Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Surprise Me"


Late Imagineer Bruce Gordon once said of Theme Park music; “It’s like half of the experience.” A true and profound statement, one could also say that it’s the most portable element of any attraction.
At the very end of the last century, people began, not only sharing their thoughts and ideas, but also music across the digital frontier. This is where I came in. Even though I will always claim to be a child of the Awesome Eighties, I really grew up in the cultural wasteland of the 1990’s. With Grunge, Alternative Rock, and Hip-Hop Rap dominating the airwaves there wasn’t much to get excited over for such a heavily eccentric teenager like myself. During this time I was also being exposed to the rich and wonderful history of Hollywood and especially the Walt Disney Company. (To this day, I still believe the WDC is one of the most extraordinary and unusual anomalies the world has ever known.) (1.) For a brief time during in the early 1990’s I lived in Jacksonville, FL and my family would often (read that every other month) take my brother and I out of school early on Fridays to spend a long weekends at WDW. (2.) It was during this time, I went beyond the superficial and began to absorb the finer details of every attraction and developed public space of the parks. One of these was of course the beautiful and genre-less scores of EPCOT Center’s Future World. For years, I would long for that day that I could listen to these masterpieces as easily as others could listen to the soundtrack albums of the latest movies.

(or 17 or 18 or whatever)

My personal archive of Theme Parks music is now measured in the hundreds of hours, and thousands of personally catalogued and researched files. (3.) Not a week goes by that I don’t play something that very few people actually “own”. And yet in the listening, I can’t help but want more or at least think about possibilities for an official wide release. (4.) Walt Disney once said, “The Way to Get Started is to Quit Talking and Began Doing.” And with that I began think about how I believe we should be listening to these attractions.


2005 was a watershed year for theme park music. This was the year “A Musical History of Disneyland” was released to widespread acclaim. Almost immediately after its release the theme park music community began to discuss the possibilities for something similar for the East coast parks. (5.) This also got me thinking about the perfect seven to nine hour journey through the musical history of EPCOT Center. The thing I love more than anything about the Disneyland set was its non-linear presentation of the material. (6.) I felt that if we ever were to have an Epcot box set it would assume this form. The uplifting themes of Mission: Space must immediately follow the optimistic orchestrations of Horizons and with some effort a natural transition from the Living Seas to Nemo and Friends could be accomplished. Unfortunately, a full scale book and artistic design of a project this size was far too complex and impractical for any one person to tackle. But great concepts like this have a way of popping-up to become even greater things…

A Musical History of Epcot

One day while at work, I was discussing my archive and design abilities with one of my new leaders and I ask him if there was anything he would be interested in. He replied with just two words, “Surprise Me.” Little did I know that those two words would serve as the starting point for a project that would eventually lead to the creation of such a massive project. Originally I conceived the “Future World Classics Series” as individual 70 minute tributes to the original attractions, but that wasn’t enough. I also thought that this series was deserving or greater attention. It’s one thing to have music but what was going to make this project different would be its presentation. New arrangements, high-quality restorations of substandard source recordings, ruthlessly editing the material in service to the listening experience were in store for all tracks considered for release. And at this point I’m only talking about the music.


In the beginning, I envisioned these soundtracks to be CD + DVD sets the CD would contain all original material, and the DVD “Legacy Disc” would cover the time since the original attractions. In addition, would be 5 exclusive desktops, a graphic intensive full history of the attraction (7.), Liner Notes, and video of retired attractions. Unfortunately, these discs would be largely impractical to produce for a number of reasons: expense, manufacturing, limited circulation and legal implications all conspired to kill any chance of realization for the original concept for the FWSS.


Really early in 2009, the Company asked a mysterious question: Are you 23? This was later revealed as D23: The Official Community for Disney fans. It was at this time my mind exploded with a similar question: Are you 82?
This is what I was looking for! A place where Epcot fans (Classic and Current) could connect and celebrate bold visions of the past, the excitement of the present and hopefully inspire the future of Epcot. (8.) This also presented me with a new format where anyone who was really interested could download, for free, completely digital versions of the FWSS releases.


In subsequent posts, we’ll be going into the details of Imagination’s production and release. In addition, we’ll be discussing the many unexpected angles and developments I’ll be taking in the future of the series.

Foot Notes
1. Anyone with eye for demographics, socio-economic trends, or cultural decline will tell you that the counter-cultural values and accomplishments of Walt Disney Company would argue against them ever turning a profit or even existing in the first place. Why isn’t this the case? Keep reading E82…
2. During the Early 1990’s, there were only 3 parks. It was a time when the Disney Village Marketplace was for a RELAXING evening of shopping. The Disney-MGM Studios was actually a working studio. The Magic Kingdom still used ever sq-inch of its attractions and shops. And EPCOT was still very much “Centered” around its original purposes.
3. 20 years ago, I would have done anything to have the IllumiNations soundtrack. I now have five incarnations and (in some cases) multiple versions of the same show.
4. We now have the technology to allow for profitable micro-niche recordings. That being said, I now believe the question is not “IF” but “WHEN” the company will officially release Classic EPCOT material. I’m also extremely optimistic in the long term effects of the upcoming court case of the WDC vs. David O’Neal. (Anyone interested in my explanation?)
5. The debate went on for a long while with several concepts of how such a release should be covered, and what focus the collection should take. Should it contain all parks or should be individual releases. My way of thinking was: I would much rather have seven hours of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot than have roughly 2 hours each for a WDW set.
6. In the Disneyland History box set the “history” was secondary to the overall musical experience Randy Thornton created. Tarzan’s Treehouse is right after the Swisskapolka and Adventure Thru Inner Space naturally segways into Star Tours.
7. In upcoming posts well be exploring the History of Imagination which, at the point of this posting, is only half finished and over 3,000 words in length!
8. Yes, that’s right I have several ideas for new concepts and new solutions to problems facing Epcot that I’ll be going through in very visual ways. Just Keep Visiting E82.

1 comment:

  1. Music is such a major part of the experience...
    I can't wait to see what's next!