Disney World, 2024

Day Two: Epcot

Oh, Epcot. How you’ve gone from a punching bag in the 80s and 90s as “the boring educational park” to “the only good park because they serve alcohol” in the 2000s. Here in 2024, a lot of the educational content is gone, and alcohol can be ordered at every Disney park. So what is the public perception of Epcot now?

I guess the public perception nowadays is “the park with the food”. Epcot constantly cycles through festivals, and my sister and I happened to be there for the Festival of the Arts, which was pretty neat. Several little tents dotted the pathways with people selling art prints. There was also a giant paint-by-number mural that we got to contribute a few squares to.

But let's talk rides!

Test Track - So apparently since 2009 Test Track has gotten a bit of a rework. Now there’s a pre-ride section where you and your party sit at a touchscreen design a car you’ll be riding in. These designed cars are given some sort of arbitrary score, which is all well and good but when my sister and I actually got in the holding pen to be next on the ride, we didn’t realize we needed to scan our magic bands and upload our car. Our wonderful orange star-spangled nightmare never got to experience track time. What a shame.

A 3D model of a strange orange car with white stars all over it. The back of the car is higher and floating above the back tires.

The actual ride part of the ride hasn’t changed too much: let’s test the breaks, let’s test driving through different weather and climates, and finally let’s go outside and test the speed. Woo hoo. Afterwards you get dumped out in what feels way too much like the automotive building of the Texas State Fair, complete with giant pickup trucks sitting under showroom lights and Cast Members ready to help you if you have any questions about said trucks. There’s also a high score chart to see how your designed car did, but we’ll never get to know how amazing our star car would have scored.

Test Track: 7/10. Totally fine ride, I don’t really have anything for or against it.

Living with the Land - My sister basically insisted we go on Livin with the Land. I don’t think I’ve been on this ride since my first time in 1997, and the wait time was about 10 minutes, so sure, why not.

It’s very, very easy to call Living with the Land boring. But I don’t think it is. Living comes from that original-era Epcot feeling of “we can change the world!” optimism and education. You sit in a boat, float past some very rudimentary animatronics, and then get into the interesting part of the ride: seeing how the people at Epcot grow plants and fish. I couldn’t help but have a weird feeling of anxiety as we floated by Epcot employees feeding fish and raking sand. It’s cool to see people doing their job, but also I imagined what it would be like trying to work while boat after boat of jagoff tourists float past you taking pictures.

Living with the Land: 7/10, Listen to the laaaaaaaaand, listen to the land!

Journey Into Imagination with Figment - After getting off Living with the Land (and seeing that the Soarin’ line was too long to bother with) we exited the pavillion and started walking towards Journey Into Imagination. I had zero intention of getting on Journey Into Imagination, I just wanted to take a picture of the building with my Polaroid. I told my sister I didn’t want to go on the ride and she was shocked. “But it’s Figment! You love Figment!” I do love Figment. But I love Figment in the original Journey Into Imagination ride with The Dreamfinder, not this bullshit upside-down-house Nigel Channing thing. I could have gone on a big rant about how this ride sucks and the original was better, and how they turned Figment from a cute little dragon buddy into a shitty bad-CGI nuicance who dresses up like a skunk and farts on you, and how even the original ride creator has called this iteration a “sham of an attraction”, but I didn’t. Maybe I was thinking all that deep down, but I didn’t want to be the asshole going on a “old man yells at cloud” rant about the purple dragon ride at Disney World. Instead I just muttered something along the lines of “Eric Idle is the moon, I fuckin hate it” and proceeded to get in line. It was only a 5 minute wait, anyway.

A yellow ovoid robot sits in a glass display case. This is Weebo, from the 1997 movie Flubber.
I'm not happy about anything they've done to this ride, but seeing Weebo plus the offices of Wayne Szalinski and Philip Brainard does tug at my nostalgia heartstrings. I am a mark for this sort of thing.

Journey Into Imagination was a dark ride filled with animatronics and joy and wonder and charm and rainbows and The Dreamfinder and a kind song and the whole thing was made with love and care. Journey Into Imagination with Figment is six minutes of Eric Idle prattling on, Figment intentionally bungling up his plans, Eric Idle constantly shutting Figment’s creativity down, and then you go into an upside-down house. The whole thing has this weird antagonistic feeling, pitting Nigel Channing against Figment. As if imagination is the enemy of science. As if inventions and discoveries are not made when imagination meets science.

Near the end of the ride Figment tells us to let our imaginations run wild, and the most imaginative thing the ride can come up with is an upside-down house and a former Monty Python cast member’s face on the moon. One Little Spark is kind of in the ride, kind of, but the lyrics have been rewritten. Jesus.

The best part of the ride was when I was getting into the ride vehicle. I was wearing a Star Tours shirt with the Starspeeder 3000 on it, and I guess the Cast Member who checks to see that everyone is buckled in thought it was the Winnebago from Spaceballs, because he leaned in close and said “May the Schwartz be with you”. Hell yeah, dude.

