25 March 2013

America the Bountiful

When you look at the festival and events at Walt Disney World, it is less about major overhauls and more about finding the little tweaks that could make a big difference. In the case of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, the food is great, but the flowers are still the stars. Guest come to see the perfume garden in France, the bonsai in Japan, and the gussied up gardens all around World Showcase.

Where most pavilions have a specific identity they adhere to during the International Flower and Garden Festival, there is one pavilion that lacks that specific garden identity, The American Adventure. In recent years it has been utilized as an exploration of container gardens that grow needed vegetables and an ABCs of flowers and vegetables. I love Toy Story as much as anyone, but I’m not sure that is a permanent long-term answer for the pavilion’s Flower and Garden showcase.

The pavilion is filled with inspiration of how to retool this garden to maximize its impact. Patterned gardens based off of the flags of the United States is a great idea, but there really isn’t enough space for to create such grand palates. So much of our history comes from our literature and a garden highlighting the scents inherent to American poetry (from Walt Whitman’s When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d to Lydia Maria Child’s Over the River and Through the Wood) would be lovely, but perhaps a bit too cerebral.

If you don’t have enough room to explore the breadth of differences from all across the fifty states or to cover the entirety of poetic scents, what about utilizing the sculptures from inside the American Adventure theater? Flanking both sides of the theater are a series of sculptures dedicated to the ideals and strengths that have made this country what it is today. The Spirits include Freedom, Tomorrow, Self-Reliance, Adventure, Pioneering, Knowledge, Heritage, Independence, Innovation, Discovery, Compassion, and Individualism.

Now, I’m not thinking of this as a way to recreate the sculptures out in the courtyard, as that wouldn’t create a must-see environment year after year. To make this an experience that guests will come back to time and again we need to infuse the sculptures with life, a la the living sculptures seen around Pleasure Island or the Captain Hook living topiary from advertisements this year. Imagine guests taking a picture with the Spirit of Self-Reliance suddenly placing its hat atop their head, the Spirit of Knowledge posing as if it were giving a lecture to the guests, or the Spirit of Adventure letting guests take their turn at the wheel. There are a lot of sculptures with a lot of range to interact with guests that could really bring up the status of the garden.

The American Adventure should be a focal point, and not a passing thought, for guests visiting the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Bringing the Spirit sculptures out of the theater and into the gardens, complete with patriotic or home gardening backdrops, would be a way to maximize the impact of the space The American Adventure has.

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