SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love EPCOT!

by on July 16, 2016 9 Comments

Filed under: Dining, Drinking, Epcot, Saturday Six, Walt Disney World (FL)

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at Reasons We Love EPCOT. This July we’re celebrating Walt Disney World here on the SATURDAY SIX. We started at Animal Kingdomand then made our way to Hollywood Studios, but this week we are going to look at a theme park that is unlike any other in America: Epcot.

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EPCOT, the only Walt Disney World park in which the monorail goes into the actual park. (photo by Brian Carey)

Comprised of two distinct sections (Future World and World Showcase,) it’s impossible to compare EPCOT to any other theme park you’ve been to. The term “edutainment” is often used to describe the park because it generally eschewed the traditional model of quick and whimsical children’s rides, and instead focused on long and elaborate dark rides that refused to shoehorn in Disney characters (RIP Horizons.) EPCOT’s mascot Figment became an immediate hit, and certainly remains the most popular character ever designed for a theme park. We’ve seen many changes to EPCOT over the years, but it remains a wonderfully unique park. Yes, we miss Kitchen Kaberet, World of Motion, and the original Journey into Imagination as much as anyone, but there are still plenty of things to love about EPCOT’s current state. What’s our favorite?  Well, sit back, snack on some school bread, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 – Frozen Ever After

In 2014 we shed our tears with the rest of the #SaveMaelstrom movement, but an amazing thing happened when Walt Disney Imagineering converted the old Norway boat ride into an attraction based around the hit movie Frozen: they hit a monstrous home run. Given the constraints WDI had to work with including – for Disney – a rapid turnaround, Frozen Ever After is a dark ride so good that it would fit in perfectly with the legendary Fantasyland attractions at the Magic Kingdom. The animatronics are amazing (Olaf steals the show), guests get to see all their favorite Frozen characters and hear almost the entire film’s soundtrack, including the contractually obligated “Let It Go.”

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Elsa, Anna, and Olaf in Frozen Ever After. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Sven after getting a triple dog dare. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Queen Elsa. (photo by Brian Carey)

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The star of Frozen Ever After, Olaf! (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 5 – The Festivals

With dates expanding every year, we could possibly see a time when the Flower & Garden Festival runs straight into the International Food & Wine Festival, and all we can say is: good! Both festivals are completely free with park admission, have a lot of fun things to do and see, and bring along a whole bunch of unique food and drink items. Flower & Garden turns EPCOT, already one of the most beautiful parks around, into THE most beautiful with a series of well manicured gardens and must-see topiaries. Despite the increasing cost (and decreasing size) of the portions, Food & Wine is still one of the best experiences at WDW as you walk from booth to booth trying foods and drinks from locales around the globe.

The poached salmon is both tasty and beautiful. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

The Olive Oil-Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn, Bacon, and Pepper Jam from The Chew booth. (Photo by Julia Mascardo)

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Taylor Hanson of the group Hanson, playing a set during Food & Wine. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Mmmhops, the craft beer from the band Hanson. Not to be confused with The Yeastie Boys and Death Cab For Fruity brewed by their competitors. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog is always a hit when it appears at Food & Wine. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Mickey and Minnie in a pose similar to the famous painting American Gothic. (photo by Brian Carey)

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Beijing-style candied strawberries at the Lotus House during Flower & Garden. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Cogsworth and Lumiere topiaries in France during Flower & Garden. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Even the Germany village is decorated during Flower & Garden. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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This Mater topiary is here solely as a tribute to the fine work of Andy Castro, who recently ended a historic run on his incredible Dateline Disneyland photo updates. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 4 – Spaceship Earth

EPCOT was the first Disney park not to have a castle as its icon, and instead has the  “giant golf ball” known as Spaceship Earth standing 180 feet tall at the park entrance. While a visual spectacle on the outside, the inside also contains a beloved dark ride taking guests through the history of communication. Who among us doesn’t fondly remember the burning smell when passing through Rome, smile when seeing the sleeping monk, or know most of narrator Dame Judy Dench’s spiel by heart, including the reminder to thank the Phoenicians? In recent years a controversial ending was added to the attraction, but it is one that Your Humble Author enjoys a lot. Every time we go to the parks with someone who hasn’t been a million times, they love seeing themselves photoshopped Jib Jab style into a cute animation that can be different every time you ride.

