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Walt Disney World Resort - Epcot, Part 9 of 9

World Showcase, Part 6 - Food and Wine, Epcot at Night, Christmas, Final Thoughts

Index

Spaceship Earth
Epcot Food & Wine Festival...

Food and Wine Festival

The Food and Wine Festival is held in the Fall, and is much like the Flower and Garden Festival, except you replace the flowers and gardens with food and wine. Sorta.

Other than the avenue from the entrance to World Showcase which gets a topiary and landscaping makeover; and the old Wonders of Life Pavilion which is used as the Festival Center, Food and Wine is pretty much confined to World Showcase.

Rather than all the topiaries and special flower/plant arrangements in every pavilion, World Showcase has over two dozen small buildings pop up all around the promenade like mushrooms. Each of these 10 foot by 10 (or 16) foot buildings are dedicated and themed to a country (even if that country already exists within World Showcase), and serves a small portion of their regional food and a selection of wines from that country. There are also other specialty booths, such as BEER. (You know, that other popular route to create drinkable alcohol.)

However, other than that, this show is remarkably similar to the Flower and Garden Festival. They use the old Wonders of Life pavilion as a Festival Center for seminars, speakers and meet-and-greets (as well as gift shops dedicated to the event), and the American Gardens Theater for a concert series, Eat To The Beat. (Which I suppose is certainly better than Drink 'Till You Stink. I should add that with all the alcohol available in Epcot, you rarely see someone who's imbibed too much. Not that it doesn't happen, however all the drunks I've seen in Epcot have been happy drunks. I'm sure the belligerent drunks are promptly removed by Mickey's security.)

Let me also say that the Food and Wine Festival will turn 21 in 2016, and will finally be able to drink at its own event.

Food and Wine Festival
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Food and Wine Festival Buildings

With almost 30 countries represented, the Food and Wine Festival allows you to sample dishes and wines from all over the world. Each building provides a menu of around three to five food options and several wines, sometimes beer, and your typical subset of non-alcoholic beverages. (I've also noticed that the dishes served are mostly mainstream. By that I mean no sweetbreads or other odd organs, insects, or other ingredients that Zimmer and the more adventurous would want.)

The portions (and usually price) is kept small, so this is definitely not a one-stop for a meal venue, unless you order everything on the menu. However, by the time you start sampling dishes until the time you don't want to think about food for the next couple of days, you might find you've spent quite a bit for the feast. The best option is to get one of the gift cards (or two if your party tends to split up) and put perhaps $20/person on it/them, and use that as you eat and drink around the world. You can always recharge the card if you need to, or use it for just about anything else in the World should you have a balance remaining on the card.

The biggest problem at times are the crowds and the lines. They've been increasing the size of the buildings from 10 x 10 feet to 10 x 16 feet, just for better and faster food delivery and guest throughput.

(On a tour once at Disney's Event and Decorating Support, we were told they're the ones who actually handle the events at Disney World, from small corporate events to Food and Wine. Event Support is the organization that funnels the permits through Reedy Creek, and each of the buildings built for Food and Wine requires some half-dozen permits to build. (Building, electric, occupancy, food service, etc.))

Food and Wine Festival Buildings
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Food and Wine Festival - 2012 Festival Center

Festival Center
Epcot Food & Wine Festival Center. (Formerly the Wonders of Life pavilion.)
It's sort of sad to walk into the Festival Center. You know you're walking into the Wonders of Life pavilion, but there's nothing in there that's the same. Well, maybe the bathrooms. It is, however, another one of those pavilions that you have to walk up a ramp to get to the entrance, only to have to walk down a ramp after you enter the building. Hello? Am I missing something here?

In 2012, Ghirardelli also had a making of chocolate exhibit, where you got a free chocolate square. Mmmm... Chocolate... Within the exhibit were chocolate sculptures created by different cast member groups at Walt Disney World. Amazing.

Also within the Festival Center was the Chase Lounge, which is not a chair, but a hospitality suite for Chase Bank credit/debit cardholders. (Who just happens to issue the Disney credit card. Mine says, "Charter Cardmember".) Not only were there comfy seats, but free fountain drinks as well as coffee and tea.

