The term “Spaceship Earth” was first popularized by Buckminster Fuller; essentially it reminds us that the Earth, like a mechanical vehicle, requires care and maintenance and all of us are in it together. Regardless of our cultural differences, or ethnic heritage, or country of origin, we all must work together because we’re all passengers on this great Spaceship Earth.
Oh, I’m sorry, am I boring some of you? Or maybe all of you?
It’s so hard to tell these days. A bunch of guys at Imagineering keep saying that this stuff is boring, that it’s not “relevant.”
So here’s an idea. Maybe to make this blog entry less boring, we could hire a hip Hollywood celebrity to read it to you. Like Ellen DeGeneres or Eric Idle or Colin Mochrie or Martin Short. Is Celine Dion here?
Martin Short after all is now on his fourth Disney Theme Park Film, "O Canada!" right after “The Making of Me,” “Monster Sound Show,” and “CineMagique.” Whoopi’s got nothing on him. The new version of “O Canada!” is the latest in a painfully long line of theme park films starring b-list celebrities making post modern, non-diegetic comments about a subject someone at WDI seems to think is dull.
It’s a weird time for Disney and for Epcot. The first non-Magic Kingdom theme park is about to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. And it’s celebrating by exhibiting a severe case of bipolar disorder. On the one hand it’s getting back to its roots--having just removed the wand-shaped blemish from Spaceship Earth, or as the Canadians call it, “that big silver ball.” On the other hand, Epcot’s most recently updated attraction, "O Canada!" embraces the worst conventions of Eisner-era theme park films.
The new version of “O Canada!” is heavily scripted with sitcom style writing (“Okay, sometimes I do get a little excited about curling, but who doesn ’t?”) and self-referential non-jokes (“Keep your hands and arms inside the country at all times”), which were kind-of funny the first time we heard them 18 years ago (Robin Williams' “Keep your hands and arms inside the theater until it comes to a complete stop” in the original version of the Magic of Disney Animation at Disney-MGM Studios).
The writers at WDI haven’t just fallen into a rut. They’ve embraced a quasi-artistic movement (post modernism) that is the complete antithesis of everything guests found appealing about Disney theme parks in the first place. You know that thing about leaving the world of today and entering the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy? How long will it be before we get the first theme park film that makes reference to the theme park film convention of referencing the theme park experience? And with all the celebrity faces and current references, you can bet this particular theme park film will age as well as a beaver tail with extra maple butter sitting out in the Florida sun.
Oh, wait, am I getting too preachy? Am I losing some of you? Perhaps here we should have Gilbert Gottfried break in and shout:
“B-O-R-I-N-G with a capital “B” and a capital “ORING.” Aren’t you supposed to be in the 'Fun' business. Fun? Remember fun?”
Would that be better? We're told today’s “MTV Generation” can’t pay attention to anything over 30 seconds long despite that very 'generation' now well over 30 with kids of their own; MTV having been on the air for over 25 years. Regardless, some Imagineers still seem to think that kids today need to be assaulted constantly with quick cuts and flashy imagery or they'll immediately force their entire family out of the theater and into the closest Six Flags or Universal park.
Apparently kids today also like to watch actors once popular before they were born interrupt beautiful vistas with derogatory comments about other attractions that they may have visited earlier that day and undoubtedly found boring.
The one redeeming aspect of this do-over is the fact that they did not remove the original theme song. They simply updated it with a more contemporary orchestration. It’s a shame the Future World pavilions did not receive the same treatment. But even the song wasn’t allowed to just happen. Instead, we’re treated to the jarring experience of Ned Nederlander jumping into frame and announcing: “This would be a perfect place for a song. I think so, don’t you?”
CircleVision films are inherently visceral experiences. That’s the whole point. You, the audience, get a 360 degree view of a breathtakingly beautiful place that you’d like to visit. Great CircleVision films like “America the Beautiful” flow like music; they don’t stumble like a bad sitcom pilot.
Well, this would be a perfect place to wrap up my blog post with a statement of my thesis and a summation of my position. I think so, don’t you?
These shows are going to be around for a long time, so timelessness and sincerity are essential. Any attempt at “hip and edgy” always falls flat for Disney and especially at Epcot.
Oh, I almost forgot the obligatory ma’am-you-forgot-your-purse comment. Here it is...
No celebrities were harmed in the making of this blog post. All actors mentioned in this post have turned in brilliant performances during their careers and the contributors to this blog have no wish to disparage them personally.
And Gilbert Gottfried seems like he’d be a really nice guy in person.
Now, how do I get out of here? Because I have a Fast Pass to Soarin'.
Authentic Canadian Cheese