REVIEW: “Epcot Forever” Bites the Fan That Feeds It
Editor’s Note: I’m contractually obligated to warn you that this review contains “Epcot Forever” spoilers. If you’re planning on experiencing it and forming your own opinions first, I suggest revisiting this post after the fact.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Possibly too powerful. But it’s deeply important in creating who we are as both people and a culture… and it can be manipulated.
“Epcot Forever”, Epcot’s new fireworks show, is certainly not the first time Disney, the absolute king of nostalgia marketing, has used our past memories to dig into our wallets, but it is the greatest bait-and-switch ever made by the parks.
For roughly 9 of the show’s 11 minutes, “Epcot Forever” succeeds in drawing on a 35+ year history of songs (orchestrated gorgeously) that a generation remember fondly only to then, in its final moments, pull the flying carpet out from under everyone with a rousing finale of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.
If you haven’t seen it, give it a watch…
As the final flicker of fireworks died out, many had a simple question: “Why?” What would make management think that you should end a show marketed on nostalgia with a song from a movie whose closest relationship with the park is a princess meet & greet? At the very least, why wouldn’t you use a song from an upcoming IP-based attraction that you’ll be marketing anyway?
But Disney’s reasoning makes more sense when you remember Hollywood Studios’ 30th Anniversary. It was a similar day – a large swath of fans coming together to celebrate a nostalgic milestone only to have management ignore what many were there for and instead push the next “big thing.” That weekend, the “Wonderful World of Animation” evening show premiered at Studios with a not so subtle ending plug for the upcoming Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
As Ralphie Parker once said, “A crummy commercial?”
But what makes “Epcot Forever” a bigger betrayal is that it uses nostalgia to soften you only so it can push an entire new park ethos – “Remember how we brought you here to with the stuff you loved? Well, it’s gone and there is a whole new world coming, so get ready.” For some, that might sound exciting, for the majority of the people at the premiere of “Epcot Forever”, it sounded more ominous.
This is not to say that Epcot doesn’t need some major love or that fresh perspectives shouldn’t be welcome. Many of the park’s upcoming projects are exciting, to say the least. The issue is that Disney has lost its ability to honor its past without also having one foot out the door and ready for the future (and its profits).
Many have asked if “Epcot Forever” would be a celebration or a funeral for a time that once was. In the end, it’s like going to a party to find everyone dressed in black and then someone tries to sell you a timeshare.