Thursday, February 16, 2006

Experimental Prototype Community of Tacky



Once upon a time there was an Epcot Center in Florida that had a sleek untarnished Geodesic Sphere at its entrance. It was a spartan, simple and singularly proud statement.

Once the year 2000 hit a giant Mickey Arm was installed beside it with the year 2000 emblazoned across the top. All signs pointed to only a single years run. But, no, somewhere somehow the bureaucrats in control decided to throw the words Epcot up there and it's been there ever since. It has since come to symbolize everything that's wrong with the Disney Parks. It's cheap, it's tawdry, it's out of place, it's cynical, loud and loathsome.

Chapters could be written on exactly why this is such a catastrophic mess but for now I'll only bring up one idea. Look at the original picture of Spaceship Earth and the palm tree plantings. Immediately viewers register a sense of scale. This deceptively simple structure is huge, towering well past the trees. Throw that Mickey Hand up and all sense of scale is tossed.

For the new forces that will come into being at Imagineering: Please, get rid of this monstrosity. It's an easy first fix and will send the right message. Epcot Center is a showcase for future progress, not a cynical cheap carny funfair interested in merely selling more Mickey Plush. And for the record, Mickey never wielded a wand in the Sorcerer's Apprentice either.

So much more to mention. So much more.

38 comments:

JustinSpace said...

it's my understanding neither this wand or the sorcerer hat were the work of imagineering. I believe it was the marketing/promotions dept for the wand and possibly park entertainment or retail for the hat.(Although it's sad no one at WDI had the power, or will, to stop either.)

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah! The Epcot hand and the MGM hat need to go!!

Why Marty could not have stopped Marketing from visually raping these parks is beyond me.

XImagineer said...

Hallelujah! The Epcot hand and the MGM hat need to go!!

Why Marty could not have stopped Marketing from visually raping these parks is beyond me.

Dan said...

The wand has got to go and so does the hat ... what happened to immersive theming???

cj powers said...

I have been told the reasons why they have installed that wand.: They wanted to make the park more family-friendly, since apparently an image of Mickey’s hand will make families want to go there more; making Epcot seem less like an “Adults only” park (I have also heard that it costs less money to leave it standing vs. removing it, but that’s all heresay). When the crane, I mean- structure went up for the millennium celebration, it took some getting used to – but with all the excitement of the millennium celebration, I started to like it. It was cool and generated some excitement in the park that was home to the Millennium Celebration.

But then, when they replaced it with the word “Epcot” – ugh. Atrocious. It is completely incongruent with the parks theme of technology working hand-in-hand with the global human spirit of discovery. The font is tacky. I really, really don’t like it. But, since this wand thing now appears on all images of the park’s Icon, from t-shirts to keychains, I don’t think it is going anywhere anytime soon. And the longer it stays, the harder it is going to be to convince people to take it down.

Dizneyguy said...

Back to the original topic...

I couldn't agree more about that eyesore now spoiling the elegance of Spaceship Earth. The original entrance design was elegant and beautiful. Not now - not by a long shot.

Demos said...

I am in total agreement! It's seems like such a tacky addition and it does not flow well with the general themeing and feel of Epcot!

A long time ago I joked that this would only be the beginning and that the other three parks would be getting magic wands too: "Magic Kingdom" over Cinderella's Castle; "Disney-MGM Studios" over the already silly Sorcerer's Hat (yay, a centerpiece gift shop! ugh!); and "Disney's Animal Kingdom" over the Tree of Life!

~Demos

SweetJ said...

The faster WDI or anyone can remove that wand and sparkles from the top of Spaceship Earth, the better. Maybe at the same time, they could overhaul the ride inside to make sure it doesn't break down six times while you are on it.

Destino said...

I had heard that the ugly wand had a ten year life span, that come 2010 it was to be history. Don't remember where I heard it, but I do remember it came from a WDW source...

JustinSpace said...

RE: the above comment
Those attractions aren't "breaking down" while you're on them, they're slowing or stopping to load or unload a handicapped person. All continuous moving-chain style ride systems (Spaceship Earth, Haunted Mansion) must operate this way. But this brings up a good point, the people in the ride just think something's wrong. There should really be signs in the queue explaining this. Then, when the attraction stops, instead of going, "ugh, the ride broke," you'll think, "oh, they're just helping someone's grandmother get her seat."

Bigby said...

Can we campaign to remove "Big A$$ Hat" as well? It totally ruins the Hollywood circa the '30's theme of TDS. I wanna see the Chinese Theatre at the end of the road, d*mn it!!!

angiebusch said...

I agree the hand and wand is tacky. I also hated it when they turned the castle at MK into a birthday cake, what were they thinking! It was the first time I had taken my boyfriend there and he had to see the castle as a cake. I think my whole family was embarrassed.

Michael Crawford said...

Bless you for bringing this up, first and foremost. The wand is one of those singular things that seems to stand for all of the rubbish changes that happened in the parks over the last decade.

Your adjectives are all incredibly appropriate. The whole presentation is absurd; that font over the beautiful Spaceship Earth is the height of tackiness.

