Imagine The Possibilities: What If Living With The Land Got A “Big City Greens” Retheme?

With all the IP takeover running rampant at EPCOT, it seems there is quite an obvious solution right in front of executive faces that would keep the original spirit of the park alive while also adding some of that delicious IP to a hardly-touched opening day attraction.

Note: What follows is rampant blue sky thinking. None of this is rumored, speculated, or announced in any way, and is no way confirmed or hinted at by The Walt Disney Company. Just the simple musings of an obsessed fan, that were musings several weeks ago, BEFORE the change in executive leadership at the Walt Disney Company.

To call back to what Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products chairman Josh D’Amaro said at the D23 Expo earlier this year, what I’m about to say may make some people nervous.

On a recent visit to EPCOT with a friend, we were discussing the prevalence of Intellectual Property at the park, and how the classic attraction, Living With The Land, somehow has dodged any kind of branding thus far. This led to the topic of, “well, what could take over?” As a fan of EPCOT and what the park used to be, I said really there is only one IP that I could think of for the attraction, alluding to the Pixar Animation Studios film, WALL-E, especially given the nature of the Captain at the end of the film introducing the concept of farming to everyone.

Then, my friend said something that I was not only unprepared for, but something I can’t believe I didn’t think of myself: “Oh, I thought you were going to say Living With The Land: Presented by Green Family Farms.”

This is of course, a reference to the hit Disney Channel series, Big City Greens, where a young boy and his family are forced to leave the family farm and move into their Grandmother’s home (which is also a farm) in the middle of Big City in a hilarious animated family sitcom that serves as a fantastic fish out of water story.

Big City Greens also works because it’s currently Disney’s #1 show, and the popular series is getting ready to spin off a movie musical for Disney Channel and Disney+. The series has also received a fourth season order from Disney Channel, tallying more than 100 episodes for the Daytime Emmy-winning and Annie Award-nominated comedy, Now over half way through its third season, the series has taken the cast back to their country roots where we see the actual Green Family Farm that the family left at the beginning of the series. And I must say, it does look awfully familiar. You see Bill, the father in the series, running his farm with ease while the kids, Cricket and Tilly (with visiting Big City friend, Remy) help out around the farm with Remy being taught these farming methods. You can get a sense of the new but familiar locale in the third season intro for the series below.

So we got to thinking— how can Big City Greens be injected into this EPCOT attraction while still maintaining the spirit of the original journey? The attraction, as it currently stands, takes passengers aboard boats on a journey through the diverse environments of our planet, before passing by a traditional farm. There, the guests float into a barn, where screens line the walls and showcase footage of different farming, harvesting, and pest control techniques. The boats then float around a corner and into a series of greenhouses and working laboratories where new experimental techniques are showcased, including hydroponics and elaborate aqua farming systems. Currently, for the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, the greenhouses are lit up with festive lights, and that can be seen in the video below.

This entire thing works (in my opinion) only if it has the right people working on it, allowed to develop it fully. My deepest fear in this instance would be something akin to Disneyland’s temporary attraction reskin – Motor Boat Cruise to Gummi Glen. While big fans of the show lined up to take a pleasant cruise down the motorboat waterways, all they got to see were literal cardboard cutouts featuring characters from the hit Disney Afternoon series placed throughout the bushes they would pass by. A Living With The Land/Big City Greens mashup would need a bit of budget pumped in.

The beginning of the attraction currently showcases different environments of the planet, which I immediately hear Remy describing as we go through (with Tilly pointing out the animals) before we get to the Farm. Now this could go either way, would it be Gramma’s farm in Big City? Or would it be the Green Family Farms in Smalton? The latter makes the most sense in keeping the attraction changes as simple as possible, as the boat vehicle floats into a massive barn after passing the farm house.

At the farmhouse, we can see the animals outside replaced with ones that have the art style similar to the ones in the series, maybe with an audio-animatronic of Gramma thrown in for good measure to be seen and provide some commentary welcoming to the farm or something. The barn is already filled with screens, so this makes it easy to have animation over the existing footage shown of crops and farmlands as they explain farming. From there, different portions of almost nothingness (and a maintenance bay switch track) can be replaced (or hidden) by a new transition scene— and the first idea I could come up with was a brief, quick encounter with tech tycoon Gwendolyn Zapp.

In the series, Big Tech (owned by Zapp) always shows up at just the right time to show off new products that could help at the farm (or with the Green family in general). Wouldn’t she be a great character to introduce the Greens to the massive greenhouses and their experimental technologies?  The big challenge with this though, is that Big Tech technology always has some kind of flaw or is shown malfunctioning in some way, So it might not be the best example. Recently though, an episode saw Cricket challenge a Big Tech robot to speedy coffee deliveries and TECHNICALLY the robot did succeed, it was just Cricket’s more personalized service that had the customers favoring him. So Big Tech and Gwendolyn Zapp could show off technology (like hydroponics, et al) and still be taken somewhat seriously.

The aqua farming scene could be hit or miss, but I still picture Tilly in here showing off the animals. This one would need a bit of reworking in terms of the script and narration as right now passengers are told that the fish seen in this portion of the attraction will be served at EPCOT and Walt Disney World restaurants. As far as I can recall, Big City Greens never addresses the fate of the animals around the farm. Actually, most of them are named…which we (at least adults) know not to do because it makes …things… a little more difficult in the long run.