Food and Wine Festival - 2012 Festival Center
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Tapestry of Nations / Illuminations

The Sage of Time.
Behold! The Great Millennium Walk! (Well, okay, the picture is from the end of the parade, not the start...)
Tapestry of Nations was Epcot's parade for the Millennium Celebration. Oversize puppets danced to a majestic score, drummers beat a rhythmic beat, and it was all led by the imposing Sage of Time. Well, imposing from a distance. After the Millennial celebration, the parade continued with the millennium references removed.

Initially there were three parade units, covering World Showcase from Canada to Morocco, Morocco to Germany, and Germany to Mexico. The parade was run twice per day, once in the evening, and the other just before Illuminations. The direction the parade would travel depended on where the puppets were, which could change due to frequent cancellations because of high winds or inclement weather. Sometimes the parade would be cancelled minutes before it began.

As interest waned, it was reduced from three units to two, covering Mexico to Germany.

For Disney's 100 years of Magic Celebration, they reworked Tapestry of Nations into Tapestry of Dreams, which added dialog, replaced the Sage of Time with three new characters (none of which worked for me), discontinued the segregated puppet groups, and basically ruined the parade. The parade was mercifully killed off soon after that.

sniff. Epcot was never built for a parade anyway.

As a side note, I'm not sure where all the puppets went, but there's a set in the Prop Shop at Disney's Hollywood Studios. (The Prop Shop is a backstage area used for special events, and is not publically accessible.)

There's a video of Tapestry of Nations on my Video Page.

Illuminations
Frame capture from my 2009 Illuminations video.
Illuminations 2000, Reflections of Earth was the new nighttime show, also developed for the Millennial Celebration, and continues to this day (with the "2000" removed). It's a mix of fireworks, lasers, fountains, fire and a new "Earth Globe", which had color, digital projections screens as landmasses on the Earth. (The screens were updated in 2009, and are brighter with a higher definition.)

It has a beautiful score, and the show was designed around it, with the pyrotechnics and other effects (almost) perfectly timed to the music. (The score "Reflections of Earth" is actually only the first 10.5 minutes of the show. The song We Go On follows. (The song Promise is the tune played after the show as you're walking out of World Showcase.)

Now, 'awesome' is a pretty overused word these days, but Illuminations with the Christmas tag really was... Awesome. I think it was only the third time at Disneyworld, where I really just stood there after an attraction was over like a mouth-breathing brain-stem, muttering "Wow. Impressive..." every once in a while. The show might be one of the best 13 minutes of your trip. No one does fireworks like Disney.

I have video of this show, including the 4 minute Christmas Tag.

Tapestry of Nations / Illuminations
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Christmas in Epcot

Spaceship Earth
Christmas in Epcot.
Christmas in Epcot happens in World Showcase, from the Christmas Tree in the Plaza to the Candlelight Processional in the American Gardens Theater. In between are shows/presentations of holidays around the World, and a four minute Christmas tag on Illuminations where Disney must go down to the Fireworks Discount Warehouse and buy all their stock to do the tag for the entire month of December.

Christmas in Epcot
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Christmas in Epcot at Night

The Lights of Winter no longer exist, a victim of an electrical problem. I am surprised they haven't done anything with that walkway between World Showcase and Future World, but I will also admit that the Osborne Lights in Hollywood Studios made Light of Winter look pretty pale...

Christmas in Epcot at Night
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Candlelight Processional

American Gardens Theater
The Candlelight Processional in the American Gardens Theater
Until 2011, I never saw the Processional. While I was waiting for Illuminations, I would witness stand-by lines that stretched into Italy, sometimes almost to Germany. The reserved line (from the Processional/Dinner packages) formed on the other side of the America Gardens Theater and would stretch into Japan. Ugh.

But one of the perks that went with D23's 2012 Magic and Merriment event was reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional. Earlier that day, we had an overview of the Processional and its history, so it filled me in on what I was looking at rather nicely...