I have a large old Eastern Airlines poster on the wall here in my office. That simple, sleek geosphere with the old lighting scheme at night cannot be beat, even 25 years later.

I've often said that if I were to take over WDC tomorrow the first thing I'd do would be to tear down the hand. I also think they could raise some money by auctioning off on ebay a chance for a fan to take a crowbar to the thing, or perhaps to use one of those old-fashioned dynamite plunger devices to implode the thing.

I hate the hand. I hate the hat. I want Spaceship Earth back, dignified, and without the silly Leave a Legacy monoliths painted on the main supports (seriously, who thought of that?).

And while you're at it, bring back the lucite (?) fountain.

Fairly cheap fixes that would make a lot of people happy...

MC

Anonymous said...

I first went to Disney/Epcot in 1984, 2 years after it opened. I remember the ride inside the Geosphere, it was one of the coolest things ever. When you come around that corner to a 180 degree theatre and it started you in space and moved you closer to earth, with the movement of the ride it felt like you were really making that trip.

I went back a couple of years ago bragging about that ride. Wow, talk about a disappointment. It is horrible now. Bring it back to it's former glory.

RogerRmjet said...

I sure wouldn't mind hearing "Tomorrow's Child" on Spaceship Earth again.

Chris W. said...

I agree with all that is being said here. The hat and the wand needs to go. In Epcot, I would love to see World Showcase built out. Some of the original concepts were incredible. Would love to see Germany's boat ride, Japan's Caroussel theatre show, as well as Israel, Africa and the UAE original concepts.

paul said...

Also the warnings that you are about to go backwards need to go, it completely removes the effect it has on the rider.

yattanime said...

I always had this idea that EPCOT could benefit from a makeover. This makeover could be courtesy of our times' greatest architects...

Imagine an entrance designed by Frank Gehry, defined by his signature wave forms...

Or a new pavilion by Zaha Hadid, defying gravity...

Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Richard Meier, Thom Mayne, and the list goes on and on...

Anonymous said...

100% ON THE MONEY!

Get rid of that horrible sign on Spaceship Earth. But before you do so, see if you can use the wand to make the other tawdry things disappear. (Pop Century, anyone?)

That sign is an embarrasment, plain and simple. And the capper is that the maintenance and upkeep on it is virtually nil.

The sign itself is bad enough. But when you observe it from across World Showcase at night and there are more lights burned out than are working, it just doubles the insult.

Dave said...

Sadness permeates my being when I recall the first trip I took to Disney World when I was 6, and the last trip I took to Disney World when I was 18. My, how the park, the aesthetic, the atmosphere, the entire core of Walt Disney's concept have become corrupted by corporate indifference.

As I say when someone asks how you can sell Batman or Superman on the big screen, Disney is a name that everyone knows. There are associations that simply exist. It does these associations, the Disney Legacy, no justice to put stupid modifications on once-beautiful landmarks of our gleeful childhoods.

Anonymous said...

I wish Jobs and Lasseter read this. The "Epcot" sign on Spaceship Earth (along with the god-awful Leave a Legacy) epitomize why Epcot went way downhill from its greatness in 82.

Anonymous said...

MR. IGER!!!!


TEAR DOWN THAT WAND!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong... I HATE the wand and the hat... but! It could be worse... imagine Spaceship Earth with two giant Mickey Ears?!? ungh...

-netfrost

Chris_Harwood said...

Really, I would pay extra admission to an attraction called "Burning the Tacky Wand We Finally Took Off Spaceship Earth." I would buy the t-shirt too.

Do I need to pay for both in advance to establish my seriousness? I will pay for both in advance.

Stinger Report - Editor said...

Its so funny, the guy who managed the '2000' and now the wand and hat left WDI before they moved from model stage. Another example of the slow drip.. drip.. drip that eat away at the core of WDI work for WDC.

People who felt they were too 'Big' for Disney, left to be big in dotcom, and did not care about the mess left. Projects such as 'Disney California', 'DownTown Disney', Phase One 'HK DisneyLand' and the 'Mission: Space' issues all glowing examples.

Who's going to clean house!

Can we run a topic on - 'Projects Killed because of BS?' (Disney Villians!) Look how many of the exitee's rushed to Universal!!

Boy will I miss Marty, one of the last true Imagineers that held the dream!

Jen Quitter said...

The effects at imagineering are the result of Disney's overall downfall. The poor quality evident in imagineering can be seen throughout the company, especially animation. Their recent acquiring of Pixar, however, could tip the scales at Disney and bring back the power to the creative artists and not the number-crunchers. I have faith in Lasseter, I hope he can bring back the vision that Walt had for the Disney company.

BJ Wanlund said...

This comment is for ALL of Epcot, not just Spaceship Earth (which I'd like to see re-done with the original score and ripping the wand of hellish doom off of there). Epcot is one of my favorite parks at WDW and it could stand to be vastly improved. Even though I am considered a "guest" by DCM and WDI standards, I have a boatload of opinions. Look for a blog really soon so you can see the ideas I have for improving Epcot. They will NOT be shown here, as it is going to be painfully long with that in here.

By the time you read this comment, it will be on the Web and ready for comments.