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The iconic Spaceship Earth. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The history of human communication is told during your ascent up Spaceship Earth. (photo by Tom Bricker)

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Ever wanted a glimpse into the home offices of the SATURDAY SIX? (photo by Tom Bricker)

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Any future featuring the King and Queen of theme park YouTube is okay with us. (photo by Tim and Jenn Tracker)

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Spaceship Earth at night. (Photo by Tom Bricker)

# 3 – Soarin’

There are some theme park skeptics who don’t appreciate Soarin’  with the same degree of passion that we here at the SATURDAY SIX do. To us, the mere fact that it is the only attraction at Walt Disney World that regularly gets an applause after every showing speaks volumes about the overall effect it has on an average guest. The new and improved version of Soarin’ – with its 4K crisp video – even eliminates some of the only negatives of the old ride, that being the scratches and dust bunnies which filled the larger than life IMAX screen. Guests get the sensation of flying (complete with air being blown at you, along with several scents), one of the all-time greatest attraction scores, and now pass by all of the world’s most well known landmarks (basically if it has been blown up by aliens during a movie, you fly by it in Soarin’.) This ride is pure Disney magic, and don’t let any jaded theme park blogger tell you otherwise.

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Soarin’ now gets recognized on The Land Pavilion’s sign. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The world famous Matterhorn as seen in Soarin’. (photo by Adam Roth of Theme Park Review)

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If you look closely you can see 42 Wallaby Way in this shot of Sydney, Australia. (photo by Adam Roth of Theme Park Review)

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Some fun hidden MIckeys can be found in Soarin’. (photo by Adam Roth of Theme Park Review)

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The finale of Soarin’ in WDW now takes place over EPCOT. (photo by Adam Roth of Theme Park Review)

# 2 – The Restaurants

Until the recent transformation of Disney Springs, when it came to dining at Walt Disney World, there was one place to send people: World Showcase. Here lies a collection of unique restaurants that is second to none in the theme park world. In the Mexico Pavilion you can dine inside the temple as boats from Gran Fiesta Tour pass you by at San Angel Inn. Canada has Le Cellier Steakhouse and its famous cheddar cheese soup. France’s Monsieur Paul is true fine dining inside a theme park. Italy has Via Napoli serving the greatest pizza on Disney property. Akershus, Restaurant Marrakesh, Chefs de France, and who can pass up fish & chips or some bangers & mash at Rose & Crown? There are so many fantastic restaurants in World Showcase that it puts the other three WDW parks to shame.

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Via Napoli, home of the best pizza on Disney property. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Monsieur Paul. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Le Cellier. (photo by Brandon Glover)

One of our favorite places to eat in World Showcase is none other than Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion. The hibachi chefs prepare your meal directly in front of you, including the “volcano” that everyone wants to see, and the food itself is excellent.

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Teppan Edo. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Teppan Edo. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Teppan Edo chef. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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This onion is simulating what happens to Your Humble Author every time he sees a photo shot in portrait. (photo by Brandon Glover))

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Salmon at Teppan Edo. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Junmai Sake Flight. Junmai, Junmai Ginjyo, and Junmai Daiginiyo premium sakes. (photo by Brandon Glover)

# 1 – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

There have been very strong rumors lately that that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, EPCOT’s nighttime spectacular is in for a major change. To that we say, nay nayLet’s face it, if IllumiNations ever changes we’ll never get anything like it again. We’re not overwhelmed with characters or forced-in product placements (we’re looking in your direction World of Color). It is the very definition of a spectacle using over the top fireworks, lasers, neon lights, and a stirring musical soundtrack to deliver its story. Yes, the story may actually be more incomprehensible than the plot to Batman V Superman, but along with the pyrotechnic ballyhoo there is the large globe doing whatever it is that it does. We don’t know exactly why the globe unfolds like a flower, but that flower brings with it one of the most show stopping finales we know of. IllumiNations is not by any means perfect, but you just know if Disney changed this show, the globe would be replaced by a giant Duffy the Disney Bear head, the music would be the Frozen soundtrack as sung by Demi Lovato, and the narration would be done by Neil Patrick Harris.

Don’t you dare change a thing to IllumiNations Disney. Don’t you dare.

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IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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IllumiNations. (Photo by Brandon Glover)

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IllumiNations. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth as seen behind Spaceship Earth. (photo by Brian Carey)

HONORABLE MENTION – World Showcase Shopping

Something that rarely gets the attention that it deserves is how much fun it can be just walking through all the stores throughout World Showcase. Unlike your average theme park stores, they aren’t filled with the same t-shirts and generic logos. Our favorite shopping experiences include the carts inside the Mexican temple, walking through the huge China store (which is almost a museum in parts), and of course the Japan stores (which for us is like a Tokyo Toys R Us.) Take your time and browse some of these areas. Wander in deep and see the masks in the Italy pavilion or get lost in the Morocco area, you’ll love it and maybe find something you never knew you were looking for.

