By Mike Scopa, AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the May 13, 2008 Issue #451 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Ladies and gentlemen my name is Mike Scopa and I would like to welcome you to WDW-TV's great debate between the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Tonight on our stage these four candidates will do their best to prove to you that they are indeed the best theme park candidate to take their guests into the future. They will address the issues that are most important to them and of course to you, their valued guests. Hopefully at the end of this debate you will have all the information you will need as we approach Election Day so you will be prepared to make your choice for the best candidate to lead Walt Disney World in the next four years.
The format for the debate is quite simple. I will ask a question of one of the theme parks and after that response the other three will also get a chance to respond. Before going onto the next question the theme park to which the question was addressed will get a chance for a final rebuttal. At the end of the debate we will allow some time for each theme park to make a final statement.
Let us begin.
Question 1 is directed to the Magic Kingdom:
MIKE SCOPA: Tell us why you are the most family-oriented theme park in Walt Disney World.
MAGIC KINGDOM : Why, that's easy. I was the boilerplate for what theme parks are today. I was the first theme park to welcome the family unit and allow all members of the family to join in on attractions and rides. Where do I start? Adventureland with Pirates of the Caribbean? Then of course we can go to Frontierland and Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. Liberty Square has the family favorite Haunted Mansion and Tomorrowland has Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear, and Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, all family favorites … and might I even say that at one point Fantasyland, if I had my way, would have been named FamilyLand. So it's obvious I'm the most family-oriented theme park.
EPCOT: Surely you are forgetting what I hold for families. Look at Soarin' and tell me that's not the most gentle thrill ride you have ever seen. Gentle enough for all family members. How about the Seas with Nemo and Friends? Aren't friends extended family members? World Showcase has depictions of families all around and especially at the American Adventure Pavilion… remember the family taking the photo with Matthew Brady? I guess I could talk about the Storytellers during the Christmas season and how families flock to see them speak. Yep, there's no question I am quite family-oriented.
DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS: This is really quite amusing because when it comes to family attractions you two don't even come close to me. In the first place there's Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Remember Ariel and her dad? That's family. How about the Muppets? When did everyone first see the Muppets? Perhaps as a family together in the family room? How about the new Toy Story Mania? Wasn't Woody's room full of toys? Sort of a family unto their own? Yes and of course I have a wonderful daytime parade that's a party — Block Party Bash. Sounds like family style entertainment to me.
DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM: You guys can talk all you want but let's face it — when guests come through my turnstiles, not only will they get the sense that I am a family style park with Finding Nemo the Musical and the Legend of the Lion King, but think of what they will see when they go on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Not just animals, but FAMILIES of animals. It's a no-brainer.
MS: MK, your rebuttal.
MK: Well, I guess we can all make a case for being a family-oriented park. Let's settle this with one question. How many of us have had an attraction entitled "Family Fun Parade" that had families participating in the event?
(Only MK's hand goes up.)
MK: Thought so.
Question #2 is directed to Epcot:
MS: Besides entertainment how do you serve your guests as a theme park that offers interesting learning experiences?
EP: I was born for educational purposes. Let's see — Ellen's Energy Adventure teaches about energy, Spaceship Earth communications, American Adventure is about the history of America… need I say more?
MK: Well, before you came along with your American Adventure I was already in my gazillionth performance of the Hall of Presidents. Also, do you realize that the Carousel of Progress has been around for almost 45 years? What does that tell you? Also, look at how I bring history alive to my guests when I show them how pirates went about their business, gold miners went forth looking for gold, and how space exploration took place? Please — I'm the edutainer.
DHS: Don't you guys realize that there is more to life and learning than what you offer? We want our guests to be well-rounded. That's why I'm proud of The Great Movie Ride where I can take guests through the history of film. That's right. And they are quite entertained as well. How about the Backlot Tour where my guests get to see a few things about making movies that they thought they would never see? I put the entertainment into edutainment.
DAK: I love it… we save the best for last and that's me. Edutainment? Wow! How about It's Tough to Be a Bug? It may not be pleasant for the little ones, but they will remember and learn quite a bit, and maybe even laugh. The safaris and the exploration trails speak for themselves and oh by the way there's this conservation and petting zoo known as Rafiki's Planet Watch. You haven't seen it? Give it a shot, then you will concede.
EP: Well, that's all well and good as to what you guys have made for all your cases but let's face it — you are limited, whereas I have the opportunity to introduce my guests to 11 countries around the world. Can any of you do that?
EP: Guess not! One for me.
Question #3 is directed to Disney's Hollywood Studios:
MS: How would you say that you provide the best nighttime entertainment?
DHS: Well it's more than that. In the first place I take on a different type of atmosphere at night. First, it feels like you are in the Hollywood of the '40s with all the neon lights. Then there's something about walking around Star Tours at night and hearing the Ewoks around their campfire… and of course there's always Fantasmic! Quite a nighttime spectacular.
