Home » 5 Companies That Could Help Epcot Re-Invent Future World

5 Companies That Could Help Epcot Re-Invent Future World

Epcot’s Future World needs some help. When it first opened in 1982, the front half of Walt Disney World’s second park lived up to its name – showcasing technologies and innovations we might have expected to see at some point in our lives. And, indeed, many of those ideas came to pass with the advent of the internet age. But, sometime in the mid-1990s, those dreams of a Future World forever looking forward ran into some trouble, and those in positions of power in the Walt Disney Company scaled back the “educational” aspect of the park in favor of more traditional thrills.

The only problem was that Epcot was never truly about being educational. Sure, you might learn something along the way, but what separated it from the Magic Kingdom was that the stories it told were stories of real people and real ideas. The heroes of Epcot weren’t princess or pirates, they were scientists and inventors. And, for many, that resonated just as strongly.

One of the reasons these stories were told at Epcot was the relationship between Disney and the sponsors of each pavilion. They were all important players in their industries, and they used these attractions as ways of exciting the general public about the work they were doing. For some, it was literal (think World of Motion) and for others, it was more metaphorical (think Horizons).

But what Disney fans may not realize is that these partnerships were mutually beneficial beyond the obvious ways. Yes, the companies helped pay for massive attractions, but they also brought fresh new ideas to the table for Imagineers to work with.

And so, granting that premise, the surest way to breathe new life into Future World is an influx of new corporate sponsors, all eager to leave their mark on another generation of young people. Here are five companies that would make great Epcot sponsors – and a look at what they might bring to the table in a redesign of some of Epcot’s famed pavilions.

5. SpaceX – Mission: Space

Image: Space X

It’s hard to believe, but Mission: Space has been around for nearly as long as Horizons was. I know. And, after 12 years in operation, it’s starting to show its age a little bit.

I don’t mean that the technology seems dated – the simulator experience is still one of the craziest thrill rides on the planet – but the whole attraction is beginning to feel somewhat stale. Whether it’s the low-res video that plays throughout the attraction, the clunky storytelling, or the strangely mesmerizing monotone of Gary Sinise, it kinda feels time for a refurb.

Thankfully, in the years since Mission: Space first opened, the commercial spaceflight industry has grown by leaps and bounds. And, viewing the landscape, there is no company better suited to guide a refurb of Mission: Space than SpaceX.

Founded by tech billionaire and possible super villain Elon Musk, SpaceX is currently one of the most efficient and ambitious commercial spaceflight companies in the world – operating resupply missions to the International Space Station among other goals. On top of that, Musk is a true visionary in the mold of Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, and he would surely have strong opinions about how to present the concept of spaceflight to the general public. That kind of passion for innovation is what has been sorely lacking from Future World’s pavilions in recent years, and a Space-themed attraction that genuinely gets people excited about space travel would be welcome.

4. Tesla – Universe of Energy

Image: Tesla 
Let’s stick with Musk for a second.

The Universe of Energy is among the oldest attractions in Future World, and while I greatly enjoy the charm and charisma of Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy, it feels wildly out of place in the 21st century.

Originally sponsored by Exxon-Mobil, the Universe of Energy is essentially a love ballad to the fossil fuels industry. While cursory mentions are given to forms of power such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and nuclear, the vast majority of the ride tells the story of petroleum and natural gas. And, the fact is, that’s just not where the conversation about energy is moving.

Tesla happens to be the exact spot where that conversation is moving. Yes, they’re famous for their electric cars, but what Tesla is doing is more than just that. Musk recently announced his company would begin selling home batteries that would help cut energy costs for homeowners across the country, all while stabilizing our energy grid. Furthermore, these batteries could be combined with private solar panels to create even more power, cutting the grid’s reliance on fossil fuels and giving citizens more choice in where their energy comes from.

Those are enormous ideas with a wide variety of consequences. Musk doesn’t just want to change what powers our cars, he wants to change how we think about power. Whether he’s right or wrong doesn’t actually matter. What matters is that he’s thinking big, and big ideas are what Future World (and the Univese of Energy) should be all about. I mean, brain power is the only source of energy that will never run out, right?