I would recommend the second or third show, since the first starts before nightfall, and the show's better at night. I have some video clips of the Processional on my video page.

Candlelight Processional
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Final thoughts on Epcot

When Card Walker called Marty Sklar, and asked what should be done about EPCOT, it answered the ultimate question of what the company would do with their Florida property. It wouldn't become a working community, nor would they sell the land, but would create a vacation destination.

Of course today, many of us couldn't see it any other way. Epcot's been in the public memory now for over 30 years. (Epcot could have started Facebook and retired a billionaire by now.) Its basic design still seems fresh and uncopied, and still stands unique in not only the theme park world, but the entire entertainment industry. But remember back in the mid-70's, Disney wasn't the powerhouse media company it is today, it was a movie studio with a couple of theme parks. The failure of EPCOT Center could very well have been the company's demise.

Fast forward to today, and it's impossible to argue with Epcot's success. It is the third most visited park in America (behind Magic Kingdom and Disneyland), with almost 11.5 million guests entering the park in 2014.

Some of my complaints (since my last rewrite of this section) have been addressed. Apparently, Imagination will either go under a complete re-imagining (and no, that's not a pun), or just completely replaced. There's rumors of both Universe of Energy and the old Wonders of Life pavilion going away, and combining the space for something new. The Seas, The Land and Mission:SPACE still seems fresh, and Test Track just got an update.

Animal Kingdom is becoming a nighttime park (and Animal Kingdom is gorgeous after dark), relieving some pressure off of Illuminations and the rest of the parks at night. The long rumored fifth gate might reduce crowds, but for a park like Epcot, could easily increase crowds as more people are drawn to the resort.

One thing not addressed, is World Showcase. While much of the southern half of the park has been updated (new movies, attraction ride updates, new restaurants and entertainers), it desperately needs is a thrill ride. Maybe just a ride, period. There are three rides in World Showcase, and they're all boat rides, and one of those only shuttles guests across the lagoon. Perhaps it's time to do something about that area between Germany and China. Putting in an imaginary country (like Monstropolis or Tortuga) might be better than a real country in today's world political climate, anyway. It might not be in the character of World Showcase, but without a doubt, something should be done with the space.

(I still think moving Canada to the outpost and attaching a thrill ride to it (like a log flume), then razing both the old Canada and Imagination and use that combined space for something new, would work. Of course, there's probably a reason I don't work for WDI... :) )

There have also been rumors of an Illuminations replacement, but it's been slow in coming.

Finally, looking at Walt Disney World today, I do have a difficult time envisioning Walt's original plans. From a modern perspective (otherwise known as hindsight), there were a lot of problems with his design of EPCOT, from handling infrastructure breakdowns to the swamp that may have been insurmountable back in the 1970's. (Now admittedly, the real planning of the city hadn't gone much past concept art before EPCOT was shelved, so real life could have dictated a lot of changes to his plans.)

I don't think one can argue that many of the dreams of what Walt wanted to do with the Disney Company, died with Walt. And I'm not sure you can blame the company after Walt died for not continuing the legacy of EPCOT So Epcot never became the "Experimental Prototype Community" Walt wanted. It did, however, become a popular and lasting theme park, with a "population" of 30,000 visitors per day, if only between the hours of 9AM and 11PM. I wonder how many residents would have been able to live in Walt's city.

What Epcot really represents today, is a reflection of the new Disney Company, the one who's creative leader wasn't Walt. It was built with Walt in spirit and in mind, but it wasn't built by Walt Disney.

Not that this means Epcot is somehow inferior or a lesser park than Disneyland or Magic Kingdom. Epcot truly was revolutionary, in most any sense that a theme park could be revolutionary, and in many ways still is today after 30 years. Rides that didn't just want to entertain you, but inform you. Intricate themeing and visual delights unseen anywhere else. (Oh, and Epcot is my favorite park, so there is that slant to it too.)

One just has to wonder what any particular attraction or even Epcot itself would look like if Walt could have said, "What if..."

End Epcot - Part 9 of 9.

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

Revisions:
  • 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