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Greg Maletic
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by Greg Maletic (archives)
January 17, 2002
In the second part of a three part series on recent theme park moves by Disney, Greg looks at the successes and failures of Epcot.

A Note About Last Week's Column

When I write a column for LaughingPlace.com, I hope for one of the following reactions from readers:

  1. "Yes, absolutely correct!" (This is the desired reaction.)
  2. "I understand your points. They make sense, but I didn't feel the same as you, and here's why:"

Beyond that, all other reader reactions, including "you're an idiot," derive from one or a combination of the following situations:

  1. I didn't explain myself very well, or rationalize my feelings well.
  2. The reader for some reason didn't understand what I was saying.

Those of you who didn't like last week's Animal Kingdom review probably felt the way that I did when I read "What Went Wrong With Disney's World's Fair," a 1983 article in American Heritage magazine with a title uncoincidentally like my last column's. In that article, the author took exception to Epcot, with criticisms that are probably familiar to many readers here ("the past is presented as silly and misguided; the future, with the help of corporations and technology, as promise-filled and hopeful.") It's pretty hurtful for someone to criticize something you love, and even though I didn't really love Epcot, I did love Disney World, and that was close enough. (And of course, it's okay for me to say that Spaceship Earth is lousy, but when someone else says it, hey, them's fightin' words!) Even though I continue to love Disney parks to this day, I kept on reading criticism, the good along with the bad. It's given me real strength in knowing what I like about the parks, and given me the language to describe the things that I don't like.

When you read my columns, please keep in mind that:

  1. These are my sincerely held beliefs.
  2. I don't think that most people feel the same way. If you think differently than me, it doesn't mean that I think you're stupid.
  3. I love the Disney parks, and the idea of the Disney parks, more than I love just about anything. I hate it when I find things to criticize about them.

So here we go with another column. Like I said in a recent posting, the genesis of these first three articles is to complain about the things I think are wrong at the parks, so of course they're going to have some criticisms in them. Like the first, this one has some negative stuff to say, but fundamentally, it's about a healthy trend I'm seeing at Epcot, so it's not without its positives. If you find yourself hating it, just grit your teeth, convince yourself that it's good for you to be reading things that you don't agree with, and then let me know why you think I was so wrong. I've got plenty of positive stuff to say about Disney in future columns, so there's good things to come!

Thanks for your understanding,


Fixing Future World
General Motor's Test Track attraction points the way towards making Epcot a substantially better park

This is part two in a three part series on recent Disney moves - for the better and worse. Part One on Animal Kingdom was last week. Next week Part Three will look at Disney's California Adventure.

The Internet amplifies the passions of those who express their opinions through it. A case in point is those who've taken it upon themselves to write online reviews of the Test Track attraction at Epcot. Test Track seems a controversial ride: though most love it's fast action, others find its thrill-ride origins an intrusion in an otherwise peaceful park. (Travel expert Arthur Frommer actually referred to it as "an insult to intelligence, quite beneath contempt.") I have to admit that the Test Track haters completely mystify me: not only is Test Track the best thing at Epcot, it in fact points the way toward what Epcot should have been, and still could be.

I should admit as well that the success of Epcot has puzzled me for years. The ambiguous name (I suspect that even Walt Disney would have seen the name he originated as wildly inappropriate for the park that exists today), the stodgy subject matter, and the existence of several attractions that are really no fun at all should have turned people away in droves. Yet people seem to like it--I think because of its ambitions more than its execution--and they come back time and again.

This isn't to say that Epcot hasn't had its charms: Universe of Energy has always been entertaining for both its dinosaurs and incredible ride vehicles. The boat ride through the Land's greenhouses is enjoyable, though I have yet to hear of any of the pavilion's plant-growing techniques employed in a real-life setting. The Maelstrom is fun, especially the spectacular sight of the oil rig that you float past at the end of the ride. I even like Mexico's El Rio del Tiempo, though I'd be the first to acknowledge that I'm in the minority on that one. (I think I enjoy it because of the fond memories it conjures up of the Magic Kingdom's old If You Had Wings attraction.)

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