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Walt Disney World Resort - Epcot, Part 3

Future World, Part 3



The Imagination Pavilion.
Epcot Map Continuing clockwise crosses over to the West side of Future World, and brings us to the Imagination! Pavilion. By the way, those pyramids aren't pyramids, they're crystals, so says Tony Baxter the designer of the pavilion. That's why you have the odd angles and shapes. (The pyramid, is over in Mexico.)

From the uphill waterfall to the jumping fountains to the perfectly trimmed trees and bushes, day or night, this pavilion is a visual delight. Unfortunately, the contents of the pavilion has had a rocky past, including opening late because they couldn't get the computers to work correctly...

There are three attractions at the Imagination Pavilion.

The first is Captain EO, the first 3-D George Lucas/Disney production, dating back to before Justin Whassizname was born. Starring a yet-to-be-a-weirdo Michael Jackson at the height of his popularity in 1986, it featured very early matting and pre-computer graphics imagery special effects in 3-D. Captain EO was replaced in 1994, when Justin Whassizname was four months old. Just to put it in perspective.

It was replaced by Honey I Shrunk The Audience, a 3-D movie based on the Rick Moranis films. It was another one of those not-to-be-missed attractions, unless you don't like mice, or snakes or... dog snot.

It was long after most Epcot visitors lost interest in "Honey", Michael Jackson up and dies, and Captain EO is resurrected back into the Imagination Pavilion. It's impressive if you consider when it was made, even with some missing physical effect elements. If you're younger than 30, and have no reference on pre-computer graphic imagery, then it's an awfully dated film. It oozes the 1980's from every frame of the movie, and is good more for nostalgia than to showcase what Disney is capable of. (See Star Tours.)

There's also Imageworks, an interactive area to stimulate your senses and your imagination. And it runs on Windows. And it sometimes crashes.

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Journey Into Imagination With Figment

And then there's Journey Into Your Imagination With Figment, a reworked version of Journey Into Your Imagination. Journey Into Your Imagination was an upgrade to the original Journey Into Imagination, and was such a stinker and drew so many complaints that Disney only kept that version around for a year or two before changing the dark ride into the current version, which brought back the character Figment. At least the lines are short.

Initially, Figment (the name actually comes from a line in an episode of Magnum P.I.) wore green. However, if you're old enough to remember when film ruled the photography world, the two biggest film competitors in the U.S. was Kodak, which had company colors of yellow and red, and Fuji, who was identified with green. Problem? Of course. Kodak initially wanted Figment to be yellow with red clothing, but Tony Baxter was able to keep him purple because he was already identified as purple in the Sherman Brothers attraction music.

You'll notice, however, that his clothing (when he's not naked) is yellow and red...

Journey Into Imagination
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There has been some talk of either completely re-imagining this pavilion, or replacing it altogether. Kodak is probably out of the theme park advertising business as it struggles to try to reinvent itself, and a new sponsor would understandably want an entirely new attraction.

The Land Pavilion

Land Pavilion
The interior of the Land Pavilion.
Epcot Map Very early concepts had The Land Pavilion surrounding a farmers market. From there, it evolved into a very complex concept developed with the University of Arizona, which featured several environmentally controlled domes, where each dome would take the waste from one and essentially use it to empower another dome. The overall concept was eventually rejected by Disney, but the partners from the University of Arizona would take the concept and develop it into Biosphere 2. (The concept didn't work there, either.)

Eventually, reality dictated the pavilion (sponsored by Kraft) should be about food. It is, after all, the primary use of the land. The pavilion opened with three attractions, only one of which remains (almost) unchanged.

Today the Land Pavilion is sponsored by Nestle, still has three attractions, a table service restaurant that I've never tried (The Garden Grill), and possibly the best food court in any of the parks.

