Let me begin by expressing my thanks that Epcot folks in charge care enough to embrace seasonal overlays and promotions. That can’t be said for many other Disney parks, and I like that Epcot is different in each season. There are three major seasons to Epcot: Christmas, Food and Wine, and Flower and Garden. We’re in the thick of Flower and Garden now, and it’s nice to see the overlay return. That said, it’s also become just a touch boring.
It’s a Fantasia theme, so that music takes over the entrance.
They’ve done a pretty good job in general with the festival. The topiaries you’ve become accustomed to seeing are still there. They clearly spend heavily on new plants, and they keep trying to make things look not only competent and fresh, but even artistic. I’d go so far as to say they accomplish this, by and large.
This is a peacock, which makes the most sense if you’re flying overhead.
Many of the nooks and crannies throughout Future World and World Showcase sport a topiary. That makes for an interesting tour around the park, looking for the themed figures.
Where’s the Fab Five this year?
In many World Showcase countries, the figure has a thematic relationship to the country represented. Many of the princesses come from France, for example, while Snow White is in Germany. Lady and the Tramp are in Italy due to the “Bella Notte” song.
Over the years, many visitors have come to look at these figures as old friends that return each year. It would be sacrilege for many visitors if their favorite topiaries would go missing. So guess what? None of the topiaries are missing, from year to year. In one way, that’s a good thing. They aren’t cutting back in that area.
HGTV stars in a convenient handout.
But they ARE cutting back in other ways. Things that have nothing to do with topiaries are no longer as prominent. More and more, the Flower and Garden Festival is really just the Topiary Festival. And by that I mean the “old” topiaries, with not much to replenish, renew, or revitalize the standard displays.
Glancing through my photos of the past eight years, I’m struck by how many of the topiaries are repeats. They haven’t really added any topiaries in years and years. They may shuffle them around and put them in different positions, and maybe even place them with different backgrounds, but the topiaries themselves are not that new.
In fact, flipping through old photos reveals some things that Disney may hope that you forget. In many ways, the festival now is a mere shadow of its former self. A great many of the displays that used to be here are now absent entirely; the entire enterprise has simply shrunk in scale and scope.
There used to be water feature displays in Future World, for example (above), showing off the ways you can create a home waterfall.
There was a second such display near the Rose Garden. Now, both are simply absent.
There used to be a display of bamboo water structures, ostensibly used to scare deer away in Japan (above). Some years this was in Japan, while in others it was in a ‘dead’ zone between Test Track and Mission Space (one of the shortcut walkways I use about once every five years, to be honest).
There used to be a display of Chinese horoscope characters in the China pavilion. This one made it all the way to 2011, but did not return for 2012.
There used to be a booth full of G-scale (garden-scale) train sets for gawking (and yes, for sale) in Germany.
There used to be railroad displays inside the Festival Center as well (above).
And they even used to offer miniature golf in Future World near the Land pavilion (I still haven’t figured out what this had to do with anything).
A cynical reader might think that the above examples of “missing stuff” is misleading because they have added things since then to compensate for the loss of other stuff. They imagine a constantly-cycling rotation of elements, for example.
It’s not true. Let’s take 2005 as an example. In 2005, you would find ALL the elements of 2012, but then you’d also see a dozen more. In addition to the 2012 topiaries, you’d also find those waterfall displays, the playgrounds for kids (in fact, they were larger back then), the Chinese horoscope figures, the bamboo structures, and the extra toy train displays.
These (few) figures replace the Chinese ones this year.
I think we can say with some certainty that the event has shrunk over the years.
Years ago, there used to be little troll figures hidden here in Norway – but not anymore.
Now, is this a Decline by Degrees? In one sense, of course it is. What else could you call it? An event that once delivered 40 themed elements now delivers 30 elements—that’s a decline, right?
Haiti is new, but there's always a temporary display in this space.
On the other hand, it’s hard to get worked up into too big a lather about this. It’s a free event, after all, and included with admission. They’ve kept some of the pricier elements. You can still attend the free gardening events, and you are still rewarded with free plants for your trouble. That’s impressive in some ways. Something free at Disney World!
Lightning McQueen and Mater have moved to Japan (synergy, you know).
That the events are not up-charge ultimately says less about Disney’s charitable nature than about demand. The other big Epcot event – Food and Wine – definitely does charge visitors for the seminars and lectures. And still people come to those. So this is one of those moments where the “market forces” decide what goes.
A new fairy topiary!
People pay for Food and Wine seminars, so they charge. People flock to the alcohol and food (er, I mean food and drink) booths in autumn, so it makes sense to charge for everything.
In spring, Flower and Garden is totally free. And it’s pretty uncrowded. The businessman in me can’t get too worked up by Disney’s decline over the years when Disney doesn’t see much of a return for their effort.
This used to be a full-sized playground.
Then again, that is an example of “standard” thinking. Disney used to be a leader in exceptional thinking. Of bringing tourists in because Disney acted differently from the competition, and always over-delivered.
Are they over-delivering now? That’s a subjective question. Clearly they are delivering less than they were in 2005. Is it *so much* less that people will notice and stop coming every year? I’d rather not find out. I’d rather hope they don’t push the envelope to the very limits of what it will bear. But I’m sad to say that I think we’ll find out the hard way, one way or another. If we aren’t already at that point.
Not a big “sprinkler” display this year near Canada.