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The Great EPCOT Debate – Intangibles

By March 22, 2019 May 13th, 2019 No Comments

On October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom opened. When the powers that be at Disney saw the amazing popularity of this park, they decided that a second one should be built to compliment the first and to accommodate the throngs of guests. They used the idea of Walt Disney’s prototype for the future of towns and cities and called the 2nd park EPCOT. It opened 11 years later to the day of its predecessor. There have since been 2 more parks that have opened in Florida since but they would not have opened if EPCOT had failed.

It’s a running friendly debate among the Believe Vacation agents if EPCOT is the best of all the 4 parks. A few of us are purists and will never take the title off the Magic Kingdom.  Some of us are more hip and like the thrills of Hollywood Studios and others have really gotten into Animal Kingdom.  But EPCOT seems to be the hot button park and thus, we’ve created a series of articles that will settle once and for all EPCOT’s spot on the rankings of theme parks.

Welcome to Believe Vacations’s Weekly Post where today starts a series focusing on EPCOT.  For our first category, we will debate the INTANGIBLES that EPCOT and the other parks contain. In futures rounds, we will assign a team to go first and the second team gets to rebut their answers. Today, there is no side that goes first. Everyone on each side was asked to submit one intangible thing that makes either EPCOT or any of the other 3 parks always stand out to him/her. This can be a memory, a tradition, something that happens every day in the park, an attraction or show, basically the ONE thing that comes to mind when someone mentions EPCOT or another park. At the end of the article, you will see how the judges responded and ultimately, which side won the round. Below is some of the real dialogue that took place:

Epcot Intangibles

1) Walt’s Dream

EPCOT was Walt Disney’s brainchild, so much so that with his passing, so did the true vision of what EPCOT- an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow- was to be. Those who worked with him throughout his career couldn’t even wrap their heads around the true scale of what he envisioned as a living, breathing city that was constantly updated with modern conveniences of the future and a Utopian layout. While we may not have received Walt’s exact vision, we DID get practically two parks in one (Future World, showcasing science and technology, and World Showcase, presenting the world’s highlights through culinary and cultural events); in fact, these were originally designed and had models built for two separate parks before legendary Imagineers Marty Sklar and John Hench famously pushed the two together to form what we know as modern-day EPCOT. Rich in history, a true visionary park, with one foot in the past and the other in the future- that is what makes EPCOT unique and a must-do when planning a Disney vacation. EPCOT represents things that are or things that could be.

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2) Never a “Down Season”
EPCOT has festivals throughout the year. They are the main reason I take into consideration when planning my Walt Disney trip. During these, you may get to sample a variety of amazing different food and drinks throughout the countries which are the best food selections from all other parks hands down!

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3) Memories
My dad passed away when my oldest was a baby, so he wasn’t able to visit Disney with my kids. He took me every year to either Disneyland or Walt Disney World and his favorite park was EPCOT. I always feel a special connection when I walk through the gate and remember holding his hand walking through the countries or riding The Land. I try to pass along those memories and feelings to my kids so they can feel close to the Papa they never got a chance to know.

Other Park Intangibles

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1)  Entire Park Theming EPCOT feels very homoginous to me.   In EPCOT, you get a future side of things and a feature of different countries.  There is no variation between different parts of the park outside of the World Showcase and once you do get to the World Showcase, the food choices and theming are random. The shops are fun if you enjoy that sort of thing and after a few snacks at the food pavilions, you just can’t eat any more especially since you probably have a dining reservation coming up soon.  .  Rather, Hollywood Studios is an overall tribute to the screens, small and large.  Everything immerses you into showbiz and celebrity glitz and glamour.  At Animal Kingdom, we are paying respects and a visit to creatures in as man-made of a natural habitat as we can imagine.  It’s a salute to our animal friends as we become a part of their world and learn about their circle of life. 

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2) Easier to Navigate The sheer distance of completing the World Showcase loop is daunting and if you decide you need to be elsewhere, there’s no quick or easy way to get back.  At the other parks, there are numerous ways to get around, to cut out a few steps, to bypass some crowds and to skip ahead of the pack.  Plus, you can always find your way back to the middle of the other 3 parks by locating the iconic landmark within.  At EPCOT, the iconic landmark (Spaceship Earth) is at the front of the park so there is no true central landmark to find your way.

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3) THE Picture There’s a reason that Cinderella’s Castle is projected on the intros to every Disney movie – It’s that iconic.  Families travel from all over the world for that iconic picture in front of the castle. THE Picture is hanging in living rooms, offices, in wallets, on desktops and social media profile pics all over the world.  It is THE Intangible!

