Foto Face-off Friday – EPCOT Center v. Epcot

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Congratulations on making it to the conclusion of another work week! Do to the delay in this week’s post (busy day at work!), your weekend has likely already started, but hopefully this still eases you into relaxation mode. In this somewhat different edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” which is the better incarnation of Walt Disney World’s second park: EPCOT Center or Epcot. Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

Going into this, I thought it was an interesting topic. A plausible argument for Epcot’s quality can be made; the problem is, plausible arguments don’t really matter when people are choosing their favorites. The undeniable champion of this week was EPCOT Center. It wasn’t even close, although some did side with Epcot on Twitter. Here is what some of our followers on Twitter had to say:

@RikkiNibs Epcot era. For me, EPCOT Center was too boring. Didn’t offer me personally enough.

@RyanKilpatrick EPCOT Center hands down. Loved original recipe JII, Horizons, WoM. Soarin’ is the only new ride I’d take. #disneydebate

@AmyBethCombsThe EPCOT Center era, without a doubt. Everything was original & free of synergy. It all inspired me. Loved it. #disneydebate

@DisneyMoose EPCOT center all the way bring back Horizons, Wonders of Life and Dream Finder

@wdwfigment As much as I like most of the current stuff, I would give it all up for one EC ride, Journey into Imagination (w/ Dreamfinder)

@JackieWhite0922 I don’t think that’s fair! I would say the epcot era is modern thrills with edutainment filled in. So there. :p

Perhaps that seem so polarized, but when coupled with the thoughts of our photographer friends, EPCOT Center became the clear winner. Perhaps Epcot isn’t as fun to photograph?

Along with their photo entries, we asked for an explanation as to why each poster preferred their respective choice. Their reasons may pertain to photography, general enjoyment of the choice, or both. Their personal thoughts are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream. It was such a good week in the Flickr group with great photos and thoughtful explanations that I just felt I couldn’t limit it to the best ten. Plus, this is a throwdown, rather than a face-off, so technically, I should be able to include up to twenty entries (that’s my justification and I’m stickin’ to it. Plus, does anyone really mind seeing more excellent photos?!

Epcot Center: Imagination
This is actually a tough call for me, because there are two very good reasons that Epcot Center is better. I figure I’ll get this out of the way early: “Journey Into Imagination” I look forward to someone else taking up the mantle of The Living Seas (withOUT Nemo and Friends). It will be some time before I forgive them for taking out the hydrolators.

Reflections of Earth, 1982 edition
My first-ever visit to Walt Disney World was a one-day trip to EPCOT Center in November, 1982, a mere six weeks after it opened. I have fond memories of the attractions that were open then and those that were added over the next several years. Don’t get me wrong, Mission Space (orange) and Test Track are among my favorite attrractions in the whole World, but if I have to decide, give me Communicore and the Astuter Computer Review, hydrolators, the rainbow tunnel and an Ellen-free Universe of Energy. At the very least, please, please, please bring back the ponds that provided this wonderful view of Spaceship Earth.

Cory Disbrow:
EPCOT Center - We Are Here...To Change the World
For me, it’s definitely EPCOT Center. I remember the first time I saw SSE and it blew my mind. I remember the Hydrolators tricking the 6 year old version of me into think we actually went down below to Sea Base Alpha. I remember Horizons being one of favorite rides as a little boy. And now while I don’t have any shots from my childhood(thankfully my parents didn’t give me the camera back then, film was expensive!), I have this shot from part of EPCOT Center where old is new again: Captain EO. I remember being young and between this, Journey into Imagination, and the Image Works playground(the whole thing, not the crap that’s there now), we could spend two hours in just one pavilion. Absolutely amazing!

Matt Pasant:
EPCOT - China Pavilion
Give me Epcot Center. Disneyland was revolutionary, Walt Disney World and the the Magic Kingdom were epic. Epcot Center was revolutionarily epic. A living breathing Worlds Fair where science and the diverse worlds cultures come together. It may not have been what Walt first described in 1966 but I am betting he would not be disappointed.

World Showcase is the best part of Epcot Center. I love how you can experience so many different cultures all in one spot.

A Wondrous Ceiling.
I had never really been to the classic EPCOT Center, by the time I had made my first trip to Disney World, Horizons had disappeared and the Dreamfinder was no where to be found but luckily for me Nemo had not swam his way into The Living Seas and I vividly remember my sense of panic as I flashed back to Jaws 3 while the Hydrolators began to “travel” deep into the oceans.
Years later I made a trip to EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival where I stepped into the Wonders of Life Pavilion looking for some sort of wine tasting, demonstration thing. I was dumbstruck, while the Pavilion had been more or less gutted, this sense of wonderment, creative, innovation, and learning washed over me. I know it sounds strange but knowing what EPCOT Center used to be and without the fear of Jaws clouding my judgement, I was able to catch this glimpse of an EPCOT Center that I wish I could have been to and now very dearly hope that they bring back. (Wow that was a bit long winded, wasn’t it?)

