01 September 2007

Building a World to Inspire

Seeing as how Epcot’s 25th is only a month away from today, and since I’ll be celebrating with it in October, I thought now as good a time as any to give you some unique insight into it’s growth and history.

This October 1 Epcot turns 25, and last December I turned 25, so, you might say we’ve grown up together. Like any 25 year old, Epcot has gone through some growing pains, and it isn’t done with these pains either. But let’s take a look back, and through, the history of this young whipper-snapper, and see how it faced its first quarter century.

First of all, Epcot is 25 now, a young adult; it doesn’t want to live with the name it was born with. It wants a cool name, one it has chosen for itself as it matured. It is no longer EPCOT Center, it is Epcot. It would prefer you refer to it as such and stop picturing it crawling around in its diapers gurgling about tomorrow. However, if you can’t help yourself, it understands. While we’re on the topic of names, it understands how juvenile it was to address itself as Epcot and a year, a la Epcot 94 and Epcot 95, but that was during its tween/teen years and it has put that insanity to rest.

When it was first born some thought Epcot was adorable, while others thought it was an ugly baby who would never hold a candle to the success of its older sibling. As it made its way through its formative years people began to see it less as the kid brother and began to see its true, albeit different, identity. Epcot was not Magic King 2.0, it had never wanted to be, and it took a great many people, a great number of years to see that. It had more aptitude for broad ideas and technical skills than its older brother’s fascination with adventure, story, and fantasy. EPCOT Center, err, Epcot, had indeed become its own person. As with most young children Epcot was changing and learning more about itself every day.

The voice it had gained in its early childhood, Epcot held on to firmly throughout its adolescence. True it did give up some childish pursuits, such as the idea of incorporating the entire world into its dream, and giving each one of these representatives an attraction worthy of its host nation. However, while it couldn’t get the whole world behind it, and let’s face it, who can, it didn’t stop it from sharing its message with the whole world. As it grew, some missed the unabashed free spirit and blue-sky ideals that EPCOT Center had had as a child, but, it was continuing its path into young adulthood. We have all certainly learned the lesson that growing up means losing pieces of one’s childhood, whether through our own past or those of our children, and Epcot was no exception as it ventured into the frightening years of being a TEENAGER!

As Epcot entered its late teens, the greatest shifts began to happen. It moved more away from family connections and more into pursuing its own adventures. If one thing stayed constant, however, it was Epcot’s joy of all things technical. Now this technical passion and know-how shifted slightly. Rather than take a look a possible future ideas and expansions, Epcot turned to cool internal technologies. It had lost much of what had defined it during its early years, and what was cool and popular had now made an impact. History, possible futures, and base science were overshadowed by speed, thrills, and pop culture icons. No longer was edutainment enough, Epcot wanted the cool gadgets, gizmos, and identity that the cool people would think was cool. Concepts that pushed today’s technologies to the limits, or dreamed of tomorrow’s limits, no longer interested Epcot as much as high-energy technologies like centrifuges and fitting more computers into a vehicle than those on a Space Shuttle.

As Epcot entered into young adulthood, it realized that it had burned some of its bridges that it had struggled so hard to find in the first place, and began to correct some of these errors as best it could. It understood now that hip is only hip for a moment, that tying yourself to something that exists only in the moment can only serve to date you, and can rapidly cause a fall from graces. Epcot sought to renew its creative processes. However, regaining some of the creativity that it had lost along the way would prove more difficult than it first thought. After all, bridges, once burned, are no so easy to rebuild. Yet, as Epcot was becoming more of an adult, it also understood itself more innately, accepting its new found intellect and humility, and felt it was up to the challenge. Thrilling, sometimes dangerous, technologies were made family-friendly, body art was surgically removed, and it even put a few baby pictures in places those in the know would look.

These days, like every 25 year old, there are still things that you wish Epcot would change, and some qualities you hope it keeps. Overall, we are proud of what it has made of itself. Epcot is still young, but it understands and recognizes enough of its past, and appreciates that it still has time to grow and shift. And, in the end, all we can really ask and be thankful for, like any parent, friend, or family member, is that we will be able to continue to watch it grow.

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