Monday, June 11, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond...

When EPCOT Center opened, it was built on the ideals of tomorrow, and showing how future technologies would enhance different facets of our lives. Spaceship Earth showed the wonders of future communication, while World of Motion showcased the past, present and future of transport. Horizons was an all encompassing vision of the future that combined the technologies of all the pavilions.

But at some point, the park drifted away from this ideal, and went towards more contemporary themes, rather than the far reaching idealizations. Now, the park still holds the idea of discovery the wonders of technology around us, but it's far from as ambitious as it should be. And personally, I find Mission: Space to be one of the most lacking in this respect.
(c) 2012 Walt Disney World Resort
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy Mission: Space. It's a thrill ride unlike any other I've been on. It's a pure adrenaline rush, and definitely a unique experience that belongs in a Disney ride. Even the subject is a valid one. Space travel technology and the future of our space-faring selves is something that is innately EPCOT, and should be heavily represented. Which is where my beef with the "pavilion" comes in.
Looks fun. Right? (c) 2012 Walt Disney World Resort
Because let's face it, Mission: Space isn't a pavilion. It's a thrill ride with a McDonald's playplace and a few cheesy video games at the end. There's really very little informing going on. There's no "space technology of the future" save for the rocket in the ride, and even that is barely explained.
Is this really what we want out of a Future World Pavilion? (c) 2012 Walt Disney World Resort
Before Mission: Space was built, a much grander space pavilion was originally planned with the help of legendary author Ray Bradbury (who we sadly lost last week), including a trip to a space station, which the interior of the pavilion would represent. The more ambitious approach was scrapped when sponsor HP came on board, and we got the simulator and simple post show instead.
Ray Bradbury and Card Walker inspect a model of a scene in the proposed Space Pavilion. Courtesy the Explorium.

But in 2013 the HP sponsorship agreement for M:S will expire, and most trusted sources assume they will choose not to re-up. This puts Mission: Space at a crosswords. It was an expensive attraction to design and build, but it's also be largely shunned by park visitors. It never made the impact it was supposed to, and without a sponsor its fate obviously lies in limbo. In the past, losing a sponsor has led to a pavilion's closure or floundering for years before a radical change in direction, as demonstrated by Wonders of Life and The Living Seas respectively.
It is a beautiful building. (c) 2012 Walt Disney World Resort
However, Mission: Space shouldn't have to go to either solution. In fact, I see the potential for the pavilion to expand its scope and its impact.

First of all, the pavilion has a massive amount of open space behind it that could be used for an expanded post show experience about the wonders of space travel and exploration, but I think a more ambitious plan could be pulled off using an even bigger open space right next door.

Yes, I'm talking about the Wonders of Life Pavilion. Now, I realize that the building is currently used as event space, but I'm assuming WDI would have enough pull to change that if my crazy idea was to happen. Imagine a complete reworking of the dome as the inside of a deep-space station that we visit in a newly reworked M:S, where we can see the wonders of space shown in shows, exhibits, and maybe even a planetarium? Imagine Cranium Command becoming a show where a young alien boy shows off his planet and culture to us. Wouldn't that be fun?

Of course, all this is in my imagination, but I think if a great, forward thinking sponsor was brought in, they could do this or most likely something even better. And who do I think that sponsor could be?

SpaceX is that sponsor, in my opinion. The company stands for everything EPCOT Center was founded on. It's a space flight company started by PayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, and has made leaps and bounds in space flight technology. The company aims to decrease the cost of space travel by cutting out the unnecessary red tape that often drives prices up. Last month, they had their first docking of the Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station. And Musk says his company is aiming to have a man on Mars in 10-20 years.
SpaceX Dragon Capsule docked with the ISS. (c) 2012 Discovery News
Sounds like a perfect fit, no? The ride and pavilion(s) could be adapted to focus on SpaceX's Mars goal, or something even more far out. We'd get an actual space flight company to showcase their technologies and ideas for the future, and transform a pavilion that in limbo now into one that could stand as a testament for EPCOT's legacy. And, they have a ton of capital to back it up, and make that corner of EPCOT very, very special.

Now, again, this is just me throwing out a bit of wishful thinking. If I was Disney, I'd be calling Mr. Musk to take over Mission: Space and make the pavilion what it was always intended to be: a real look into space flight.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments, or tweet us at @Parkscope.

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