National Geographic Article on WDW (long)

Discussion in 'Disney Rumors and News' started by crazy4wdw, Mar 4, 2007.

  1. crazy4wdw

    crazy4wdw DIS Veteran

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    Very interesting article on WDW from National Geographic - especailly given the recent announcemetns regarding the new developments on the east and west sides of the property

    From National Geographic.com (link: http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0703/feature4/)

     
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  3. rodkenrich

    rodkenrich DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for sharing.
     
  4. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    I'm still trying to figure how where they get this kind of idea that people didn't want to experience a community like Epcot and how it was almost a total failure when they didnt' even attempt to build it after Walt's death. :confused3
     
  5. flyinglizard

    flyinglizard DIS Veteran

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    I read the article in my copy of National Geographic, "Orlando beyond Disney". I was surprised there were not more pictures of WDW or the plans for EPCOT, or much anything else Disney.

    I found the piece to be more of a story about "Orlando, the meltng pot", rather than about Walt Disney or WDW. It is true that the greater Orlando area has many residents from other countries, but as a resident, I have no problem with that. I suspect the "Disney" reference in the title was simply a hook.

    If anyone could offer any further information about when " EPCOT was such a failure that Disney officials faced the embarrassing prospect of shutting it down.", I would greatly appreciate the details. Somehow, in my busy schedule, I missed that and any help would be genuinely welcomed.

    The story seemed to me like more of an assignment with a minimum word requirement, and apparently, there were enough words. The pictures weren't interesting.

    After reading the article, if I were from somewhere else, I might reconsider any thoughts about moving to the area. The author didn't mention the weekly hurricanes, the 40 foot alligators or the spiders, and fire ants and snakes... Oh my...
     
  6. DancingBear

    DancingBear DIS Veteran

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    Huh? NG's title sounds accurate, unlike the title of this thread.

    The description of Epcot is ridiculous, however. Sounds like he's melding in the Boardwalk. Or something.
     
  7. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    Yes, it seems like the author jumped around a lot and didn't really make much sense as far as a conclusion
     
  8. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    This part of the article is inaccurate, but part of the that has to do with attempts to re-write Disney history.

    At the time of construction, EPCOT Center was the largest private construction project in the country. It stretched the resources of Walt Disney Productions to the fullest (and at a time when Disney was a fraction of its current size). About the same time, Roy Disney had launched a proxy fight to remove the existing “Walt’s Family” management from the company. This quickly spiraled out of his control and several outside firms were making passes and “greenmailing” the company (essentially, someone would buy a large amount of stock and demand the current management pay them a premium price to get it back). This too left the company drained of cash.

    Within two years of EPCOT Center’s opening, the Bass Brothers bought control of Disney. They brought in a new management team, headed by Michael Eisner. Eisner had just been fired as the head of Paramount Studios and was brought in to make Disney a major studio once again. It was his mission to bring in the big stars, the big movies. This process had already begun prior to his arrival – Splash had been a monster hit and Disney was already lining up projects. However, Eisner was now in charge and he found that Disney had no extra cash to make the giant budget movies he used to make at Paramount. This upset him greatly.

    Prior to joining Disney, it’s said that Eisner had never been to a Disney theme park. He never watched Disney movies as a child. In private, he dislikes the theme parks intensely. He considers them low class entertainment for people without taste, a kitsch amusement for the uneducated. Eisner didn’t understand all the “science and math” that EPCOT Center was about, he doubted that anyone else cared about it either. At best, he thought, people might like factory tours, but no one is interested in seeing “the future”.

    At the time, EPCOT Center was doing very well. It was pulling in an attendance almost equal to the Magic Kingdom. Better, it was completely reshaping how people viewed Walt Disney World. In the years prior, people saw a trip to the Magic Kingdom as just one stop in a longer trip to Florida. But with the opening of EPCOT Center, people were traveling to Florida just to see WDW. Better still, it was bringing in lots of adults without children, the kind of guest that could afford expensive hotels an sit down restaurant meals. And Orlando started to become a major convention center as well; Orlando was now more than just a kiddie destination.

    There were issues, of course. The park was a bold experiment that focuses on education as much as it did on entertainment – a more difficult task than simply recreating fantasy worlds. Some shows and attractions pulled off the mix better than other. Guests with families were initially put off by the parks difference from the Magic Kingdom – this included a lot of the new management who though of “Disney” as nothing but a family brand name selling Mickey Mouse plush dolls.

    Eisner too was having problems. Roy Disney and the money guys were expecting big results – they had promised all the people on Wall Street (from whom they borrowed billions) that good times were just around the corner. In the old Hollywood tradition, he became to trash the previous management. It wasn’t “Walt Disney” any more; it was “The Dead Guy”. And there was no more tempting target than a billion dollar investment in the Florida swamps.

