Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy Haunts Materialize


"You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones! You only moved the head stones! Why?! Why?!"
-Steve
Poltergeist
1982

In the fall of 1999, about the time that word came down from Accountaneering that every corner of the Disney Theme Parks had to show a profit, Epcot’s Leave a Legacy program began.

The once gorgeous and inviting entrance breezeway, punctuated by colorful floral planters and a gentle fountain, gave way to what can only be described as an enormous War Memorial; 35 polished granite monoliths covered with the names and faces of several thousand Disney guests, each etched onto tiny one inch steel squares.

The base of Spaceship Earth, originally just a simple reflective column, was now festooned with tent poles, tarps, signage, video kiosks and cast member hucksters panhandling for the $35-$38 necessary to become ‘part of the legacy’; all this hitting guests barely two minutes after entering the park.

And just exactly what was so wrong about this new addition to Epcot?

For one, Leave a Legacy was never more than a bald faced money-making ploy. P.T. Barnam would’ve been proud of the several thousand suckers that fell for this scam. You can be assured Disney couldn’t have cared less about your legacy. They wanted your money.

Leave a Legacy is an element of the Disney Parks that divides guests rather than unites them. Those with enough status, bearing and disposable income can proudly shout, ‘I’m part of the legacy!” while those strained by the already steep entrance fee and unwilling to participate can’t help but be reminded that they’re not. Isn’t Epcot, indeed every Disney theme park, supposed to celebrate our common humanity rather than underline our differences?

Leave a Legacy degrades the original entrance plaza. After waiting in tight lines and cramped spaces at the ticket booths it was a delight to burst into this open, uncrowded urban garden. The pylons that held Spaceship Earth aloft gave way to generous inviting ‘arms’ that embraced guests and beckoned them forward. The only focal point then was the dazzling geosphere itself, gleaming under the Florida sun. The only monolith present was the gorgeous clear lucite spires at the center of the courtyard’s fountain, aimed skyward and inscribed with the park’s distinctive interlocking circles logo; a logo that ironically celebrated unity of cultures, ideas and people from around the world. Today the maze of hard granite slabs that make up Leave a Legacy, some as high as 19 feet, compete with Spaceship Earth for attention, block views and congest the entrance to Future World.

Leave a Legacy has absolutely no resonance in a park dedicated to the romance of the future. The markers are a cold hard reminder of the past and as Epcot’s Millennium anthem ‘We Go On’ attests, this is a park meant to celebrate the promise of tomorrow, not look back to previous visits.

By far the most repellant aspect of these granite roadblocks is that they’re just downright ghoulish. There’s just no escaping the fact that when you attach names, dates and etched faces to the side of a giant polished granite slab you’re making a powerful iconic statement. No matter how hard Disney marketing may try to spin it, Leave a Legacy is still a compelling evocation of war memorials, tombstones, crypts and death.


All the more creepy is that, though intended as a tribute to the living, in the eight years that passed since the program began a substantial swath of faces enshrined on these markers have passed as well, turning the evocation of a tombstone into the real deal. What better way to start your latest Epcot Adventure than Leaving a Tear at Grandma’s Legacy marker?

At Disney, where understanding the effect of imagery on the subconscious is an art form, one wonders how the ball was dropped so vigorously on this aggressive display of bad taste back in 1999.

As it is a new era at Disney Imagineering, rumblings underfoot suggest that serious lessons have already been learned from this giant misstep at the Mouse House. As of June, 2007 the Leave a Legacy program was discontinued and the tarps and banners at the base of Spaceship Earth removed. As for whether the monoliths will soon follow, word on the street is...

Promising.

.

57 comments:

Ivonne R. said...

I hope they are gone in the near future. I have pictures of how the entrance plaza used to look and it was much more inviting back then.

This picture pretty much sums up what I think every time I see them:

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/224/492126069_542351bf74.jpg

Tony said...

I remember seeing them for the first time and thinking how they ruined the entrance. They should be torn down immediately!

