Amused, Educated & Entertained
~Thursday, March 30, 2023~
With our 2 days in Disney World, we had originally planned on visiting Magic Kingdom on both days. But having had our fill, we decided to switch our plans to revisit EPCOT after our 20 year hiatus. Again, we did the Genie+ which was a good thing. It saved us hours in the end. With EPCOT being twice the size of Magic Kingdom at 300 acres, the 9,000-space parking lot apparently rarely fills up. You can take a tram to the main entrance, but we decided on foot would be best. It wasn’t that far of a walk to the park entrance anyway. Had we known just how much walking was in today’s forecast (and we’re big hikers), we might have considered the tram.
EPCOT is made up of four neighborhoods: World Nature, World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Showcase. Each has its own unique atmosphere and set of attractions. World Nature is all about the natural world and the careful balance that’s required of Mother Nature. World Discovery is where you can experience the past and future of technological advancements. World Celebration (at the park entrance) is a reflection of the broader human family, exploring the history of innovations from the Stone Age to the Digital Age. And lastly, World Showcase highlights the art, architecture and culture of 11 countries. Each has their own dedicated pavilion surrounding the Disney World Lagoon. We focused the beginning of our day at the front of the park (where all the rides are) leaving the World Showcase for later in the day.
Not having been here in years, we were prepared for a lot of changes, especially with Epcot being geared toward technology and innovation. But honestly, there weren’t too many modifications. We had to refresh our memories on what acronym EPCOT stood for…….Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow in case you were wondering. It was conceptualized by Walt Disney in the 60’s and came to fruition in the early 80’s. At the time, it became the single most expensive private construction project in the world.
Our first ride of the day…..Soarin’ Around the World was absolutely, hands down, our favorite ride of our visit to Disney World.
With this ride, you board a gigantic glider apparatus and float above some of the world’s most notable locations with the help of an enormous, curved video screen. Similar to “Soaring Over California” at Disney’s California Adventure, you basically sit back and enjoy this ride, it’s amazing how much your brain can play tricks on you. At the beginning, it did take some getting used to as we “flew over '' amazing terrain, soaring over tall mountains and buzzing down over deep canyons. But our brains are all unique so everyone’s experience might be a little different. We couldn’t wait to be “birds” again!
Our next ride was Spaceship Earth, the only ride in the World Celebration area, contained completely inside the geodesic sphere that is otherwise known as “the golf ball” or “Spaceship Earth”. This classic journey takes you through the history of communication and was even scripted by author Ray Bradbury, who is famous for his novel “Fahrenheit 451” . He got the job after being acquainted with Disney back in the 60’s.
Next was Living with the Land where you travel through greenhouses to see innovative food-growing techniques.
Being the gardener that I am, this was one of my favorite tours. But they’re not all talk. Epcot even grows some of its own food on site, which we witnessed on the calm, relaxing boat ride that floated us from greenhouse to greenhouse.
Then we went back to the World Discovery area to see Mission: Space which offered 2 experiences with NASA-style training and a simulated space launch. With the ride’s inception, they even got NASA involved in the process. Now which one to choose…..they offer a ‘green’ ride (the mild version), or ‘orange’ (the more intense of the 2). The difference is that the ‘orange' attaches you to a centrifuge that spins at high speeds to simulate weightlessness. A woman, having just done the ‘orange’ ride, overheard us trying to decide which one to go with and said the orange was almost too intense for her, so we decided that ‘green’ would suit us fine.
Then we toured The Seas with Nemo and Friends, reliving some of our favorite scenes from Pixar's “Finding Nemo ''. And lastly, our experience in the World Celebration area included watching a few short films at the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. Donning our 3-D glasses for our 3D/4-D movies added to the fun though I’m usually not a 3-D movie fan. There were 2 movies from Disney Animation Studios called ‘Get a Horse’ and ‘Feast’ . ‘Get a Horse’ was a black-and-white short film with Mickey, Minnie, Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow taking a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete ruins all the fun. ‘Feast’ followed the culinary adventures of a Boston Terrier named Winston. We also saw a short film from Pixar Studios called ‘Piper’ which was my favorite. This film was centered around a hungry baby sandpiper learning to overcome her fear of the ocean. I’ve always thought anything that Disney/Pixar puts out is genius, and these films proved they’ve still got it!