The first attraction you actually encounter (if you turn right as you enter the pavilion) is the Harvest Theater, and a film called "The Circle of Life", the obligatory environmental messaged movie you would expect to find in a pavilion called "The Land". This film is a re-edited version of Symbiosis, the original film opening in 1981, but re-worked to feature the Lion King cast after it became a huge success for Disney. More interesting than the movie, are the walls. They're designed from carpet, and are reportedly the only walls in Walt Disney World that have to be vacuumed.

If you don't see the movie (and aren't going to the Garden Grill, which is on the same "floor"), then you have to take stairs or an escalator down to the ground floor. My feet are somewhat insulted that you have to walk uphill to enter the pavilion, only to have to walk downhill when you enter. (I understand why they did this, but you can't reason with tired feet...)

Taking up most of the ground floor of the pavilion is the Sunshine Seasons food court and its seating area. Admittedly, it's better when it's crowded, the food turns over more often, but I haven't had a bad meal there yet. It has several different "food type" counters with enough variety to keep everyone in your party happy, and making repeat visits a new experience every time. Unless I have a specific restaurant in mind, Sunshine Seasons is my go-to counter service restaurant in Epcot. (They also serve breakfast. Useful when you skip breakfast to ride Mission:Space. Heh.)


Perhaps the most popular attraction in all of Epcot is right next to the food court, Soarin', and other than the queue themeing is a direct copy of "Soarin' Over California" from Disney's California Adventure. It puts you on a hang glider, and sails you through some of the most scenic and iconic areas in California. Between the syncing of the ride mechanism and the IMAX movie in front of you, it's pretty realistic. Of course I have a fear of heights, and have never been on a hang glider, so take that "realistic" comparison for what it's worth...

This wildly popular attraction is essentially a motion simulator, something akin to The Simpsons (nee Back To The Future) at Universal Studios, where several ride vehicles watch the same IMAX movie. (This differs from say, Star Tours, where each ride vehicle is a self-contained theater.)

There are currently two separate theaters, each theater holds three massive ride vehicles (side-by-side), and each ride vehicle holds three rows of seats. (The middle vehicle holds 11 per row, the outer two 9 per row.)

What makes Soarin' different is the way it sets up. The exact seat you're going to sit in, is essentially assigned to you when you're in the load queue. After a short introduction, you're lead into the theater and seated. After strapping in, a "wing" lowers over you to partially block the sight of what will become the row above you, as well as to blow air on you. (You're on a hang glider, remember? Not having wind in your face on a hang glider is probably a very bad thing...) Not only does this allow Disney to give you a relative sense of speed, but can introduce smells such as orange as you pass over an orange grove. The vehicles then take hoists the guests up off the floor, and then much like an inverted garage door, takes the horizontal orientation of the rows and makes them vertical. At the end of the very quick transition, the front row of guests becomes the top row and the back row becomes the bottom row. The ride mechanism which keeps the seats level during the transition between horizontal and vertical, is also used to tilt the seats as the hang glider changes aspect. Each seat is now just about the same distance from the screen, with the seats tilting and moving in time with movie.

While there are two working theaters, I've been told the building was designed to hold four, but the odds the other two would be converted into working attraction theaters was low. I'm not sure how the recent announcement that Disney would be adding capacity to Soarin' will be handled, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't finish out the other two theaters.

I have also pointed out that the film is all about California. While that works in California, there could be a better movie made involving some of the other 49 states. If they need some suggestions, it's easy to find my e-mail address. Also, since I assume that the movie and motion cues are all digital, there's nothing to stop Disney from running different movies in each theater. With a little work, (okay, maybe a lot of work), it'd possible to create a random selection experience much like the current Star Tours.

Soarin' replaced an attraction about nutrition called Food Rocks. I have (covertly taped) video of this attraction. You can see it if you click on the link. Food Rocks replaced the original 1981 attraction, Kitchen Kabaret.

The Land
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Living With The Land

The other major attraction in this pavilion that actually has something to do with the pavilion's namesake is Living With The Land. (Hang gliding doesn't actually fit in the theme of "The Land", but Epcot doesn't have a "The Air" pavilion.)

