Epcot is a funny thing. At the time it opened, the Disney model of theme parks was rather simple: Be Disneyland. Disneyland was so successful, Disney imported a supersized clone to Orlando to serve as the heart of its Walt Disney World project. The property was so large, however, that Disney had to ask what else could fit inside it now that they’d abandoned Walt Disney’s original idea for a fully-functional urban planning laboratory.
The imagineers came up with a couple of ideas: A permanent World’s Fair concept that explored the best that scientific innovation had to offer and a celebration of the international community. One enterprising designer had the brilliant idea of putting the two models together, and voila, Epcot was born.
The ensuing decades have been rather unkind to Walt Disney World’s second park, however. What was once a monument to the continuing inventiveness of humankind became a stale and outdated look at the technology of the recent past — neither cutting-edge enough to seem interesting nor old enough to breed nostalgia.
So, in recent years, Disney formed a new plan: Bring Epcot into the future by slightly altering its point-of-view. Ironically, that means backburnering the “Future World” concept altogether and, instead, focusing on the internationalism concept brought to mind in World Showcase.
This reimagination is a massive risk for Disney. It’s rare for the company to completely change the creative idea behind an entire park, and doing so will cost an awful lot of money. The only time it has done something this ambitious, it created the relaunched Disney’s California Adventure to great acclaim.
Can they pull the rabbit out of the hat again? To stay on top in the burgeoning theme park wars, they must. Here are a few reasons why.
Its capacity is so large, Disney needs guests to want to visit
Longtime Disney fans will recall that Epcot does not, like the company would have you believe, stand for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” Rather, its more accurate name is “Every Person Comes Out Tired.”
Epcot is huge — deceptively so, to first timers. Each of the World Showcase pavilions is itself larger than most department stores. Additionally, the distance between them isn’t nothing. It is a full-day park not only because of its amazing rides, shows, and attractions, but also because it simply takes a long time to circumnavigate the whole thing.
For those reasons, Epcot is incredibly useful for Disney. It swallows up an enormous amount of people in its theaters and show buildings — not to mention around its enormous in-park lagoon. If guests decided to visit Walt Disney World, but to spend less time in Epcot itself, that would put a massive strain on Disney’s already-at-capacity infrastructure. Even worse for Disney, they might spend those days at nearby competitors.
If Disney gets the Epcot reimagining wrong, it would be an enormous problem for the company. Literally.