02 December 2009

Talented group of up-and-coming engineers

EPCOT, as originally envisioned by Walt Disney never came to fruition, a fact any number of historians or Disney scholars can attest to. The most obvious answer to why EPCOT was never more than a dream is that the project lacked Walt Disney’s personal touch and guiding manner. EPCOT Center, while not the dream community of tomorrow, created a single entity that encompassed two park ideas and the spirit with which Walt looked towards the horizon of tomorrow. At the heart of this gleaming beacon was CommuniCore.

To say that I miss Expo Robotics, SMRT-1, the Age of Information display, Compute-A-Coaster, the Information Fountain, and just about everything about the early years of CommuniCore would be an understatement. I will admit that, after a few passes through Innoventions in the early part of the new millennium, I wrote the area off as a monument to the changes Walt Disney wanted to see progress through the parks continually, but a failure to the spirit of Walt’s Progress City and EPCOT Center’s founding principles. For many years I would only pass through Innoventions as a shortcut between various sections of Future World or to acquire some much needed air conditioning. Yet, over the past year or so, some of the recent additions to Innoventions have caused me to take pause and reexamine my evaluation.Both StormStruck and The Sum of All Thrills achieve the highest mark of Disney showmanship by being able to entertain and educate within a singular experience.

With StormStruck (sponsored by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc.), guests are taken through a simulation of what a house encounters during severe weather systems and how to make homes safer. While possibly frightening for young children, the target audience for the message of making homes safer is adults to whom the task of safeguarding homes and families falls. Outside of this very lifelike simulation, the StormStruck experience offers a variety of Weather Safe activity stalls, exhibits, and even a Storm Ready area for children to craft a storm preparedness kit. Overall, while there are ample amounts of activities that cross a broad range of age categories, the safe rather than sorry idea is passed on to guests across a multitude of interactive platforms.

The Sum of All Thrills (sponsored by Raytheon) uses the KUKA robotic arm to simulate a coaster-like attraction that has been designed by the guests themselves. While the idea of designing your own rollercoaster and being able to ride it is a dream come true for most adult men (almost the entire queue were men between the ages of 20 to 45 the day I first experienced the attraction), the target audience here is actually teens and preteens. The goal of the attraction is to instill a sense that math and science are not boring subjects that they can actually produce some of the coolest items and thrills available. After the arm has taken guests for a spin, the card used to load the ride specifications to the arm is able to be taken home to continue the experience through the Sum of All Thrills website. Again, the concept of learning through leisure is paramount to the attraction’s success and the internalization of the message.

If Innoventions continues down the road to tomorrow with exhibits like these two recent additions, I see a continued increase in the traffic and guest interactions to rival the early days of CommuniCore. And while comparing an attraction to its predecessor is unfair and unrealistic, considering that what has been done before will never likely make a reemergence in the future, the Epcot of today will always be held to these original benchmarks. Whether you subscribe Walt’s original vision of EPCOT, the EPCOT Center concept of 1982, or the thought that with an ever-changing tomorrow Epcot is always just a dream away, the possibilities for the future of Innoventions have never been brighter.

1 comment:

Gator Chris said...

Encouraging signs. Like you, I was underwhelmed by Innoventions when it opened, and haven't spent much time in there since.