Originally opened as Listen to the Land, the name was changed in 1993 when the sponsor of the pavilion changed from Kraft to Nestle. However, other than the opening of the dark ride section, little was changed to the attraction itself. Living With The Land is the concept developed with the University of Arizona, once the biodome concept was rejected. The first half would feature an audio-animatronic dark ride on how the land has been used through history, and the challenges to grow food in extreme diverse climates. The second half, would feature innovative and experimental ways to grow crops and other plants, as well as a greenhouse dedicated to aquaculture.

After Carl Hodges (head of environmental research at the University of Arizona) asked Disney where they planned to put the bees, he was informed that guests would be in open-air boats, and thus, a no-bee policy.

Carl: "No bees? How are you going to pollinate the plants?"
Imagineering: "We're the story tellers. You're the scientist. You tell us..."

To this day, the greenhouse Cast Members spend 15 hours a week hand-pollinating the plants. (And it's a personal observation that there seems to be a long standing tradition of Imagineering coming up with a concept that should theoretically work, and leaving the actual making it work for someone else. But I digress.)

After Card Walker (CEO of Disney at the time) asked Marty Sklar what the excitement of growing food was, Marty replied, "Card, watching lettuce grow? That's exciting!" Card may have not liked the answer, but Living with the Land is one of the oldest, still popular, and mostly unchanged attractions in Epcot.

Living with the Land is a boat ride. Each ride vehicle is composed of two connected non-powered boats. They move by floating in a channel which has flowing water, like Pirates of the Caribbean and it's a small world. At one time, there used to be live human CM's on every boat, but now it's all automated with a pre-recorded soundtrack. But I have to admit, that many of the CM's doing the same spiel a hundred times a week, it all sounded pretty automated anyway. It's not like you could ask them a question and get a detailed answer, they were just narrators. With the new system, more ride vehicles can be put into service at a moment's notice, without having to find a Cast Member who knows the spiel.) It has a throughput of some 1600 guests/hour.

The animatronic portion of the attraction starts with some very nicely done fake rain, has prairie dogs, and an annoying, barking farm dog that can be heard through most of the animatronic section of the ride. I like dogs. Just not this dog.

The second half of the attraction takes guests through the four greenhouses that Disney maintains, from tropical plants to conventional crops to their hydroponic systems that actually grows vegetables for the Garden Grill. There is also a "greenhouse" that features aquaculture (tilapia, alligators, and other critters that can be farm raised.)

Living With The Land
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Behind the Seeds

If Living with the Land was interesting to you, I'd recommend a backstage tour called Behind The Seeds. (Get it? Huh? Huh?) It allows a closer view of all the greenhouses, and you even get to feed the tilapia.

A greenhouse Cast Member (many times an intern) takes about 20 to 25 guests on a 60 to 75 minute walking tour from a couple of backstage areas to the greenhouses you've see from the boat. The CM explains the different growing techniques, innovative pest control, and you can ask questions about just about anything. You can also wave to the people on the boats floating by. You do want to make reservations (same day reservations only), and the price is pretty reasonable.

In a change from normal policy, there is no restriction on video or photography anywhere on the tour.

Behind the Seeds
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The Seas With Nemo And Friends

Me and Bruce
Keane is friends, not food...
Epcot Map Originally opened in 1986 as The Living Seas, it was the largest salt-water fish tank in the world. Today, it's only second to the aquarium in Atlanta.