DAK: I wasn't built for nighttime entertainment because frankly my tenants require quiet at night, but if you happen to stick around on an Extra Magic Hour evening you will experience quite an awesome sight as you climb Expedition Everest. And you will marvel at the Tree of Life all lit up. Not to mention the extraordinary thrill of walking through a rainforest-like atmosphere at night.
EP: Hey, when the sun goes down I'm just getting started… check out the different ethnic environments as you walk around World Showcase and take in architecture from around the world. Take a look at my Fountain of Nations and watch the music, lights and water work in synch to provide some great nighttime thrills. And I guess there is no question that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is the best nighttime spectacular around.
MK: This is funny. Don't you guys realize that I'm the only park that has two distinct personalities? I have a daytime personality and nighttime personality. Riding Splash Mountain, Big Thunder, and even Dumbo, the Magic Carpets, and Jungle Cruise at night gives my guests a completely different experience than they get during the day. You can't even argue with me because I have almost two dozen outside attractions. That means two dozen nighttime attractions. Also, last time I checked I was the only one of us who had a nighttime parade. And you guys can talk all you want about nighttime spectaculars. Wishes has something that you don't have — a very nice castle to work with. I rest my case.
DHS: Well, I'd almost give the nod to either Epcot or MK because they are close… and MK does have a nighttime parade. But I really like the idea that at the end of the night when my guests are watching Fantasmic! that one of the last memorable sights they will see will be about 50 of their favorite Disney characters waving at them. Ask the kids if they like that.
Question #4 is directed to Disney's Animal Kingdom:
MS: Why is your park the preferred Extra Magic Hour morning park?
DAK: That's easy. First, due to my tenants, I have to close early. Shorter hours mean less availability so my guests need to not only get there early, but to take advantage of my Extra Magic Hour mornings to get that one extra hour. Another reason to get to me early is that I'm quite a hot park and I get very warm as the afternoon rolls around. So come see me early.
MK: Well, regardless of what the others may say let's face it — I will have more attractions running than the other guys. Main Street USA itself is enough to make my case. And since I am so popular with the whole family I get crowded rather fast so the sooner you get to me the better chance you will have of experiencing your favorite attraction.
EP: I can remember when my guests didn't realize how important it was to get to me early. Now they do. If they get to me early then they can do the headliner attractions like Soarin', Turtle Talk, Mission: Space and Test Track before the lines get too long. Then if they do everything well they will be able to enjoy a most leisurely time walking around World Showcase. If you get to me early then the rest of the day will work out so well for you.
DHS: My argument is simple. You get to me early to relax. That's right. If you hit my turnstiles early enough you won't have to rush around at all to see all of my wonderful attractions. Basically you get there early, take a walk down Sunset Boulevard and do Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and you can pretty much relax and take your time for the rest of the day, because frankly you'll have no worries.
DAK: OK, time to play my trump card. The other guys cannot say this. If you don't get to me early you may not get a chance to see my tenants out and about when it's cool. After all, I am an animal park and you do come to see animals right?
MS: OK, you all now have a chance to give one last statement to our audience and tell them why you are the best theme park candidate to lead Walt Disney World into the future.
DHS: I am definitely the best candidate because basically I am the "Magic Kingdom" for today's generation of young adults. They grew up with Toy Story and the Muppets and Ariel, and the characters from Monsters, Inc. and Cars. I am also, after all, representing Hollywood, and that's where it all began — sort of. So I should be taking the lead as we move forward.
EPCOT: There is no competition. I have an attraction that is called Innoventions and that stands for progressive thinking and new ideas. I bring that to the table. And I have a section of my park called Future World, hence I am the best candidate to lead WDW into the future.
DAK: I may not have the most, the biggest, or the baddest attractions… and I may not have a nighttime spectacular or evening hours… but I represent something more important. That is for all of us to learn to live together on this planet — man and animal alike. I feel that is one of the most important messages we can deliver to our guests. And I'm the best candidate to do so.
MK: Guys, we can argue about this until pigs can fly (no disrespect to Dumbo), but let's face it, we owe everything to one man and he is Walt Disney. I am modeled after Disneyland, which Walt built himself, establishing a new standard in family entertainment. I'm sure that we all agree that we owe everything to him. We have brought a lot of joy to a lot of people and I think we've done it as a team. I happen to have a statue in the middle of the park and it's of Walt and Mickey holding hands. It's known as the "Partners Statue" and let's face it — Mickey and Walt were partners in all this we call the World of Disney. I think we should continue that legacy and work as a team to lead Walt Disney World into the future. So like the statue let's be partners for the future. What do you say?
EPCOT: Works for me.
DHS: Sounds good, I'm in.
DAK: Well said.
MS: Our thanks to the theme parks for their time tonight and to you, our guests for tuning in. We hope you enjoyed this debate. This is Mike Scopa for WDW-TV saying, "See you real soon!"
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Scopa has been a huge Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He first visited Walt Disney World in 1975 and has returned many times (how many? he's lost count!) since. Mike is a contributor to the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and Cara Goldsbury's Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World and has served as keynote speaker for the 2006 and 2007 MagicMeets. He is also co-host of the WDWTODAY Podcast.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.