As a child, I had the benefit of growing up near Walt Disney World. Cinderella’s Castle and Spaceship Earth became common sights as I was lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of being a seasonal passholder. The bright colors and catchy songs of Fantasyland amazed my young self and then, in later years, I became fascinated by the world brought to life by EPCOT Center’s Future World.
By the time I had reached high school, I had fallen out of the Disney bubble. I stopped connecting with the material like I had before. It wasn’t cool to be super into the cartoons and songs associated with the Disney brand and I admit to falling into that misguided thinking. Once an adult, I stopped caring about “cool” but it didn’t become financially reasonable to return to the place I had so enjoyed as a kid.
Today, I am in my 30’s and I made my return to Walt Disney World last summer. Roughly half my life had gone by since the last time I went through those archways greeting you. The World I found there reminded me of all the wonderful times I had there when I was younger. It was like finding a box of old photos you had stored away and forgotten you still had. The nostalgia I had felt was mixed with a sense of discovery as I bounced from the attractions I had known as a child to new ones that had arrived since I had last visited. It took a total of one day to know that not only was paying for a new annual pass worth it, but I would be using it as often as I reasonably could.
But after the sense of wonder began to wear off I discovered that some of my nostalgia stemmed from the fact that some areas had been essentially left untouched since my childhood. Classic attractions that take you into the past, like the Haunted Mansion, or a fantasy world, like Peter Pan’s Flight, can survive without changing much over the years. However, an area named “Future World” needs to maintained in a different way.
I grew up loving the unique mix of honoring scientific discovery and looking to the future that was given by Epcot’s main hub. Every visit I looked forward to seeing how the world was driven by each pavilion’s focus. Entering that park, I always felt like I could learn something new and be entertained at the same time.
Maintaining something like Future World is hard to do. Disney has had difficulties keeping Tomorrowland seeming futuristic so to keep a much larger vision of the future and keeping up with technological advances must be exponentially more difficult. As an adult, I understand why this yet I also wish that today’s kids could have that same sense of educational wonder I felt growing up.
Over the next few weeks, join me as I take a look at all of the Future World pavilions. We’ll discuss what they were in the past, what they are now, and some ideas that may bring that sense of wonder into a new age.