Sunday, April 30, 2006

Disney Decompression: EPCOT

Well, we're back. Seven days in Central Florida! I'm going to be writing some focused blog entries on certain specific things later on, but these entries are going to serve as a 'brain dump' of collections remarkable things that weren't worth an entire entry on. These isn't going to be a blow-by-blow trip reports, per se -- I don't really find those all that interesting. Just tidbits of things that are new, interesting or of note, organized by park


Let's just lead right off with my personal favorite theme park in the entire world, EPCOT. It'd been about four years since I'd been there (and probably eleven or twelve since Shannon had), and neither one of us had ever seen everything, so there was a lot to take in.

Future World:

Soarin' and The Land
Soarin' is a direct copy of Soarin' Over California, at California Adventure in Anaheim, shoe-horned into The Land pavillion in the space that was occupied by the much made-fun-of show, "Kitchen Kabaret" (and its very, very short lived replacement, "FOOD ROCKS!"). It's just as good, as to say it is exactly the same, though the queue is lacking in comparison (and since the Soarin' queue at DCA isn't exactly the Ritz, that is to say that the queue is pretty plain.) What IS remarkable about Soarin' at WDW, is it has turned The Land from a tumbleweed-filled cricket-chirping ghost town into The Place To Be in Future World. The Land was positively packed every time we were in there, and that's pretty amazing. One of my favorite attractions in all of Future World is in there, the slow, boring but immensely interesting boat ride through the greenhouses where you learn all about aeroponic and hydrophonic growing techniques. This puts most people into a complete coma, but I think it's pretty interesting. We also took the "Behind the Seeds" tour of the greenhouse, which was interesting and fun. The Land's greenhouse is a place I could literally spend hours and hours inside, it's unbelievably cool and it's great that Soarin' is finally helping to expose it to an audience. Even if that audience takes a nice little snooze -- but let's face it, WDW is tiring. Embrace that nap during the seed ride, America.

Journey Into Imagination
Ohhhh poor, Imagination Pavillion. Once, you were the best thing about Future World. Once, you had so many cool things to do. Now, you have an uneven dark ride that is amusing but not incredibly good, and an ImageWorks playground that is just a barren shadow of what it used to be. Granted, the ImageWorks playground was dated as all get out, but the new one basically consists of three things: Conduct music with your hands, step on things on the ground that make noises, and email funny photos to people. Those three things are exactly replicated through tons of individual stations, and just don't have the amaze factor that the old stuff did. I remember stepping on colored hexagons on the floor to create a symphony! Walking down a neon rainbow hallway where the colors would follow you as you walk! HUGE pin-boards that had light shining on them so when you made the impressions underneath, they would light up in interesting patterns... so much great stuff. So sad that it's all boarded and boxed up somewhere and replaced with boring things that no one seems to like that much.

In true Innoventions style, we ignored it entirely. HA! I still miss Communicore.

The Living Seas
Sigh. The Living Seas actually gives me a bit of a frownface these days. It used to be easily one of my favorite attractions at EPCOT. But the SYNERGY!!! dept at Disney Parks and Resorts went overboard and turned it into basically FINDING NEMO: THE PAVILLION. What used to be a neat trip to the bottom of the ocean is now a lark with Nemo, Crush and Bruce the Shark. The entry to the pavillion used to be a 'hydrolator' that would 'take you down to the bottom of the sea', a very believable illusion that really heightened the experience. Now, the 'Hydrolator' is replaced by a 'Finding Nemo Gift Shop', and the entrance just dumps you right into the aquarium. Which honestly, well, sucks. The Aquarium is still there, and it's still beautiful, but the experience is so dampened down that it doesn't seem anywhere NEAR an adventure. The Living Seas used to be a trip to the sea floor where you could try out diving suits, see all sorts of exotic sea creatures, and feel the future's promise of cities under the sea. So that's a little sad. There is one thing that completely and absolutely redeems it though. Turtle Talk with Crush. It's the first show that Imagineering has produced featuring an interactive digital character. Crush, from Finding Nemo, swims around in a 'tank' (re: screen) and absolutely, 100% interacts with the audience. With emotion. With reactions. It's basically a 3-D animated puppet, and I was BLOWN AWAY with how realistic it was. Whomever is controlling Crush can see the audience, and picks people out of the crowd to talk to, in complete, natural conversation. It's astounding, and I can't wait to see what else they do with this technology.

