Last week, we watched the final showing of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth after a 20 year run. I’ve already shared my feelings on the finale here. What I haven’t talked about yet is the temporary replacement show that started running one week ago today. Epcot Forever.
We’re going to fix that now.
I’ll admit that the idea of a temporary show seemed a bit odd when Disney first floated it. They had a long, long, long time to figure out what was coming after Illuminations. They’ve developed shows centered on bodies of water in other parks here and around the world. When Wishes went away at Magic Kingdom, we said our tearful farewells but then stepped into the incredible thing that is Happily Ever After the next night. We didn’t subject ourselves or casual park guests to some temporary show for any period of time.
But the more I learned about Epcot Forever, the more I was touched by Disney’s plans. It would be a show dedicated to nostalgic Epcot. A show dedicated to Walt’s original plans for the park and classic, often now extinct, attractions. We’d hear the old music together. And while I was having trouble imagining a touching, nostalgia-based show that somehow meshed with the melody of Veggie Veggie Fruit Fruit, it felt right. It felt like a hug from Disney. Like they understood exactly what the hard core Illuminations fans that would mourn its passing would need the night (and year) after its final show. The ultimate dose of throwback nostalgia.
I think because this show felt like such a nod to those of us struggling with the end of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, I had (perhaps unfairly) high expectations for it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When we gathered in the park last Tuesday evening to see the first run of Epcot Forever, things were a bit confusing. People were riding jet skis across World Showcase Lagoon. There was some sort of covered barge that looked like a Water Pageant concoction making its way across the water. And then this jarring child’s voice started telling us that the show was coming in “just 30 minutes” … “just 15” … “just 5”.
I was growing increasingly confused and maybe a little concerned.
And then the show started.
I’ll start by saying that hearing Walt’s voice in the beginning, and at the end, was wonderful. Epcot – that Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow – was his baby. His dream project. And his voice deserves a prominent spot in any show that is focused on the origins of this park.
I’ll also say that I understand, at some high level, pretty much every decision that was made about this show. I can almost see myself at the board table agreeing as the decisions were being made. How will be unify all of the attractions that we’re honoring in one show? Use a child’s voice! How will we connect with people that have no memory of old Epcot and also signal that we’re reigning in a new era? Close with A Whole New World! And on and on.
That being said. Ummmm……
The best things that I can say about the new show are:
- Again: Opening and closing with Walt’s voice was spot on.
- The kites are gorgeous and definitely make me excited to see more of the tech and ideas that Disney will implement when the new permanent show, HarmonioUS, starts next year.
- Nighttime World Showcase Lagoon jet ski driver has probably replaced Festival of the Lion King Flying Bird Lady as my (equally unrealistic) dream Disney job.
- There is a nod to Tapestry of Nations somewhere in the middle that was lovely.
- I will be just fine when I have to bid it farewell sometime in 2020.
All of that said, it reads like exactly what it is: a temporary show. It’s choppy and a big disjointed. There are lulls in the activity and music that feel a bit off and the child’s voice is a bit jarring and makes me miss the warm hug that is Jim Cummings’ talking to us. It was a bit hard to hear. And the Aladdin bit at the end feels TOTALLY out of place and really just misses the mark completely. Like they couldn’t fully commit to the nostalgia approach.
It was fun to hear some of the old school music but I think I was geared up for something that felt more polished because, even though it is a temporary show, the fact that it’s bridging the gap between Illuminations and what’s next (rather than their just giving us the big new show right away) make it need a bit more of a purpose.
That said, while I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to see it often, I’m sure we’ll catch it a few times while it runs. I want to watch it again to pick up on things I’m sure I missed along the way the first time. And, as I said before, some of the new details make me excited to see what else they’re working on behind the scenes.
And I guess it’s good that we won’t have to cry all over again next year when we say goodbye to Epcot Forever? So there’s that….
* * * * * * * *
Have you seen the new show yet? Drop a comment below and let us know what you thought of it.