When I left off in the last Disney World recap, we had just finished dinner at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Boma. For the second half of the day, it was onto Epcot. As a child, Epcot was simply That One Boring Park with the giant golf ball at the entrance.
But Epcot has secured a place in this adult heart o’ mine. Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and Walt Disney intended for it to be an actual Utopian community of sorts, where citizens from all over the world would live, work, and play together.
When creating Epcot, Walt Disney was heavily influenced by the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago, which featured dozens of pavilions dedicated to nations all over the world. Walt’s father was a construction worker for the fair, and years later, Mr. Disney would tell his young son Walt about the magnificent displays he created there. Side note: the World’s Fair also inspired L. Frank Baum when he penned the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz.” *moment of nerdy silence*
While no one ever lived in Epcot, the park certainly plays off Walt’s grand plans, with 11 countries represented in the World Showcase. As you stroll around the lagoon, you pass through Mexico, Morocco, Italy, China, Canada, Great Britain, and more. Each country’s pavilion has authentic architecture, workers who hail from the mother country, and restaurants that serve native cuisine.
There’s a ride at the Norway pavilion called Maelstrom, where you travel in a Viking ship throughout Norway’s history. Here’s the mural at the outset of the ride. My people in a nutshell: Vikings, redheads, polar bears, and ice.
The other half of the park is Future World—the land of technological innovation and home to some of my favorite rides including Ellen’s Energy Adventure (starring the world’s best Ellen—Ellen DeGeneres), Soarin’, and Test Track, where you design a car of your own and see how it performs under rigorous safety tests.
The big golf ball actually houses a ride, too, called Spaceship: Earth, which I completely love. It’s a slow-moving (and animatronic-laden) ride through monumental moments in communication innovation, including the invention of the printing press, the Renaissance, the implementation of Morse code, and so on.
The imagineers recently added this neat interactive bit where you answer some questions on the touch screen in front of you, and the computer creates a short video about what your future might look like. (Mine involved a robot babysitting my dog while I flew my private plane to snorkel somewhere. PLZ BE TRU).
In order to make the video, the computer uses a headshot of you and your seatmate, taken right as you board the ride. My sister and I couldn’t stop laughing because Rachel was photographed as she applied chapstick, leaving her little figure looking hilariously demented.
Next recap will be Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Stay tuned.
- It’s the third most visited theme park in the U.S. and sixth most visited in the world.
- World Showcase pavilions for Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel have never made it past the planning phase.
- Walt Disney originally wanted citizens of Epcot to travel mainly via the PeopleMover (now a ride in Magic Kingdom) and the monorail. Today, you can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and several nearby hotels.
- Only the Morocco pavilion is actually sponsored by its mother country; the rest are sponsored by companies. (Huh!)