Sometimes known as Epcot Center, EPCOT is the unrealized dream of Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a utopian city that would take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies and as such, would never be truly completed as it would always be introducing, testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems. The city would have been circular with major businesses and commercial areas at its center with community buildings, such as schools and recreational areas, in the outer rims with homes lining the community proper.
Unfortunately, with Walt’s passing, the Walt Disney Company did not feel that they could implement his vision to its absolute fullest without his guidance, though they did make something of an attempt in the town of Celebration but that, in and of itself, is quite different from what EPCOT was initially planned to be.
The park itself is divided into two sections and it is the first section, Future World, that I will be discussing today. As its name might imply, Future World is, in essence, an expanded concept of Tomorrowland wherein many of the attractions feature the innovations of the future, and in some areas quite literally too. When EPCOT first opened, many of the pavilions, or attractions whichever you prefer, were created and funded by corporate sponsors such as Kraft for Living with the Land or Kodak for Journey into Imagination.
Though not plainly obvious, each pavilion symbolizes a concept of human innovation and were also granted its own distinctive emblem that symbolized in the early years of the park but have since faded into obscurity though many of them are still around to be spotted in the park proper.
Spaceship Earth is the first attraction to see and enjoy for most visitors of the park and rightfully so. Like Cinderella’s Castle for the Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth is the symbol of EPCOT as a whole and is hands down the most informative, and inspirational, ride in the park itself. The concept of the ride is simple, communication. Specifically, the history of the spoken and written words from across the globe, from the cave paintings of ancient man to visual communication via cellular phones in the modern era. In point of fact, Spaceship Earth had fairly recently undergone a change in its “future” setting as many of the concepts that were then initially believed to have been far into the future are quite common today.
As its name rightfully implies the Universe of Energy pavilion is all about energy from fossil fuels to solar. Sadly, this attraction is somewhat dated as its most recent update is now all of twenty years old and features, primarily, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy as its hosts in a storyline that fits quite well in the 90’s but is a wee bit nonsensical by today’s standards. But in the end, who cares about any of that when you get to see some dinosaurs up close and personal?
Mission: Space is rather self explanatory and a space travel motion simulation ride of no equal as stated by seasoned astronauts. The pavilion does offer two distinct versions of its motion simulation, a softer “green” version and more realistic “orange” but both do not cater to anyone who has even a smidge of claustrophobia so if you’re not a a fan of tight and enclosed spaces this is definitely not the ride for you. If not and you’ve yet to experience the thrill that is a mission to Mars, well buckle your safety straps tight kids because this is going to be one heck of a ride…
One of my personal favorites in Future World, Test Track is the offspring of the former World of Motion pavilion and, somewhat, holds to its concept of motion insomuch that rather than focusing on the various means of transportation, Test Track is focused on the testing of vehicular transports. Original sponsored by General Motors, the Chevrolet update of Test Track has since offered something new, and surprisingly quite fun, to the experience of testing a motor vehicle. Prior to boarding their test car, guests can design their vehicle and throughout the ride itself see how said vehicle passes the various obstacles and can even chose to race their car against others after the ride itself. A small word of warning, though by no means an actual roller coaster, Test Track is one of the fastest rides in the park and can cause some serious illness to those prone to motion sickness.
Formerly known as the Living Seas, The Seas with Nemo and Friends still maintains its creed of living with, and studying, oceanic life and the pavilion itself hosts three attractions. The first is the primary entryway into the pavilion itself where guests board “clamobiles” and journey to the Big Blue World that is the oceans by way of Marlin and Dory renacting several key scenes from the film Find Nemo. The second is the multitude of aquariums within the pavilion which has several unique sealife including, but not limited to, dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and several varieties of fish. The last, and by far most popular, attraction is the live show of Turtle Talk with Crush wherein the titular Crush from Finding Nemo talks and interacts with guests. Much like the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor no show is exactly the same and I can guarantee you that you’ll find yourself laughing at least once in every performance.
Much like the Seas, the Land is a pavilion that hosts multiple attractions within its walls and is also, at least in Future World, the chief place to dine with a vast variety of fresh foods and restaurants whose ingredients are, quite literally, grown in house. The first attraction, and admittedly one that is slightly dated, is The Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable that features Timon, Puumba, and Simba from The Lion King telling the dangers and benefits of symbosis in nature and how even the tiniest of changes can have the largest of outcomes. The second, and easily most interesting attraction is Living with the Land, a boat tour of the various greenhouse and hydroponic facilities within the Land. Last, but certainly not least, is Soarin’ Around the World which has since changed from its earlier concept of hang-gliding across the sunny land of California to spanning the entire world.
The last pavilion, Imagination!, is one that I have several mixed feelings towards. Initially known as Journey into Imagination, the ride featured the wise, almost Saint Nicholas like, Dreamfinder whose task is to find and collect all the wonderful things that can inspire one’s imagination and even demonstrates one such result in the form of Figment, a spirit of imagination.
However, in more recent years the ride has since gone from the fantastical to the somewhat scientific wherein Dr. Nigel Channing of the Imagination Institute, the same president who helped create the shenanigans that resulted in the former Honey I Shrunk The Audience attraction, tries to give us a guided tour through the five senses with constant interruptions by Figment. It is a fun ride, don’t get me wrong, but while it does strive to bring back that One Spark, it just doesn’t ignite with me as it once did not so long ago…
As to characters, there are quite a few to be found throughout Future World in various locations that include the traditional “Toon Town” gang of Mickey and Friends, Figment on his own or sometimes in the arms of his creator/best friend Dreamfinder, Joy & Sadness from Inside Out, and, most recently, Baymax from Big Hero 6.