Please welcome back frequent guest blogger and friend of the site, Kristin! Today she is sharing her thoughts on the new Epcot Forever fireworks.
People who know me can tell you that I’m somewhat obsessed with 80’s-era Epcot. If I had a time machine, it’s one of the first places I’d go. So hearing that there’s a new fireworks show in Epcot devoted to its many beloved attractions from the past consoled me a bit for the loss of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like it.
I felt like the musical transitions were very jarring. Disney can do a great job of blending songs (for example, the soundtrack to Wishes transitions seamlessly between pieces), but here it felt like more of a hack job. I’d be dancing along to “Universe of Energy” (shut up it’s a bop) and then….suddenly….there would be a complete shift to “Living With the Land.” I think they tried to do a mash-up of “Fun to Be Free” and “Veggie Fruit Fruit” but the songs meshed so badly I had trouble teasing out the competing beats and lyrics.
And while the kites were beautiful, the fireworks didn’t seem to gel with the music the way they have in other shows. There was music, and there were fireworks, but the two didn’t seem to be choreographed together at all. Instead of a loving tribute to the history and future of Epcot, it felt like the show had been slapped together with minimal planning.
And then, of course, the show ends with “A Whole New World.”
Quick disclaimer: I *love* Disney movies. I’m pretty sure Becky wouldn’t be friends with me if I didn’t. I love the art, the stories, and the music. But ending “Epcot Forever” with “A Whole New World” seems indicative of the current executives’ complete misunderstanding of why Epcot has always been so special to those of us who love it.
When I was a kid, in the 80’s, going to Epcot meant seeing an optimistic view of the way the world could be. We could use technology to explore, learn, and improve our living conditions; and work with people from different cultures around the globe for a better, more integrated humanity. There was very little IP in the park – as far as I can recall, a few spacesuit-garbed characters did meet-and-greets in Future World, but that was it. Instead, the focus was on reality: the world that really might come to be, if we worked for it.
Going to the Living Seas meant journeying fathoms below the waves to a scientific outpost, where people worked to understand ecosystems and creatures completely foreign to the land. Now, we sing along with Mr. Ray and watch animations of Nemo and Marlin. Yes, there are still exhibits about the oceans, but with more of a cartoon feel.
Similarly, walking around World Showcase used to feel like getting to visit eleven different countries and learning about their culture and cuisine from people who had actually lived there. Some of that still exists, but the recent focus on including IP has given the pavilions more of a fairytale feel, divorcing them from reality.
And I get it, I promise, that people want more references to the movies in the parks. It’s how Disney advertises and how they make money. It’s not going to stop just because I don’t like it – after all, everything currently planned for “new” Epcot is IP-based.
I was reminiscing about this as I sat on one of my favorite benches in the park. It’s between Starbucks and the Art of Disney store, and at night the pavement there lights up with fiberoptics. Often adults rush past, hurrying to their next destination, but nearly every child will stop and marvel at the lights. Invariably they’ll try to touch the lights, or jump in different sequences, trying to figure out how this works and what makes the patterns change. It reminds me so strongly of the old ImageWorks. There weren’t designated quests to follow, like in a video game. Instead, technology and art were beautifully merged to encourage play and curiosity. For me (and, I suspect, for many of my generation), ImageWorks was the best part of Epcot. It was a place for kids to explore at their own pace, in their own way, and feel inspired to create new things and learn about the world.
For me, that is “Epcot Forever.”
Have you seen Epcot Forever? How do you feel about it?