Walt Disney World
2007 Epcot Photo Tour
The first stop on my investigative tour of Walt Disney World was Epcot. For many people, Epcot is a five-letter word meaning "fun," or a shortened version of "Epcotillous!" or an acronym for "Extreme Persistence Can Overcome Tiredness," or just the name of the park. But for me, it was a chance to see if I could really live up to my goal of seeking out the most interesting bits and pieces of stuff in a Disney theme park, take pictures of it, and then put those pictures on a Web site with some comments (by me). Truly, nothing like this had ever been done before in the entire history of the Internet!
But enough tooting my own virtual horn. On with the pictures!
The first thing that everyone sees when the enter Epcot is Spaceship Earth, but I forgot to take a picture of that so let's move a little further into future world. In a little-noticed location in Future World (on the ground) there is a circle in which circles filled with text circle. These circles commemorate important inventors and discoverers throughout time and the contributions they made to invention and/or discovery. It's a shame that so many people seem to overlook this wonderful learning opportunity!
I was particularly pleased to see commemorations of the inventions of Hammurabi (text in code), Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), and Samuel Clemens (the steam ship).
My visit came during the semi-annual Flower and Garden festival, which takes place every year at Epcot. During the festival, experts are on hand to tell you why your plants are dying, meet-and-greet characters are replaced by clever topiaries, children can take place in mass ladybug releases, and old women in electric transport vehicles occasionally spin out of control and drive into World Showcase Lagoon when their overpowering lavender perfume attracts swarms of affectionate ladybugs. For those with a particular interest in planty things, signs are posted throughout the park with interesting details about featured flora.
A quick visit to The Seas with Nemo and Friends left me hungry for fish, so I headed to the Coral Reef restaurant. I didn't have a reservation, but after a delightful 100+ minute wait I was shown to a beautiful table overlooking the gigantic fish tank that is the restaurant's cheap substitute for real windows.
My meal was delightful (seaweed salad, tenderloin of sea cow, and hot lava death chocolate explosion cake), and I was lucky enough to catch the noon fish feeding, after which a specially trained angel fish was eaten by a shark that was eaten by a killer whale. Delightful!
The Land pavilion has more than just the dirt that is its namesake. For example, I signed myself up for the fascinating "Behind the Seeds" tour, that goes into normally off-limits areas so that you can see the back sides of plants that you can only see the front sides of if you go on the Living with the Land ride.
They also told us about a variety of techniques used by Disney to keep the World's ecosystem in check, such as using friendly insects to humiliate and drive away unfriendly insects, and packing the more insidious pests into large boxes and shipping them overnight to Islands of Adventure.
With all that education under my belt (along with my lunch), it was time (2 o'clock) to go on my first attraction. I chose Journey Into Imagination with Figment because the line was inexplicably short -- what luck! The ride depicts some kind of battle of wits between a Python in a lab coat and a purple dragon in a yellow shirt. There's some sort of lab where they're investigating human senses and then a trip to the dragon's house, which is apparently in Australia (?).
The attraction exits into a large area in which you can ruin a perfectly good picture of yourself, wave your arms in time to bad music, and be accosted by someone trying to sell you a giant camera.
The Imagination Pavilion has a shop filled with items themed to the pavilion's various themes (senses, imaginary animals, shrinking). They also have aspirin, in case you begin to be overwhelmed by princess-themed merchandise (which seems to be absent only where it has been replaced by fairy-themed merchandise).
What to do but another attraction! I heard that Test Track was popular, so that was my next destination. While waiting in line, I had opportunity to speak with a cast member about the attraction and learned many interesting, little known facts. For example:
I intended to go on Mission Space (the centrifuge-based attraction that tends to make people lose their lunch) but ran into difficulties. I opened the wrong door or made a bad turn or something like that, and never did find the end of the attraction queue. However, while I was wandering around I did find a ladder that led to the scaffolding in the attraction's ceiling and was able to take this incredible top-down photo of a ride vehicle just before it spun its occupants into space!
All that climbing and walking made me thirsty. At Club Cool, you can drink all you want of typical beverages from all over the world so long as they fit in a cup no bigger than the cap of a bottle of mouthwash. Yum!
Enough of Future World -- into World Showcase! The first "world" or "land" or "place" or "pavilion" or "country" in World Showcase is Mexico. Hidden away within the deep recesses of an ancient Peruvian temple is a ride, a restaurant, and a shop where you can never quite figure out where the cash register is. Amazing! One thing that stands out about World Showcase is that all of the employees are actually from the countries that the pavilion is only pretending to be from. For example, pictured here is a group of cast members from Mexico. ¡Hola!