Cupanudles said...

Please, please, please remove these horrendously ugly tombstones from EPCOT's otherwise beutiful entrance!

Epcot82 said...

While I couldn't agree more that Leave a Legacy is an unsightly tragedy, remember the Five and Seven of Hearts in "Alice in Wonderland"? They should have planted a red rose tree, but planted a white by mistake. Rather than admit their mistake and face the consequences, they spent their days in futility, painting the white roses red.

This seems to be Disney's M.O. of late.

Another saying comes to mind, one whose wisdom has been proven time and time again. When you bear in mind what's happening at Disney's California Adventure, at Disney Studios Paris, at Hong Kong Disneyland (sheesh, where ISN'T it happening), you have to wonder about its applicability to Disney:

Never throw good money after bad.

I DO hope those ugly Legacy tombstones will come down, boy and how. But will Disney actually LEARN from this rather horrifying mistake? What say you, Magic 8 Ball?

Outlook not so good.

Wait. Let's try again. Concentrate.

My sources say no.

Really think hard on this. Will Disney ever learn from its past missteps?

Reply hazy, try again.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a contract that Disney has to honor with the people who bought the legacy?

I know when I bought a brick for the walk around the world program for MK and 7 Seas Lagoon, my contract was for 10 years

Tom Frauenhofer said...

We were at Epcot last week with a couple of people who had never been to Disney World before. They asked why there were tombstones at the entrance to the park. It's ugly, it's dead - the sooner they're gone the better!

Destino said...

I fell for this. I loved the idea of being part on the magic, leaving an imprint. Which is how Disney wanted me to feel so I'd fork over the money. After all, I did buy two bricks in the walkway as well. Then I saw the end result. I ever really looked at it until I was back and my picture was up. I was not thrilled. It absolutely looked like a memorial. It looked and still looks like Spaceship Earth is in a cemetery. Old pictures reveal how truly awful the stones are. I still love the IDEA of being part of the magic in some way, but this isn't it. It does make me feel like I'm some dead person. I hope they remove them, but I hope they do something else with all of our tiles. Or, at least send them back to us.

Joe R. said...

Wasn't Leave a Legacy an Imagineering intern project?

mr wiggins said...

As with the other visual grotesqueries that are the legacy of the M.E. culture, this ornament to the values Michael cherished most is best gone.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree with this article, it seems like something that would be posted over at MiceChat. It's been a month and a half since a new article was posted, so I assumed things were maybe getting better. Oh, well...

So, do they get their pics back, money back, or the joy of knowing they have made a contribution?
And what about all the suckers that shelled out money to build the entrance plaza at the DLR? Will those bricks survive the makeover?

Richard Harrison said...

Excellent news, Mr. Banks!

Shelly said...

When I returned to Epcot for the first time in 10 plus years, the first thing I thought was "What the heck are these giant blocks?" then "Why did they remove the beautiful lucite pieces from the water element?" The blocks added nothing and made me feel creeped out with all the little faces staring at me, sometimes from high above.
The blocks give a futuristic vibe, but the kind that you would get from a grim future, not a happy one.

Anonymous said...

see article posted here on Tuesday, July 4, 2006 for DLR plaza bricks

Mr Banks said...

Interesting you call attention to that controversial but well meaning post. Perhaps the next evolution of the idea is for Disney to solicit guests to purchase a brick somewhere to help fund the removal of a brick somewhere else. I for one would buy a voucher good for one hours desecration of, say, the giant Mickey Hat in Disney's Hollywood Studios, or rent the use of a sledge hammer for a few good whacks at the granite tombstones in front of Spaceship Earth.

Destino said...

I believe that we (The suckers who bought into Leave a Legacy) we also given a ten year "lease" However, it also stated that the Legacy tiles may be moved before that time to somewhere else.

***Dave said...

I think there are two different factors here.

I have to agree that the "tombstones" are ugly, and the general business around the sphere detracts from what could be (and, evidently, once was) a very nice place.