By mid-afternoon, we made our way to the rear of EPCOT, where the World Showcase pavilions are located. When EPCOT opened in 1982, there were nine countries represented…Mexico, China, Germany,
Italy, the U.S., Japan, France, the UK and Canada. Morocco and Norway pavilions were added in 1984 and 1988, respectively. About half of the staff in the World Showcase area are from the country they represent. It was easy to spot them as, for example, in the Japan showcase, the female employees from there would wear kimonos. In Italy, where we spent most of our time, they wore red vests. Starving and loving Italian food, we had a choice of 2 restaurants. We liked the atmosphere of Via Napoli Ristorante Pizzeria the most. From beginning to end, it was a perfect choice. Though our waiter Phillip was born and raised in the Orlando area, his “shadow” in training was from Italy. We absolutely loved Mario’s accent and enjoyed hearing all about his travels at the young age of 24, his girlfriend who also works for Disney, and his plans of becoming a U.S. citizen after he returns to Italy. He has about 8 months left on his 1-year visa where he is not allowed to return to the U.S. for 1 year after that. He expressed how he loves the weather in Florida particularly, and the many opportunities that America offers. Interesting how we’ve thought how romantic it would be to live in Italy, when he wants to leave it. I guess it’s just the old adage or mentality of ‘wanting what we don’t have’. I can’t get the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” out of my mind. Oh yes, and we did eat! Via Napoli is known
for their pizzas which they produce from their 3 huge brick ovens. Even the cheeses and meats come from Italy and everything is oh so fresh! With an amazing chewy crust, topped with thinly sliced cantaloupe pieces, a generous helping of prosciutto and Fontina cheese, our pizza was to die for. Now how to make pizza like this at home. When Phillip brought our check, we got to know him a little as well. He’s happy to be back after the 1-year park closure due to COVID. Just prior to that, he was so proud to have bought a home for him and his son, but who knew a world-wide pandemic was around the corner? Trying to keep things going, it forced him into a series of small jobs until he landed a stockroom job at Target. Never in a million years did he see himself in that position. But he’s so grateful that things all worked out, happy to be back at a job he loves, making up for lost time, and lost wages like so many are.
By 6:00 it was time to quit our park time for some Sadie time. We weren’t able to catch “Harmonious”, the fireworks extravaganza, but we’ll definitely be back one day to take in more Disney wonders. Overall, we came away with a feeling that Walt Disney’s dream of bringing entertainment and education together was met at both EPCOT and Magic Kingdom, satisfying the kid in both of us.
You didn’t think you’d be reading my posts without a few more interesting Disney fun facts now did you?
1. When EPCOT opened in 1982, there were nine countries in the World Showcase
2. The aquarium in The Seas with Nemo and Friends holds 5.7 million gallons of water and is one of the largest aquariums in the world.
3. The World Showcase promenade with its 11-country representation, is over a mile long, full of attractions, dining options, live music and character meet-and-greets.
4. EPCOT has a small set of underground tunnels similar to the underground “Utilidor” system at Magic Kingdom, just not quite as large.
5. In 1979, about 14 years after Walt Disney passed away, his dream finally became a reality when they broke ground on EPCOT. Three years and $1.4 billion later, the second theme park at Disney World was complete.
6. After filing bankruptcy, Walt Disney formed an entirely new film company called WED to power his dream of Disneyland. He borrowed $50,000 against his life insurance policy to fund the park. His first iconic character, Mickey Mouse, was created shortly after.
7. The park’s icon, Spaceship Earth otherwise known as ‘the Golf Ball’, is made up of 11,000 triangles and weighs 16-million pounds.
8. Disney is the second largest purchaser of explosives in the U.S. The first is the Department of Defense. Showing nightly, Harmonious, the nighttime spectacular fireworks show, uses searchlights, choreographed water fountains, LED screens, lasers and fireworks, which is included in Disney World’s daily fireworks expense of $40,000 to $50,000 dollars.