There, I said it.
You’re perhaps wondering why. I’m a big fan of the real Epcot - the seemingly forgotten Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow. Before I saw the park I had the impression it was kinda a perversion of Walt’s dream, overcommercialised and not fun. Yes, I know going through with the “real” EPCOT would probably have been a terrible decision, but I can’t help but know deep down our cities should be designed better, but with a few exceptions (like my former home of Canberra, Australia), we’ve forgotten how to dream on how to make the city better, and instead, well, just keep swimming…
Spoiler alert: Opinions have been changed. I really do like Epcot the park, its changed my perception on what a theme park can, and should, be. Its not an unconditional love - the park does have problems; but I really do think that its Epcot, and not MK that parks worldwide should be using as the model to follow.
I’m not really going to talk about Food + Wine in this post. There will be no doubt others who can and will give you a better overview of that than I can - giving an overview of that is no job for a first timer of EPCOT. I do have something I’ll be passing on to Robert after I write it, I do hope he likes it enough to include it in his coverage, if not I’ll append it here.
I didn’t really have much of a strategy for picking the Fastpasses, other than to ensure I got Soarin in there. The other two were Mission space, and the Pixar-Disney Film Festival (it sounded like a special event, something I figure now I got wrong).
Our shuttle got us into Epcot just before rope drop, The park didn’t seem overly crowded. however it was Extra Magic Hours in the morning, so this might have been an illusion. However we didn’t encounter any unreasonable waits all day.
We started with Test Track, as I figured that would be something that would get busier during the day. As we entered the line the standby time was increased to 20 minutes. We made an error when designing the car meaning we accidently moved on from some options without realising it. I know the current state of technology probably doesn’t allow for the ride experience to be tailored to the design, but it did kinda seem weird that we went to that much effort with only a scoreboard to show for it.
Its after the ride though that the genius of Epcot’s design was first revealed to me. Not just an exit through retail, but a collection of minor attractions sheltered from that heat and humidity that was taking us through the ringer (I don’t speak farienheit, but my phone was telling me it was 35 Celsius for most of the day - this sort of weather is precisely the weather I moved to the UK to get away from).
We headed to the Imagination pavillion, well in advance of our fastpass time for the “film festival” we rode through journey through the imagination with FIgment. I couldn’t help but notice Eric Idle seemed to age about 10 years from the posters at the entrance to his film appearances. I know the changes to this ride are controversial at best among long term fans, but as a first time rider I will say that whilst it will never rank amongst the best of Eric Idle’s work, it was a very fun experience (and any excuse to listen to him sing is very welcome).
We were still very early for our fastpass, but seeing that there was no wait for the film festival, we decided to go through the standby queue anyway (and go again when it hit the time). I found the 3D effects hard to work without cleaning my glasses, so I can only presume that this isn’t happening between shows.
“Get a Horse” has to be seen to be believed, other than to say that this is a Mickey Mouse cartoon I really don’t want to say more for fear of it ruining some very major plot points, and you deserve the surprise when they happen.
This was followed by “Piper”, a pixar short involving a baby sea bird and a hermit crab, both I and my Fiancee had seen this before (in 2D), which is an amazingly cute and sweet show, about as realistic looking as Computer driven animation can possibly get… Although as a short its never going to be as well known as Pixar’s features, it bloody well should be as it is every bit as brilliant and entertaining as any other Pixar film you could name.
Rounding out the Trio was “Feast”. This tells a love story between people from the point of view of a dog. I thought this was well done, and it gets better on the second showing as you know to look deeper to follow the background story. Even if I watched it again I know I’d find more detail to be amazed at.
After some food (and an encore performance of the film festival) we headed up to the Seas which wasn’t much longer wait than how long it took to walk to the station. I know the addition of Nemo to this has again been controversial… but using the pepper’s ghost effect to get Nemo into the tank with real fish I thought was inspired. Of the Pavillion itself I think this is probably going to be our favourite of the trip. Again, a nice place to rest and recover away from the weather. My Fiancee had a special moment talking to one of the staff about the Cuttlefish, and we probably could have watched the manatees tumble all day. However Mission Space was calling.
