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A WD Online Tour Of Walt Disney World Part 2: Epcot

posted by Mike on 10/02/03

Okay. First of all, I left out a couple things from my MK column. So before we move on to EPCOT, let's get back to those.

1) In Frontier land, you have Mink Fink's Keelboats. These are just flat-topped platforms that float you over to Tom Sawyer island. It's the only way to get there, so you're kinda stuck with them if you want to go play int he woods. Which brings me to...

2) Tom Sawyer Island. This is basically a playground for kids that might've been considered cool back in the 50's, when kids actually gave a shit about Tom Sawyer, but these days, there's no animatronic Pokemon running around for them to capture, so they couldn't care less.Basically, it's an island covered in trees and themed towards the woods outside Tom Sawyer's home town.. there's rope barrel bridges to cross, old abandoned mills to explore, an old wooden fort with an actual parapet you can climb up to, including wall mounted rifles that you can shoot (noise makers, of course.) And one of the best kept secrets in the park: Injun Joe's cave.

Now, if you've read the book, or seen any of the films, this "cave" in no way captures the enormity of the cave you've seen or imagined. Essentially, it's just a tunnel that runs from one side of the island to another, with cheesy on-the-boarder-line of being racist "indian" war drums being piped through it by hidden speakers. So what makes this such a hidden treasure? A certain part of this cave has a bridge you cross. Underneath that bridge is a partially concealed crawlspace big enough for three people to sit in. Rumor has it some castmembers have used this to hide from the heat during the summer, but it's even more well known as a spot the Grads use on Grad night to hide and drink the booze they've smuggled in. Unless it was boarded up since my last visit, you can commonly look under there and find empty bear bottles, abandoned roach clips, and so on...

Another neat thing about the island. The Riverboat cruise takes you around it. Well, remember the pirate cave I mentioned that you pass by? Over by the Fort are some wooden pylons sticking up from the water, to create the illusion that there used to be a bridge there. If you're fleet of foot, and no one is watching, you can hop across those pylons to the restricted area behind the fort, and make your way over to that cave. But you won't find pirates. All you'll find is an out-of-date audio player hooked up to some speakers playing an endless loop of the pirates bickering... and of course, the initials of all the others brave enough to sneak over to it... Not much to see, but it's neat to feel like you've found something you weren't supposed to find. Not that I'm encouraging any of you to try, of course. ;p

Now, on to EPCOT!

Behold... the giant golfball of glory...

As I stated in my last piece, EPCOT was originally supposed to be a real, working city where people lived, worked, and enjoyed their lives. No roads, no cars, just a furutistic, pollution free city unlike anything the world had ever seen.

The dream that never was...

As the pic above shows, Walt had the entire project mapped out, right down to where the trash disposal slots would be (Disney parks use an underground trash disposal system. Instead of bagging it, trash is sucked through tubes to an incinerator that burns at such a high temperature that all it releases is steam... pollution free) to a bench he wanted placed in the very heart of the city so he and his wife could just sit and watch everyone enjoying what he'd created.

Walt died before getting to sit on that bench. His brother died shortly after the Magic Kingdom opened. They took a look at Walt's plans and, while they could see it to be a fully functional possibility, it wasn't going to be as profitable as a theme park, and was also going to have a great deal of political headaches to overcome. Their solution? They scrapped the entire concept EXCEPT for the exhibition of new products by sponsor companies, and turned EPCOT into a theme park. Or more correctly, a World's Fair that never closed down.

When EPCOT opened in 1982, they'd chosen to keep the "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow" monicker, even though it wasn't a community at all. They called it EPCOT Center. All of the rides were educational in nature. Several of the park'sbest attractions have been replaced in recent years. I'll take a couple moments to cover those:

1)Journey Into Imagination

This ride was literally meant to make you feel as though you were touring a sleeping mind, full of dreams, hopes and ideas. Your host was a rather Santaish chap named the Dreamfinder, a rosey cheeked fat man with a bright red beard and purple suit. Alongside of him was a small purple dragon he'd created named Figment, who loved nothing more than using his imagination. Figment was voiced by the late Billy Barty. You'll remember him as the old little wizard from the film Willow, or Fran Drescher's camera man in the Al Yankovic film UHF. The ride was really fun, and had another one of those addictive Disney songs that sticks in your head, a song called A Little Spark, written by the famous Sherman Brothers song writing team who scored Mary Poppins and other Disney hits. When the ride was over, you were invited to tour the Image Works, a lab on the second floor where you could let your imagination run wild through the use of numerous different kiosks and such. The ride is housed in a building beneath two large glass pyramids. Well, back then, there was a staircase you could climb to the top where an observation point was hidden. From there, you could see all across the park for a truly unique view.

Then, around 1998, the ride was gutted and turned into "Journey Into YOUR Imagination." It used the same vehicles, and same ride track, but was now themed as a tour through the think tank of the "Imagination Institute," the company funding Rick Moranis's experiments in the Honey I Shrunk The Audience 3D film next door (the same theater that hosted Michael Jackson's Captain EO back in the 80's.) So the Dreamfinder was scrapped and replaced with Dr. Niles Channing, head of the institute, and played by Monty Python alumnist Eric Idle. The ride sucked. Disney chairman Michael Esiner was so pissed after experiencing it that a couple imagineers lost their jobs.

