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 Kingdom, and 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.
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.”
Elsa, Anna, and Olaf in Frozen Ever After. (photo by Brian Carey)
Sven after getting a triple dog dare. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses beginning with one of my personal favorite parks: Epcot.
Epcot has a very interesting history. What few guests know is that Epcot was one of Walt’s main focuses when it came to his Florida Project and that the park we know today wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Epcot, formerly known as EPCOT Center, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and was intended to be a real, working community with an innovative design to serve as a model for future cities. When Walt passed away, the vision for Epcot gradually turned into a park that celebrated both the future and the world. That is why Epcot is composed of two different sections: Future World and World Showcase.
Grab your passport and your poncho, because we’re continuing the rainy refrain from last column with a Best Week Ever visit to Epcot, or as I now call it, Wetcot. Recently, I’ve been on a mission to photograph the menus for every single eatery — table service, quick service, and vendor cart — inside the Walt Disney World parks, as part of our ongoing effort to provide you with the most complete and current WDW menu information anywhere on the internet. (If you think tracking down every food venue across four parks sounds stressful, pity Laurel’s poor fingers as she inputs thousands of items into our database.) But despite my practical purpose in visiting Epcot last week, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment to appreciate some of the park’s overlooked wonders, thanks to the wrath of Mother Nature.
It all started with cheerful blue skies, fluffy clouds, and blazing sunshine as I arrived in early afternoon. Don’t be fooled: this is Central Florida, where the weather can turn on you twice as fast as a spinning teacup.
Here’s what wait times were like in Epcot as I was riding the tram in. Not too ridiculous, considering that this day was predicted as a 9 out of 10 on our crowd calendar.
I had to chuckle as I spotted this construction wall signage near the tram drop-off. Perhaps it’s a not-so-subtle signal to the folks transforming Maelstrom into Frozen Ever After?
One of the aspects that I feel truly separates Disney Parks from other theme parks is the presence of “classic” attractions. By classic attractions, I mean those that might not have state of the art technology by today’s standards, or cost the size of a small island, but remain relevant, charming, and downright fun years or even decades later. Attractions like Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean are just a few examples of these that come to mind. As brilliant as Disney Imagineers are, there is an occasional attraction misstep from time to time, which is inevitable.
It’s incredibly difficult to determine what’s going to resonate with audiences at any one moment, let alone ten, twenty, or fifty years from now. For a variety of reasons, some attractions just don’t age well and feel outdated rather than classic. Most of the time those attractions are replaced (see most of Disney’s California Adventure) but other times, they remain. Below, I’ve listed some attractions that I believe fit this description. These aren’t outright bad attractions per se, but they are ones that have the potential to be really fantastic with a revamp or retheming.
Without further ado, here are some attractions in need of a “tune up” along with what could be done to make them better and my suggestions for what attractions to go on instead.
Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. And sadly, yes, the title is true. This will be my last Best Week Ever article! Remember that day job that keeps me from posting photos of myself? Well, I’ve been given an incredible promotion that will involve much more travel. While I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity, it will make it impossible to keep up with my weekly updates.
I’m so thankful to all of you that have read over the last year. I’ll still be helping out on the Touring Plans instagram account, so if you miss me you can find me there. (I know I’ll miss you!) And they’ve told me I can still stop by and post when I have time. So it isn’t really goodbye. But that’s enough sad stuff, let’s get going with all the theme park goodness from last week!
As you can tell from the photo above, I started this week at Universal Orlando. We don’t make it out that way nearly enough, but we love the parks. Arriving just after opening meant there were no crowds! It was great! I think we enjoyed the quiet morning walk as much as the park itself.
So where did we head to next? Why don’t you click to find out?
Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World. This week we’re visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot for some Flower and Garden Fun! Who is ready to take a beautiful stroll through the parks and do a little shopping? I know I am, so let’s go!
As you can see from the photo, the skies were bright and blue this week. Since we arrived in the evening it wasn’t too hot either! It was absolutely perfect.
Since there wasn’t a lot of breaking news this week I decided to find some new items for sales and just take some photos of the landscape. First up, I noticed this new Mickey figurine for $49.99. There is a switch on the bottom that makes the hat light up. It just adds a little color around the white shapes on Mickey’s hat. It’s very subtle, I bet it would look amazing in the dark! There were also some new Star Wars cook books. I’ve noticed lots more Star Wars goodies showing up – it looks like they are getting geared up for Star Wars Weekends.
Want to see what else we saw this week? Be sure to click to read more below!
*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*
Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!
Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.
My first mid-summer Epcot experience in several seasons started on a sweet note, as I snagged a parking spot along the center aisle; there is nothing worse than having to walk a football field’s length just to get to the tram.
Spending a lot of time at Universal Orlando lately, I’ve been frustrated by how slow their entry procedures are, even after new ticket scanners were recently installed. In contrast, the turnstile-free entry at Disney’s parks has become my favorite element of MyMagic+. Scanning a MagicBand usually seems swifter than swiping a barcode, and the finger scanners at Disney are still far faster and more reliable than Universal’s new biometric readers.
We asked the managers. We asked the CM’s. We asked guest relations. We sent a letter to Siemens and we even annoyed their PR guy.
We have been told enough times to finally accept it: Spaceship Earth is finished in its current state. There are apparently no plans to add anything to the bleak black curtain finale and nothing is just sitting there waiting to be turned on.
We wish it weren’t true, but it is. If anyone would like to present us with physical proof or a statement from Disney or Siemens on the matter we will happily sing a different tune.
In the meantime, please do not email us telling us they have added a blue triangle to the descent in recent weeks – they have not. We have ridden it and seen it for ourselves many times over many weeks and nothing has changed significantly in several months. Sorry.