REVIEW: “Epcot Forever” Bites the Fan That Feeds It

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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.

Featured Image: Turp Photography (C)

About the author

Nathan Hartman

A sunshine state resident, Nathan is an avid Disney parks wonk as well as a university film professor.

Twitter: @somestuffisaid

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Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

Don’t agree. Out with the old in with the new. Our generations need to stop being so selfish. Let the new generations experience just that, NEW.

William Dwight Stewart Jr
Guest
William Dwight Stewart Jr

Bravo and Nailed on Tiffany !!

David
Guest
David

Although I wasn’t able to see this in person, I did watch the show on Disney’s Live Streaming. Like many of you I am a nostalgic Disney parks fan. I miss Horizons, World of Motion, Original Journey into Imagination and other classic Epcot (and other Disney) attractions. When I was watching the Live Stream I couldn’t believe they added music from Aladdin as part of this Epcot Forever tribute. All of the music leading up to this was awesome. I went onto Twitter to learn I wasn’t the only one disappointed in their decision. I am hoping with enough feedback… Read more »

Hilly
Guest
Hilly

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Nicely stated Nathan!

Paul Alter
Guest
Paul Alter

I honestly thought Disney did a great job of paying homage to the past, but also acknowledging the transition of EPCOT to the changes coming. I think of the title of the show: EPCOT Forever. That encompasses the past, the present, and the future.

Pamela Fischer
Guest
Pamela Fischer

I agree with you 100%. I would like to add, that, in my opinion, Disney has lost sight of the original impetus for the creation of the parks and that was the experience first, marketing secondary…..Marketing seems to have taken the lead on management’s tactics. Everything seems to based around getting people to buy more things, spend MORE money…and the attractions, entertainment, food, and overall level of quality (more so in Florida than California) can be downgraded. If you pull at heartstrings, you can sell more merchandise. The Disney business model no longer has guest experience at the top of… Read more »

John Y
Guest
John Y

I was so sad to see Illuminations go, but I understand that the parks need to change and evolve, so in concept I am ok with it as long as any replacement meets the same high standards we have come to expect from Disney Imagineering. I am also a child of 1980s Epcot, and I love the nostalgia of the old music and the memories it evokes. Accordingly, I was excited about the theme of Epcot Forever. Any opportunity to hear the classic songs and watch Epcot celebrate its roots is welcome. Unfortunately I did not see the show in… Read more »

Jodi kelly
Guest
Jodi kelly

I disagree. I loved it. And I loved that they tied in such a beautiful song at the end. And it IS just a temporary fill in until the new show comes.

Monkeypoopants
Guest
Monkeypoopants

Thank god it is only temporary. Lame fireworks. Horrible covers of original attraction songs. Absolutely no story. And kites.

Looks like a fan designed show.

Kevin Johnson
Guest
Kevin Johnson

Couldn’t agree more. The first 9-minutes warmed my heart, gave me goosebumps, and brought a tear to my eye. Then, at the moment of the emotional climax of the finale was expected, they use “A Whole New World.” Like #WTF Disney?! How about using a new version of “Celebrate the Future,” a song from yesteryear, to usher in the finale as we all “Celebrate the future of Epcot together.”

Edmund
Guest
Edmund

I’m not quite as cynical about the future of Epcot and specifically how this show portends that future. But opinion differences aside, I love some of the phrases and references the author uses in this review.

Ralphie Parker and timeshares in the same article is a winner for me! Keep it up! I’ll read it even if I disagree! :)

Randy Wilson
Guest
Randy Wilson

At the end of it, while the Wolrd Showcase will be pretty much the same, the concept for “the future” has changed. In an era with new technology, the birth of the computer, improved communications, the internet, people saw endless possibilities for the future. Now, in an advent of remakes and rehashing old ideas, the future is less optimistic. Disney does not want to be caught in the stagnation that the rest of humanity has become part of, perhaps?

Brian
Guest
Brian

You NAILED it!! I was saying the same thing at the end of it. It was cool until I realized that the “Future” was going to be completely different, marked by more Disney movie/character incorporation with “A Whole New World”.
Thought it was just me, but then again, I thought the Tron roller coaster should have been in EPCOT (mind you I realize the space constraints but they could have made it work).
I heard people saying last night that it was better than Illuminations. And while it was definitely technologically improved…..not so much.
Thank you for writing this!

Joe
Guest
Joe

Perfectly said and well written Nathan

Eric
Guest
Eric

It’s a temporary show to segue from Illuminations to the next permanent nighttime show. I would fully expect it to be heavy on the nostalgia, market the next new thing, and act as a testbed for some of the new tech and features of the upcoming show without having to go all in.

Susie
Guest
Susie

Exactly! *sigh*

Sherry
Guest
Sherry

Looks like you had the same impression as me. Kites we cool and all, but I expected more lasers and story telling. I’ll be visiting this weekend for a fast pass view. Maybe I will change my mind

trent lange
Guest
trent lange

Horrible!

Bev
Guest
Bev

I’m fine with it. It’s something for the time in between. I think they just want everyone to leave with a smile and a good feeling about what it to come.

Kevin Page
Guest
Kevin Page

Harmonious should officially be called HARMING US

Carl Dickson
Guest
Carl Dickson

I completely agree with this review. Just watched the WDWNT video of the show, the kites are a nice effect, and hearing the old music is great. But sadly this definitely feels like the park’s funeral service, a year long one at that, and knowing what Disney Management wants to do with Epcot……that last song is simply cruel to the max. “Epcot Forever”, more like “Epcot Farewell”.