But what was done was done. They couldn't put it back the way it was. So they changed the script around a bit, and put Figment back in the ride. Now, he flies around during the ride screwing up Dr. Channing's experiments.

They also put the original song back in the ride. Not as good by ANY means as it was, but much better than the shit they shoveled off on the public in 1998.

Rest in pieces, favorite ride...sniff...

2) Horizons

Horizons was a unique ride, to say the least. Essentially, it was meant to be a sequel of sorts to the Carousel Of Progress show at the Magic Kingdom. It showed this family in the future, and how the technology of that time has changed their lives. The ride's motto was taken from one of Walt's famous quotes: If you can dream it, you can do it.

The vehicles had room for four peope sitting side by side. Instead of moving forward on a track, riders moved sideways, with the different environments and sets moving past them as they progressed. At one point, the vehicles moved past a dark corridor with nothing but wall just a foot from your face to look at, then all of a sudden, you moved into a humungous room with an Imax screen just a few feet in front of you. Space scenes and underwater secenes were shown, creating a real one of a kind experience.

You saw different ways technology was used to take humans where they'd never been before. You explored an underwater city, a space station CITY high above the earth... and a desert-based facility where hydroponics was used to grow oranges without soil or fertalizer. This scene was one of my favorites, as the scientist depicted in the scene was growing orange fields, so they pumped the room full of an orange scent as you passed through it.

At the end of the ride, a little panel lit up on the console in front of you, and you were given your choice of how you'd like to end your ride: A ride through space, under the ocean, or through the desert. Majority ruled, so whichever one was pressed the most by the others on the ride determined what you saw. Once your selection was made, a screen appeared directly across from you, moving at the same speed as your vehicle. You then got to watch a first-person "ride" based on your choice, with your car vibrating at all the right spots to simulate anything more than actual horizaontal movement you were actually experiencing. And then, it was over.

This was my favorite ride at EPCOT, and I was quite unhappy when I learned they'd torn it down to be replaced by some wacky "space simulator." They already had one at MGM called Star Tours, why have another, right? Well... that's what I thought too until I RODE the new experience... more on that later...

3) World Of Motion. World of Motion was another standard Disney dark ride that explored the history of transportation. Beginning in the prehistoric period, the first thing you saw was a caveman blowing on his feet from having walked all day. From there, you rode past various scenes depicting the different ways humans have gotten from place to place over the ages, culminating in a futuristic city scene that looked more like it was a set piece from Tron than anything else. Speaking of which, just before the ride ended, you rode past mirrors, just like the Haunted Mansion finale, and saw that your vehicle had been turned into a light-cycleish speeder.

Once you exited the ride, You entered a showcase area, where there were various displays about cars of the future, new technologies (there was a display about rotary powered engines here YEARS before the new Mazda RX-8 was even thought of) and culminating in a showfloor where you could sit in the various new cars from that calendar year. SUV's, Corvettes, and so on.

This ride also got the boot, replaced by a semi-educational thrill ride called Test Track. But instead of tearing the whole structure down, they gutted it and rebuilt from the inside out. I'll get to Test Track in a few moments.

So... before we get into our tour of Epcot as it is now, I wanted to give you an idea of what was there when I was a child, and first became so enamored with the place. Yes, I was too young then to understand that the park was a bastardization of Walt's dream, but even so, it was a wonderful experience. It made it seem, through eight year old eyes, that the future was available now... it was just centralized to one place. That was EPCOT.

Now, we have Epcot. The "Experimental" blah blah blah is gone. Just Epcot. As it was when it opened, the park is split into two sections: Future World, which is meant to showcase and educate on new and upcoming technologies, and The World Showcase, an area made up of "pavilions" representing countries from around the world. So you can see just from the basic description where the "World's Fair That Never Left" stigma came from. It's also now labeled by our own staff as "a theme park primarily for adults." Considering that EPCOT was my favorite park
when I was a kid, that alone should clue you in to how it's changed over time.

Ever since they opened the alcohol flood gates, it's turned into a hot spot for Baby Boomers. What's that you say? Alcohol? Yep. Wine had always been available at certain restaurants at EPCOT, but now, they have outdoor vendors selling beer by the bottle on every corner. Whole sections of the park literally reek of beer. EPCOT has gone fom being "A great Family Journey Into The Future" into "A Great Place For Mom and Dad to Nurse Their Addiction Until Pleasure Island Opens."

But I digress. Let's start with Future World, such as it is.

Disney guests, or the giant golf ball equivalent of a bad case of the crabs? You be the judge...

1) SpaceShip Earth.

This is the icon of EPCOT, a giant silver sphere which houses a ride that takes you through the history of communications, narrated by Jeremy Irons. From the earliest scroll to the internet and beyond, you ride upwards and upwards past various scenes depicting different benchmarks in technology, until finally you reach the top. Your vehicle turns sideways and enters a cavernous room, the ceiling of the sphere lit up with stars, the earth off in the distance as you float through space. Then, your ride turns again, and you "return to earth" going backwards, with the last few scenes moving past, including news screens that float in midair, projected on mist screens, to future classrooms where most of the learning is imagination-based with no set curriculum.

I really dig this ride. The space scene at the top can really take your breath away the first couple of times you see it. Sadly, I hear this will be the next ride to make way to the desires of thrill seekers. Rumor has it the ride will be gutted and a "coaster" style attraction will take its place inside the sphere. Hoorah. At least the other two thrill rides have been moderately educational. How do you make a fuckin' roller coaster educational, hmm? Will a brief history of communications be mounted on signs that you fly past one word at a time? Gimme a damn break.

