02 September 2008

We can hardly wait to welcome you here

During the development of EPCOT Center’s World Showcase a show was designed for the Japan Pavilion entitled “Meet the World.” While the attraction would not find a home in the Japan Pavilion, the Carrousel of Progress type show and theater would settle down in Tokyo Disneyland’s Tomorrowland from 1983 until 2002. The building would sit empty until 2006 when it was demolished to make way for a new attraction, now known to be the Monsters Inc. attraction which is slated to open in 2009.

Progress of this attraction was further along than most Guests would imagine. EPCOT Center’s Meet the World had a theme song, rewritten by the Sherman Brothers, and a show building was completed. The show itself would combine every affect in the Imagineering repertoire to tell the story of Japan.

“Japan pavilion’s show, when it is ready, will afford an unparalleled overview of Japanese history. Entitled “Meet the World,” it will also be the feature attraction of Tokyo Disneyland, scheduled to open in 1983. The Florida version will be substantially the same as the Tokyo show, although there will be a few changes, if only in phraseology.

Nevertheless, audiences in Tokyo and Florida alike will be fascinated by the Disney way of showing them history in a manner they’ve never before experienced. It’s a manner nobody has experienced, combining Audio-Animatronics figures, live-action film, and animated film.

Inside the castle, the audience is seated in a rotating carrousel theater, which will revolve in front of four stages, each presenting a chapter of the story of Japan.

The first chapter traces the volcanic origin of the islands. Then, in the company of two Japanese children and an animated magical crane (symbol of good health and long life), we explore the early history of the inhabitants of the islands.

Stage II deals with Japan’s first emissaries to a foreign country – a splendid scene in Imperial China. Much of China’s culture was absorbed and subsequently adapted to distinctive Japanese forms. A new foreign influence arrives with the epochal visit from Portuguese traders, who introduce the Japanese to firearms. This chapter ends with the closing of the country to almost all foreign visitors.

In Stage III, Japan, in self-imposed isolation, develops artistically and intellectually. Here we are introduced to Yaji and Kita, guards in the family of a powerful Shogun in the Edo period, whose story is a Japanese classic. But in the Disney version they are a couple of amusing characters. Enter Commodore Perry and his great Black Ships. His visit gives rise to heated debate between Japan’s isolationists and expansionists.

The scene ends with the cataclysmic expansionism of the 1940s, but Stage IV demonstrates, amply and ably, the rehabilitation, stabilization, and outreach of a modern, caring people, at once sophisticated and traditional, whose influence now extends far beyond the shores of their islands.

The show ends with the children and the crane waving farewell from the gondola of a balloon. But we can return to Japan, at least for the moment, after we leave the theater: it is all around us, and our appreciation will be heightened after what we have just seen.”
Richard R. Beard, pp. 197-199, Walt Disney’s EPCOT


Unknown said...

I do wonder how well the show would have gone over with Japanese-American visitors. I have heard machinations that certain sections might not have been too appealing to some American veterans.

But, it would have been great to have another solid show at Epcot.

Ryan P. Wilson said...

I've heard that it might have been upsetting to veterans as well, more for what the show didn't talk about than what it highlighted. But WWII is a funny thing inside of Walt Disney World, it is touched upon in The American Adventure and there is Rosie's Victory Garden, but the tour of the 20th Century in the Carrousel of Progress doesn't mention it.

I would have liked to have seen the show, but there are also a lot of other pieces from World Showcase I would have like to seen make the cut as well.