Mission Space presented us with an early choice, the tamer “Green” mission, or the more intense “orange” mission. We’re both theme park and coaster veterans, and I’ve got experience flying Gliders through a winch Launch and a little aerobatics, so we didn’t think much of going into the Orange mission… Big mistake. The G-Forces on this ride are high, even for those who are used to intense experiences… it was more than enough for us to declare a code “hotdog” (which doesn’t mean I’m hungry, but instead is an extreme nausea warning (it gets its name from my Girlfriend having a hotdog shortly before riding the Swarm at Thorpe Park). So my advice to even intense ride veterans is remember it is better to be on Green wishing you were on Orange, than on Orange wishing you were on Green.
I was disappointed that Universe of Energy has closed. I’ve read about the ride system and it just seemed so amazing that I wanted to see it for myself. We slowly headed to Spaceship Earth via the rump of Innoventions… Innoventions is just plain sad, a handful of items that appear to be rejects from a science museum taking up a fraction of the space. The sooner a worthy replacement is put in the better (even the character spots on the former innoventions space other side of the park is a marked improvement… I did note however the character wait times here were much lower than anything spotted in the MK)
Spaceship Earth was running about a 10 min wait at this point. The rotational loading platform is inspired. The ride itself was to me what I’ve grown to expect from a dark ride. I’m still amazed that they managed to fit all of that into the globe.
Our next Fastpass came up at about this time, so we headed to The Land, and completed Soarin’. Now, when Chad was turning 5 he visited his first Theme Park in Australia, Dreamworld. Dreamworld at the time (and for many years after) was host to one of Australia’s few Imax screens… I distinctly remember the Imax taking up just enough of my vision that it triggered feelings of motion. Ever since then this is a feeling I’ve worked hard to get back; as I grew up other Imaxes (and an Omnimax/Imax Dome) sometimes could work if I was sitting and concentrating just right… but as an adult I thought that this was a feeling long gone… Soarin took me back to that day as it reproduced all of what I was feeling at the time, and I’ll always treasure that. It was to me the best ride out of all the Disney parks I experienced… I can see why it has become a must-do attraction.
After this we took a stroll through World Showcase. As we’d decided to take the “Early” (6:30pm) shuttle back to the park, we didn’t really have too much time left to explore (particularly with the food and wine stuff that we were doing), however, we did watch O’Canada (my Fiancee is Quebecois, so this was a must-do) which we did enjoy.
That said, I do kinda feel like World showcase is a bit of a letdown. Hear me out before you tar and feather me for such a blasphemy. Although it certainly is a very pleasant place, and I can see why people do enjoy it and love it, there is very little to do unless you’re planning to shop or eat - basically spend more money. If World Showcase was like Universal Citywalk, an anchor hub from which you access the other Disney parks, I could see myself spending hours there if I was a local. However, would I spend any amount (much less $100) on a day ticket to access a bunch of restaurants, shops and short films? No, absolutely not.
That said, the performance of “Delta Rae” in the American pavillion I thought was a great way to get across the american impact on culture and music. Definately worth the time we spent listening to them.
Before exiting, we did sample some of the drinks in the Coca Cola Cool zone. I found that “Beverley” (from Italy I think) was initially quite nice, before punching me in the face with extreme bitterness (no need to add alcohol to that one), but we did like the Pineapple Fanta.
So, overall, I’m inspired by Epcot. I think the Pavillion model in Future World is one more that any park with any weather problems (be it hard rain, or Florida style heat/humidity) should be adopting as a Pavillion style model, with access for the experiences on the side, and an indoor information centre… the only thing I would suggest further is make them a bit bigger, have a couple rides feeding into the pavillion, with perhaps a B attraction in there as well. Have a few of them experience outside (with of course a short sheltered walk, and unsheltered walk options too) between them and I think we could realy have something here.
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