Pharaoh, let my Figment go!

2) Journey Into Your Imagination. We've already covered this one, more or less. The ride has Figment back (voiced by a different actor, of course.) The Image Works has been moved downstairs. The tower, for some asinine reason, as been closed off. They have a couple of cool exhibits: A technlogy where you can wave your hand past two standing poles and it creates different musical tones. So you stand there waving your hands like an idiot trying to make it actually play something tuneful.

Know what I'm imagining now? You going home broke! Nyuk Nyuk!

They also have kiosks where you can take your own picture, mess around with it, and then e-mail it to anyone you wish. Neat way to get a free souvenir photo. Oustide is the entrance to the Honey I Shrunk the Audience 3D movie. It's just as dumb as it sounds. Rick Moranis is showing off his newest inventions when something again goes wrong and the theater your sitting in is shrunk. Also uses some traditional techniques. An open air tube mounted under your seat flicks back and forth against your leg during a scene where a labful of mice has supposedly escaped into the theater. There's also a scene where a giant dog sneezes and you get sprayed in the face by water spouts hidden in the shoulder rests of the seat in front of you... Not a bad show, but the line for it is usually longer than I care to stand through...

All we need now is a giant set of dog balls and we got ourselves a show...

Outside the theater are a couple of neat architectural sights... The waterfalls flow backwards here. The water shoots up from the pool and up the wall. There are also water cannons that shoot "tubes" of water that arc perfectly across the small garden and land in the same location each time. It's a common thing to see children playing with these, trying to catch them and such.

Sniff sniff... anyone else smell Ariel?

3) The Living Seas: This one's basically a big Aquarium, made to resemble an underwater base of the future. It's the largest madmade coral reef environment in the world. The aquarium itself is so large that Spaceship Earth could sit inside it. The exhibit starts out with a short film detailing how scientists believe the ocean formed. From there, you are invited to "Sea Base Alpha," and underwater sea lab.

And now, a one way ticket... to the other side of the door!

So how do you get to it? You take "hydrolaters," water-powered elevators that take you down through solid rock to the underground/underwater base below. Well... not really. The "hydrolaters," don't actually go anywhere at all. The floor of the hydrolater drops about an inch, then shakes back and forth, as fake rock scrolls up past the window. After a few seconds of this foolishness, the doors (on the opposite side) of the hydrolater open, and you enter Sea Base Alpha.

Let's face it folks... Sea Quest DSV it ain't...

Now, when I was a kid, there was a 3 minute ride you sat in that took you on a brief tour of the reef before dropping you off in the main exhibit hall. That's been scrapped. Now, you just walk right into the base itself, where various different displays are exhibited.

One of the better displays is a manatee tank, where they bring manatees that have been hurt in boating eccidents to recover. They also have a 150.00 tour called Dolphins in Depth that covers how dolphins communicate and such, which ends with a 30 minute session where you don a wet suit and swim with the dolphins themselves.

Fun little sidestory. It's well known that Hulk Hogan's old show Thunder In Paradise was filmed at the Walt Disney World resort. The beach resort they filmed their beach scenes at was the Polynesian (in several scenes you can see the red spires of the Grand Floridian in the background.) Well, one episode concerned one of Hulk's arch enemies, a guy named Hammerhead (played by Steve "Sting" Borden) whose secret evil lair was a base at the bottom of the ocean. Well, they filmed all of the base scenes at the Living Seas to save on set costs. Unfortunately, one of the idiots working in lighting set one of the stage lights right next to one of the tank's 8 inch think plexiglass windows, then left it there, lit 12 hours a day, for a whole week. If you ever have a chance to go to EPCOT, it's the window on the second floor, all the way to the left. In the center of it is a huge circle of distorted plexiglass where the heat from the lamp warped it.

Also of note is the Coral Reef, a sea food "fine dining experience" (at Disney, there aren't restaurants, just dining experiences. Our food is so good, you don't just eat it. You experience it.) The entire left wall of the dining area looks into the aquarium. You know, the one that's supposed to be hundreds of feet below ground, even though you can walk right into the restaurant from its side entrance without use of a "hydrolater." If you have a birthday/anniversary, let the desk know, and you may be seated (if available) by the tank. Don't be surprised if some goofball in a Mickey costume and scuba gear somes swimming over to your table holding a sign that says "Happy Birthday!" and such. And yes, it's free. The food is great, but you pay out the ass for it, considering the portions you get. I paid 35.00 for a steak and got a cut of beef a little smaller than that of a McRib sandwich. My wife and I paid over 70.00 for the two of us, including tip, and were so hungry when we got out of the place that we ended up stuffing ourselves on Disney burgers at the Electric Umbrella. A real cool ambience, but not worth the price tag.

Learn about good nutrition whilst you clog your arteries on our overpriced crap...

4) The Land

The land is a big pavilion that showcases the Land, and how we need it to survive. The core of the exhibit is a boat ride called Listen To The Land, which takes you through the hydroponics lab where Disney Imagineers grow crops without soil. These same vegetables are used for salads and such in the Land's rorating restaurant, the Garden Grill. The Garden Grill is a "Character dining" experience, so don't be surprised if Mickey and the gang come by and mess with you while your mouth's stuffed full of salad and what not. Also, they have an "ice cream social" every day at 2:30, where you pay 6.50 for a huge platter of home made ice cream.