That said, as one of the "suckers" -- well, gee, thanks, I guess I had no idea what I was signing up for, no idea what the finished product looked like, and no idea why I would want to do such a thing. And, I guess, the enjoyment I've gotten going back to EPCOT over the years since and still finding a "piece" of that first visit -- and, after my wife and myself had one of those memorials, a few years later my daughter becoming a "sucker," too -- is just delusion to cover up my gullibility, or else a prideful way of distinguishing Us from Them, or some other grievous fault of mine.

If Disney decides to redo the entrance plaza to get rid of the monoliths, fine. If they get rid of the little plaques, as opposed to relocating or otherwise preserving them, I'll be quite disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I actually bought a tile to commemorate my departure*. Given the circumstances, I chose
FEROX
LIBER
VIVUS

(Wild, Free, Alive)

Now that I think about things, I can honestly see the irony of it given that Disney has somewhat become TAME, ENSLAVED, and DEAD.

At any rate, I would point out that I much, much more approved of the 'Walk Around the World' bricks simply because the original concept was to build a lighted walkway around Seven Seas Lagoon connecting the resorts to the MK. Part of it actually was built from the Monorail switch down past the MK Monorail Station to the backstage canal. Personally, I feel that its a nice touch, just a damn shame that the program was ended to shift emphasis to 'Leave a Legacy'. I can't remember how the company shluffed off the end of 'Walk Around the World' but it was made QUITE clear internally that 'WATW' was interfering with sales at Legacy.

David H
WDW Cast '92-'02
*And I might add 1) I'm making more money 2) much happier 3) working for an organization that it becoming known outside of our industry as a leader in terms of service (something I'm DAMN proud of) and 4) now having the career that I always thought I'd have with Disney - I'll be retiring from this organization.

Anonymous said...

I actually bought a tile to commemorate my departure*. Given the circumstances, I chose three words: FEROX, LIBER, VIVUS

(Wild, Free, Alive)

Now that I think about things, I can honestly see the irony of it given that Disney has somewhat become TAME, ENSLAVED, and DEAD.

At any rate, I would point out that I much, much more approved of the 'Walk Around the World' bricks simply because the original concept was to build a lighted walkway around Seven Seas Lagoon connecting the resorts to the MK. Part of it actually was built from the Monorail switch down past the MK Monorail Station to the backstage canal. Personally, I feel that its a nice touch, just a damn shame that the program was ended to shift emphasis to 'Leave a Legacy'. I can't remember how the company shluffed off the end of 'Walk Around the World' but it was made QUITE clear internally that 'WATW' was interfering with sales at Legacy.

David H
WDW Cast '92-'02
*And I might add 1) I'm making more money 2) much happier 3) working for an organization that is becoming known outside of our industry as a leader in terms of service (something I'm DAMN proud of) and 4) now having the career that I always thought I'd have with Disney - I'll be retiring from this organization.

Ladysmith said...

We actually got our Legacy block free for some reason or another. We wouldn't do it now, because it's also divisive. You can have two people in a tile - what if you have (like I do now) a family of three?

Bad planning, folks.

Chris said...

I think the idea was decent but the execution was horrible (and apologies to those who actually bought into it).

I can barely recognize the faces to begin with, I've heard stories of people who bought them but then lost where their tile was...I guess they couldn't find the tile themselves, they had to request the number designation to find them.

The older tile sets I've heard from a former Leave a Legacy CM will not be replaced even though they're looking very dark and faded.

But my biggest gripe is how terrible it is for traffic flow...it totally intrudes on throughput and I don't know how that aspect alone ever made it off the drawing board.

I think they should relocate them just to the sides of the entrance plaza...tiles, and not monoliths and leave the area open again.

Anonymous said...

I spent money I really didn't have, just so I could be part of the Disney/EPCOT experience and Leave A Legacy.
I hope there's some way to get my plaque, or a replica of it, back.