    Making EPCOT Center the source of everything was wrong also had another purpose. Eisner wanted money to make movies. His idea was to sell off all of the theme parks and reinvest that capital into the studio. He was convinced by Frank Wells that the parks were crucial to Disney’s business – both from a brand and for the huge amounts of cash they generated. Still, Eisner wanted hundreds of millions of dollars instantly and he tried several schemes to sell EPCOT Center to outside investors. Eisner was only stopped when Frank Wells developed the Touchstone Partner financing plan.

    Still, the legacy that Eisner started lived on. To be “corporately correct” inside Disney you had to treat EPCOT Center as disappointment. Eisner cancelled all of EPCOT’s build out plans outright, he cut back on works already in progress (‘The Living Seas’ was cut in half and lost its ride through; ‘Space’, ‘Israel’, and ‘Africa’ were cancelled outright). It became corporate policy that Disney would not spend any of its capital in the park – only products fully paid for by sponsors would be considered. Over time the park was left to rot. It's attractions were allowed to grow stale and the future was allowed to catch up.

    Still, Epcot continues to be a strong success. Its true attendance rivals that of the Magic Kingdom. Its image in the public’s mind is so strong people talk about “going to Disney World and Epcot”. People who created and worked on the original park remain justly proud of their accomplishment.

    But, as always, history is written by the victors.
     
  9. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    AV: Actually I was thinking the EPCOT city project, not the theme park is what's referenced in the article, although it's not entirely clear.
     
  10. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    I was replying to Flylizard's post about the articles claim of Disney shutting down EPCOT Center.

    To your question, the city - people want to beleive it was a "failure" to justify why it wasn't built. The management that followed Walt had to claim it was "unworkable" to justify why they lacked the courage and foresight to continue. The Eisner management team had to say E.P.C.O.T. was a failure to justify using the land for half-day theme parks, strip malls and motels.

    People with small dreams and smaller imaginations allows feel on the defensive when asked "why didn't you make something bigger". EPCOT Center was grand, but it wasn't a grand as the community of E.P.C.O.T. And a phony movie stuido and a couple thousand motel rooms aren't as grand as the massive EPCOT Center park.
     
  11. thefirebuilds

    thefirebuilds Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for taking the time to write all this. Good read.
     
  12. dwaters

    dwaters Mouseketeer

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    Whew!
    You certainly were right about the long part!

    I thought it was interesting that Walt's historic plane ride over Central Florida took place on the same day as the JFK assassination. Nice little trivia tidbit there.
     
  13. flyinglizard

    flyinglizard DIS Veteran

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    Another Voice- Thank you for your lengthy and detailed explanation of the events that were apparently misunderstood by the writer for NG. I really do appreciate your time and effort because I had no idea what the author was talking about. I knew of Ei$ner's dislike for the parks, and his budget trashing so that he could squeeze a few dollars more for his annual compensation package... don't get me started on Ei$ner!

    dwaters- I too found it rather amazing that on the same day JFK was assassinated, Walt was flying over the "swamp". I remember exactly where I was that day and what I was doing. It's a slight comfort to know that on that same black day of death, pain and tragedy, a dream was being born that would bring pleasure to so many.
     
  14. Another Voice

    Another Voice Charter Member of The Element

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    Your welcome, it's good to know someone is reading these posting. There is a lot of Disney history that's been papered over with marketing and the real reason why times are as they are is becoming lost. It's mostly to save corporate ego, sometimes just to make a better press kit.

    The danager is that the company won't learn from their mistakes of the past. The same errors that were made with Euro Disney showed up again in Hong Kong Disneyland; the problems with California Adventure can be found in Disney Studios Paris. As Pixar becomes more and more entanlged in Burbank's operations, I hope that they don't fall victim to same mistakes as Disney Feature Animation.

    As the old saying has it - it's only through understanding history that we can make a better tomorrow.
     
  15. hmp2z

    hmp2z Disney Bride, Mom to Molly, Moose, and Hannah (all

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    I enjoyed this article very much when one of my co-workers shared it with me. She said that she was guilty of being one of Orlando's "drive-by residents" (after 3 years of working in the public schools here, she's running screaming home to Illinois!).

    It's very strange, to go from being a big Disney fan who visits once or twice a year, to living in the area. The whole perception of WDW changes, because you get to see firsthand what it's done to this region. Things that didn't bother me, as a tourist, now infuriate me as a resident. Also, a lot of what is mentioned were things I didn't know about, because I chose not to inquire too closely about the greasy wheels that keep the fantasy running.

    Cheers!
    Heather W
     
  16. suzimar57

    suzimar57 Miss my Happy Place.

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    great article - glad i found it
     

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