Where's the fucking Orange Julius???

On the ground floor of the Land, they have a food court of sorts that serves everything from burgers to pizza by the slice to chicken strips. It's just like a mall food court, only twice as expensive. Nearby is the show "Food Rocks," an audio-animatronic show similar to the Country Bear Jamboree, where a kitchen full of food comes alive and teaches kids about nutrition. The only thing this show has in common with proper eating is that it bites. When I was younger, they had a similar show called The Kitchen Cabaret that was much, much, much better. This one you can miss and have a clear conscience.

Carbon monoxide... what a wonderful gas....carbon monoxide... it'll one day kill your ass...

On the second floor, they have a show called "The Circle of Life," a 20 minute movie hosted by Simba, Timon, and Pumba from the Lion King, which is all about conservation. It's big draw is supposed to be the Lion King characters, but they're only on screen for about 3 1/2 munites of the movie. The rest is stock footage of lumber factories and such making money off of fucking the environment. Nothing you really haven't seen before, and your kids will most likely be bored more than amused.

Disney recently announced that they'll be building a new attraction onto the Land, which will sit between it and the Imagination pavilion. The ride will be called Soarin' Over Florida, and will be an east coast version of the Soarin' Over California hang-gliding simulator at Disney's California Adventure. So with The Land, Soarin' Over Florida, and the Living Seas, you'll have Land, Sea, and Air side-by-side. By golly, those Imagineers think of everything!

Let's stand here for 15 minutes and watch us some water!

In the center of Future World is a courtyard area surrounding a huge "smart fountain" that puts on shows during the day: Choreographed spouts of water timed to a musical score. Pretty neat little diversion. Most of the neat stuff here is very subtle, and easy to miss if you don't watch for it. Occasionally, one of the trash cans here may follow you, asking you what flavor of drink you just disposed in it and such. This is accomplished by way of a castmember disguised as a tourist, usually sitting about 12 feet away, controlling the trash can by remote in his left hand while talking into a small microphone with his right.

Also, take a look at the sidewalk at night. Tiny fiber-optic light tubes were inserted in the concrete, which light up at random during the evening, creating a sort of fireworks show on the ground. The effect is so finely crafted that during the day, you cannot see any holes or tubes. Just concrete.

One more quick little blurb. The water fountains in this area talk to you. If you stop to get a sip of water, you may hear someone who sounds as though they're waaaaay down the pipe cracking one-liners at you about your breath and such.

Anyway, elsewhere in the area is Ice Station Cool, a Coca-Cola store expertly disguised as an igloo. This is the best place in EPCOT to cool off. Plus they have kiosks where you can sample Coca-Cola brand sodas from around the world for free, as much as you can drink. But be forewarned. Some of the shit that Euorpeans, Asians, and Africans consider soda tastes a hell of a lot what I would imagine horse piss tastes like. The one from Dehli was particularly nauseating, a sort of cross between rotten watermelon and ass.

Across the courtyard is the Electric Umbrella, a "counter service" location (Disneyese for fast food) where you can get anything from burgers to pizzas to wraps. Best prices in the park, but definitely not the best food. Across from it is the Mouseworks, the largest Disney product gift shop in the park. When I was a kid, the store was called the Centorium, and was meant to be EPCOT'S version of MK's Emporium. It had two floors, with an elevator, and sold not just Disney merchandise, but also futuristic/educational toys on the second floor. I bought my first Voltron robot there when I was about 11. Not the one that broke apart into the lions, mind you. This was a Matchbox one piece deal, more like an action figure. At the time, you couldn't buy them in toy stores where I lived, so I considered it a real find.

Now, the store is all on one floor. All the futuristic gifts/toys have been removed, replaced by more of the same Disney shit you can buy at any other gift shop on property. Really bugs the living hell out of me, as going to the Centorium was one of my favorite parts to my yearly EPCOT visit as a kid. Progress. Capitalism. Greed. At it's finest. With lots of fuckin' pixie dust to go around.

Yes friends, it's Radio Shack... in the FUTURE!!

Also in this courtyard area are the Innovention Halls. These are showcase floors for the various sponsors of EPCOT to show off their newest and upcoming technologies. Some of the displays are kinda neat, such as the see-through animatronic spokesman, but the rest of it is just finely crafted "walk-in" commercials. A rather large section of it is sponsored by Sega, which includes various new games to play... Usually this area is the most out of date. I recall one visit in 1999. The Dreamcast had been out six months by then, but they still had Genesis kiosks with games like Sonic 3 and John Madden Football. This was also the first place I ever saw a Sega Saturn in action, back in the summer of 1995. The Sega spokesman there was expounding over how the Saturn would change the gaming industry. Change Saturn to Paystation and you have historical fact vs wishful thinking.

At any rate, these areas USED to be called Communicore East and West, and had REAL exhibits, not places where companies could hock their wares. I remember there was this huge red globe that had video images that would just appear and vanish at random on its surface, even though you couldn't see any screens. They had the first touch screen computer systems. They had a robot that you could talk to through a telephone, and he'd respond, calling you by name, answering your questions, and such. Communicore was a true exhibition of future technology. What they've replaced it with is just a pale immitation of what was, and exists for no other reason than to earn some extra cash through big corporate sponsorships. See, each ride in Future World is sponsored by a big corporation, just like at a World's Fair (there it is again.) Spaceship Earth is (currently) sponsored by AT&T. The Land is sponsored by Nestle (used to be Kraft, I think.) Imagination is sponsored by Kodak, and so on.

Anyway, on to the next attraction:

Dykes and Dinos... 'Nuff said.

5) Ellen's Energy Adventure (Sponsored by Exxon, I think):

I can't even imagine the meeting where it was decided this was a good idea. This ride was originally called "The Universe Of Energy," and took guests on a tour of the world of dinosuars, explaining how their rotting corpses turned into the oil that now powers our lovely SUV's and sports cars. It was straight forward, serious, and ended with a full on 80's tune called, naturally, Universe Of Energy:

Come on
Come Along
To The Universe.... of Energy!

I swear, it sounded like something straight out of one of those shitty educational shows they used to show on PBS as filler between Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers when I was a kid.

The whole ride system was (and still is) solar powered. The entire roof of the structure is comprised of thousands of solar cells. The ride itself consists of "moving theater" vehicles, basically, a moving platform that has several rows of seats on each one.

Well apparently, the Imagineers decided it needed to be updated. Instead of replacing the animatronics with more realistic dinos (hey, why do that? That's what the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom is for!) they just rewrote the storyline of the ride, and replaced all the films. Now, it's hosted by Ellen Degeneres, everyone's favorite lesbian. And yes, this was done AFTER she came out of the closet.

Here's the gist. Ellen is having a bad dream where she's a contestant on Jeopardy, and is getting her ass kicked because all the questions are about energy, and she knows nothing about energy at all (unless you count her knowledge of the batteries needed for her vibrating dyke-kabobber.) Well, out of nowhere pops Bill Nye The Science Guy (I shit you not.) He takes her... and us... on a trip through the time of the dinosuars to teach Ellen about where oil comes from, so she can win on Jeopardy... in her dream. Dinosaurs. A Science geek. A loudmouthed bull dkye. Yeah, if not for the fact that Walt was cremated, he'd be spinning in his cryo-chamber.

A DNA strand, years before DNA was invented by Michael Chricton! Amazing!

6) Wonders Of Life (no idea on sponsor)

This one's similar to The Land, only it focuses on health rather than diet. They have numerous exhibits and activities for kids. One of the shows, "The making Of Me," is a film for children about how babies are made, culminating in footage of an actual live birth, some of which is filmed from INSIDE THE WOMB... Honestly fascinating footage, but don't eat before watching it.

The next show is called Cranium Command. This is a show all about how the brain manages the rest of the body's functions. The storyline goes that each person on earth has a "cranium commando" piloting their brain. We follow Chip, a young commando, on his first assignment, that of a teenage boy. The theater is made to resemble the electronic equivalent of the inside of someone's head. There's view screens where the eyes should be, and so on. Chip is an audio-animatronic figure who interracts with the footage played on the screens, both from the boy's point of view, and from the various organs who check in with him as the body is stressed. These organs are played by famous actors of the day (this show opened in the early 90's.) George Wendt, aka Norm from Cheers, is the stomach. Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey reprise their Hans and Frans characters from SNL as the heart. Charles Grodin plays the analytical part of the brain, where Jon Lovitz plays the creative side. Rounding out the cast is Bobcat Goldthwait, who plays, naturally, the Adrenal gland. It's a fun show for kids, and a nice bit of nostalgia for us who really dug SNL when Carvey and Myers were running the show, but overall, it's way out of date. Needs new actors, at LEAST.

Finally, we have Body Wars. Body Wars is a simulation ride where you're shrunk, fantastic Journey style, and are injected into a human body. Once inside, you'll meet a young Elizabeth Shue before she was famous playing a doctor examining a splinter from the inside. All of a sudden, a piece of the splinter breaks off, taking her with it, and you must chase after her before she's absorbed. The pilot is played by Tim Matheson, a semi-well known actor. See, back in 1985 Matheson recorded the narration for the rerelease of Fantasia, and so also filmed this footage. Now, this is how Disney operates. If they hire a big actor for a film role, or anything else, they'll have some kind of theme park performance sewn into the contract. Robin Williams recorded the audio for Timekeeper while he was recording the voice work for Aladdin. Gary Sinise filmed his Mission: Space footage while he was working on Disney's sci-fi film Mission To Mars, and so on. Quick piece of trivia for ya. As a child, Tim Matheson was the voice actor for the original Johnny Quest.

Ridewise, Body Wars runs on the exact same ride system as Star Tours at MGM, you're just watching a different film. Good for it's time, but vastly outdated compared to new rides like Mission:Space and the Spider-man ride at Islands Of Adventure. This one never has a line, so feel free to not take my word for it.

Epcot, the final frontier....

7) Mission:Space (sponored by HP)

Alright folks, right here is the most expsensive, and most technologically advanced theme park ride on the planet. Disney shelled out over 150 million on this one, and it shows, in spades. As I said above, I was real pissed when they tore Horizons down. And frankly, I wish they'd just built Mission:Space somewhere else in Future World and left Horizons alone. Still, I can't help but admit that Horizons was just one of those quarter' fed carousels outside the Wal-Mart compared with the glory that is Mission:Space.

