07 December 2009

The positive potential of the future

In 1981, for the introduction to Richard Beard’s Walt Disney’s EPCOT, Marty Sklar stated, “Our goal is to inspire the visitors who come here, so that they will be turned on to the positive potential of the future and will want to participate in making the choices that will shape it.”As more of the world is explored and uncovered, baring its treasures and secrets, its passions and furies, shaping the world has never been a more difficult task than it is today. With broad strokes it appears that Epcot has left behind the ideals set down by Marty Sklar all those years ago when he was discussing EPCOT Center, but broad strokes only allow for viewing from a safe distance away. Up close, there are still plenty of differences being made and foundations being created for the positive potential of the future.

Last week, we discussed the positive steps being taken in Innoventions, but today I want to focus on one Future World pavilion that has received some undue wrath, The Seas. The lamentable loss of Seabase Alpha, the deluge introductory film, and the hydrolators, followed in short order by the inclusion of Nemo and his fishy friends, spawned outrage and long-lasting public outcry as yet another step in the wrong direction for Epcot.

Characterization of various areas of Walt Disney World, most notably in The Seas and Mexico pavilions and in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, has been viewed as an unnecessary evil by park purists. In the case of The Living Seas, however, adding beloved characters that could be the perfect spokespeople, err… I mean spokesfish, for a cause of today and tomorrow revived a much maligned pavilion. The years leading up to the inclusion of Crush, Mr. Ray, and Dory saw steady decreases in the pavilions attendance.

While the characters are the hook to reel children in to the pavilion, dragging their parents behind them, it is rare that I see a child rush to the exit after the short clamobile journey to either find a new attraction or to reride through Nemo’s adventure. More often than not the catch a glimpse of a manatee, dolphin, or shark and are sprinting through the Seabase trying to find the best window to view these magnificent creatures through. Even character-centric families who only venture through the clamobiles and Turtle Talk with Crush are able to take away some knowledge about the creatures of the seas that, more than likely, they did not have when they walked in.

On the education front, I have seen The Seas pavilion swallow touring plans whole. Between the manatee presentations, the observation decks’ dolphin and feeding seminars, the various exhibits with tropical fish, Mr. Ray’s Pop Quiz, and Turtle Talk there is a wealth of information presented throughout the Seabase that children and families can soak up. Even moving through the pavilion from place to place offers learning stimulus, brightly colored signs detailing various forms of sea creatures’ anatomies, factoids, and conservation elements.

The avenues with which information is exchange in The Seas does, in some ways, resemble the transmission of concepts from The Living Seas, while in other ways it is entirely different, and in still other areas reaches a level of interactivity and success that the original version could only dream of. It seems that the past, with its successes and shortcomings, both in Epcot and in the rest of the world, is always looked to as a brighter time where things were better. While our fond memories should be treasured, new direction should never be basely cast aside. Instead let the challenges of today, and those left over from yesterday, allow us to redouble our efforts, using every tool and fish available to create, in a paraphrase of Marty Sklar, a generation who will want to participate in making the choices that will shape tomorrow.


Scott said...

Very nice analysis of the Seas pavilion. Our own family hasn't spent that much time in it after the ride, and my boys aren't really crazy about the ride anyway. We live close to a world class aquarium in Chicago and go there a few times a year. I confess we haven't explored the pavilion enough to know if there is something there that our Aquarium doesn't do better.

Your article has convinced me that the next time we go we should spend a bit of time in the post-ride area, and not just Crush...

steve2wdw said...

I do agree that the entire pavilion, overall, is still quite educational, but I feel Disney missed the boat, or should I say Clammobile when it comes to the ride thru portion. Instead of looking for Nemo, it would have been more appropriate for Nemo and Friends to educate us about the seas and maybe challenge us to "find" different marine life instead of just looking for Nemo. That's my 2 cents.

Greg said...

I agree that the current incarnation of the pavilion still provides a lot in the way of education. It is only the person who doesn't wish to take something away, who will. Yet, I still enjoyed the fantasy associated with Sea Base Alpha. The Hydrolators and Seacabs took into this other. Or was I only one who thought they were actually descending the first few times they stepped into a Hydrolator?

Ryan P. Wilson said...

Thanks Chris!

Scott, while I don't have a fantastic aquarium that close, I have had the pleasure of being able to visit several in my lifetime and, like you I probably wouldn't spend that much time there if I had those spaces within a close proximity. That said, I hope you find your exploration of The Seas to be well worth your time! I think you will.

Steve, I am not saying that there isn't always room for improvement, the point I am making is that there is just as much quality of content currently as there was under the previous incarnation. That said, a guided tour of the pavilion provided by Gil, Nemo, and Dory would only enhance the current status quo.

Doc, the story elements were great. Particularly the way the hydrolators kept you from being able to see the exit keeping that below sea level experience intact.