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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch ' The Odyssey of the Odyssey
April 24, 2011

For those of you who celebrate it, Happy Easter Sunday! 

After last week's visit to Future World's first character meal, I am sure you are itching to know more about the story about EPCOT's Odyssey, the place that time forgot, but a collect few remember. Today, the old restaurant is known as Epcot's Odyssey Center.  It is regularly used as the Baby Care/Lost Children center for Epcot's Guest Relations and a Cast Member break room and cafeteria.  Its main space is rented out for private parties and used for special events (e.g. Epcot's Food and Wine/Flower and Garden Festivals).


Nowadays, its only purpose seems to be a restroom stop before entering World Showcase.
Photo from http://disneyshawn.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html


This groovy sign was for the 2007 Flower and Garden Festival, where the Odyssey Center was called the Garden Odyssey Festival Center.  Photo from Yesterland.com.


It seems the interior decorating of the restaurant is still stuck in the 80s, as seen during this 2007 workshop for the Flower and Garden Festival. Photo from Yesterland.com.

While today, the Odyssey center seems to have little to do with this blog about Disney and Food, its history puts it right in that category.  The Odyssey was a counter-service restaurant that opened when EPCOT Center opened in 1982.  Its futuristic architectural design, Earth tone color scheme, and placement in EPCOT was meant to evoke a transition between Future World and the World Showcase. Upon first opening, it did great business, but soon it started to receive less and less business as its location doomed its existence. 


EPCOT Park Map circa. 1989 from ProgressCityUSA.com

Access to the restaurant was a bit of a challenge.  Located on an island in a lagoon between EPCOT's two 'lands,' the Odyssey is rather easy to miss.  Guests heading into World Showcase towards Disney Traders would need to go out of their way and across the bridge to get to the restaurant.  Also, the bridge from World of Motion (now Test Track) was not originally there; it had been built to increase guest traffic into the Odyssey.

Additionally, in the 80's, the other counter-service restaurants 'Stargate' and 'Sunrise Terrace' in Communicore (now Innoventions) received guests walking through the park first.  By the time guests reached the Odyssey, some had already eaten and those who skipped out at Communicore would continue on to World Showcase since Odyssey had the same type of menu offerings as the aforementioned restaurants.

Speaking of menu choices, the restaurant offered lunch and dinner.  At lunchtime, the restaurant had the standard Disney Theme Park counter service American cuisine, complete with thematic EPCOT names:
-         
The Odyssey Burger
-         
The Adventurer Burger
-         
The Voyager Hot Dog
-         
The Discovery Salad
-         
The Enterprise Turtle Soup (okay, just kidding on this one, haha)

For dinner, the Odyssey offered a bit of a more adventurous menu with such choices as beef stew, fried clams, and sweet and sour chicken.  Dessert included cherry tarts, cakes, and pies. 


This slide from an EPCOT souvenir shows the Odyssey's terrace seating area. 
Photo from discussionkingdom.com

With a menu easily replicated all over Disney World, let alone Future World, and a location that was not ideal, one could easily see why Disney shut down the restaurant in 1994.  The operating costs were too high to keep the place open.  In addition to adding a third bridge to the island, the character dining aspect was another attempt to increase guest traffic.  In my research, I've found that the performance portion was called the 'Rainbow Revue' and was incentive to eat at the Odyssey.  As I've stated last week, the Odyssey Character meal was a terrific experience, but alas, it was not enough to save the restaurant.

Will we ever see the Odyssey operate regularly ever again?  A barely used space in a world class theme park surely merits consideration to become something new.  Though, as we approach the 20 year mark of its closing, it is unlikely that it will ever reopen.  I am guessing that the profits from renting out the restaurant to private parties in addition to using it as a space for seasonal events is worth much more than the losses the restaurant would face if it were to operate again, even if seasonally.

The Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom is in a very similar out-of-the-way area of the park as Odyssey is to Epcot, though it continues to attract guests as it is a sit-down buffet with character dining.  If the Odyssey could offer something huge and give guests a reason to go across the bridge and delay their journey into World Showcase, it may also find success.  The kitchen facilities, dining area, and stage for performances of some sort are already there and remain intact; the Imagineers just need a great idea to make it unique.  With its original design and a little tweaks, the Odyssey can become another shining jewel in Epcot's collection of some of the best in Disney Dining. 

This Sunday Brunch could not be made possible without the insightful articles from the following:

Lost Epcot's page of the Odyssey
http://www.lostepcot.com/worldshowcase.html

Lost Epcot's interview with cast member John Maimone
http://www.lostepcot.com/odysseyinterview.html

Shawn Slater, a former writer for the Walt Disney Company
http://disneyshawn.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html

Photo Credits:

http://disneyshawn.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html
http://www.yesterland.com/flower2007.html
http://progresscityusa.com/2009/08/19/maps-epcot-center-1989/
http://www.discussionkingdom.com/forums/showthread.php?t=857

 

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