On September 9, 2001, the Tapestry of Nations walked its final majestic march along the World Showcase promenade. Though it would later be revived in part as a reworked and truncated Tapestry of Dreams for the 100 Years of Magic celebration the show would never have quite the same dignity and granduer of the original. Today we’re looking back on one of the highlights of the Millennium Celebration festivities as we count down to the Epcot’s 30th anniversary on October 1st. Though the 30th wont be nearly as big of a hoopla as the Millennium, we can hope it provides a point of reflection for some wonderful past celebrations – and maybe even some inspiration for the future. Unfamiliar with what exactly the Millennium Celebration was? Well, we’ve got a quick video primer to help you understand…
The Millennium Celebration was a big push to reinvigorate Epcot and the entire Walt Disney World Resort by the marketing folks at Disney. It was largely very successful in that regard as well. So why was it happening? Wasn’t Epcot just relaunched with the whole Epcot 94 and Epcot 95 rebranding?
Well, that mid-90′s relaunch failed. Miserably failed. Epcot was hurting for attendance and public opinion of the park was in the crapper. To explain, in the early 90′s a consultant advisory panel was assembled and decreed that EPCOT Center not an appropriate venue for the expression of education, educational aspects aspects and “Edutainment” as we know it. “People don’t go to theme parks to learn” this committee declared. This isn’t hearsay, we have proof this consultant group existed, and further that they felt from the start that Epcot should never have tried to educate and inform the general public. It says as much in their paperwork. They are the reason for the “must add thrill rides” push that came in the mid-90′s that lead to the addition of Test Track, the dumbed-down Universe of Energy, as well as the first iteration of Innoventions.
Back to the “Why?” – Innoventions ’94 failed horribly. By 2000 Disney was relaunching the area again. Most of the sponsors had been replaced and many of the attractions within the spaces had been reworked or replaced entirely. Even early articles from 1994 cite Imagineers questioning Eisner’s approach to Innoventions saying they had to modify it from his original vision to suite guests, not corporate culture, but by 2000 these sentiments are even stronger and there is an open admission that the 1994 version was a failure. Sorry, no bones about it, it simply was. Add to that the desired 1997 reopening of Test Track pushed back to 1999 due to technical delays and Epcot really needed a strong push.
Behold, the Tapestry of Nations – something which pulled the focus briskly away from the faltering Future World and toward the evergreen World Showcase and the themes of humanity and inclusion. And so it was.. a glittering puppet show that caused enough crossover (people moving between parks) that it was actually considered detrimental to the Magic Kingdom’s attendance in the afternoon and evenings.
Though it has been a full 11 years since Tapestry of Nations has been shown in Epcot the parade’s theme music is still played and the show still makes appearances during Illuminations on the Earth globe. If you’re not content to relive it through those fleeting moments, feel free to peruse the gallery of archival photos below: