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Disney World Day 3: Epcot

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Fast Facts:


Day’s Big Event(s): I showed the group 1-hour of mercy; The Flower and Garden Expo was happening


First Ride: Spaceship Earth (the Big Ball)


Most Ridden: Soarin’ (2 times)


Ride with longest wait: Soarin’ (90 minutes)


Closed Attraction: Test Track


Lauryn’s Souvenir: Lucky from 101 Dalmatians


Random fact: I gave someone an autograph


I’m not gonna even try to sugarcoat it; Disney with me can be a grind. I mean, you are constantly on the move; walking, planning, always thinking two rides ahead.* And unless you ask – usually multiple times – we probably aren’t stopping for food on any kind of regular basis. Now, don’t get me wrong; you ARE gonna have fun. But it’s gonna be the kind of fun that you might have to look back on a few days/weeks from now. You know, once the swelling in your feet has gone down, and you’ve forgotten how exhausted you were, race-walking from one attraction to the next under the broiling Florida sun. Kind of like childbirth; mothers don’t remember the excruciating pain where they screamed, “YOU DID THIS TO ME! I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU!” to their husbands**, but only remember the beautiful bundles of joy that they have now. Once the pain, swelling and blisters subside, those will be forgotten memories to be replaced by all of the amazing and wonderful things you managed to (near) impossibly cram into a single day.


That’s kind of how a Disney trip with me is.


(* Case in point: Right now, a Twitter friend, @Olivia_Lyn, is at Disneyland. It is silently killing me a little that she isn’t navigating the park and Fast Passing in a manner that I feel is the most productive. Going to ONE ride in Fantasyland to then walk all the way to Orleans Square for ANOTHER? Without getting a Fast Pass?!? Is no one else freaking out here?!)

 

(** Dana didn’t scream any of these things to me. In fact, her birth was nearly silent. Her sister described it as being a near-Scientologist birthing experience, with Dana completely silent, determined, just getting things done.)


So, come the end of Day 2 at Magic Kingdom, my Disney crew was pretty wiped. As there weren’t as many rides at Epcot, I conceded that we could start our day an hour later, and get to the park at 10 instead of 9. See, I’m not an entirely heartless and soul-crushing dictator. (Oh, they would be forced to make up for that lost hour, don’t you worry. This was going to be like Spring Ahead. And Fall Back was coming. Coming like a hammer!)


So, Epcot has always been one of Dana and my favorite parks. We had our first all-day-alone-together date here. The attractions definitely have more of an educational bent, and I love the countries section. Dana actually discovered just on this trip that this British flag towel that I have owned for YEARS – seriously, like 20 years -- was purchased at Epcot. What can I say…the English girl in Britannia was cute and had an amazing voice and I daresay I’ve gotten my $20 out of that towel purchase!



Originally we planned on doing Epcot first, but when we discovered that Animal Kingdom had an extra hour on Sunday, we pushed Epcot to Disney Day 3. (In retrospect, we should have saved Magic Kingdom for Day 3 and done Epcot on Day 2. That was really the best park for Lauryn – and any kid – and after doing Magic Kingdom, I’m afraid that Epcot was destined to really be a bit of a letdown for Lauryn. Granted, it was *still* Disney, so it was already starting at like a 9 out of 10 just because, but Epcot will never beat the Magic Kingdom in a 5 ½ year old’s eyes.) But, it was time for Day 3 and that meant it was time for Epcot!



Epcot frequently has these festivals and exhibitions. In the past Dana and I happened to be at the Food & Wine festival which was pretty awesome. We went to this one wine tasting event where there was this guy that was a Master Sommelier AND a Master of Wine; one of like three people in the world that held both titles. It was like a frickin’ David Blaine trick watching this guy identify wines. Well, we didn’t get so lucky this time. Instead of sweet-sweet wines, it was the Flower & Garden Festival. So, all throughout the park were these topiaries of Disney characters. Here’s one of the first that we saw:



For me, one of the most iconic symbols of all of Disney World – not just Epcot – is “the Big Ball” – technically Spaceship Earth. I had been telling Lauryn about the Big Ball for a while leading up to our visit, telling her how you ride through the ball, and we had caught glimpses of it already on our drives into the other parks. But now, we were here, at the Big Ball!



