Epcot Forever is a temporary nighttime spectacular celebrating the past and future of the park it’s named after. Debuting in October, the show will run until the summer of 2020. In this post, we’ll review the show while offering some tips along the way.
I’ve never been shy of praising Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, Epcot Forever’s predecessor. It remains my favorite nighttime spectacular and I don’t think theme park fans will ever get to see a show quite like it. To put it lightly, Epcot Forever had big shoes to fill. While there are moments where it seems that the show is about to take off, ultimately this temporary show falls flat, lacking emotion.
Epcot is a nostalgia-infused place for many people at this point. Those who were there at the time long for the 80’s and 90’s heyday of the park. Heck, even those that weren’t quite born in time to experience that heyday, like me, long for it. The park was built in the name of discovery, unity, and, most importantly, hope. Walt’s original idea for EPCOT was a prototype city that would lead us into a better tomorrow. Epcot didn’t seem far from that, entertaining guests while teaching them about science and cultures around the world. While that vision still exists in some parts of the park, it has been muddied, leading to nostalgia for what was.
The first bit of Epcot Forever capitalizes on that nostalgia. The song One Little Spark (Journey Into Imagination) is a strong choice to open the show with as it’s both popular in current day and a remnant of a classic extinct attraction. The choice of kids singing nearly every song and making the pre-show announcements is a strange one. Frankly, I don’t know why they went this route and I missed the booming narration from Illuminations. Still, One Little Spark and a host of other songs work well within the show.
From there, the show ambitiously tries to fit in as many Epcot songs as possible. It’s an eclectic mix that doesn’t really fit that well together. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed hearing all of those old songs in non-YouTube viewing, but they didn’t flow harmoniously in the actual show.
From a technical standpoint, Epcot Forever is impressive. Watching the fireworks over the lagoon will always be an enjoyable experience, regardless of how good the spectacular is. The star of Epcot Forever are the kites flown around by jet skis. Early in the show they are just lit up, but then return with sparks flying later. It’s truly a beautiful sight that I hope will be added to Epcot shows for years to come. The fireworks are diverse in color and shape. I was actually surprised at how strong Epcot Forever was from a visual standpoint. With it being a temporary show, I didn’t know how much money Disney would be willing to throw into the technical side but it is visually beautiful.
Along those same lines, Epcot Forever has a few goosebump moments where the music and visuals line up to elicit an emotional response. As I mentioned, the beginning of the show with One Little Spark is beautiful. Tapestry of Nations is also a wonderful addition to the show and brings me back to all of those post-Illuminations nighttime strolls around World Showcase. Overall, the show could use more of those moments but they do exist. There are probably more of them for those that grew up in the EPCOT Center days.
While the old songs are fun to listen to and the technical side is impressive, there’s no overarching theme to be found. Again, the use of kids singing these songs didn’t have any impact on me and maybe they were stretching for some meaning there? In the first 8 minutes of the show it felt like a fun slideshow – “come see cool things and hear some nostalgic songs!” There’s no message outside of showcasing what Epcot was. That’s ultimately fine but coming from Illuminations to a show with little emotional impact is a microcosm of the current Disney company’s handling of Epcot. There’s a lack of understanding on what guests longed for in Epcot nostalgia, it’s not just the songs and sights but a feeling. Epcot Forever fails to capture that.
Sadly, that’s not the biggest fault of the show. That instead lies in the finale when A Whole New World plays. What a disappointing choice. While the first 75% of the show feels like Disney relenting and saying, “we can at least give Epcot fans this” the finale takes a totally different tone. It’s a not so gentle reminder from the company that the park is about to change and become more ‘Disney’. Regardless of how you feel about the park moving forward, the finale doesn’t make sense in the context of the show and is a slap in the face to those it had just pandered to. If that’s not bad enough, I don’t care for the arrangement and how it fits in with the rest of the music.
I realize this all sounds overly harsh and I do sympathize with the shows creators. Having a nighttime spectacular enveloping the history and future of this park is incredibly difficult because those two paths are so different. But I always hoped that the vision would continue – discovery, unity and hope are themes that should work no matter the audience. Unfortunately, Epcot Forever differs from its predecessor in leaving guests with a sense of optimism. The show is there to state facts, this is what the park was and here’s where we’re going next emotions be damned. Illuminations ended with a bold, beautiful statement, “We are one!” sang over and over again. Epcot Forever instead tries to split the Epcot-nostalgics and Disney fan audiences in half.
Have you seen Epcot Forever? What did you think of the show? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our planning guide to help you along the way! Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney. If you enjoy the site please subscribe to the blog via WordPress and like our social media pages. You can find all of those on the right side of this page. Have a great day!