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Japan Pavilion. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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China Pavilion. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Morocco Pavilion. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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The exception that proves the rule. Thanks, Canada. (photo by Brandon Glover)

DOUBLE SECRET HONORABLE MENTION: Leave a Legacy

The Leave A Legacy monoliths outside of Spaceship Earth are one thing in EPCOT that many guests would probably be happy to see moved. If you are not one of the 500,000 or so people that bought a tile, there’s very little reason to appreciate these slabs which are directly at the front of the park. However, some of us DO have a reason to check them. My family personally has two tiles, and it is nice to see them each time each time I go to the park. There’s also a set of tiles featuring the band N*Sync (oh wait, I forgot I’m making the case to keep the monoliths.)

Let’s say Disney did move the Leave A Legacy monoliths, what are they going to put in place of them? DVC kiosks? C’mon these are cooler than that. Right? Right?!

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Leave A Legacy monoliths in front of Spaceship Earth. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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“And from way up here, you all look like little ants!” – Heimlich, A Bug’s Life

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Justin Timberlake and four other guys. Just kidding Joey! photo by MeetTheMagic.com)

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My mother and my grandmother got this tile in honor of my uncle David and aunt Laurel.

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The second tile in has my mother immortalized at the front of EPCOT.

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In the dead center of this pic – looking like the love child of Lord Voldemort and Dr. Doom – the legendary BriMan of Orlando United.

 

So there you have it: Six Reasons We LOVE Disney’s EPCOT. See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll be going to a little place called The Magic Kingdom. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan)

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#NeverForget

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

Six Best Snacks in EPCOT’s World Showcase

Walt Disney World Locations Used in Hulk Hogan’s Thunder In Paradise

Six Most Interesting, Most Unusual, and Strangest Souvenirs in EPCOT’s World Showcase

Second Annual Theme Park Turkeys of the Year Awards

Six Things We STILL Can’t Believe Happened at Walt Disney World

Special Thanks to crack staff photographer Brandon Glover, YouTube royalty Tim and Jenn Tracker, Jammin’ Julia Mascardo, the icon of Disney photography Tom Bricker, Stubborn as a Mule (but twice as smart) Tim Grassey, the man who gives 9 Dragons  5 stars “Brutal” Brian Carey, the m an who gives 9 Dragons 6 stars “Astonishing” Adam Roth of Theme Park Review, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Be sure to also check out Brandon on The Park Blogger podcast with co-host Aengus Mackenzie along with Meg’s Yeti To Be Named Disney Podcast.

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Epcot’s dedication by Card Walker. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Posted on July 16, 2016

9 Responses to “SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love EPCOT!”

  • by Dean Finder on July 16, 2016, at 2:55 pm EDT

    Frozen Ever After? Leave a Legacy? You’re just taunting us, right?

  • I’m guessing you never saw ‘Illuminations’ back in the 90s, when the focus was on the pavilions, it wasn’t just another fireworks show, and it didn’t have that awful, awful song at the end? (I have to get another cavity filled every time I hear it.) They’ve tortured us with that for 17 years, and it’s definitely time to do away with it.
    (I’m assuming you actually know that the new show is already written, and are just giving us some hyperbole.)

    • My favorite is still the outstanding “LaserPhonic Fantasy” show between 1984 & 1988! That was _definitely_ not just another fireworks show.

  • by poohfanclub on July 16, 2016, at 8:41 pm EDT

    We love the new Soarin’, but did you happen to sit in sections 1 or 3 (not 2, which is in the middle)? The 2nd time, we sat in Section 3 (right side facing screen) and all of the views of landmarks were skewed (or bent). Eiffel Tower was bent to the left! No problem with the view in the middle (Section 2) section. We were really surprised and disappointed by this!

  • A good list, but I feel like Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure deserves an Honorable Mention.

  • I agree with poohfanclub. If you look at the above pictures, you can tell the distortions. (You think those tall rock formations bend in real life? Nope.)

    I sure hope they can fix this somehow.

  • Just me and my horsey and a quart of beer.
    Ridin’ cross the land, kickin up sand,
    sheriff’s posse on my tail cause I’m in demand 😀

    That beer is Yeastie Boys, and also available in 40oz.