It’s the very first attraction that you encounter when walking in to Epcot which can often mean that it is totally packed. But, when we saw that it had a sub 15 minute wait, we decided to get in line. To me, this ride blends the best of Magic Kingdom and Epcot – it is a lengthy, indoor ride, with cool diorama-type scenes and animatronics blended with a lot of education and storytelling. The ride covers the history of communication and is one of my favorites.


Of course, I had my ride buddy, Lauryn, in my car and we set off.



They have changed the ride a bit since the last time I rode it (mutter-mumble) years ago. There is now a touchscreen in the ride and when you start off it takes a picture of your face. Lauryn liked seeing all of the different communication styles over the years, from cave drawings to papyrus to printing press to telegraph to the digital age. Our car stopped at one point, leaving us staring at Foxy Cleopatra from the computer age.

 


A sidenote here… So, over the years, I seemed to have developed a bit of what same might would call a “ride jinx.” Rides just seem to have a habit of performing what is known as “a refusal” in horse jumping parlance when I’m on them. I have no explanation for why, it just happens. The ride can be working fine for hours – days even – and when I work my way to the head of the line or get onto the ride…clunk. Ride breaks. This has happened to me SO many times on Splash Mountain, that it took me like three different visits to Disney and like 5 different attempts before I could actually ride it all the way through. I have actually been pulled OFF Splash Mountain twice having to walk through the “cast member’s only” areas because the ride broke to the point that it stranded all riders. We had a pretty break-free day at Animal Kingdom, but at Magic Kingdom Snow White stopped on us, and – surprise, surprise! -- Splash Mountain stopped on us. Twice! Clearly the bane of my existence! And now, ride number one was starting with a misstep…


Following that scene you hear Dame Judy Dench say, "To send a man to the moon, we had to invent a new language, spoken not by man, but by computers. At first very large, very expensive computers. But we see the potential. What if everyone could have one of these amazing computers in their own house? There's just one problem -- they're as big as a house. The solution comes in, of all places, a garage in California.” Then you see this scene:



This is a relatively new scene on the ride that is clearly an homage to Apple and Jobs and Wozniak building the first Apple in Jobs’ parent’s garage. You roll by it pretty quickly, but it would be great to see if there were any hidden little nods to Jobs, especially since he is – was – a major Disney shareholder since the Pixar acquisition. Either way, a cool addition to the ride.


At the end of the ride, where you used to just hang out in the car as it drove backwards down the spiral, you know answer some questions to see a glimpse of your “future.” I let Lauryn answer all of the questions – things like do you want to live in the city or country, do you travel far or short distances for vacation – and then they superimpose your faces from earlier onto a little animation of what your future might be like.


After Spaceship Earth you are walk into the Innoventions area. This was the topiary in between:



These East and West pavilions have a lot of interactive areas that are fun to do, but are a bit too old for Lauryn. This would be a great area to spend some time with an 8-14 year old that loved video games. This area also used to house the Ultimate Home Theater exhibit, sponsored by Lutron (and I believe that Theo Kalomirakis was a consultant on). I’m sure this was incredibly impressive when it opened in 1999, but it was super dated after a few years. As fast as this technology changes, it would have been difficult for Disney to continue to retrofit and upgrade it while still keeping it open to the public on a regular basis. So, adieu, Ultimate Home Theater, you introduced millions of people to what I do for a living and for that I thank you!

 

There is a new build-your-own-coaster robot-sim ride in Innoventions East called The Sum of All Thrills. This ride actually looks and sounds pretty cool. You design a track, how fast, how high, how many inversions, and then ride it in a simulator. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it over to this. Also, some of those sim rides make me a bit nauseous, so I didn’t really go out of my way.


From here we headed over to The Land area. Besides the Big Ball, this is one of the rides that I really remember about “old” Epcot. This ride used to be called “Listen to the Land” (now it’s “Living With the Land") and it used to have this song that just slowly seeped its way into your brain and then channeling deep into all of your cortexes  like that brain burrowing ear bug from Wrath of Khan. “Listen to the land…listen the laaaaaa-and. Listen to the land.” I swear. Hours later you would be singing about the land. Hours? Who am I kidding. YEARS later. I will randomly just burst into verse where I’ll start singing – at the top of my lungs, of course, because it’s the only way to properly express the emotion which is the land – “Listen to the laaaaaaa-and, listen to the LAND!” Here. Enjoy some brainwashing.