Anonymous said...

My Wife and I got our "Leave a Legacy" tile free, because we had our wedding at the Wedding Pavillion on property. We had no idea what the monuments were to look like, I was thinking they would be bricks in the entry way like at Magic Kingdom. When we went back a few years later and saw the outcome, we were glad we didn't have to pay it! And why did they paint those grey/brown shapes on Spaceship Earth's supporting pylons? Yuck! Less is more.

kcnole said...

I honestly have no problem with allowing guests to have their name, image, etc... placed somewhere inside the park. However the actual way it was done has done as much to dishonor the original intent of EPCOT Center as the wand ever did.

I don't want them to remove the peoples tiles, they bought them after being told they'd be there for a certain number of years. But I'd be all for them being moved to a new location, maybe that blank wall which used to house video monitors for making restaurant reservations or something.

Just do whatever it takes to give us back our beautiful entrance plaza. You started with the removal of the wand, please finish.

Anonymous said...

And the haters seeth...

Scott Johnson said...

"Leave a Legacy is an element of the Disney Parks that divides guests rather than unites them. Those with enough status, bearing and disposable income can proudly shout, ‘I’m part of the legacy!” while those strained by the already steep entrance fee and unwilling to participate can’t help but be reminded that they’re not. Isn’t Epcot, indeed every Disney theme park, supposed to celebrate our common humanity rather than underline our differences?"

While I agree that these things are not the best idea and should not have been done in the first place, this is really the stupidest arguement I have ever read.
Do you really feel a theme park should deal in fairness and equality? If so, then I guess the next step is tearing down the Grand Floridian. Those that take the monorail are subjected to the grandeur and elegance of that resort. A resort in which so few will ever stay. How devisive!
And how about those restaurants! There are those who flaunt their status by eating at the Bistro de Paris, while those "strained" guests are forced to the BACK of the French Pavillion to eat at the Boulangerie Patisserie.

Please.

I have always seen Epcot as a celebration of our cultural differences. It is a chance to see, smell and taste those things that these many countries and peoples have to offer. How much fun would it be if each pavillion focused on just what we have in common?

There was no need in bringing in an emotional element such as this to persuade your audience. Please stick with facts.

Mr Banks said...

What's missing from the above argument is that the Leave a Legacy program is a pushy in-your-face sales ploy.

You can't enter Epcot without seeing all those thousands of happy etched faces smiling back at you or being accosted with barkers begging for you to be a part of it for a price.

Sure, there are wonderful classy upscale restaurants and hotels at Walt Disney World, but you're not forced to shuffle through them while castmembers plead with you to grab a reservation and hand out thick booklets with the names and faces of those happy giddy Disney guests who did.

There will always be the haves and have nots. But a Disney theme park is not the place to express the idea in such a visually assaultive way.

Finally, there's a difference between celebrating our common humanity and honoring our cultural differences. Remember, despite our inherent differences, it's a small world after all. That is the true Disney message from Fantasyland to World Showcase and beyond.

Anonymous said...

You're right. The people that bought them are suckers. Did they really think that they would last, or were they just so bored with the parks that they wanted to prearrange a time-killing task (Let's try and find our picture?") for their next visit?

dean said...

Hey - we all have our little moments of catering to our vanities. It's what keeps us happy: to be pampered every once in a while, and that includes buying a brick with your name on it or a photo on Leave a Legacy so you can look at it later on. And the marketing people at Disney know that during times of leisure, we are more prone to shelling out a few extra bucks for such extravagances.

But the point of this entry as I understand it is that the idea was executed without any regard for it's visual impact on Epcot's entrance, or for its apparent similarity to memorial markers.

A Disney company with greater foresight, and one in tune with what EPCOT Center was intended to be, would have strove for something more groundbreaking. With this digital age we live in, why glue 1" squares onto granite monoliths? A brief video journal, a time capsule of one's hopes and aspirations for the future, can be left for those who follow in our footsteps. It would certainly have been a more genuine legacy to leave for the future than a postage stamp size photo. The project could have occupied a portion of the Communicore buildings instead of crowding the main entrance.

