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)
We’ve been seeing a revolving door of new entertainment acts in the Canada Pavilion lately and now we have a brand new one that’s taking the Mill Stage.
Les Parfaits Inconnus will combine music, circus art and comedy to create an unforgettable show. The group who hails from Québec, consist of talented artists and athletes. Les Parfaits Inconnus will demonstrate a mastery of several circus disciplines as well as proficiency with musical instruments. These off-the-wall characters will showcase a stunning performance that will take place multiple times a day.
As part of this entertainment change, the former band Alberta Bound gave their final performance recently.
No word on how long Les Parfaits Inconnus will be performing at Epcot, but one would assume that this group will also be on stage for a limited engagement, as that seems to be customary as of late with World Showcase performers. (Particularly those who perform in the Canada Pavilion.)
1994 was also a time where there was not one but TWO successful professional wrestling companies in America. One was WWE (who is still thriving today) and the other was World Championship Wrestling (WCW). In a controversial move at the time, WCW started taping blocks of wrestling shows at Disney-MGM Studios. Because the park was still trying to be a working production facility for movies and TV, an action-adventure television show featuring Hulk Hogan was also filmed on location. That show: Thunder in Paradise.
How to describe Thunder in Paradise? Take Baywatch, strip away all the nuanced storylines and good actors, throw in a high tech speedboat in the vein of Knight Rider/Air Wolf and you pretty much have it. However, Thunder in Paradise does have one thing going for it that will appeal to readers of this fine article series: it shot almost all of its scenes at The World. Who among us doesn’t fondly remember Full House going to WDW? More recently Modern Family shot an entire episode at Disneyland, and it was great! It is awesome seeing the theme parks we know and love in a whole new context. So today we are going to look at some of our favorite WDW locations used in Thunder in Paradise. So sit back, tie that do-rag tight brother, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…
# 6 – DISNEY’S GRAND FLORIDIAN RESORT
The pilot of Thunder in Paradise actually used the Loews Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete, Florida as the base camp for Hulk Hogan and crew, but when the show was picked up for a series the following twenty episodes used Disney’s Grand Florida Resort. Fans of the Grand Flo are going to LOVE Thunder in Paradise as at least 25% of the entire series takes place inside or on the grounds of the resort. It’s incredible! You’ll see the lobby, the hallways, the rooms, and the Hulkster even has a dinner in Victoria & Alberts! A lot of scenes are filmed directly in front of the Grand Floridian, with the Scuttlebutt Bar N’ Grill being a major location for the show. The Scuttlebutt is where the Grand Flo’s Beaches pool bar now sits.
Hulk Hogan and WWE Hall of Famer Sting square off in front of the Grand Floridian.
A group of muscleheads (including Jim “the Anvil” Neidhart and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake” playing tug of war in front of the Grand Flo. Should surprise no one who has read the Death of WCW book that the only person on the other side of this rope was Hulk Hogan.
The Grand Flo lobby. We’re this close to Mizners!
Hulk Hogan sitting at Victoria & Alberts. As he always said, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, and get up at 6AM 180+10 days out for your ADRs. Brother.
If you are planning your very first visit to Walt Disney World, and you’re like me, you’ve probably done your Disney homework on the parks and resorts. I’m sure you have lists of what attractions you want to see, what characters you want to meet, and I bet you even made those dining reservations the day you booked your trip, right? Still, despite all your planning and newly accumulated park knowledge, it’s still easy to make those Disney World Rookie mistakes. My goal today is to let you in on some tips and info that I wish I had known before my park visits to help your first time trip to Walt Disney World run a little more smoothly. I’ve already covered What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to the Magic Kingdom; and so for today, I’m tackling What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to Epcot!
The length of World Showcase is what I wish I knew before my trip to Epcot!