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


Now, watch that video like 7 times in a row and you'll get a good sense of how the Land ride used to be and how the song can become part of your DNA...forever!


So, we get on the Land ride which is a boat that sails through these panoramas or how man has learned to listen, umm, I mean to LIVE with the land. Then you sail into this giant greenhouse area where you see all of this produce that they produce at Epcot that is eaten throughout the park. There are also fish tanks with fish that are served in the park. They actually work really closely with the FDA and other agencies to develop new ways to grow food; trying to find ways to both produce more, but healthier and in a less planet destroying way. It’s pretty impressive. One of the displays was how they grow with hydroponics. I’m pretty sure that one of my ex-employees used to grow things with hydroponics. I’m also pretty sure that he didn’t have tours through his “greenhouse.”



Upstairs in the Land area is a giant theater where they show “The Circle of Life” a short film starring Timone, Simba and Pumba on how to not destroy the planet. Here’s the takeaway: Timone shouldn’t dam up the Serengeti because it will ruin your Hakuna Matata and dumping millions of gallons of unprocessed sludge into the ocean is also muy bad mojo.


The big attraction in The Land pavilion is Soarin’. This is a ride that was originally at Disney’s California Adventure and is a pretty cool hang glider simulation. Unfortunately, it had a 70 minute wait and the Fast Passes were going fast. I punched us out some tickets and we decided to return later.


Outside of The Land, if you turn right, you can head to an area called Imagination, where they are showing Captain EO, a 3D movie that stars Michael Jackson. They brought this attraction back as a tribute after Jackson died. I have to say, when I originally saw Captain EO back in the late ‘80s, it was mind-blowing. The sound was amazing, the theater has these 4D effects and the 3D was absolutely the most incredible thing that I’d ever seen. We waited in line for hours and watched it multiple times. It cost $30 million to make, and at only 17 minutes, at the time was one of the most expensive films per minute – ever! However, judging the 3D quality of the other attractions we saw at Disney – Bug’s Life show at Animal Kingdom and Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom – I was fairly sure that EO was not going to live up to the epic presentation I remembered. So, I felt like I would keep EO safe in that special memory in my mind and not re-write it was a potentially disappointing presentation.


So, we turned left and headed to The Seas. The Seas has been massively redesigned since my last visit and now has a Nemo ride. The line was only about 20 minutes long and – more importantly – entirely indoors and out of the 90 degree, humidity, so we decided to do our part to help find Nemo. So we get to the head of the line – I mean like 10 people away from the ride and…it breaks down! Sciacca’d! We wait probably 15 minutes just standing there before it finally gets going again and we get our turn. It is a pretty good ride, as you cruise through different scenes of the movie. So many Pixar films would lend themselves to cool attractions – Incredibles? Wall-E? Monsters Inc? Up? Toy Story? – that I’m surprised there aren’t more. (Random fact: This is the second ride that I have only ever been on with Lauryn. The other being Everest...)


Also inside this area is a Turtle Talk With Crush thing where Crush swims out and has a live chat with the audience. It is geared towards kids, but pretty funny. Lauryn wasn’t in the most Disney of spirits so she wouldn’t go up and sit in the kid’s area.


From there we headed over to Mission Space. This is a marquee attraction, and can have a LONG wait. The wait today? 10 minutes. Lauryn really wanted to go on Soarin’ and didn’t understand the “we have to wait until our Fast Pass is ready” concept so she was suddenly in poor spirits. Here is what happens when you ask Lauryn to pose for a picture when she is in a bad spirit: (That’s our friend, Lori, who accompanied us to help manage Lauryn.)

