While there may not be an elephant in the room, there is a tree. A tree that says one thing. His name is Groot. Last time we saw Groot up on the big screen he was just beginning to spread new roots. The question lately is are those roots taking ground in Walt Disney World's EPCOT. Now, to be clear, this is rumor only currently and the grain of salt to be taken with this could tip the table over if placed near the edge. That being that...let's discuss.
Back when the trailers for Marvel's new film, Guardians of the Galaxy, started to emerge, there was one fact that was plain to see. While observing a raccoon and a tree with a vocabulary consisting of very few words fire guns at aliens was not primary on the radar of the average movie goer, I was aloft in anticipation.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning introduced me to the Guardians in comic form in 2008 and I was hooked pretty quickly. It was Star Wars flavored adventure in the Marvel Universe. Fish in a barrel as it were for my liking. Many years later Marvel found itself as one of the most anticipated film studios (a fact that still makes me cheer looking back at a youth spent reading comics quietly in a room alone) and millions of folks anticipating what would come next. When GOTG first said hello to these millions, they did so by being proclaimed as "a bunch of a-holes". It was perfect. Audiences though did not know how to respond at first. Marvel films, to that point, were superhero fare BUT had stuck to mainly Earth based tales (Thor's opening aside) and only dabbled with space travel and larger sci-fi territory. Now, we were in the cosmos and had a talking raccoon, a green skinned woman, a WWE wrestler, that guy from Parks and Recreation...and a tree. A tree firing a machine gun.
Lo and behold, Guardians of the Galaxy releases unto the masses and they go nuts. It becomes a massive hit, immediately gets a sequel announced and baby Groots are everywhere. Even the soundtrack, which could have been called "Thanks RESERVOIR DOGS", is a massive hit. Chris Pratt becomes a household name, utter chaos ensues.
During this time of growth for a franchise, something else stays the same, despite its initial creation being based upon what the future would bring. EPCOT in Walt Disney World has shown signs of growing stale for nearly a decade. In particular, Future World is struggling to finds its place in the present day. Neither futuristic nor nostalgic, it lingers and becomes sparse. Innoventions exists primarily as a character meet and greet location with the odd experience thrown in here and there to give a semblance of a full thought. It's not though. Journey Into Imagination is a shell of its former self, just begging to be torn down. Captain EO has, thankfully, left the building leaving a charming place holder in its wake but a Disney and PIXAR Short Film Festival may not have legs in the long run. Mission : SPACE is a harsh ordeal that very few have a desire to visit more than once. Even Spaceship Earth is starting to feel old despite its last revision occurring in 2008. Finally, there is Universe of Energy starring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye. This attraction in particular has gained a notorious reputation as a place best to sleep than to actually experience while conscious. The story is still workable but its extreme length and dated look harm the overall production to the average park guest. Change is needed in Future World and everyone agrees on that point. The "how" is the contested point. And here is where the past meets the future.
Word has it that Quill and Company, the Guardians of the Galaxy, are set to land near about where the Universe of Energy eats its lunch. Now, everyone can universally shake on the idea that Universe of Energy is becoming its own fossil, but does it need another Disney IP to takes its place while other ideas could be dreamed up to not only satisfy the need of fresh experiences but also fit the mold cast that is/was Epcot? Does Future World in a sense lose its name in order to continue being viable in the future it once so proudly displayed? Let's assume GOTG is announced and three years from now we have a new attraction with all the trimmings of a technological wonder that sends us on an adventure through the cosmos...while being chased by space pirates. Personally, I would rather travel through the cosmos with the soothing tones of Neil Degrasse Tyson orating the narrative as we break the confines of the Milky Way Galaxy, but I see and understand the appeal of wanting to attract a new breed of guest into Epcot too. An attraction with the name MARVEL on the marquee will gain a lot more ground with young kids, especially teenage boys, a demo that Disney is trying to connect with, and families than that of the "edutainment" that Epcot first promoted. I understand that it's easier to use an intellectual property you own than create something wholly different. It makes more business and logical sense. That does not make it the most creative choice though or the one that best fits the mission statement of the park it resides in. The mission statement that Walt Disney himself lay the groundwork for.
I like to believe that people still can be wowed by the world around them and the world that waits beyond the horizon. I like to believe that the Imagineers at WDI can create a magnificent look into a future far beyond our lifespans. A journey to take with others. Showing how science fiction is becoming science fact. How one's imagination can build a whole new world. Maybe that spirit will be interjected back into Innoventions and the Imagination pavilion while, on the opposite side, resides the strange friends that I cheered for when most were predicting Marvel's first big failure. A raccoon, a tree, an assassin, a warrior and a man.
Walt always said that the parks would "continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world", and he was right. Mary Sklar has also noted that the parks are not a "museum" and that things must change to continue. He is on point as well. I am extremely excited to see the next phase of Epcot begin to take shape. I am just anxious that what attracted me to the park in the first place will be lost.
What do you think? Can both interests be satisfied? Does a Guardians attraction attract you? If Innoventions reclaimed the mantle of innovating, would you feel more comfortable with an IP driven attraction?