|Space Ship Earth|
Next on the chopping block is EPCOT. I know it hasn’t been the EPCOT Center for several years.. but I still catch myself calling it that now and then. I love what EPCOT can be, but I think it misses the mark. It is close, but not quite there. Sure it has its main attractions (Sorin’, Test Track, and Mission: Space), but it also has The Universe of Energy, probably the biggest waste of space in Disney.
EPCOT is divided into 2 main areas, Future World and the World Showcase. When you first walk into the park, you are in Future World and are greeted by the giant golf ball, known as Space Ship Earth. Inside this giant sphere, we learn the history of communication, narrated by Dame Judy Dench. Most of the rides are in Future World, and most of them have a sciencey/educational motif. There is so much to do here, I think I will break EPCOT into 2 posts.
One of the most popular rides at Disney is in The Land. It is a high flying hang gliding trip over the key features of California called Sorin’. On it you fly over orange groves, the Golden Gate Bridge, the high desert, Pebble Beach golf course, Downtown LA at night, and ending at Disneyland during the fireworks display. The concept for this ride was created in the garage of one of Disney’s Imagineers, using his old erector set from when he was a kid. Each seat on the ride has a fan above you to blow air in your face to help simulate you are actually flying, and in certain scenes, they inject a scent into the fan to enhance the experience, like when you are flying over the orange grove, you can smell citrus. This ride often has wait times in excess of an hour, and fast passes often sell out quick, so go there first if you are there on a busy day. I would like to see them tweak this a bit. First off, they should take a duster to the giant dome screen, and fix the few black spots on the screen. I also think it would be cool if they would change up the scenes you fly through. They could take a page from the Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios and change up the scenes every ride. Still finish up at Disneyland, but make the journey there different every time. Also, of all the movies they have, this one seems most suited to getting the 3D treatment.
Also in the Land pavilion is one of the hidden gems (at least in my book), Living with the Land. It is a gentile boat ride that highlights agriculture. It goes through a green house showing different types of food plants, fruits, vegetables etc.. from all over the world, and some that have been genetically engineered to be more efficient or bug resistant. One such plant is a tomato tree. There is seldom much of a line here, so it is a nice respite.
Time for lunch? Stop by Sunshine Seasons at the Land. It is routinely ranked among the best quick service places in the entire ‘World’. I have only been there for breakfast, but there is something for everyone.
Another big draw in Future World is Test Track. This was recently re-done to re-brand it with Chevy as a title sponsor. As you stand in line, you design your car at a touch screen computer. You design everything from the type of vehicle (sporty.. compact.. truck.. etc), the shape, color, wheelbase, designs and accessories. After you design your car, you then put it to the test. It goes through breaking, swerving, hot and cold conditions, then for a speed test. At different points through the ride, you go past screens with testing results of your car. The speed test takes place around the outside of the building. The day we rode it, when we came out of the building for the speed test, we were staring straight into the morning sun. In one of the few instances of poor planning on behalf of the Disney Imagineers, the camera is right there. Because of this, most of the pictures taken, show people shading their eyes. After the ride, you are let out into a room with several Chevy based exhibits. You can sit in a new Camaro, Volt, S-10 or other Chevy vehicles. You can have your picture taken with the care you just designed, and you can race your car in a video game similar to the old ‘Off Road’ arcade game.
One ride that is a big draw, but I did not like is Mission: Space. On it, you board a rocket bound for Mars, narrated by Lt Dan. It is a centrifuge ride, and you experience some serious G-forces. It was too much for me to handle, but if you like that sort of thing, you would probably enjoy it.
One of the least impressive rides at all of Disney is here. It is The Universe of Energy. It is a long (45min) ride. In it you are in a dream of Ellen DeGeneres. It is an old movie, (special guests Alex Trebek has a mustache and Jamie Lee Curtis has red hair) where Bill Nye the Science Guy teaches Ellen about energy and where it comes from. Part of the ride does take you through a large room of animatronic dinosaurs, which are pretty cool, but not cool enough to rescue this ride. Unless you are looking for a place for a nap in a dark, air conditioned area, I’d skip this. This ride is definitely due for a redesign.
The world of imagination could use a re-boot, the Capitan EO movie with Michael Jackson is very dated, and it’s time to retire it. It does have some fun interactive things that kids can play, but it isn’t as cool as I remember it when I went in 1986.
The last thing that I will cover in today’s posting is another of the coolest parts of Future World. It is Club Cool, sponsored by Coke. In here, you can try several beverages bottled by Coke from around the world. In the last few weeks, they replaced all the flavors here, so I can’t comment on any of them except for the newly added Inca Kola, since I had it when I was down in Peru several years ago. I really liked the sample they had from Israel, and will miss it. Perhaps I will find a new favorite next time we go down there.
Next time, I will cover the back half of the park, the World Showcase.