If you wanted to make it a more climactic narrative, the attraction could at some point, inject fan-favorite villain Chip Whistler into the mix in the greenhouses, perhaps trying to sabotage the Greens in some way as he usually does. The experimental greenhouses would be a good place for that, but then again, it would also take away from the spirit of the original attraction. But that could be the alternate idea here, in lieu of Zapp. Maybe Bill and the Greens invested a bit and built all of these greenhouses but Chip Whistler is out to destroy them.

Eh, I like the idea of the Greens looking at future farming myself. It can’t get too meta though. Big City Greens is a great series with great humor, whimsy, and heart. However, pulling off something exactly like what Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind did with the faux-EPCOT pavilion celebrating their planet/Marvel Heroes visiting EPCOT would not only be redundant, but also, to be frank, lazy.  Even the working title of Living with the Land Presented By Green Family Farms seems almost TOO close to this idea, as though Green Family Farms were now a corporate sponsor at the park. I only used it to convey that it would be the same attraction at its roots, but with the IP layover.

The finale scene would likely have to change. There is a lot of room in the blank tunnel followed by the 9 or so pictures of food with humans wearing complementary-colored outfits. This could be where the Greens decide not to buy Big Tech goods (or do buy, depending on what actual writers want to do with the idea) or some kind of Chip Whistler resolution if you go with that idea. Personally, I would like some profound message from Bill and Cricket with the same pictures illustrated in a Big City Greens style as the ride concludes.

Even if nothing ever happens with this attraction, now I just want that though.

Worth noting, Bill Green, family man and father to Cricket and Tilly, is voiced by Bob Joles. Joles is no stranger to providing the narration to Disney Parks attractions, also providing the dialogue that passengers hear while aboard the Disneyland Railroad. You can also hear him giving safety instructions and contributing to the fun of the Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland, this time playing Sallah.

The biggest problem for this entire scenario, however, is the EPCOT purist. Speaking as one myself, it’s with a bit of a grain of salt I even present this scenario. Living with the Land, as it is today, is the embodiment of the original EPCOT Center spirit. But even I can acknowledge that in the changing landscape of the park it not only stands out as a relic of the past, but also, dare I say, doesn’t make any sense. Spaceship Earth has a narrative, Journey Into Imagination with Figment has a rudimentary plot of an open house taken over by the childlike-dragon. Living With The Land, well, has Bananas to look at and Cacao. While I stand by my EPCOT fandom, I even acknowledge that hey, with the right IP,  things can be done right and still keep the spirit of the park alive. Back in 1995, Circle of Life injected characters from the blockbuster The Lion King into the pavilion to update the rather-lethargic Symbiosis to tell the tale of conservation and environmentalism. Though it was greeted with negative criticism at the time (mostly for the characters being in EPCOT), I know there are a lot of fans who would still like to see that film again over the newer Awesome Planet. Full disclosure, I like Awesome Planet, but I know I’m in the minority. Personally, I think a Big City Greens branding project to Living With The Land is the literal best case scenario for this attraction, as (again) if done right, it will still keep the greenhouses and the educational and entertaining spirit of the attraction, just with these characters incorporated. It wouldn’t be the drastic changes of say, a viking cruise through Norway in the form of Maelstrom becoming Frozen Ever After, where everything is gutted (save for a few puffin animatronics) and the cultural experience becomes a musical book report of a hit film.

Oddly, there IS a way to bring back more of the original pavilion, and this might be asking too much, but while I’m in the realm of blue skies and “what if,” WHAT IF we took Sunshine Seasons and brought back the original Farmer’s Market idea of the pavilion. Devotees may recall a series of themed booths that offered an array of items throughout a themed setting. Vastly different than the current Sunshine Seasons, which evokes fond memories of your local shopping mall or airport food court.

They can make it look like the Big City Farmer’s Market, bringing back that original idea, with new booths acting as the various vendors seen alongside the Green Family Farms booth. Selfishly, I just want a Gloria + Green Cafe Booth, yeah yeah for coffee and caffeine, but also because Gloria and Gramma (honorable mention to Officer Keys) happen to be my favorite characters in the series, and I’d love to see as much representation as I can. Plus, it would help break me of my Starbucks addiction and maybe I can find some good merch too. And I know that the powers that be in the corporate ladder love the idea of merchandising.

The only problem with this idea is the whole idea of too much representation. At what point would The Land pavilion become the Big City Greens pavilion? Suddenly, the other offerings like Soarin’ Around The World and Awesome Planet, as well as The Garden Grill restaurant wouldn’t seem to fit, so the Big City Greens theme would really have to be contained.

Though I will point out that Cricket also had his date with Gabriella at a rotating restaurant, similar to The Garden Grill, so it COULD be done, but perhaps it shouldn’t be done. If we’re changing anything at this point, keep it to the Living With The Land boat ride, which historically opened with the park in 1982 and was all about farming from seed to crop, and would be a perfect fit to restore that idea, but as told by the family of farmers from the Disney Channel, the Green Family. Oh, and did I mention Big City Greens has great Christmas and Halloween episodes? Perfect for seasonal overlays!

If you aren’t familiar with the series, get acquainted with it! You can catch it on Disney Channel, the DisneyNOW app, and Disney+.

Sign up for Disney+ or the Disney Streaming Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, and ad-supported Hulu) now

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Tony Betti
Originally from California where he studied a dying artform (hand-drawn animation), Tony has spent most of his adult life in the theme parks of Orlando. When he’s not writing for LP, he’s usually watching and studying something animated or arguing about “the good ole’ days” at the parks.