Okay. This ride is a simulator that takes lets the guest experience what it's like to be launched into space, be weightless, navigate in space, and then land. Hosted by Gary Sinise, the ride begins with a wait line... BIG SURPRISE!... that is themed after an international space museum. Remember the big rotating lab scene from Mission To Mars? That set is the center piece of the ride lobby.


Anyway, you're led into a room where each guest (four to a ride vehicle) is assigned a job: Navigator, captain, etc. Then, you are led into a chamber with four side-by-side seats (oddly enough, similar to the old Horizon ride vehicle seats) each having a "window" and control panel.

Alright, yeah, but where's the damn photon torpedo controls???

You're strapped in, and warned before the ride starts to "keep your eyes on the viewscreen."

Ever wanted to know what it felt like to have several tons of rocket fuel shot from your ass?

Next thing you know, you're on your back, still in your seat, looking up at the launch tower that your vehicle is resting against. And then, BOOM! Lift-off, and your heart goes straight through your ass. You feel the pressure against your chest, your teeth rattling in your head. This is no bouncing room piece of crap. You are MOVING.

Well now you do! Yeeehaaaawww!

Just when you think you can't possibly take no more, you break through the upper atmosphere and out into space. You notice, much to your shock and awe, that your butt is floating just off the seat cushion. That's right... you're experiencing real weightlessness.


Uh oh! On our way to Mars, something's gone wrong! Quick, grab the flight stick! Lookout! Turn right! Left! More lift! Lower landing gear! We're not gonna make it! WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH SHIIIIIIIIT!

Make it stop! OH GOD, MAKE IT STOP!!!!

Oh. We made it. Damn, I feel stupid.

Yes, that's right. The controls work. Now, you can't REALLY steer, as you're watching a film, but you are told when to press what, and are graded on your responsiveness. Now Mike, you may say, that building looks too small to have a track in it. How can you possibly be moving?"

Glad you asked. Have you ever seen old stock footage of the astronauts and all the training they go through? Do you remember the "centrifuge," that pod they were strapped into and spun around in circles till their faces spread flat across their skulls like out-of-date mayonaise? Well, there you have it. With the cooperation of NASA, Mission:Space is based on the same design as NASA's newest centrifuge simulators. It spins you both around and on the pod's verticle axis, creating both the sensation of speed, and the weightlessness of space. Just be careful with this one. If you get sick on roller coasters, you will REALLY get sick on M:S, as you actually experience HIGHER g-forces than a space shuttle lift-off. Here's a hint: Since M:S opened, sales of Cokes and soda crackers at the Electric Umbrella have tripled. No shit.

After the ride, there's some interractive games to try, a gift shop, and a "Discovery Zone" type of children's play area, but with a space theme. Bottom line: There's nothing else like it anywhere. It's better than any thrill ride I've ever been on, or could ever hope to be on. If you've always dreamed of going to space, but have no chance in hell of ever being an astronaut, this ride alone with worth the thousands you'll spend coming down to Orlando. You'll never forget this experience.

A ride where you go slower than the drive over... can't wait...

8) Test Track.

Test Track takes you through all the basic tests that General Motors puts their new vehicles through before sending them out for public attribution. The ride is housed inside the same big giant aspirin of a building that World Of Motion was once housed in. The vehicles themselves are completely computer controlled, and take you through several tests: Uphill climb, rough terrain, anti-lock brake test, extreme temperatures, corrosion, high speed turns, high speed evasion, the crash-test wall, and finally, (the whole reason to RIDE Test Track) the speed track.

Ouch! I mean.... damn, OUCH!

The lobby area is full of a bunch of different test machines bashing dummies in the head with mallets and such. It's a very large and very loud, cavernous room. You're lead into a debriefing room (just like in Mission:Space) where you're told which tests you'll be going on. Then, they strap you into the cars, and off you go. First thing you notice is a small tv screen in the dashboard where your "test fascilitators" keep you updated as to your progress. So first, no big deal, you take a steep hill at about 10 mph. Then, you go down a hill and across a stretch of track covered in various potholes, dips, and bumps. Next, you get up to
about 40 mph and do a half-spin-out to show you what happens when you don't have anti-lock brakes. Then, they "turn the anti-locks back on" and show you the difference.

Next up you go through rooms that will both freeze you to death and roast you, followed by a room where robots spray you with a sulfur smelling spray that's supposed to be corrosive acid. Next, you go up and around a long, winding simulated mountain road, adding about 5 mph after each turn, only to come around a corner and narrowly avoid hitting an 18 Wheeler head on (look close, that's a cardboard cut out of Richard Nixon driving the truck!)

Okay, this doesn't look good...

You slow down, just in time to see a car smash right into a big wooden wall.You come around a corner, and... uh-oh. You're now facing an eerily similar wall. Runway lights spring to life on either side of the car, running down towards the wall. You begin to wonder if this is what Starbuck felt like before take off (sorry. Corny Galactica reference.) And then, zoom! You accelerate,
flying straight towards the wall! 50 feet! 40 feet! 30! 10!

But it's okay! Those crafty Disney Imagineers disguised the door to the outside speed track as a crash wall! Golly gosh darn it, that was scary. But now, you're on the speed track. You're up to 35.The boss says to throw on more speed. You're up to 45, you round the corner. You see that the track up ahead wraps around the building.

Okay it's time to yell some more... WAAA... oh... over already?.

"Punch it!"