Hopefully the monoliths will soon be quietly disassembled and recycled and the panels placed in a less obtrusive spot for those interested in viewing them. Then a new entry plaza can be constructed that truly encompasses the original optimistic ideals of the park.

Scott Johnson said...

Mr. Banks, it was a given that this was a sales ploy. As you have so eloquently pointed out, this was seen as an area not bringing in revenue. I'm surprised someone hadn't realized that before!

But my point is your devisiveness reasoning is almost exaggeration.

So you know, I live in Orlando and I am an annual passholder. I get my money's worth by visiting the parks often. The first time my wife and I saw these grotesque things, she quipped that these must be what tombstones will look like in the future! When the arm came down, we hoped these would be the next thing to go. Even so, in the dozens of times I have been to Epcot, only once have I been approached about Leave a Legacy.

I used those absurd examples to illustrate the exact point you bring up. You DO have to pass by a rather expensive eatery, with its menu and prices in front on the outside, before you can meander back to the little pastry shop in the France Pavillion. There are few tables and chairs outside, or hidden inside around the corner if you find them. And they are not comfortable. I have heard guests complain about how denegrated you feel for choosing the cheap over the expensive in this instance. Here, I could see your point.
When the monorail passes by the Grand Floridian, you get a nice voice-over extolling the great amenities you would have if only you stayed there.
Or, if you had used this argument for the shops that are placed at the end of every ride you would be on target. (Talk about a sales ploy.) How would you feel if you could not afford to get all those wonderful things for you and your family? And to see all the happy, smiling families that spent money, maybe then your feeling of division or status would ring true.
One other area of money-making that could come into this line if thinking are the scores of camera-weilding castmembers who now reside at all the optimum places to take photos. How many get home only to find that those wonderful pictures taken of them will cost them as much as the day at the park did?

My point is all of these things are what a guest could find more devisive. But they are the things that are essential. You have to eat. You have to sleep/bathe/change somewhere.

You have given the Leave a Legacy a greater amount of value than it would have with those on a tight budget. They would simply realize the money would be better spent on items they can take with them to remember their trip.

Mr. Banks, your posts are filled with insightful information. My favorite still is "One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing!" concerning the re-use of the same plot on several rides. I had not thought about it before, but I notice it now! But the use of an emotional device took away from this post. After my eyes rolled back down, I wondered if you had taken a poll of guests to see if they had been "disenfranchised" when they couldn't afford a spot? Or maybe it is a hot topic on a message board?

You are attempting to give these monoliths more meaning/value/power through base emotions. Much more than they deserve. Words such as "divide", "status", "strained" and "proudly" were meant to inflame the reader into a "How dare they!" moment. It is too theatrical. Borderline hyperbole. And unnecessary.

Mr Banks said...

Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for participating in this discussion.

For the record, I'm personally against ANY element of divisiveness at the parks as well as the assaultive sales gimmicks you mention. All those camera wielding cast members, timeshare sales kiosks, merchandising attraction exits and restaurant barkers are all equally repugnant to me. You'll find arguments against them throughout this site.

As for the gratuitous use of 'emotion' to grab a reader I offer no apologies. The degradation of the Disney Theme Park Ideal is a VERY emotional issue for all of us who contribute here. Reporting is not what we do at Re-Imagineering. Championing positive change at the parks is the goal and as such can't be done without passionate heartfelt discourse.

Maybe you're correct, and the Leave a Legacy program isn't any more divisive than a monorail trip past the Grand Floridian. But it certainly FEELS divisive and at the end of the day that's what matters most when you're talking about the degradation of the Disney Theme Park experience.

Anonymous said...

