Thursday, August 21, 2014

EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration - 6 stars out of 10

EPCOT Center: The Opening Celebration - 6 stars out of 10
October 23, 1982

EPCOT Center’s Opening Celebration truly reflects the park.  While it advertises the various rides and pavilions, it is also educational and informative.  Unlike its predecessor parks, this is the first Disney park that Walt did not directly help to plan.  This tv special explains Walt’s dream for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and shows how the Imagineers have brought his vision to fruition.  While there were still too many musical sequences and not enough park exploration for my taste, I like how host Danny Kaye’s songs are a commentary to help us better understand what EPCOT Center is.  It is a little disappointing that the special is not an opening ceremony like the opening of Disneyland.  I’m sure that the world needed an explanation of what EPCOT Center is when this aired, but it is unfortunate that we do not get to see “opening day.”  Most of this special was staged during the first 22 days that EPCOT Center was open to the public and then broadcast with very little live footage.  It basically feels like a Disney Vacation Planning Guide.  One of the highlights of this special is a very young Drew Barrymore, fresh off of her performance in E.T.  She helps Danny Kaye to navigate Future World, which is the main focus of the special.  While a lot of Epcot focused on progress (Horizons, World of Motion, Spaceship Earth), the future technology is in the spotlight.  I’ll bet that the audience was blown away by the robots SMRT-1 and Cinco but it’s pretty funny that most of the things originally contained in the Communicore pavilion are now accomplished with a basic computer.  The special is entertaining but things like Roy Clark singing “This Land Is Your Land” on the Living with the Land ride seem overly tacky.  Even though I’m a bit critical of this tv special, they really hit the nail on the head with the World Showcase.  They capture the essence of this permanent World’s Fair and show how we can experience the food, architecture, and cultures of many nations in a single afternoon.  You even get to see a lost piece of Epcot as Alex Haley describes the Equatorial Africa pavilion that was planned but never built.   The Opening Celebration of EPCOT Center is not quite what I had hoped for, but it gives a nostalgic look at the parks while reinforcing the dreams of Walt Disney.

[Pictured: Mickey on Spaceship Earth in an old EPCOT Center promo]

Other Park Opening TV Specials:

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