Off you go, up to 65 mph (according to the digital spedometer you pass under.)You round the corner, and go sideways round the building Dale Earnhardt style. Damn, you think, finally the ride is getting cool! And then, "Brake it! brake it!" Your car stutters to a slow crawl and meanders back inside to the line queue.

...that's it? An hour wait and 4 minutes of bullshit to spend 45 seconds on the speed track? Man, what a rib.

The after ride area is similar to the one World Of Motion had. It's a showroom with several new models to sit in, and a gift shop. Whoopee. Not toobad of a ride, but it has one bitch of a line. Fastpass this one. And Mission:Space, for that matter.

So that does it for Future World. We're leaving Test Track and hanging a left to the World Showcase. As I stated above, this is an area, separated from Future World by the World Showcase Lagoon, that celebrates the culture and diversity of countries from around the globe. The first you come to is...

Wastin' away in Magaritaville...

1) Mexico

Mexico is housed inside a recreation of an Aztec pyramid. You'll walk through an area where actual Aztec artifacts are on display, and then into the market place, a shopping area that is designed and lighted to look like a roadside shopping village at night time. Very stereotypical. They sell sombreros, marracas, and so on. In the back is the San Angel Inn, a mexcan dining experience that will make you forget that you ever had a Taco Bell burrito. Food is great. Prices aren't that bad, either. Alongside it is a boat ride called "El Rio Del Tiempo," The River of Time. This ride has been here since the park opened in '82. And it shows. The ride is supposed to educate on the history and culture of the Mexican people. But the first part of the ride has old videos of Aztecs dancing around in hula skirts and tying each other up to poles and spinnig them around like tether balls. Next you'll go through an area that shows you all the great vacation options Mexico has, including Pool bars that not only allow you to swim right up to the bar... but they're inside a cave! Hey hey! That's fuckin' exotic, baby!

Then, you come around to a Mexican village, and this woman on several screens to your left follows the boat trying to sell you marijuana-laced pinatas and shit like that. Then, the ride turns into the Mexican version of It's A Small World, only the kids are all celebrating the Day Of The Dead, so they're all dressed up as skeletons, singing about how happy they are you've come to Mexico... kinda surreal... Yet another annoying addictive song:

Hola mis amigos
To grande Mexico
Tres quatro cinco
We're sad to see you go...

Man, that was a waste of time. Couple years back, there was talk of turning this into a ride based on "The Three Caballeros," but nothing ever came of it... Me, I think they should turn it into a Desperado ride. Have an animatronic Antonio Banderas running along side you filling bad guys full of lead while Robo-Salma Hayek gives you animatronic head... but that's just me...

This thrill ride is strangely devoid of thrills...

2) Norway

Enh... They have a Viking boat used in the film 13th Warrior for kids to play on. There's a cool pastry shop that has all kinds of fattening delectables, and a "dining experience" called Akershus that houses the Princess Storybook Breakfast in the mornings, and a regular Norwegian buffet at night. Vikings must've ate a lot of salmon and pork loin... There's a shop that has almost nothing but big wooden ogres with penis-shaped noses, and a ride called "The Maelstrom."

This is another boat ride, and was touted when it opened in 1986 as a water-based thrill ride. It is nothing of the sort. You go through an old Viking village, and come to a big tree stump. A three-headed ogre comes out of the stump and curses you for trespassing. "I'll cast a spell to send you back! BACK! BACK! OVER THE FALLS!"

Your boat turns and heads downriver backwards, past some more animatronic vikings and a rather unhappy polar bear. Your boat stops just short of going over a water fall that pours out into the courtyard outside the ride, then goes down a hill that's no steeper than the drop in Pirates Of The Caribbean, with almost no splash, and drops you right at the base of a big oceanbound Norwegian Oil platform. You exit in an area made to look like a Norwegian fishing village, and are then FORCED to wait ten minutes for the hostess to introduce a film in the next room about Norway. She opens the doors. Watch the sadness in her eyes as the guests walk in one door, cross the aisles, and walk out the other side without stopping to watch the film, showing absolutely no respect for her culture. That's okay... I was one of them.

All kidding aside, have watched the film in the past, and it's pretty interesting. But forcing you to sit there and wait before they'll let you in is pretty damned annoying, so I don't blame anyone who chooses to just make a break for the exit.

Screw the exhibits, where's the pork fried rice??

3) China

No rides. They have a Chinese store where youcan buy books on meditation, Bruce Lee tee-shirts, chinese relaxation music, personal sand gardens, 400.00 dresses made from pure silk (SILK COMES FROM THE BUTTS OF CHINESE WORMS!) and other similar crap. There are occasional Chinese acrobats who put on shows, and a rather boring Circlevision movie about China's geography, but other than that, all China has is the best Chinese restaurant I've ever ate at, called the Nine Dragons. Fantastic food.

Damn, what a whole lot of nothin'...

4) The Outpost.

The Outpost is just a mini-land themed after an African outpost where you can buy soft drinks to cool you off, and your kids can bang on some "authentic" African Zulu war drums. This was where they were going to build the Africa pavilion (apparently overlooking the fact that Africa is a continent, not a country) but scrapped it when Animal Kingdom got the go-ahead. If you blink, you'll miss it.

Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Right in Mike Eisner's Face!

