April 2012: EPCOT stands for “experimental prototype community of tomorrow,” except it’s not – a community, that is. Still, that was Walt Disney’s original vision and a form of social engineering. Now Epcot (usually spelled lowercase) is a theme park dedicated to two things: The future and the world.
The front of the park is Future World, though many people don’t know the techie-ride section even has a name. Most visitors consider it “the part with the rides.” The back is World Showcase or simply “the countries.” Epcot forms an imperfect figure 8. You enter in front of Spaceship Earth (called “the golf ball” locally), and Innoventions circles the central core. Surrounding Innoventions along the outer rim, the major rides of Future World form a larger circle. Walk forward through Future World and World Showcase forms the top part of the 8, with a lake in the middle.
Epcot has the most consistent park hours. Except in very busy seasons, it opens at 9 a.m. in Future World and 11 a.m. in World Showcase. It closes at 9 p.m., and the big nighttime show, Illuminations, also starts at 9 p.m.
Future World has Spaceship Earth, the golf ball icon that represents Epcot. Each major exhibit area – there are nine of them – represents some field of science. To best enjoy Epcot, forget learning anything (unless you do quite by accident) and focus on the fun. Because Disney has to appeal to a wide audience, smart people find most of the lessons simplified, and everyone else wonders why they have to learn anything while they’re on vacation. By abdicating the need to learn, you can enjoy everything on a basic level – it’s pretty, or it’s odd, or it’s fast, or it’s cold. And you usually learn something.
The themed areas in Future World include:
- Spaceship Earth: The golf ball takes riders through the history of human communication.
- Innoventions: While this center section of Future World is essentially a commercial for every vendor present, some of the stuff on display is pretty cool.
- The Living Seas: A big, hunkin’ aquarium with info about (right) the sea. Nemo ride follows the movie with a couple great special effects.
- The Land: Agriculture and how much we need it. Includes a boat tour of growing techniques (interesting but not exciting) and Soarin’, a faux parasailing ride over California (cool).
- Journey Into Imagination: A look at how the human mind invents things, though the goal was watered down in the last re-do. Now it’s colorful and fun, but Disney traded the goal for the glitz.
- Test Track: Fastest ride in Epcot, this semi-ad for GM (General Motors) shows how companies test the safety features of a new car.
- Mission: Space: Faux mission into outer space accomplished by spinning a really small car very, very fast in a tight circle. Not for the squeamish. The physical effect is pretty much what you’d expect.
- Wonders of Life: Don’t get excited – it’s almost certainly not open, though the building is still there, and it may host some special events. It was once home to Body Wars, which is a motion simulator (shows a movie in front/car jerks around/it seems as if you’re moving up or down or fast or slow), and Cranium Command, a theater/movie show.
- Universe of Energy: A strange combination of “wow” and “I’m bored,” huge cars spend a lot of time watching a movie, and a little time seeing giant, moving dinosaurs.
The countries of World Showcase include:
- Mexico (small ride)
- Norway (slightly bigger ride)
- China (movie)
- U.S. (big scale audio-animatronic show that some – not me – find boring)
- Japan (movie)
- France (movie)
- United Kingdom
- Canada (movie)