03 April 2014

Imagination is Something that Belongs to All of Us

Can we talk about this for just a minute?

Disney is not a new name in comics. Mickey, Donald, Scrooge, the back catalog of titles goes on and on, but the recent launch of the Disney Kingdom line from Marvel has brought Disney stories back to prominence in the comic shop. The first in the line was Seekers of the Weird, based off of Rolly Crump’s original Disneyland concept for a Museum of the Weird. The next entry into the serial and stapled marketplace jumps to the east coast of Disney’s theme park enterprises with a character created specifically for EPCOT Center, Figment.

The first issue of Figment, which comes from the minds and pencils of Jim Zub and Filipe Andrade, is due out in June and takes place in Victorian London just after the turn of the century in 1910. The steam isn’t just escaping from the vents in the street, but the steam is also fueling the imagination of inventors in a very steampunk fashion. That may seem like a bit of a stretch, but let’s just be honest, Dreamfinder’s Dream Machine also looked a little more steampunk and a little less functional vehicle of flight, right? As it turns out, the Dream Machine is the launching pad for Figment and the inventor who will be the Dreamfinder to explore a wide variety of worlds both real and imaginary, fanciful and dangerous.

I’m excited that the Dreamfinder will finally have a name, although I’m secretly hoping it will be a play on the first true Dreamfinder’s name, Ron Schneider, but I’m also wondering how a couple of details will play out. No, I’m not concerned about how a character who always seemed like a jovial Santa Claus type is suddenly svelte and has a sense of mystery about him. Weren’t we all a bit slimmer and mysterious when we were younger? My actual apprehension is more focused on the loveable purple and orange dragon.

To my mind, Figment was always an on the spot creation of the Dreamfinder during the opening act of Journey Into Imagination. Sure, Dreamfinder’s song could just be describing his best friend, but it always seemed like a spark of inspiration that created Figment in those first few moments we meet the Dreamfinder. The evidence that I have always clung to about this ideal is that just after Figment pops out of his compartment on the Dream Machine and declares how great he is, the Dreamfinder responds with, “Not quite. I’ll throw in a dash of childish delight,” as if to complete the recipe to craft the perfect Figment of the Imagination.

Of course, for the sake of one more amazing adventure with the original EPCOT Center duo, I’ll put my concerns away on the shelf and set off for the Dream Port.

The terrifying world of literature, the wonderful world of illusions, science, film, space, a land of blank canvases and paper animals, music, stage, and the aforementioned Dream Port. It is only a tip-toe through the tulips of imagination away! June cannot arrive soon enough, and you can bet I’ll be back with reviews as the series unfolds.

What about you, are you excited to get a chance to revisit our old friends?

31 March 2014

Good-Time Entertainment

Once upon a time, the Electrical Water Pageant was more than just floating screens of light set to synchronized music that toured the Seven Seas Lagoon. In fact, during the Bicentennial celebration, the nighttime spectacle introduced its longstanding patriotic finale and came complete with fireworks. More than that, however, it also featured an illuminated hot-air balloon that could also shower the scene with fireworks.

IllumiNations has always spoken to my feeling of global connectedness, Wishes my deep feelings of family, and the Main Street Electrical Parade will always be my favorite parade, and they all find a way to choke me up. All of that said Electrical Water Pageant is hands down my favorite nighttime activity past or present in Walt Disney World.

26 March 2014

Nothing Short of a Rip-Snortin' Good Time

Do you ever look at an old press photo from Walt Disney World, not for what the actual subject matter of the photo is but for all the little things that can be seen, or maybe not seen, in them? As much as I love Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, there are so many other things that I love in this 1980 aerial photograph.

The wide expanses of green grass where Splash Mountain and the Frontierland station of Walt Disney World Railroad would one day go.

The tree-lined walkway that leads (out of frame) to the original Frontierland station of the Walt Disney World Railroad.

The dusty road of Frontierland without a boardwalk along the muddy banks.

The Bertha Mae.

24 March 2014

Journey Aboard Spaceship Earth

Have you been tuning in to Cosmos on Fox or National Geographic Channel? The thirteen episode series is Neil deGrasse Tyson’s love letter to the original Carl Sagan series that aired on PBS in 1980. Where the original was billed as ‘A Personal Voyage,’ this new series is presented as ‘A Spacetime Odyssey.’ These two tagline have infinitely more in common with one another than you’d think, aside from the fact that they work from the same source material, and also a bit more relevance to Walt Disney World than you’d believe.

Both variations of Cosmos have gone to great lengths to bring science to the masses in forms that are easy to comprehend. The one thing that Carl Sagan in 1980 and Neil deGrasse Tyson in2014 have proven is that there is little that separates the understanding of the universe, how and what it is formed of, and how long it has been around and our own personal history as human beings. If you need any further proof, you need look no further than Epcot. Our human stories are as alike as they are different, and each tale can be witnessed in World Showcase. Meanwhile our stories of discovery and understanding intermingle, mesh, and share their unique strengths all throughout Future World.

Tyson may be an astrophysicist, but his knowledge base spreads far and wide across cosmos of sciences. Sure, he may have blamed Disney for the outpouring of sentiment tied to Pluto’s downgrading to a dwarf planet. In fact he went as far as to hypothesize that, “…the dog Pluto, Mickey’s dog, was first sketched the same year Pluto was discovered. They have the same tenure in the hearts and minds of Americans. The same tenure. How can you shake that? That’s an unshakeable correspondence.” He understands sentiment and how it affects our perspective on the world around us and the worlds beyond us.

Where am I heading with this? I’m heading back to EPCOT Center. Disregarding Walt’s original plan for a continually evolving community, the second gate of Walt Disney World utilized some of the brightest minds to develop the park’s pavilions. There was an exploration of history and dreams of tomorrow present in all facets of the park, from transportation to communication. Though the power of imagination was granted its own pavilion, it was the spirit of imagination that was present in each queue, attraction, and post-show that made these precise sciences tangible to every guest. Meanwhile, back amongst the Cosmos, Sagan and Tyson take flight in their own Spaceship of the Imagination, making the same sciences plain and clear to every viewer. Perhaps it is time for Tyson to land his spacecraft in Epcot.

Should he be narrating Spaceship Earth? Maybe. Could he build a better space mission? Perhaps. Could the Spaceship of Imagination be an attraction of its own? Absolutely. Yet, all of these ideas are thinking to small. Tyson may not be an expert on everything, he knows how to bring sciences to the masses, he knows the brightest minds around the globe, and he has enough dedication to see Epcot reach its potential. What I am suggesting here is the Tyson should be advising Disney on how to bring the lessons of yesterday and the dreams of tomorrow in line with one clear vision that can be spread across the entire park. That doesn’t mean every pavilion should present the same type of material in the same way, but it does mean that the message of the park should be clear and concise in its presentation. Similarly, I would argue, to how different and alike the message of conservation is throughout the attractions and lands of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Does Neil deGrasse Tyson have all the answers to refine and refocus Epcot? Maybe not, but it is this type of thinking that will return Epcot to its inspirational and informative roots. I for one would be happy to climb aboard the Spaceship of the Imagination, a reimagined Spaceship Earth, or an overhauled Universe of Energy that presents guests with a sense of community and shared history while reaching for the stars and beyond. It may not be Tyson who can or should spawn this reinvestment in Epcot’s message, but if I’ve learned one thing from viewing Cosmos, it is that time is short and there is a lot of the universe to cover!