November 2011: This Epcot Ride Describe includes details that will ruin the fun for guests who want to be surprised. It’s ideal, however, for visitors who want a complete overview before deciding what to see – and what to avoid. For a quick ride overview without a description, go directly to the Epcot Ride Guide
The giant ball (Spaceship Earth) is front and center inside Epcot. After that, you stand in the middle of two semi-circular buildings that house Innoventions and in front of a large fountain. This Ride Describe is organized as if you took a right at the fountain through a gap in the building (Future World right) and, after riding, walked across and did the other rides (Future World left). In World Showcase, all countries circle a large lake. The Ride Describe assumes you tour clockwise, starting in Mexico, the first country on your left as you enter World Showcase.
Guests move slowly upward – and then down – through the center of the giant ball, which is Epcot’s signature ride. It features the history of communications from cave days to the 1960s, and then adds a what-if look at the future. The cars never go any faster than they do when guests board from a rotating platform, though some of the ride takes place in near-darkness. The first part of the ride travels gently uphill. At the top, the cars turn around for a steeper, yet still slow, return to the bottom of the ball. Lines can form early in the day when guests first arrive, but a late afternoon return usually gets you on right away.
Innoventions is, essentially, a commercial for companies that pay to have a booth at Innoventions, though they don’t sell merchandise. These companies mainly hope you remember their name and think kindly of them in the future. As a result, many exhibits educate and entertain. It’s a good stop for a busy, hot summer day, and most people find at least one or two things that make it worth a look.
Future World right
The Seas with Nemo and Friends (the building)
This is confusing. A marine-themed building houses two attractions and a number of tanks with sea creature exhibits, including a really, really big one. But it has the same name as one of the rides inside the exhibit. (See next entry.) However, the building is essentially a small SeaWorld, with manatees, small saltwater tanks, a hands-on shark-themed playground for kids, and other diversions. Guests explore at their own pace.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends (the ride)
This ride is inside the attraction with the same name (see above). Guests enter first thing and get off inside the building part (above). If you don’t wish to ride, ask an attendant to walk through; or more simply, enter through the exit, which is on the left side when facing the building. However, ride the ride. It moves slowly through scenes from the movie, Finding Nemo, though it makes no difference if riders don’t understand the plot. A few dark scenes with carnivorous, toothy fish might scare very young children, so be prepared to cover eyes. A final special effect puts animated fish inside a real tank – pretty cool.
Turtle Talk with Crush
Crush is the animated sea turtle from the movie Finding Nemo, and he has a California, surfer-dude accent. In Turtle Talk, technology allows this cartoon Crush to converse directly with members of the audience. Kids can ask questions, and Crush might comment on clothes or mouse ears worn by members of the crowd. A “real live cartoon” fascinates adults for about two minutes, but kids love it throughout.
Soarin’ (inside The Land) (Fast Pass)
One of Disney’s newest rides, Soarin’ fakes the feeling of parasailing over major tourist attractions in California. It features a huge, semi-circular movie screen and, occasionally, odors – like the smell of fresh oranges when flying over an orange grove. Riders board into three long rows. Seats are light mesh with belts. When the ride starts, guests rise up off the floor and forward into the middle of the semi-circular movie – about 20-feet off the floor, depending on your row. (Front row guests end up near the top of the screen; third row guests are closer to the bottom.) While moving, the seats dip and turn slightly as a parasail would when buffeted by gentle winds. However, the movie makes you feel hundreds of feet in the air, and the ride isn’t ideal for anyone with a strong fear of heights. Wait times can run up to 90 minutes, so get a Fast Pass early in the day.
Living with the Land (inside The Land) (Fast Pass)
A gentle, slowly moving boat ride, Living with the Land focuses mainly on education – how to feed a planet with a growing population. The first third includes a few Disney scenes of jungles, farms, and the American heartland; but the final tour glides through greenhouses with common fruits and vegetables in the world, followed by experimental ways to wrest high crop yields from limited land. Guests in wheelchairs can roll directly onto selected boats.
The Circle of Life (inside The Land)
A movie about the environment starring characters from The Lion King, Circle of Life is not a must-see attraction for most people.