The original concept back in the '80's was interesting. The experience opened with a movie about the Seas. However, that movie wasn't the original. The original movie had speculation about life on the bottom of the ocean, thousands of feet deep. At the same time, however, the scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute conducted the first ever deep ocean dives with their new submersibles, and proved everyone wrong about the speculation of life at extreme depths and pressures. Oh well. I think it's been proven that speculation about the future and unknown is fun, but Disney should get out of that business. :-)

In any event, once out of the pre-show movie, you boarded a "Hydrolator". This hydro-elevator took you down below the ocean's surface to Sea Base Alpha, an underwater science lab on the sea floor. While the effects (like rolling backgrounds in the small windows) told your brain you were going down, the elevator mostly shook from side to side to emulate movement and stayed in place. It was fun the first three or four times...

Once safely on the sea floor, you boarded a sea-cab, and you rode to the main part of the base while speakers aboard the vehicle gave you an introduction to what you're going to see. At the end of the ride, you were in Sea Base Alpha, and could wander around viewing the exhibits and aquarium.

Exiting Sea Base Alpha meant another ride in a Hydrolator back to the surface, and into the gift shop.

Fast forward a few years, and the pre-show movie became optional. A few more years, and the Sea Cab portion of the attraction was abandoned. It was only a fraction of what the Imagineers wanted to do, and became nothing but a bottleneck.

After that, it was just a matter of time before the themeing fell apart, and Disney abandoned the travel to the bottom of the sea portion entirely. The Hydrolators were a true bottleneck, and there's nothing like cramming an elevator full of sweaty bodies during the summer tourist season. (A hydrolator was a rethemed real Otis elevator car).

The Living Seas
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The Living Seas was given new life with a "Finding Nemo" makeover, making it one of the more popular attractions in Future World. Get on a clammobile, and be amazed at the effects in front of you. This is the sea-cab ride introduction that the Imagineers of the 1980's could only dream of.

It was a perfect tie in with Pixar's most popular feature at the time. Maybe of all time. Not only do you get a effects laden Finding Nemo introduction, but you also have the chance to chaw with everyone's fave Testudines, Crush the Turtle. This was the first time you could interact with a animated character in real-time without the aid of hallucinogens. In the East coast parks, anyway.

Let me also note, that if you have someone in your party that's mobility impaired and on a scooter for the first or second time, do *NOT* go through the queue. Try to get into the place via the back door. The attraction does not have a very friendly handicap queue.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends
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The Coral Reef

There is a table service restaurant here, called The Coral Reef. It's tucked way back into the corner, and it's probably the premier sea food restaurant in Epcot. I've only eaten here once, but you get a unique view out the windows...

The Coral Reef
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Future World / World Showcase

If you read Part 1, I related how WED pushed together the two models they had of the two theme park concepts an hour before presenting to The Powers That Be, and created EPCOT Center. This is where the models came together.

It's a large expansive area, mostly water, landscaping and walkways, that separates Future World from World Showcase. Have you ever wondered why Disney put this here? To slowly transition between the two halves of the park? To make you walk longer after Illuminations back to the bus stops or parking lot?

No. They actually wanted to build here, but they knew they had a problem when heavy construction equipment started sinking into the ground and had to be towed out. They knew the problem was serious when they drove seven 120-foot pilings into the ground, and they lost them all. This problem continues all the way down into World Showcase.

Also at one time, after the two theme parks had become one, WED presented the idea of moving the entrance here. If they did that, they could literally split the theme park in two, which would allow them to have different operating hours, etc.

This was quickly nixed by Card Walker, who had already sold the idea of what the guest would see as they walked through the park to General Motors and Exxon, and just couldn't fathom telling them that there was a possibility that guests in the park might not even see their logo. The entrance would remain in front of Spaceship Earth...

So if you really want to know why you have that really, really long walk after Illuminations from World Showcase, it's because of Corporate Sponsorship in the parks, and a swamp.

Future World/World Showcase
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End Epcot - Part 3.

Jump to: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9

  • 05/09/2010 - Page Updated, pictures re-imaged, pictures added
  • 07/12/2012 - Complete replacement
  • 12/31/2012 - Update to v3.1
  • 09/01/2014 - Update to v3.2
  • 06/21/2015 - Rewrite and update