 


I have only previously been on Mission Space once, and I will say, it did NOT set well with me. I think part of the problem is the huge frickin’ psych out, mind freak they put on you throughout every second of the line. “IF YOU ARE PRONE TO GETTING SICK…DO NOT RIDE ON THIS RIDE!” “JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER HAD A SPIN INDUCED MASSIVE CARDIAL INFARCTION OR EXPLODING ANEURYSM DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT WILL NOT HAPPEN THIS TIME!” Seriously, every like 30 seconds is some massive warning. “IF YOU ARE HAVING EVEN THE SLIGHTEST DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR ABIITY TO RIDE THIS RIDE, THEN IT IS ALREADY TOO LATE! CONGRATULATIONS. YOU’RE DEAD. YOU SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO US!” “DO YOU THINK WE ARE MAKING THESE ANNOUNCEMENTS FOR OUR HEALTH?! NO. IT’S BECAUSE THIS RIDE IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE! NO ONE SHOULD RIDE IT! EVER!”


This is the sign outside the ride: 



Then right before you get on the ride, this attendant comes up and looks you deep in the eyes, grasps both of your hands with a grave sincerity and says, “Are you *sure* you feel up to riding this ride? It isn’t too late to step out of line. Seriously. No one will think any less of you. Men much tougher than you step out of line all the time. I’d totally do it if I were you. Come on. Let’s go…”


So I’m not sure if I just got coerced or suggestified into getting nauseous or what, but when I got off the ride last time, I felt really queasy for like a while following. The ride ends when your ship crash lands on Mars and then almost falls over the edge of this cliff. I looked over and Dana and said, “You need to just leave me here on Mars. If we turn around and go back to Earth, I’m gonna throw up.”


So, I decided that rather than risk a repeat of that, I would try the “less intense” Green Team experience. So we get up to the head of the line, like literally are ready to board our craft and Dana says, “I’ve decided I don’t want to do it.” This sends Lauryn into a tailspin, and she freaks out also and decides that she’s not gonna do it either. So, Lori and I soldiered on. This ride *is* intense and the entire lead up to it is incredibly cool, like you are boarding an actual spaceship. This is the inside of your module:



I naturally took this seat:



The Green Team experience was definitely less intense, but still a pretty thrilling simulator. Even better, I didn’t get off feeling like I wanted to have a Zero G hurl. I would have gone back on and done the Orange line if someone would have been up to it, but as it was, no one wanted to so I left well enough alone.


Next to Mission Space is one of Epcot’s awesome rides, Test Track. Sadly, it was under a major refurb, and was closed. This is a real bummer, because I think Lauryn would have loved it. With her bailing on Mission Space, there really weren’t any other thrill rides at Epcot. We headed over to the Universe of Energy which housed one of the longest ride/attractions in all of Disney…the 45-minute Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Before the ride started the ladies had to use the restroom, so I hung out in front talking to this Disney employee. She said that she gets 16 passes a year, and each pass is good for her and 2 people, and that sometimes she’ll just stand in front of the gate, look for a couple that looks like they can’t really afford to be going to Disney, and then bring them in with her. What a cool gesture!


This gave me an idea for an AWESOME Disney job. You would be the Good Samaritan Ambassador. You would just walk around the park incognito, and when you saw someone do something nice – pick up some trash, help someone open a door, whatever, anything to promote the Disney spirit – you would hand them a couple of Fast Passes good for any ride. Cost to Disney? Zero. Good will? 100%. I would love to have that job.


Anyhow, we go through Ellen’s Energy Adventure where you follow Ellen Degeneris back through time to see dinosaurs and where fossil fuels came from. The ride is cool, but just feels a bit dated now. And it is looooong.


Following that we went to this Coca-Cola exhibit where you can try flavors from around the world:



If you have never experienced the mouth affrontery which is Beverly, then I envy you and your virgin buds. It is fun just to stand off to the side and watch people get their first, nasty, bitter, soylent green swallow of Beverly. Seriously, when a drink like "VegitaBeta" is a welcome flavor refreshment in comparison, this drink makes me regret being Italian a little.

 

We have a Chase Disney Visa card that I got solely because they offered a cool, retro Mickey watch when you signed up:



This watch is destined for Lauryn, and it is hers as soon as she can tell time. She’s pretty excited about it and occasionally asks me to pull it down so she can look at it. Anyhow, we have this Disney credit card, and one of the perks is that you get a private meet-and-greet and picture with some characters. So we headed over and met up with these guys:



Lauryn brought along a princess costume (actually I think it is a Tinker Bell outfit) because she wanted to be in her finery to meet everyone. Also nice was that this rallied her spirits a bit.


