I flew to Orlando last weekend for the 35th anniversary of Epcot – Disney’s first “non-Magic Kingdom” theme park. The ceremony itself was nothing spectacular – former Disneyland and now-Walt Disney World President George Kalogridis gave a speech – but I enjoyed the opportunity to check in with what was once my favorite theme park.
Other parks I have visited now offer better theming, better attractions, and even better food. But Epcot still offers some of my favorite moments in the theme park world. What it does not offer, however, is many of its original attractions.
Of the rides and shows that opened with the park on October 1,1982, only one now plays as it did on that day – the Impressions de France movie in the park’s World Showcase. With its stunning cinematography and impressively curated soundtrack of French classical music, Impressions de France remains the best movie ever produced for a theme park, so I am grateful that Disney has shown the good sense to leave it alone.
With its diverse collection of expressive human characters and sensitive acknowledgment that American history is far from perfect, Epcot’s The American Adventure remains the most impressive Audio Animatronic show that Disney has ever produced, but Disney has switched up the video montage at the end of that show a few times since the park opened. The Spaceship Earth and Listen to the Land rides have had narrative changes over the years. Other than those, however, everything else from the park’s first years is gone.
This isn’t that unusual. The majority of the Disney and Universal theme parks in Orlando and Southern California bear little resemblance to their opening-day forms. Heck, Disney California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood would be almost…