Judges’ Comments

Judge 1 – I am compelled by Team Epcot due to the nostalgia plus appeal to variety with festivals. EPCOT 1 – Other 0

Judge 2 – I do like that EPCOT has the festivals, but I definitely think those appeal more to adults than children. EPCOT to me seems like so much more of an adult park. I do like the thought that EPCOT was Walt’s dream and am hopeful that it is still being tweaked” to get to the true vision of what he wanted. The thought that EPCOT represents things that are or things that could be… is cool. It definitely seemed “futuristic” to me when I was a kid but it definitely needs lots of work to make me feel that way now. I know this is hard because things are constantly changing. I definitely am all over the point in regards to navigating and theming in comparison to the other parks. I feel like EPCOT is not quite what it could be but am hopeful it will be in the future! As an adult, I’m starting to see the fun in the different festivals so EPCOT may be growing on me “a little tiny bit”! I’m giving this one to Team Other Park because they make lots of great points about navigation and overall theming. Memories can definitely be made in each park- it’s sweet how different ones stick in our heads.
EPCOT 1 – Other 1

Judge 3 – Team Other. I agree that theming is key. Feeling completely immersed is what Disney is all about for me. I didn’t get to EPCOT but once as a child when what’s in Future World was actually futuristic. I do look forward to the changes that are coming with the renovation, but for now, I look at it as a nice place to chill – mostly with grownups. It absolutely IS daunting to head out into World Showcase, and since planning any park day tends to center around FastPasses and fireworks, I feel like it is very easy to get stuck in the front of the park or feel like it will take a long time to get back to the front of the park. I do have a place in my heart for EPCOT, but I want to feel more transported when I’m there and have it be a place my kids are thrilled to go to. I’m hopeful for the future!
EPCOT 1 – Other 2

Judge 4 – Team Other Parks. Disney, for me, is all about the magic. I’ve grown to like EPCOT more and more over time, particularly as an adult with experiences like the food and wine festival. But there’s still no feeling like walking into the Magic Kingdom and seeing the castle.
EPCOT 1 – Other 3

Judge 5 – For me, all the parks have emotions/memories attached. So leaving those out of the equation seems only fair. I also think that Walt’s vision was lost when he passed. And that’s a huge thing for where EPCOT is now vs. where it should be. However, we are judging the park at its current state and not its potential. Because they all have potential to grow into something more! I love the idea of the one foot in the past and one in the future. I feel like it must be so hard to keep up a park that represents the future when technology changes sooo fast!! So Future World would constantly be changing!! And World Showcase would stay the same which is great for nostalgia and the theme. And Spaceship Earth/the Epcot “golf ball” (says my 3 year old son) is iconic like the Castle, Tree of Life and Sorcerers hat/Chinese Theater. However not centrally located, it still is a landmark in the park. Overall the theme does become blurry when it’s divided by land and sea/Innovations and World Showcase. And yes, it’s very spread out. With a lot of dead walking between attractions. The festivals are wonderful but more geared for adults to enjoy. The intangible to me for Epcot is culture/humanity/science. No one really addressed that. The impact humanity makes on the Earth and it’s own corner of the Earth is what makes it so special. I feel a connection and get to experience a small part of different cultures and the science that goes into protecting and building a better planet. Maybe AK makes you feel a small part of that intangible as well. So I don’t think it was proven with this round. I’m on Team Other for those reasons. EPCOT 1 – Other 4

Judge 6 – I guess the two reasons why I have trouble with EPCOT is that it’s not as little kid friendly and the countries are mostly gift shops. With that being said, I think with the Ratatouille ride and a few other things in the works, the countries are having a little more appeal. I agree that it is ALOT of walking. EPCOT 1 – Other 5

Judge 7 – I do love EPCOT but I cannot disagree with a lot of the points made. I do think Future World is hard to maintain because of technology changing so fast but I also agree it’s more of an adult park. I think the festival scavenger hunts, kidcot location and characters help but I think there could be more. We enjoy it as a family but ultimately my husband and I had the best time at EPCOT for our Valentine’s Day trip when it was just us. We could leisurely stroll through the World Showcase and soak it all in. He also enjoyed drinking around the world and wouldn’t do that with our girls. If I have to choose I would be team other parks solely because of Magic Kingdom. The magic and feeling MK gives me just cannot be beat. I’m addicted to the magic! EPCOT 1 – Other 6

Final Score and Thoughts

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Team Other Parks wins the Intangibles Round handily 6-1 which puts them up 1-0 in the Great Epcot Debate. Based on the responses of our judges, EPCOT has some good going for it in terms of a more cultural park for adults to enjoy. Where EPCOT is lacking compared to the others is in 3 areas: 1) The current lack of updates to keep it more modern (although those are coming in the next few years); 2) Having 2 themes actually does more damage because there is not one total immersion experience unlike the other parks; 3) EPCOT simply suffers from being the 2nd park. It’s tough to compare to the original in the Magic Kingdom even though it gives its best effort.

Next week, EPCOT has a chance to gain a victory because we’re going to focus on the food selections. Until next week, we’ll change our tagline to say one little spark of inspiration is at the heart of all creation!

Brian Pavlick

Brian Pavlick

Brian Pavlick is a husband and father residing in Maylene, AL. His love of Disney goes back to his early memories of watching the New Disney Channel on cable, occasional vacations to Orlando Florida and attending Disney Institute Management Training classes. He keeps up with Disney news and updates by reading numerous websites, experiencing attractions by watching YouTube videos and introducing his family to classic and timeless Disney movies, attractions and songs.