Final Thoughts: The Universe of Energy
As the closure of this EPCOT classic approaches, we take some time to remember how important, overlooked, and iconic the Universe of Energy truly was.
So, here we are.
Today, we must recognize the loss of a classic (albeit updated) attraction, a relic of EPCOT Center, aiming to explore and idolize forms of energy to a population that was fresh to the idea. Presented by Exxon, the attraction surely promoted the usage of oil and natural gasses over renewable sources of energy when it opened, yet the promise of a positive future with many diverse sources of energy for our community of tomorrow reflected the optimism that EPCOT once held.
We must now realize that the weight in which Disney treated this attraction with was minimal at best. Rarely was it promoted, in fact Disney embraced the lack of a consumer base for this attraction. Often they would run one or two of the six vehicles at once, limiting capacity on an attraction that was created to pull many guests out of the sun for a lengthy period of time (37 minutes to be exact). Sadly, Disney used this lack of traffic, that was in some way artificially created and promoted, to close the doors of this attraction one final time.
There was never much focus directed to the Universe of Energy by those at EPCOT, even after the overhaul of the attraction, placing comedian Ellen DeGeneres and scientist Bill Nye in the spotlight to focus on a more comedic take on such a menial and inherently boring topic, rarely did we see any promotion or emphasis on what was a classic experience. Despite the care put into the original, it’s extremely difficult to make guests feel even slightly interested regarding sources of energy. This change would be similar to replacing the faceless narrator of Living with the Land with a comedian and a scientist, which changes the entire feeling of the attraction. No longer was Universe of Energy a solemn look at our world, rather, it became a spectacle that used energy as a basis for comedy and storytelling. The attraction itself would remain the same, but a corny touch would be added, dividing the audience into those who can appreciate the “cheesy-ness” of the 90’s and those who simply can’t. The effort was made to invigorate guests into visiting the attraction, offering recognizable celebrities, humor, and jaw-dropping spectacle as reasons to visit was was once a simple, lengthy theater attraction.
But what we must remember is the genuine appreciation many in the community had for this attraction. While it may have been the subject of jokes for many years regarding the length, air conditioning, and opportunities to sleep, the sheer number of guests who visited the attraction in the last few days is a testament to the support and admiration of the original goals of EPCOT by the guests. People still respect the effort of Imagineers, who developed an immersive experience centered around the history of our Earth and the many possibilities of the future.
Now, it is time to say goodbye to the classic dinosaurs. To “Stupid Judy.” To Bill Nye’s corny jokes. To a young representation of both Ellen and Bill. To education in a Disney Park. To an air-conditioned tour that spanned both 37 minutes and billions of years. To an appreciation of science beyond anything we’d ever seen before or will ever see again. We will always have memories of both a primeval world and the most interesting game of Jeopardy ever recorded. Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy’s journey through a physical world of our dreams represented the willingness to learn, and displayed the wonder of our universe, achieving the goal of EPCOT Center itself.
These memories will live on forever because of brain power alone, an energy source that will never dissipate, as it exists for eternity in the minds of those who are willing to think both as intellectuals and for the future of our world. The dreams of scientists and new generations who accept the wonder and bewilderment of education will change the way we see the future. The Universe of Energy showed children that education could both be interesting and leave you in awe, placing guests in front of a herd of prehistoric beasts that felt so real, so lifelike, that even pictures can’t fully realize the amazement we felt when confronted with these towering feats of design.
It was not only the attraction of a lifetime, it was an attraction of a hundred million lifetimes, and that’s why it was so special.
I’ll miss it dearly, and my EPCOT experience will never be the same.
Ryan Dorman is a Columnist and the Content Director for the Boardwalk Times. He can be reached at @OpentheDorman on Twitter, and is featured on the Boardwalk Talk Podcast.