From here we headed back to The Land where we had lunch and used our Fast Passes for Soarin’. Soarin’ is a very cool ride, but I can tell you that the ride definitely is more believable if you can be in row 1, the cars that go up to the top. In row 3 – where I’ve been twice – you are on the bottom and see people’s feet dangling in front of you and it is really a buzzkill. You swoop over landmarks in California, and finish flying over Disneyland at night. It’s a great ride, and definitely one worth waiting for. So, we got some more Fast Passes immediately after getting off.


We decided to head to the World Showcase and worked our way there. On the way, we found the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden. Lauryn is into Tinkerbell so we strolled through.



They also had a nice little Fairy Park play area, so she played for bit.

 


In front of each of the fairies was a “rubbing station” where you could rub a crayon onto a piece of paper and get each fairy’s autograph. So Lauryn and I did that and then when we finished and showed our autographs to get some seeds to plant at home, the guy and I started talking and it turns out he knows me from Sound + Vision! Been reading my stuff for years and is a big fan. He pulled out a paper and asked if I would give him an autograph. Very cool! If any of you out there recognize me and feel like asking for an autograph, I promise to oblige and then be secretly swollen with pride for the remainder of the day. Just sayin’…


It was pretty blasting hot, and when we passed a water play area, Lauryn was all about it.



From here we headed through Mexico which has a nice Small World type ride, but Lauryn was wet and didn’t want to ride. Then into Norway where they have a ride called the Maelstrom, but, ditto: Lauryn, wet and didn’t want to ride. We worked our way through China and Germany. In front of Germany was this Snow White and 7 Dwarves topiary:



Of course, I always have to go and show some love to Italia, so we looked around there for a bit.



Then at some point I looked down and Lauryn was asleep. Hopefully this would be a mood resetter when she woke up. We continued on past America where there was Buzz and Woody-piary:



And then into Japan where there was Lightning McQueen and Mater-piary:



And on into Morocco and finally we stopped for drinks in France; Dana getting some Grey Goose and lemonade thing and I got a Kronenbourg 1664. We crossed the bridge back into the UK – where they disappointingly only were offering Guiness and Bass – and then through Canana and back into the regular part of Epcot.


Lauryn woke up with perfect timing and we used our second Fast Pass for Soarin’ and then walked into this massive Disney store where Lauryn was going to pick out her toy for the day. She couldn’t make up her mind and I wanted her to get Bolt because she actually *likes* Bolt but she instead picked Lucky from the 101 Dalmatians.


I was totally against this; I just didn’t want her to waste $20 on a toy she cared nothing about. Lauryn was upset and crying, I was getting angry and pouty. And then Dana laid some sage wisdom on me. She said, “Look, these are Lauryn’s Disney memories. And getting this toy is going to be *her* memory of coming to Epcot.” Yep. She’s a keeper!


We headed over to the Nine Dragons Restaurant in China and here’s a pic of Lauryn and Lucky: 



After dinner, it was time for the fireworks show, so we lined up. The show I remember was called “Illuminations” or something and it was really awesome. It showcased each of the countries and had a great laser light and firework show. This new one was not nearly as impressive and at some point there is just this raging inferno of fire like an oil drum randomly exploded or a gas main ruptured or something. Maybe I was just nostalgic for the show I knew and loved…. Anyhow, Lauryn has another great seat and took it all in:

 


After the show I was hoping that I could catch one last ride on the Big Ball. Lauryn was totally up for it and I thought it would just be a great capper to our day/trip for one last ride on that quintessential of Disney attractions. So we raced over there and…it was closed. Sadness. Both Lauryn and I were totally bummed.


So on the way out we went to retrieve our picture with Lauryn and Mickey and the gang and while we were in line, I saw this that totally put a smile on my face. A notepad with retro reprints of old Disney tickets:



And with that, the park closed and our Disney trip was officially over. I hope that you enjoyed reliving the trip with me. This was an *awesome* time of year to go to Disney World and we're already looking forward to our next trip to the Magic Kingdom...


In the words of Peter Pan...Come on everybody! Here...we...GO!

Categories: June 2012, Family

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1 Comment

Reply Slavik
8:15 PM on June 4, 2012 
Love it!