World Showcase is also a great place for exotic shopping. For example, in the Norway pavilion they have clothing that is like nothing you can get anywhere else on Earth (just take a look!)
Norway is also the home of the restaurant with the name that sounds like you need a Kleenex -- Akersuhs. Epcot's big princess-themed character meal is held here, making for long lines and endless confusion as all the little girls dressed as princesses think that all the other little girls dressed as princesses might be the real princesses and try to get their autographs. Reservations are required, can be made up to half a year in advance, require full prepayment, and will be instantly, irrevocably canceled if you are so much as five minutes late, causing your little darling to cry, rend her tiara, and generally flip out.
This is a great place to go if you want to round out your collection of photos of parents on the edge.
China is one of my favorite pavilions because it's little museum never ceases to have something truly Asian in it. This time around, there was an exhibit called "Tomb Warriors," all about the horrors that befall anyone attempting to plunder the final resting places of any of China's fabled emperors.
Chinese artwork is on display all over the China pavilion (much more so than in the Japan pavilion, for example). Here we see an intricate set of sculptures depicting the ancient Chinese army visiting the Magic Kingdom and standing patiently in line for Space Mountain. (Note the intricately carved facial features and Mickey Mouse ears.)
Wonders of China is a CircleVision film presentation about life in China. In the historical scene depicted here, ancient Chinese have crossed a land bridge made available by the ice age and are setting up home in a new land. I wish all history was this easy to learn!
What do you think of when someone says "Germany"? Hitler, right? Well, that's not exactly what Imagineers had in mind when they created the Germany pavilion. Instead, there is plenty of beer, sausage, folk art, and Wagner -- and if you're hungry, step into the beer hall for a quick bite accompanied by a rousing fascist political speech (every hour on the hour).
At this point in my journey, I was ready for some more of Epcot's delicious edibles. World Showcase is famous for its eateries, and I chose Alfredos in Italy. It's modeled after the pasta of the same name, and the entrance room is lined with pictures of some Italian guy trying to get famous people to eat a huge amount of fettuccini right out of his bare hand. (The actual restaurant has silverware.)
Because it was getting late in the day, I left Italy and proceeded through the rest of World Showcase in the fastest manner possible. After looking at my schedule, I saw that there was about to be a performance by Kikokandi, the popular Japanese candy artist. Today she was performing in a recreation of a turn-of-the-20th-century world's fair, creating tiny statues of historical figures from taffy!
In this photo she is putting the finishing touches on my tasty William Howard Taft.
Who doesn't love France? Me! I stopped to take a picture of their recreated Eiffel tower and went on my way.
I have a lot of trouble understanding the United Kingdom pavilion. They speak the same language as us and everything, but it's like they're from another planet. For example, the United Kingdom pavilion features architecture from all over the United Kingdom, some of it reflecting styles that have endured for centuries. But no matter how much you tell me about the history, the entrance to this restaurant still looks like the entrance to a bathroom (okay, a "loo").
It's just weird. That's all I'm saying.
Someone put a Teddy Roosevelt standee in a phone booth. I assume that's what passes for humor in the U.K.? Why? Some kind of pun or something? And I don't get Monty Python, either. Spam? Dead parrots? What is that? Give me American humor any day. How about Dr. Strangelove? Peter Sellers is a genius. Gotta love it.
I finished my day where all of history starts, the American Adventure. Within this pavilion are a thousand reminders of what it is like to be an American, from the historic clothing, to the patriotic displays, to the secret government devices that screw up your camera if you try and take a picture without permission, to the burly guards in smoked glasses who take your Polaroid, wad it up, and throw it in a dumpster if you try and take a picture anyway. That's my country!
The main attraction in the American Adventure is the American Adventure show, in which important moments from this country's past are recreated through audioanimatronics. To get guests in the mood for the show, the entrance foyer is surrounded by quotes from famous Americans. Inspirational!
I ended my day with the wonderful American Adventure show. My favorite moments were the action-packed animatronic depictions of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the moment of anticipation before the election of Jimmy Carter, and the thrilling, real-time recreation of the penning of The Great Gatsby. One disappointment was that, in order not to offend some tourists, the aggressors of World War II were changed from Japan and Germany into Monaco and the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. But that is a minor problem -- the program is otherwise fabulously historically accurate, and the ending montage of great Americans (Jim Carrey, Roger Ebert, Sgt. Preson, etc.) never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
I would have stayed longer at Epcot, but it was closing time and when I came out of the American Adventure something was exploding over the lagoon and that sounded dangerous, so I ran for the International Gateway and got out of there. My next day of vacation was spent in the Magic Kingdom. Take a look!
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