3. Facebook – Spaceship Earth

Image: Facebook

Spaceship Earth is a ride about how we, as humans, communicate. It tells our story from cave paintings, to written language, to the printing press, to the internet. But, it only tells part of that story, because once the internet came around, the entire game changed.

Think about your Facebook page. Think about all the moments you’ve shared on it. Think of all the photos of you that exist on it, from that embarrassing party in high school all the way up through your wedding, or the birth of your child. Think of all the status updates: the moody musical lyrics, the birthday wishes, the celebratory moments. Think of how many of those moments you’ve witnessed on your friends’ pages. Facebook succeeded in recreating the human social experience online, and it did it so well, its founders became billionaires in the process.

I love Spaceship Earth, don’t get me wrong. But where it falters is in its ending. The current video version feels tacked on, and the ride itself is worthy of something much grander. Why not take the opportunity to showcase how truly far we’ve come? Communication didn’t end with the internet, it was just the beginning – and the world we live in now is more interconnected than any of us could have possibly dreamed of. You can stay in touch with friends halfway across the world with nothing more than the click of the mouse or the swipe of a finger. Why can’t Spaceship Earth end by telling that story?

That type of overhaul requires an investment of millions of dollars, which is why it would need a new sponsorship agreement. And you know what’s cooler than a million dollars…

2. Pixar – Imagination

Image: Pixar

While Journey into Imagination with Figment may get unfairly criticized, the fact remains that it is far from one of Disney’s best attractions. With Captain EO seemingly on its last legs, and with Figment’s attraction never quite clicking with fans the same way the original did, it seems likely an overhaul would be coming.

And, while I’m cheating a bit with this one, why not bring Pixar aboard as sponsors?

Other than Disney itself, there is no one word more synonymous with imagination and creativity than Pixar. Yes, Disney owns Pixar, but that shouldn’t matter. If General Motors can hand off sponsorship of Test Track to Chevrolet, I don’t see why Pixar can’t sponsor a Disney attraction. And, there’s probably no attraction more in need of some Pixar love than the Imagination pavilion. These are the people behind Finding Nemo, the Incredibles, Wall-E, and Up – they know what sparks the imagination. Picture a Figment attraction designed by these people. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

While it may seem a bit silly, this one actually makes the most sense of the lot. Disney’s current strategy relies on synergy between its theme parks and its films. For example, Pirates of the Caribbean became a classic Disney film, and Frozen is now getting its own attraction at Epcot. Ideally, the film division and theme park division feed each other, making both stronger. And so, Pixar could overhaul the Imagination pavilion to create a new, breathtaking story surrounding Figment – and, eventually, that attraction could be adapted into a film, thereby making everyone at Disney more money.

See, Disney? I did all the hard work for you. Just make it happen.

1. Apple – Horizons

The reason we all still drone on about Horizons is that it was special among Epcot’s early attractions. While the others were all focused on one concept or discipline, Horizons took its view from afar. It wasn’t so much concerned with what cars might look like in the future, or energy, or phones. Instead, it asked how we might be different in the future. It was ambitious and broad, and in letting you choose your own ending, it was personal and intimate.

Horizons followed in Walt’s footsteps in that it tried to imagine a future for humanity, and it wanted to show you what that future could look like. Walt was obsessed with the future, and he always wanted to do his part to make it a better place.

The Walt Disney Company of today doesn’t have have that same world-changing ambition that its founder had. But, its friend Apple absolutely does.

Apple, much like the Walt Disney Company of the 1970s-1980s is still trying to land on its feet after the passing of its singularly influential founder. Unlike Disney, however, Apple still seems committed to pursuing the vision of the future its founder had, even if that means faltering along the way. That’s not to say Disney is doing anything wrong – they’re a media and tourism company, not a tech giant – but their goals have undeniably changed since Walt was in charge.

And so, if Disney really wanted to bring the future back to Future World, they’d need to recruit the company that is most obsessed with making it a reality, and they’d need to work with them on building an attraction that makes us feel as excited about the future as they do. Give them the opportunity to show us what the future really might look like.

Because, at the end of the day, there’s no way the company that made the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple Watch thinks the future is going to be anything less than astounding.

Well, OK – maybe not the Apple Watch, but you catch my drift.