A) I hope that the powers at Imagineering do have the modesty and the wisdom to peruse this site on a regular basis. B) I hope that the responses here, nearly unanimous in their opposition to the Legacy Graveyard, will help get the destruction of this granite monstrosity underway. C) Yes, as someone suggested, why not an accessible visual database. I hazard a guess that 99% of the people who really look at the engraved, ghoulishly grayed-down photos, look only for their own or theirs of their kin/friends, and then glance at a few others out of curiosity.

Wouldn't it be better to have a raft of monitors AWAY FROM THE ENTRANCE, where one could call up a past photo, or record a 1-minute video for prosperity? We could be electronically-visually-audibly memorialized on the day of a happy visit to EPCOT, and re-visit the moment on a later visit. It would take less time to bleep out the bad language than to engrave names on a plaque. Big Thanks to Mr. Banks for stating the case so eloquently and rebuffing criticism so genially!!
Donn

kcnole said...

I personally have no problem with the ability for someone to buy a brick or put their face on a wall. If some want to do that with their money then so be it. As someone already said, there are tons of things that some people do at WDW that I can't afford to do and never will. For example, I'd love a tower room facing the Magic Kingdom in the Contemporary, I'd love to dine at Victoria and Alberts, but I can't afford to so I don't.

I am completely against the leave a legacy kiosks, but not because it divides the guests. There are already divisions. Heck, be even going into the parks we have divided humanity into those who can afford a disney vacation and those who can't. However I hate those things for one simple reason, they are terribly ugly and destroy what was once a beautiful entry plaza, they also cause tons of misery in crowd flow.

I personally hope they keep the images and place them somewhere else where people can still come and find them when they return. I've already offered one option earlier as to where they could go. Just for Gods sake, give us back the beauty that the entry plaza once had. Now it is cold and forbidding instead of being exciting and awe inspiring.

Otter said...

I agree with MrBanks -- the tombstones have always felt out of place at Epcot, not just because they're ugly as sin, but the very vibe of the concept was out of place.

Epcot is a world village, a community, a celebration of the future. When I enter, I don't want to see millions of barely-decipherable photos of TOURISTS. The legacy of Epcot isn't about tourism. It's supposed to be about learning and all of those bright shiny things. That's why the whole concept of Leave a Legacy is abhorrent to me.

A true Epcot-y legacy would be to give $100 to give a kid in a third world nation an XO laptop. The OLPC project is the most Epcot-ish thing happening in the world right now.

Anonymous said...

I believe Otter is on to something with his donation idea.

EPCOT has so many wonderful possibilities and I'm afraid those will just go to waste.

I just hope one day that I will have the ability to shape this marvelous place. I sure as hell know that I have the passion to do so.

kcnole said...

I can't find an e-mail address to e-mail any of you yet so I was wondering if you guys had heard anything about this permit that was just filed by WDI. You can find it here: Click here for permits

Its a permit filed by WDI for demolition to the Imagination Pavilion. I've been hearing rumblings of a major refurb to this pavilion for a while to bring back the dreamport and dreamfinder. Is this finally coming to fruition?

Please fill us in on anything you know about this.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Johnson makes some very incisive comments regarding Mr. Banks post. At least someone finally spelled divisiveness correctly.
Yes, the names could have been put somewhere else, but the argument against the sales ploys? Give me a break. The original Disneyland television show was primarily used as a sales ploy. Don't see anyone arguing that Walt should not have done it.
Selling stuffed animals of only Disney stuff is a sales ploy. No one argues against that here.
The Disney Channel is a "free" cable channel and seems to spend a lot of time "selling" all things Disney. Some could even argue it as propaganda.
So, let's quit using some tired arguments about "sales" as thinly disguised arguments about things people don't like in the parks.
Please remember one key thing, the theme parks are a business, and though the placement of the "Leave a Legacy" things could be questioned, not the program.

Mr Banks said...

Thank you anonymous, for kindly keeping your eyes out for the misspellings.