BJ

Chiron said...

My think is that if you look at Spaceship Earth with a certain twisted imagination, it looks like Spaceship Earth fell on Mickey's head and he's waving in the wand trying to get it off of his head.

I hadn't realized just how much the feeling of scale is wiped out by the wand. I remember the first time that I saw SE and imagined it as huge.

yensid98 said...

I couldn't agree more about these obtrusive and destructive additions to the park. You kow it's the small things like this that really make you wonder if anyone in charge cares for the parks at all.

Where is the care, respect and love that they so rightly deserve?

Sir Richard Wentworth said...

Agreed!

This is a prime example of designers missing the point.

Reminds me of the "What if the ipod package had been designed by Microsoft?" spoof video that's been making the rounds lately.

Choosing cheap flash over the moving, sublime moment is a fatal error in my opinion.

Richard

tiggerboy333 said...

I was told by someone who works for the parks that, just like cj powers stated, the hand and wand are still up because it would cost them too much money to take them down. They had to engineer them to withstand hurricane force winds so you can imagine that they're attached pretty well. Too bad.

Dragonrider1227 said...

I find it unneccery, but not the end of the world. Sure, it does look better without it, but calling it a "monstrousity" is a little much. I didn't mind it. I think the wand was an attempt to Disneyphie EPCOT. I have noticed alot of people not even know EPCOT is a Disney park. This must be an attempt to make people realize otherwise.
PS. I like the hat in MGM too. I wouldn't mind if it was moved though. It does seem out of place right in the middle of street. I feel it should be the entrance of Fantasmic instead.

DizFan said...

I was told the same thing last week. A CM at Studios (who I guess feels the same about it as we we all do - the poor guy has to take photos of that damned hat every day!) said it cost about $8m to erect the "Hand of Eisner", and the current prediction is that it would cost nearer $12m to pull it down.

Well I'll chip in a few bucks, how about anyone else?

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the reason for the high cost is that when they put it up they damaged the structural integrity of Spaceship Earth. So they would have to fix Spaceship Earth structurally at the same time.

As for the announcement about the car turning around backwards, I believe that was required in a legal settlement. A guest thought the car containing her children had overturned so she jumped out to "save" them, injuring herself in the process.

New Generation said...

I was born and raised after Disney decided to ruin itself. I know little of it's former glory, and only know it's prescent cheapness. I read this blog with continuing dispair, knowing that it can either get better, or much worse, and I know perhaps, with Disney the way it is, that the later is more probable.
I knew Epcot, though, without the Mickey hand. I knew the plain sphere, the simply statement. The had simply makes it look like all the rest of Disney, an entire park with a thick, sickeningly sweet jam of mice and 'magic' spead over it, making it all taste the same, and all equally as water down.
Maybe my opinion doesn't matter, and maybe that horrible font will stay, but reguardless, this is part of a trend, one that may never heal itself.

David Arroyo said...

the wand is a blight! Epcot is my favourite theme park and the firt time I went spaceship earth looked so cool as the monolithic archetectural statement it is. but the second time I went the wand was there. I complained about it the entire trip (well that and Journey into imagination and Horizons being gone) until my family told me kindly to shut the #^@( up ^-^. As well as the scale issue pointed out I found the redundancy of the peice to be banal. Do we really need to label the icon of the park with it's name c'mon new york dosent put "NEW YORK" in huge neon letters on the Empire State building. Nor is there a large tack sign over cinderellas castle that sparklingly procalims the obvious fact that you're in the Magic Kingdom. Most people having spent the time and money to get there know where they are. (c'mon is here any other reason to go to central florida ^-^). Many people have offered cost as the reason this taint still exists. And to that we Disney theme park concerned people should start a take. gathering donations to pay for it's removal. there has to be enough of us to raise the funds. Of course the thing that bothers me the most is that on my trip to disney World this year (my fourth and third since the wand has been there) I'm starting to get used to it. maybe that was the plan hold off until the complaing dies so you don't have to heed it.

thanks for letting me rant

MaryP said...

This site is right on with all the observations including the EPCOT wand disaster. All the cheesy Mickey hands and such are tacky. It is not cute and clever anymore. The magic has been gone for a while in those parks. I'm relieved to hear so many people agreeing on these topics!
Bring back the attention to detail and the real artistry!

Anonymous said...

My entire family is celebrating the removal of the Epcot sign over the ball. I went a couple of weeks ago and took some lovely pictures of the "clean" ball.

As for the sorcerers hat, it was originally supposed to go in the parking lot and have a roller coaster inside of it. I have the inside scoop, don't ask how I got it. Then they decided the studios needed a new icon. The original icon was the "Earful Tower" the water tower in the studios - very classic Hollywood. Next it was the Chinese Theater which was built using the same blueprints as the original in Hollywood (can you GET more classic?) The "big stupid hat" (so my family refers to it) actually looks really cool (just not in that location), but it is a pin trading gift shop and would look really nice right outside of the park, out front near where they put the Christmas tree. My advice is to keep sending opinions in to Disney that you don't get the hat and it blocks the view of a true Hollywood icon, the Grauman's Chinese theater.