Walt Disney World (FL)

Awesome Planet: Visually Stunning, but….

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The newest film to come to The Land pavilion debuts today, January 17. How does it compare to its Lion King-centric and preachy predecessor?

If Awesome Planet is a preview of Epcot attractions to come, then the Earth is doomed and we’re all going to die.

Don’t get me wrong – the film’s visuals are gorgeous, and comprehensively cover both the planet’s animals and biomes.  To the film’s credit, it actually uses the word “biomes” instead of “environment”.

Also to its credit as a large, multi-national corporation, Disney has always presented the best scientific theories of the time in its public presentations on everything from Earth’s biodiversity through evolution, to dinosaur extinction, to how the solar system and universe were formed.  The beginning of Awesome Planet continues this, with a fantastic clip explaining the Giant Impact Hypothesis, showing how the Earth and moon were formed by a collision with the early Earth and a planet about the size of Mars.

Another good point is that Awesome Planet doesn’t shy away from showing the threats the planet is currently facing: rising temperatures, higher sea levels, more intense storms, and more wildfires.  Perhaps there’s some hope for us after all, even in the face of those.

The film’s fatal flaw is that it doesn’t mention – at all – the root cause of these problems, or what we can do to solve them.  In contrast, the previous film that played here, Circle of Life, had an entire segment dedicated to man’s negative impacts on the environment, with an uplifting message on how to improve.  Why is this important for a theme park film?  For one thing, Epcot is literally dedicated to improving the planet.  In that context, not explaining something as basic as a cause-effect-solution loop for environmental impacts borders on negligence.

What makes this more galling is that the film’s script has narrator Ty Burrell mimic his role as realtor Phil Dunphy from Disney’s Modern Family television show.  The film’s premise is that you’re looking for a planet to buy, and “Phil” is walking you through the benefits of Earth, including use of the phrase “location, location, location.”

In other words, Disney thought it was more important for the Awesome Planet script  – which is about the planet’s natural world – and in a pavilion literally called The Land – to have a tie-in to a fictional real estate agent from one of its television franchises, than to explain the causes of mankind’s greatest environmental threats and what we can do to solve them.

I may as well be saying this for Epcot as well as for the planet: it was great while it lasted.

Running time: About 10 minutes

Awesome Planet **1/2 stars


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Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

13 thoughts on “Awesome Planet: Visually Stunning, but….

  • Thank you for the review, and perspective. Go figure, a review includes an opinion. I wouldn’t say a message about the need to protect our AWESOME PLANET is preachy, political, or a downer, but that’s just my opinion.

  • Please realize that if you are not part of the solution, you are likely part of the problem that is not being addressed.

  • I must say I commend Disney for choosing not to preach an agenda. I may actually go see the film now. Touring Plans I love you, but please don’t choose to preach at me.

  • No one wants a sermon

  • Need theme park related info and reviews and not to be preached to.

  • I pay a subscription to touring plans for a touring plan and a review of the parks entertainment level, not a preach about the environment. You can get that all day, every day, everywhere else BUT on holiday. Its like you cant have any joy in life nowadays.

  • I have to say, I agree with Pluto here. This and particularly the Canada Far and Wide review were really strange for me (the latter as a Canadian). I’m not sure how this adds anything the the review that is useful to a Touring Plans reader.

  • Agree 100% with Brian and gd.blaze. “What should we do about it” is a completely political question with tense disagreement between people. That’s the LAST thing I want on vacation.

    On top of that, a video like this can state what is happening and still be accurate in 20 years. Any deviation into the why’s and how’s will be stale in 5. And let’s face it: This video will still be here in 20 years.

  • Very weird that they chose to use Ty Burrell’ Phil Dunphy character, a character from a show that will be ending in just a few months. Seems rather short-sided thinking. But, then again , sounds like the whole film is filled with that type of thinking.

    But it’s likely another Epcot film that we will be skipping.

  • Saw it yesterday. Completely agree.

  • We don’t go to Disney for politics and we don’t come to touring plans for them either (see also, the review of Canada: Far and Wide)

  • Judy Dench: So here’s to the next 30,000 years on Spaceship Earth. While no one knows for sure what we’ll see or do, I do know it will be quite an adventure—an adventure that we’ll take and make together. See you in the future!

    EPCOT is not dedicated to improving the planet. EPCOT is dedicated to inspiring people to improve and build great things while keeping in mind how we interact with the planet, history, ocean, people, etc…

    I’m glad there’s no lecturing, this means that Disney will continue to be a place of escape… for a little while longer at least.

  • Previously at Epcot:

    Oh, I know this one: “What is coal?”

    Correct! And we’ve discovered two centuries’ worth!

    Whoa! What about global warming?

    It’s a hot topic, with lots of questions. And it’s one of the big reasons scientists are working on ways to burn fuels, like coal, more efficiently than ever.

    No one goes to Disney World to watch an Al Gore lecture on climate change – and while there’s no real dispute as to increased temperature, the science is not settled on the severity of future rises, the effect on storms or wildfires, and especially not on effectiveness of any proposed solutions. It sounds like Disney took the right tack here, as they did with Ellen—acknowledge the issue, promote innovation, and leave hard solutions for somewhere other than a theme park.


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