Two Parks in One
Epcot is one park, but it has two very different sections: Future World and the World Showcase. Future World was originally intended to educate visitors about the world and to be a showplace for new technology. However, Future World has suffered some criticism in recent years as many of its buildings sit empty and seems to be more representative of the past than the future. Still, Future World is home to some of the park’s most popular attractions such as Soarin’, Test Track, and the iconic Spaceship Earth. Epcot’s other section, World Showcase, sits towards the rear of the park and encircles the World Showcase Lagoon. This part of Epcot features eleven pavilions themed after different countries from around the world, as well as one for the United States.
What’s really awesome about World Showcase is that Imagineers went to great lengths to make each pavilion and its design both historically and culturally accurate, so you feel as if you’re in another country and also getting a sense of its history at the same time. Also, I absolutely love eating at the different World Showcase restaurants and shopping for souvenirs from around the world.
Nothing is quite so magical as meeting Mickey for the first time!
This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.
One of the quintessential Walt Disney World experiences is participating in Character Meet and Greets. That magical moment when your child meets Mickey for the first time is right up there with their first spin on Dumbo or the first time blasting off on Space Mountain. Like most Disney adventures, I would also caution those adult-only travelling parties not to overlook character experiences as just for the little ones – you can still have a magical experience with Mulan or Aurora even if you’re in the over-18 set!
This is the first article in my series on Character Meet and Greets, in which I will tackle every park and give you a run-down of who you can meet and where. I’ve decided to start with Epcot (this is traditionally the first park we visit on every trip – why not begin at the beginning?!), so buckle up for a tour of Future World and World Showcase and the characters who live there!
Entertainment in Epcot‘s World Showcase has gone through a tremendous evolution in recent years, and Canada’s Mill Stage has been an epicenter of that overhaul. It seems like only yesterday that we bid a sad farewell to Off Kilter, the long-running Celtic rock band, and welcomed (so to speak) the log-rolling Lumberjack show. Now the Lumberjacks are also long gone, and following a festive seasonal appearance by the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs, Epcot’s Canada pavilion has premiered another new act, which will fill the stage for at least the new few months. Even though they don’t even appear on park maps yet, we were at Epcot on January 15, 2016, to watch TradNation debut and capture their opening-day performance for you to enjoy at home.
TradNation has taken over Epcot’s Canada stage. (Photos/video by Seth Kubersky)
TradNation is an acoustic musical ensemble that plays Québécois folk songs with traditional orchestrations. That means a whole lot of fingerpicking, fiddlin’, flute playing, and French lyrics, with percussion provided by a spirited step-dancer’s clacking feet. Even if you aced your high school French class, you may struggle to understand the singers’ Acadian-accented patois, but the humble joy they take in sharing their musical heritage is infectious in any language.
Much like the similar Quickstep folk band in the U.K., the TradNation entertainers feel authentic to the point of lacking the polish and stage presence we usually associate with a Disney theme park show; we’re not looking for matching spangled outfits, but this group looks like they just rolled out of Tim Horton’s.
Here’s our full video of a TradNation debut day performance:
With the Canadian Lumberjacks recently getting the axe, it opened up a spot for a brand new entertainment offering at Epcot’s Canada Pavilion. That new offering debuted today and the band is known as TradNation. TradNation is a musical family ensemble that will introduce Guests to a taste of the rich French Canadian heritage of Quebec.
The ensemble group is composed of musicians, singers and dancers and during their sets, they will perform in Quebecois tradition, showcasing not only traditional songs, but they will also perform original family compositions. Their music is designed to showcase the community experience that brings together friends, families, and neighbors.
TradNation will be performing five days a week on the Mill Stage in World Showcase.
Celebrate Hanukkah the Best Week Ever way at Epcot (Photos/videos by Seth Kubersky)
Halloween and Thanksgiving are done and gone and Christmas and New Year are still on their way, but Hanukkah is here right now! In honor of the Festival of Lights, I’m wishing a hearty Chag Sameach to my fellow members of the tribe with this Best Week Ever exploration of 2015’s Epcot Hanukkah celebration.
My visit to Epcot coincided with the third day of Hanukkah, and commenced with a spin of the cosmic dreidel that determines parking spots. I must have landed on Nun because I ended up just about as far as possible from the front…