As for the argument against 'sales ploys' I fail to see where you're getting that. From Disneyland's inception it was important to make money. That's never been disputed. It's all about HOW you go about doing it that is in contention. Walt was all about the soft sell (See 'That's An Exit, Not An Entrance" June 20 2006) and it proved a very lucrative policy.

In the intervening years, however, the company's effort to get your money became more obvious, assaultive and desperate. The Leave a Legacy program was just such a venture, sprung from Corporate Disney's desire to make sure every corner of every park showed a profit. Guests deserve better than that. It's just that simple.

Anonymous said...

>Please remember one key thing, the theme parks are a business, and though the placement of the "Leave a Legacy" things could be questioned, not the program.<

There is no question, the program is precisely the issue. From concept to execution, "Leave a Legacy" reeks of classic Accountanteering, that sub-branch of Disney Imagineering that cloaks the timeworn grab of the carny in the garb of entertainment.

The poster misses the fundamental reason why Disney Imagineering of the Walt era was such a runaway hit with worldwide customers in the first place, namely, that it gave both the customer and the company more than it cost either. It was a win-win on both sides of the turnstile. The essence of Accountanteering takes from the customer more than it gives, and costs the company more it's worth. As a result it rips off both.

mr wiggins said...

>There is no question, the program is precisely the issue....<

...Clarifying, the above "Anonymous" post was mine. (Forgot to press the right button.)

- mr wiggins

Anonymous said...

Isn't there a joke going around that it's the Tomb of the Unknown Imagineer?

Ken said...

Yay, another Re-imagineering post!

I agree on the need for tombstone removal, but I wonder how those people who bought a legacy will feel if the monuments disappear entirely. Maybe if they were moved on some other part of the property?

Braden Miskin said...

I completely agree about it dividing guests. I live in Idaho and am not particularly wealthy so I have only been to Walt Disney World once. Seeing all these strangers' faces did not make me feel like I was part of anything.

In fact, the monoliths mean nothing to people who aren't on them. Plus my nieces and nephews got lost running around them.

Lou said...

Scott Johnson said "I have always seen Epcot as a celebration of our cultural differences."

Cultural, definitely. Not financial. Any Italian who can cook is still Italian, still part of that culture, regardless of wealth.

Since when do people equate culture / nationality and financial status??

teevtee said...

I long for a return to the original plaza, and especially the lucite sculpture which I always LOVED.

Am am no fan of these "tombstones" however I do feel that some historical perspective may be of help. As with select other post on this blog I occasionally find posts that do not seem aware of all the facts.

In this particular case the motivation behind the creation of these things is 100% accurate... ie: Money. However I have not read one mention of the actual person behind this design...

It was designed in part by none other than Disney legend John Hench. In fact Hench came out of retirement to give this his touch and blessing. To put that in perspective Hench was perhaps the single strongest guiding force behind the original EPCOT Center design and had as much influence on the look of Disneyland as Walt himself. He was perhaps THE greatest imagineer of them all. And it was this man who designed these things.

I am not saying that makes the design better, I am not saying he had much to work with and I am not even saying that Hench really did much more than toss in some ideas and act as a PR front... but regardless he was involved.

At the end of the day this does not make the design any better or the impact any less but it does mean that very, VERY talented people were involved with this. Some comments seem to dismiss this as the work of some unknowing or uncaring people and that is simply not the case... and if for nothing else it is just interesting trivia that the same guy who gave us the look of EPCOT gave us this.

Lee said...

To put another spin on this debate. When we were there two years ago, we talked our two sons out of spending money on a plaque. We are headed back this Spring, and my sons have saved money to get a plaque because they think it would be pretty neat to become a piece of the park. I can most certainly tell you that if they do go ahead with their intentions, they would definately be looking for their plaque during our next visit. :)

While some might think them to be suckers, they are pretty excited about the prospect of having a plaque that stays there, it is connecting them to the park.

teevtee said...

Well they no longer sell the plaques so you better brace them for a disappointment.

Ken Paris said...

