Disney's Universe of Energy could be so much better
I went to Disney World over the holidays. Among other things, I got to revisit the Universe of Energy at Epcot Center. There’s a lot to like about this attraction, but I’d like to challenge Disney to do better.
The Universe of Energy is largely the same as it was during my last visit ten years ago, and it has aged well. I loved watching Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy make energy interesting and fun, and my whole family got a kick out of seeing Jamie Lee Curtis play an energy expert named Judy.
The attraction does a good job of explaining why energy is important and where it comes from. In that inimitable Disneyesque way, through film, animatronics, and cool people-movers, it takes the audience on a journey through time, from the big bang to the formation of fossil fuels to the development of advanced oil and gas extraction, nuclear energy, and renewables. The roof of the Universe of Energy pavilion is covered in 80,000 photovoltaic solar cells that partially power the battery-electric traveling theater cars.
But with a potential audience of Disney World’s 40 million visitors per year, the attraction misses a couple of key opportunities. First, in a 45-minute program, there is just this one mention of global warming:
Ellen: “What about global warming?”
Bill Nye: “It’s a hot topic with lots of questions.”
Please. With the wealth of information on climate science out there, Disney can do better than this. And I can’t imagine this is all these two influential celebrities want to say about one of the most important challenges facing the world.
Second, while the program mentions the importance of energy conservation and energy efficiency, it could do so much more. It could tell the millions of Disney World visitors how they can reduce their energy use, save money, and help protect the climate. Disney could give them all kinds of information like we have on the C2ES Make an Impact site.
At an adjacent Epcot attraction, Spaceship Earth, each visitor interacts with an onboard computer to create an imaginary future world. The Universe of Energy could use similar technology to help visitors learn about the many energy-saving opportunities that exist at home, in the car, at work, and at school – from changing light bulbs to adjusting tire pressure.
Come on Disney. Help us all have a magical, energy-saving day.