But, The Living Seas is still a little sad. They were clearly doing something to the facade of the building, which concerns me. The existing facade is gorgeous, and I hope they're not just layering on Nemo characters. I'm fully in the 'Hey, there's already a great place for the Disney characters, it's called the Magic Kingdom' camp, and I think it cheapens the impact and mission of EPCOT to shoehorn characters into places they never should have been.

Spaceship Earth
I can predict the future, check it out. I predict that Spaceship Earth will be completely gutted in the next few years and a completely new attraction will take place inside the sphere. Spaceship Earth is the last of the 'old guard' attractions in Future World. It illustrates the history of human communication, just as World of Motion (now Test Track) traced the history of transportation and Horizons looked into the future of both communications and transportation (Horizons has been demolished and Mission: Space is in its place). I think SE's days are numbered, so see this odd collection of audio-animatronics while you can. It's still pretty charming in its own way.

Mission: Space
I have so much to say about Mission: Space that it's getting its own entry later on.

Test Track
Test Track is still something of a head-scratcher. On one hand, it's a pretty neat ride that shows how a test car is put through its paces, ending with one kickass speed test on a track. On the other, they replaced "The World of Motion" with "The World of GM, and only GM, and you'd better like GM." It's still good, though.

Club Cool



Formerly Ice Station Cool, the fabulous Cokes-from-around-the-world tasting station, Club Cool now has a new home on the other side of Future World. The sad thing is now it seems to be 'Two or three coke products plus Beverly,' which really means it's now 'Trick your friends into drinking Beverly: The Pavillion.' I am very sad that the amount of unique foreign sodas has shrunk and now it's only fun to watch people's faces turn into the California Raisins when they taste Beverly. Which still tastes like ass, if you're curious -- and no I can't elaborate any further than that.

World Showcase

World Showcase is still a lot of fun. A collection of pavillions & restaurants that are themed upon real countries, staffed by people from those countries. It's mostly fun to just shop for candy and pastries you can't buy in the United States, but has its charms nestled deep within. You have to take your time, stop and smell the roses, and poke around to find the special and hidden qualities of Future World. The bamboo kinetic water garden in Japan, the tile mosaic bathhouse in Morocco, the waterfall in Canada, the night sky and volcano in Mexico. It's a great place to just sit, relax, and let the day pass by. Plus, it's also the site of My Favorite Fireworks Show in All the World, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Which is still impressive, inspirational, and beautiful.

EPCOT is alsowhere we first encountered the PhotoPass photographers. PhotoPass is an absolutely brilliant business decision by Disney. Remember in 1890, when you'd go into a theme park and there'd be a few photographers at the entrance? They'd take your photo and hand you a little card that you could go use to buy your photo later? Well PhotoPass punches that concept right in the teethbox. You carry around a little bar-coded card with you, and whenever any of the PhotoPass photographers takes your photo, they scan it and hand it back to you. You can either go to any of the PhotoPass stations and view all your photos, or you can wait until you get home and view them ALL in a web browser. You can even add decals, borders and effects to them, or order a full dump of all your photos on CD. It's amazing, and I bet it's going to be massively successful for them.

So that's pretty much my EPCOT brain dump. Coming soon: Tidbits on Pal Mickey, Mission: Space, DeVine, Dinners and the rest of the parks.


pilgrimchick said...

I haven't been "Disney-ing" in years, so it is great to see how things have changed. I used to love EPCOT--so many interesting sites and it was very well organized, very consolidated as it were--not the one kingdom at a time that the Magic Kingdom is (although nice in its own way).

Thanks for reminding me...

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