Thanks so much for writing this article. I too have thought that those ugly, giant monoliths really darken and depress the entrance to Epcot. Since Epcot is supposed to be about the future, these gray, obstacles to movement only ruin the previously light and open entrance. I know that some have spent their money hoping to somehow leave their mark on WDW because they love it. But these ugly "tombstones" only ruin the very thing they love. Like spray-painting their name on a wall at WDW, only the author enjoys it.

Janette said...

WHAT A WONDERFUL FEELING TO REALIZE THAT OTHER PEOPLE SHARE MY THOUGHTS!!
THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE BUT LET'S HOPE SOMEONE WILL HEAR US AND DO SOMETHING URGENTLY!!!!!!!!
JANETTE

Anonymous said...

I thought a little historical perspective would be informative, although it doesn't excuse the tombstones in any way.

In 1993-94, An edict came down from Eisner (and Wells who died shortly after) that operating divisions in the company had to show a 20% increase in performance at the end of the fiscal year, or the Vice Presidents better start polishing their resumes. Anyone who took economics 101 knows that, to accomplish this feat, you'd better cut costs and/ or increase revenue, fast. Cutting costs can happen quickly and is a sure thing; increasing revenue takes longer, requires initial money for start-up, and is never a sure thing. And the clock was ticking.

I was involved in the planning and implementation of the Disney Bricks, which many of us called the Walk of Shame. I complained to a project manager that this project represented the worst of corporate greed: build something useless and unnecessary, design it around monetary performance criteria only, and get the guests to foot the bill while the company profits from it. Outrageous!

Then the project manager gave me a needed dose of reality. The Park Operations Vice President who cooked up the brick scheme had limited choices: figure out creative ways to boost revenue immediately, or start cutting jobs during the start of the summer tourist season. He chose to boost revenue with the brick project. It didn't make the project any better aesthetically, but it gave me perspective. It was a positive, although riskier, solution to a difficult problem, and I appreciated his courage to roll the dice instead of cut personnel, which many other division V.P.'s had started doing by then.

Leave a Legacy is the evil spawn of that early, less malignant foray into fast money. The Walk of Shame performed at or above the projections, Corporate saw another cash cow, and so begat the Leave a Legacy mess we see each day. But like Eisner himself, it will soon be replaced by something better.

ASAthena said...

I recently was at EPCOT and saw those stones...After being to Europe, it made me think of some of the Holocaust memorials I saw over there. REALLY out of place at a Disney park...

ickymouse said...

Oh my God - that photo of the Ghost coming out of the Memorial is priceless! Good job!

thejunebug said...

Actually, I like the way they look. To me, they look like an alien landscape, with Spaceship Earth almost as a strange planet or moon rising above them. More ethereal than ghoulish, but that's my opinion. :)

I think, however, that's the only point I've ever disagreed with you guys on. As someone who grew up an hour away from Disney, I spent countless days there as a child, teenager, and adult. My husband and I are vacation club members, to boot. It hurts to see some of the things that are wrong in the parks and it's good to know there are other people who agree with me.

dpierce said...

My legacy has been left a thousand fold at WDWA. My name is forever inscribed in countless credit card receipts in moby accounting systems, preserved in triple redundant backups for all time.

greaterlater@mac.com said...

I really hope they are gone before I make my trip to Disneyland in the near future! That is so tacky! Definitely not the 'wonderful world' it promises to be!

Anonymous said...

way creepy it's like they stole a piece of you from that point in time and displayed it as an eerie reminder of what was

Ken Paris said...

I say move those ugly stones to a stone garden in the Wonders of Life area. Then those people who want to visit their "memorial" can and those who loved the open, inviting entrance to Epcot can enter without the obstacle course.

"I say Mr. Iger, tear down this wall!"

cyril said...

If Disney decides to redo the entrance plaza to get rid of the monoliths, fine. If they get rid of the little plaques, as opposed to relocating or otherwise preserving them, I'll be quite disappointed.