Journey into Imagination
Figment – a small purple dragon – stars in a ride that celebrates human imagination by looking at the five senses. However, any educational message gets lost along the way as the ride focuses on illusions and pseudo-magic tricks. Still, it’s fun. Cars ride slowly over a track, and beyond a loud noise and unexpected light flash, there are no surprises. The line rarely gets long, and it’s a good option on a busy day.
Captain EO (beside Imagination) (Fast Pass)
Fast Pass generally isn’t needed for this 3-D movie made in the 1980s, starring Michael Jackson as an adult pre-plastic surgery. Some scenes of evil aliens could scare small children, but removing their 3-D glasses makes it less scary as the characters turn flat and blurry. A few surprises, such as a burst of water in your face, accompany the action.
Future World left
Universe of Energy
A car moves so slowly in Universe of Energy that it doesn’t count as movement – an entire theater breaks up into six very large cars. The ride takes about a half hour, with six minutes winding past moving, realistic dinosaurs, and the rest a humorous movie about the formation of fossil fuels. The education is a bit heavy for some people who want more time with prehistoric creatures and less time watching an Ellen DeGeneres and “Bill Nye the Science Guy” film. There’s rarely a line, making it a good choice on a busy afternoon.
Mission: Space (Fast Pass)
People that get sick on roller coasters might be okay on Mission: Space, and vice versa. Four riders sit in a small, enclosed car (warning to those with claustrophobia) in front of a “porthole” with a mild 3-D effect that allows them look into space. The entire ride is essentially a giant wheel, with the cars at the end of the spokes. As the wheel spins faster and faster, it pushes riders backward, making it feel as if the entire car is moving forward as their fannies melt into the seat. The cars also tilt forward and backward a bit for different effects. Each rider is given a function to perform while onboard, such as turning on booster rockets. However, the ride is the same even if someone is derelict in their duties as a computer “takes over.” Remember the game where kids blindfold someone, spin them around, and watch them try to walk? The same thing happens to riders here with Mars thrown in after a quick whip around the moon.
Test Track (Fast Pass)
While Test Track cars move faster than any other attraction at Disney, most people can enjoy this one. The worst part can be seen from the front of the building as six-passenger “cars” with real tires circle the perimeter at speeds shy of 60 mph. However, riders tilt on the curves, which doesn’t feel much like a tilt at that speed. Visitors who don’t mind extremely bumpy roads or traveling the interstate in a convertible should be fine.
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros: A boat ride similar to Small World, this easy flowing trip winds past diners in Mexico’s best restaurant under a fake nighttime sky, then cruises through a Day of the Dead celebration done by dolls, and alongside movies of the country’s top tourist attractions. The Three Caballeros aren’t exactly Mexican, however – only Panchito Pistoles hails from there. Donald Duck belongs to the U.S., and Jose Carioca calls Brazil home.
Norway (Fast Pass)
Maelstrom: This is the most active ride in World Showcase, which mainly features movies or nothing at all. The short trip provides a very brief look at Norway history and legends. While a boat ride, it has two hills: One slides slides backward a bit quickly; a second falls forward and is a bit steeper. Most people should be okay.
Reflections of China: For this Circle-Vision 360 film (a Disney term for a series of cameras that film at all angles), the audience remains standing in order to look in each direction. A round screen circles the audience, and viewers can see where they’re going by looking forward; where they’ve gone by looking backward; and where they’re not going by looking left and right.
The American Adventure: A theater presentation, the American Adventure offers an encapsulated view of the country’s founding and great moments along the way. Nothing happens to the audience, such as sprays of water. During the show, famous Americans (animatronic characters) pop up on the stage as Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain (Samuel Longhorn Clemens) give a light history lesson. On the one hand, it’s a massive ride and technological marvel; on the other hand, kids find it boring for the same reason they find a classroom boring – too much education. Still, it’s a must-see for everyone at least once. If “The Voices of Liberty” has a preshow in the lobby the day you attend, try to catch it.
Impressions de France: Large screen movies features scenes of the countryside and, of course, Paris.
O Canada!: A Circle-Vision 360 film highlighting the top tourist destinations in Canada. (See China for a longer explanation.)