisive.
Ellen’s Energy Adventure Closes
This one’s a twofer, as history is currently repeating itself. Starting with the park’s opening in 1982, the Universe of Energy proved intriguing as a pavilion.
Disney hosted four thematic films here that it subdivided with a slow-moving ride experience…one with dinosaurs!
The infotainment nature of the attraction grew stale over time. That’s not me saying that. It’s the crowds who ignored Universe of Energy en masse.
In 1996, Disney repurposed the building as Ellen’s Energy Adventure. It was a lot like the old attraction, only with Ellen DeGeneres playing Jeopardy for some reason.
Many of the old elements remained in some form. The Jeopardy subplot tied together the various stories about fossil fuels and dinosaurs.
For the longest time, people loved this reboot as well. Eventually, it too grew old and stale, though. And that happened before Degeneres’ recent PR nightmare.
In 2017, Disney again closed the ride, thereby ending all connections to the old Universe of Energy.
EPCOT will host Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind here instead.
A roller coaster represents the polar opposite of Ellen’s Energy Adventure, the slowest, sleepiest ride at Walt Disney World.
Some people understandably lament the loss of a genteel ride and the addition of a pavilion Disney has based on fiction rather than fact.
The rest of us just want to watch Gamora fight things.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth to Epcot Forever/Harmonious
You likely share fond memories of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth with loved ones. This nighttime presentation proved a unifying experience for EPCOT fans.
We loved watching the giant globe expand and contract, sometimes showing scenes of international kinship. It was the kind of show we could all use right now.
Alas, Disney decided a few years ago that IllumiNations had run its course. The weirdest part involved the final date for this nightly exhibition.
IllumiNations ended the day before what would have been its 20th anniversary. So, it ran for exactly twenty years…and not a day more.
Everyone knew that the initial replacement for this show, EPCOT Forever, only served as a placeholder.
The spiritual successor to IllumiNations would reside in the same locale at the World Showcase Lagoon.
That show is Harmonious, whose reception has proven generally positive.
Still, that reaction pales in comparison with IllumiNations, one of the most lauded nightly presentations ever.
Was the switch to Harmonious the right idea or change merely for the sake of change? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Journey into Imagination Receives Millennial Update
Okay, I can hear your teeth grinding. Please hold all swear words as you reflect on what Disney did here. Obviously, this move proved regrettable.
In 1983, a few months after EPCOT opened, Journey into Imagination debuted at the Imagination! pavilion.
Immediately, audiences fell in love with the two iconic characters, the Dreamfinder and his pet dragon, Figment.
I mean, I don’t need to tell you about the popularity of Figment. People once stood in line for eight hours to buy a popcorn bucket with Figment on it!
Then, after 15 years, Disney executives evaluated EPCOT and found several elements lacking. The park undeniably hadn’t aged as well as expected.
So, Disney decided to freshen things up for the upcoming millennial celebration.
The most regrettable of these decisions involved Journey into Imagination. Imagineers redesigned the attraction from the ground up.
Their updated version of the ride, Journey into YOUR Imagination, went over about as well as Crystal Pepsi (google it, kids!).
Seriously, this ride lasted for two years and one week. So as far as Disney disasters go, it’s high on the list.
I mean, I previously mentioned Rocket Rods as a total failure. It…lasted several months longer than Journey into YOUR Imagination.
Disney woefully miscalculated with the story as it dropped the characters of the Dreamfinder and Figment. That’s like selling a BLT without the bacon or bread.
By mid-2002, a modified version with Figment had replaced the reviled V2.0. It’s the one we’re still riding today.
Loyal fans (like me!) still hope for a return to the Dreamfinder/Figment focus of yesteryear, though.
Maelstrom Converts to Frozen Ever After
The Norwegian tourism department worked with Disney on the construction of its World Showcase pavilion.
For this reason, the Norway pavilion is among the most authentic of all the international hotspots at EPCOT.
Part of the appeal of this pavilion stemmed from its ride. Norway was one of only two countries to host one, and its attraction proved vastly superior to Mexico’s first attempt, El Rio del Tiempo.
The ride in question, Maelstrom, played up all the quirks of Norse mythology during a journey at sea. So you became a Viking of yore, at least for a while.
People loved that, and they also appreciated the fact that wait times for Maelstrom were rarely long.
Disney did NOT appreciate that at all. So, when Frozen Fever took hold at Disney theme parks, park officials made the right call, albeit an unpopular one.
Imagineers cleverly re-themed Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After, an attraction so popular that guests were happily paying Lightning Lane fees to ride it.
So, this change mirrors the one at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Guests there ignored that restaurant right up until it became Storybook Dining with Snow White.
After that, Artist Point turned into the hottest ticket in town. The same statement applies to Frozen Ever After, which features some of the longest lines at EPCOT.
This change is popular…but still divisive. It somehow feels inauthentic for the Norway pavilion, as Arendelle is fictional.
Then again, so are all the concepts in Norse mythology.
Mouse Gear Turns into Creations Shop
Mouse Gear claimed the title of the most trafficked store at EPCOT. It was the go-to place for all your Disney merchandise needs.
Then, for no apparent reason, Disney closed it one day to build a new, modern store.
This new place, Creations Shop, is bright, fun and charming. It’s also…pretty much Mouse Gear with better lighting.
Now, some Imagineers would take issue with that, as they worked tirelessly to refresh the store. It’s definitely more modern.
Did the changes help anything, though? That’s debatable, but what’s not up for argument is that Mouse Gear had a better name.
This change really irks me, and I cannot even put my finger on why. Maybe I dislike it because Mouse Gear became an integral part of each EPCOT visit.
I feel no such connection to Creations Shop.
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Feature Photo: Todaysorlando.com