The plastics industry could find itself singing ``It's a small world, after all'' by early next year, now that the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. signed an agreement Jan. 15 with Walt Disney World to put a plastics-themed exhibit at its Epcot Center resort in Florida.
The plastics exhibit will open in the park's Innoventions section by January 2004. SPI and Disney had been in talks for months, but now are moving forward after DuPont Co., GE Plastics and other companies have agreed to contribute about $4 million, said SPI spokeswoman Bonnie Limbach.
The two groups held a formal ceremony at SPI's national board meeting Jan. 15 in Palm Beach, Fla.
The project comes with an expensive price tag - typically about $5 million for an exhibit no larger than 5,000 square feet.
But industry officials say they like what they see as outsized benefits - an estimated 5 million visitors a year go through Innoventions, many more visitors than the industry could get by putting a plastics exhibit in a science museum, for example, Limbach said.
``We're excited about it,'' said Pam Wickham, spokeswoman for GE Plastics in Pittsfield, Mass. ``We think it's a great opportunity for the industry to showcase our industry at a very high-profile location that has a lot of walk-through traffic.''
GE and DuPont are the chief financial sponsors, but Washington-based SPI plans more fund raising. Limbach declined to say who else is contributing, but she said all the money pledged is solid and the project is going ahead: ``It's going to happen.''
SPI is not contributing any money directly, she said.
``We have enough money for an average-sized exhibit,'' Limbach said. ``We would like a better-than-average exhibit, in size.''
Innoventions' exhibits showcase futuristic technology in child-centered ways and are sponsored by major corporations. Monsanto Co., for example, offers ``Beautiful Science'' and IBM Corp.'s exhibit is titled ``Networked Living.''
Plans for the plastics exhibit are just starting to be drawn up. Disney specialists will be visiting plastics companies in the next few months looking for ideas, and construction probably would begin in late summer or early fall, she said.
A key goal is to make it interactive, Limbach said.
``From past experience Disney has found that interactive exhibits really help in understanding,'' she said. ``It triples retention.''
Limbach said Disney likes to offer children something to take away from Innoventions - an exhibit from the paper industry, for example, lets kids walk away with a piece of paper they made themselves.
Disney initially contacted SPI a year ago to explore a plastics exhibit, and more serious talks began in May after Disney made a presentation to SPI officials. Disney officials could not be reached for comment.
The industry's exhibit will be up for at least three years. The two groups will assess it at the 18-month mark, and then will review it at three years and decide whether to continue.