France Pavilion - EPCOT
I have to go with EPCOT Center also. The vast majority of my pictures from EPCOT could be classified as from EPCOT Center. World Showcase allows you to experience so many different cultures all in one place. Like many of the comments above I miss the attractions that have passed into history. The Hydrolators provided such a great illusion of traveling down to the bottom of the ocean. The Wonders of Life pavilion used to provide hours of things to see and do. When the Wonders of Life pavilion is open for other events I still enjoy going in and reminiscing about how it used to be.

Photogineer (Doug):
Let's go UP
As much as I love EPCOT (current), I would have to go with EPCOT Center. It is still my favorite park but I really wish we could go back to the edutainment aspect again. Horizons, World of Motion were by far what made EPCOT for me. Being an engineer I was always looking forward to the future and looking at what this world could invent. EPCOT Center always fueled that forward looking for me. I fell in love the first time I stepped foot in Future World. Plus you had World Showcase which was a huge bonus. I am glad the Land still holds true in some way to the EPCOT Center. Just wish there was more.
wonderful world of hilary:

Finally, my entry and commentary:
SpaceShip Earth Non-HDR "HDR"

Most people who know me would think, after reading the preceding entries, that mine would make it a clean sweep. Since this is a Disney Debate, I figure I’ll make this interesting and choose the unpopular side. Unpopular might be a bit of an overstatement, because Epcot as it presently stands is wildly popular, satisfying millions of guests annually. Perhaps unpopular among Disney geeks such as ourselves (don’t view it as a pejorative term; embrace it) it’s unpopular, but what the diehard fans want and what the public enjoys are clearly not always the same thing. Stated differently, if this Face-off were presented to a representative segment of the Walt Disney World-going public, the results wouldn’t be nearly so skewed.

So if the sage wisdom of diehard fans instructs us that EPCOT Center is superior, why do casual guests respond so well to (most of) Epcot? My reasoning would be its balance. Whereas EPCOT Center had wonderful storytelling and ahead-of-its time Omnimover attractions, it ignored broad demographics of guests. Change had to occur to achieve balance, and with that, some favorites had to go, as the park couldn’t sustain further expansion. While it could be argued that some attractions at Epcot are being reduced to the lowest common denominator in such a manner that they’re almost insulting to the majority of guests. Fans offer extremely limited and constrained examples (a single line from the new SpaceShip Earth such as “…thank the Phoenicians…”), but overlook the rest. There is still plenty of Edutainment at Epcot. The whole of World Showcase, Livin’ with the Land, SpaceShip Earth, the Seas, and elements of Universe of Energy are all instructive to various degrees. I would argue that those who think Epcot educates to a substantially lesser extent than it once did are engaging in revisionist history. Certainly, it does not educate quite to the extent, but as a theme park, it can be argued that EPCOT Center was not fulfilling its primary purpose to entertain. Moreover, a theme park cannot, and should not, attempt to educate on the level of a graduate level dissertation, and must be carefully parse divisive topics so as to not alienate any segments of the audience (see Universe of Energy). To this end, Epcot accomplishes its goals rather well.

It’s tough to argue with the loss of Wonders of Life, Journey into Imagination, Horizons, World of Motion, and the Kitchen Kabaret. However, sometimes the memory of something is better than having the thing itself. Were some of these attractions around today, it is likely that they’d be largely neglected, popular only with only the most steadfast Disney fans, and ignored by the majority of guests who felt no connection. Perhaps unfortunately, but it’s a different world today than it was in 1982. Although we may not like that, rather than dwelling on the past, we should embrace the present. Attractions like Soarin’, SpaceShip Earth (even with its descent) and its excellent Project Tomorrow, Turtle Talk, O’ Canada, Mission: Space, Test Track, and the Sum of all Thrills offer wonderful new options that, while perhaps not on par in our minds with those of years past, offer something new with mainstream appeal.

Now, let’s just get a refurbishment to Journey into Imagination that brings back Dreamfinder, and I think we’ll all be a little more satisfied with Epcot!

Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday is going to be a good one. This challenge features two of Walt Disney World’s biggest stars: Cinderella Castle and SpaceShip Earth. Post a shot showing your favorite and explaining why it should be the “chosen one”!  Foto Face-off Friday will be taking a week off next Friday while I travel to Disneyland, so you have until the following Friday to post your entry–and as an added bonus for this Face-off of the most epic proportions, all Flickr entries will be posted to the blog! Please, help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Cinderella Castle v. SpaceShip Earth!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog, so get to Tweetin’ and Postin’!

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Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page ( and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (

3 thoughts on “Foto Face-off Friday – EPCOT Center v. Epcot

  • August 14, 2010 at 3:57 am

    Horizons, World of Motion, the old versions of Spaceship Earth (with Jeremy Irons was it?), Journey into Imagination (full of ideograms), Centorium instead of Mouse Gear and World of Motion…plus the aforementioned rainbow tunnel and ponds. But would I want to lose Soarin’, Test Track and Mission Space? Hell no.

    The Seas is better with a Nemo theme but its tatty these days and they need to spruce up the tanks. Oh and the awful makeover at the Mexico pavillion, bring the original back please.

    Couldn’t we just have it all? 🙂 They can ditch Wonders of Life since its never open and Universe of Energy to put Horizons and World of Motion back in!

    • August 14, 2010 at 3:59 am

      Hadn’t realised I miss World of Motion so much I listed it twice – lol

  • October 14, 2011 at 10:20 am

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