5) Germany

More enh. Couple of German-themed shops, and the Biergarten, an Oktoberfest style dining experience that puts on daily shows. If getting sloshed on wicked strength lager and watching blonde chicks in tight liederhosen (sp) bounce around on stage whilst you consume large quantities of sausage and saur krout is your thing, then this is the place for you.But don't give the actual German exchange student castmembers the old "Sieg Heil!" routine. They don't find amusing, even if you explain that you're just checking your deodorant.

Don't miss the Sophia Patrillo ride...

6) Italy

More shops. Great dining experience called Alfredo's di Roma. Kicks the shit out of Olive Garden all day. Occasionally, there's people disguised as Roman statues here that take great pleasure in scaring the shit out of passersby. That's it. Shops. Food. Shit (scared out of you.)

Now this is more like it!

8) The United States

Alright! Finally something worth looking at! No great dining experience here. Just a counter service location serving burgers and such. Which is fitting, since Americans are the most overweight people on the planet. This pavillion also has a fantastic animatronic stage show called The American Adventure, hosted by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. Well worth the wait, I tell you. Great, great show. And I'm not saying that because I'm overly patriotic... yes I am...

After experiencing Japan, you'll know all sorts of Japanese words... like Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda!!!

9) Japan

Great Japanese Kabachi Grill dining experience called Mitsukoshi Teppanyaki. This is one of those places where the chef makes the meal exciting by NOT skewering your eyeball with a parring knife. Beside it is a sushi bar called Tempura Kiku, and a gift shop that sells everything from bonsai trees to plastic samurai swords. No anime memorabilia, sadly. Last time I was there, I kept chasing my wife through the gift shop with a plastic sword and my red windbreaker tied around my neck screaming "KENAAAAADAAAAAAAHH!!".... but they didn't get it. I was a sad panda.

Kabobs and kaboobies...oh yeah...

10) Morrocco

This pavilion was decorated piece by piece by muslim artisans brought over from the middle east (apparently, the no graven image rule only applies to false idols.) I'm told that each tile they laid was slightly chipped, because Islam teaches that only Allah can create anything that is perfect. I can dig that... but did God create GUNSTAR HEROES?! NO, I THINK NOT!

Ahem. Anyway, they have a cool dining experience here called Marrakesh, where you can eat curry, kabobs, chicken vindaloo, and watch belly dancers. Not too bad a spread... And the food's good too!

Not much to see... ah well, the French are assholes anyway...

11) France

Another shitty Circlevision movie. Couple of french stores. Fake Eiffel Tower that's about 30 feet tall... Two dining experiences. On the bottom floor you have Chefs De France,and on the second a smaller, suit and tie affair called Bistro De Paris. Every now and then Belle and the beast show up, because they're from France. Okay.

Not so groovy, baby...

12) United Kingdom

This area is made to look like a 19th century british township. There's a pretty cool dining experience called the Rose and Crown pub. The lager here is much better than in Germany, in my opinion. Good Guiness too. Beatles tunes and other British invasion music is played through this area. It's common for the Beatles tribute band A Hard Days Night to play here. Pus there's a real neat British toy store with a lot of board games I've never heard of and toys that lost popularity 30 years before I was

Okay, like... this is trey ghey, eh...

13) Canada

Yet another boring ass Circlevision movie, "Oh Canada!" A Canadian gift shop that appears to have been themed after a logging town. Huge mock up of a Canadian mountainside Castle. Beneath said castle is Le Cellier, the best dining experience at Epcot, bar none. Themed to be the castle's wine celler, Le Cellier has the best steak I've ever had, and the pricing, while high, is well worth the food you get. First off, the steaks are HUGE. Secondly, it's real Canadian beef imported from up north. I don't know if the ranchers up there pay the Hart brothers to beat the shit out of the cows before they're slaughtered or what, but this meat is literally so tender you can cut it with a fork. If I made a decent wage with the company, I'd be eating there all the time. Amazing food. get the prime rib. Yum.

So as far as the World Showcase goes, its not really a good representation of the companies exhibited. Why? Because they're built to cater to the smallest aspect of said country that those who've never been there can identify with. If you go to Japan, you'll mostly see big sky rises, video games, strip clubs and bars like you do everywhere else. Pagodas and temples are in the minority these days. And how the hell can you have a Canadian pavilion that has nothing to do with wrestling or hockey? AM I RITE? (There it is again!) People FROm these countries who come to visit tend to think of these pavilions as more or less of a non-insulting joke. They find it funny that this is what we as Americans think of as their homelands.

One last cool aspect of the World Showcase. Every night at 9 PM Epcot puts on Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, a real kick ass fireworks and laser light extravaganza that takes place right int he middle of the World Showcase Lagoon. The centerpiece is a huge metal globe that has thousands of tiny lights that compose video images, similar to electronic scoreboards at sports stadiums. This globe opens up during the finally, and a huge torch lights up in its center and spins as lasers and dozens of explosions cascade around it and off the water, all choregraphed to music... Better than just about any fireworks show I've seen, including the New Years fireworks they set off in Seattle, New York, and other places. A real visual experience.

Alright, that's it for Epcot. No, really, that's all there is. With the exception of the few rides in Future World, it's essentially a place to shop and get drunk. If you want more rides and shows per acre, I suggest going to Magic Kingdom (or Islands of Adventure...yes, I went there!) or the subject of my next piece, the Disney/MGM Studios. Until then, have a magical fuckin' day!


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