Journey Into Your Imagination with Figment: 2/10. Originally I was going to rate this 1/10, but then I remembered I went on the 2001 iteration of the ride when they largely got rid of Figment altogether. Anyway, Eric Idle is the moon, I fuckin hate it.

We got out of the ride and into the part of the building for interative activities, and into the part with the character meet and greets. And there he was: FIGMENT.

I’m 37 years old. I know that’s a person in a Figment suit. Hell, I own a fursuit of my own. I know I’m probably too old to find this appealing. But damn it all, here we are. Before I even set foot in Orlando, I knew there were only three characters I would actually wait in line for: Mickey, Goofy, and Figment. And the line wasn’t long at all. So my sister and I got in line to meet Figment. I guess none of this would have ever happened if I had refused to go on the ride. So, uh, thanks JIIwF, I guess.

Meeting Figment: 10/10, I was incredibly self concious about taking my picture with a costumed character. But damn it all, I came all this way and spent all this money.

The American Adventure - It was my turn to insist on something! My sister refused to believe I wanted to go on this ride. I told her I couldn’t be in Epcot and NOT go on The American Adventure. I am not a patriotic person by any stretch: my love of this ride is 40% irony and 60% a love of animatronics. The American Adventure, Spaceship Earth, and The Carousel of Progress share a similar “educational plus hopeful optimism” vibe that I can’t get enough of. I think my sister was happy to be able to sit for 20 minutes.

It’s extremely easy to talk about how the American Adventure paints a very rose-colored picture of the founding of America. It pays lip service to the Native Americans having their land stolen and the evils of slavery but refuses to go much farther on any of these topics. But it’s also a ride at a theme park and I don’t know how you correctly touch on any of these topics and keep the runtime under twenty minutes. I mean, the correct answer is to probably not make a ride about how great America is when you’ve already got the Hall of Presidents a few miles away at the other park. But whatever. It’s worth noting we were probably also the youngest people in the audience who weren’t there with a parent or legal guardian. It’s a ride for two kinds of people: animatronics enthusiasts, and oldsters.

The American Adventure: 7/10. We were singing ONE WAS GENTLE, ONE WAS KIND and AMERICAAAAAA, SPREAD YOUR GOLDEN WIIIIIIINGS for the rest of the day. A cannonball don’t pay no mind.

An enamel pin of Mickey Mouse dressed in a blue coat and tricorner hat drumming on a drum. At the top of the pin it reads 'EPCOT WORLD SHOWCASE', and underneath Mickey it says 'The AMERICAN ADVENTURE'.
I saw this pin later in the day and I couldn't resist.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure - After spreading our golden wings, we backtracked to the France pavillion to redeem our Lightning Lane for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. The ride had been hyped up to me a lot from various sources: It’s a trackless 3D dark ride! They blast food smells at you! It’s originally from Disneyland Paris and the reception was so strong they decided to bring it here!

And that’s all great and true, but…. enh. I don’t know, I guess I was a little underwhelmed. I’m glad I had a Lightning Lane, because I think if I had waited in the 80-minute regular line I’d be more unkind to the ride. The ride gets going and your little ratmobile scurries about, and the part where you’re under the oven is neat, but I remember turning a corner and seeing the disembarking station and thinking “wait, that’s it?”. The ride never really felt like it had a big climax to me. You scurried through a kitchen and then before you know it you’re with your rat kin. Maybe I would feel differently on a second ride-through, but for now I’m kind of meh on the thing.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: 5/10, the cute rat cars are honestly my favorite part of the ride.

Grand Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros - I think I went on El Rio del Tiempo. I feel like I have a memory of being on that ride, but maybe my brain is just muddling together memories of being inside the pyramid and watching ride-through videos on Youtube. I know for a fact I’ve been inside the pyramid, and I know for a fact I remember seeing the boats drift past the people eating at the tables. But I also don’t remember eating there. Maybe as a kid I stood by the railing in the restaurant watching the boats go by but we didn’t get a table there? This is the fallible nature of memory, folks.

Anyway, whatever. I have a soft spot for Panchito Pistoles, so reworking El Rio del Tiempo to include The Three Caballeros was never a bad idea to me. You lazily float down the river as Panchito and José Carioca look for Donald Duck, who has gotten himself into some HiJiNkS! I wish there were less screens in the ride and more character animatronics, but at the same time it’s always nice to the The Three Cabs animated well.

Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros: 7/10. I wonder if José ever wishes there was a Brazilian pavillion.

Spaceship Earth - Hell yeah it’s the ballllll baybeeeeeeeee, it’s the BALL! Like I mentioned earlier, Spaceship Earth feels like a cousin of The Carousel of Progress (and a distant relative to The American Adventure). Where CoP shows us the evolution of wonderful GE kitchen appliances we can now buy, Spaceship Earth shows us a brief evolution of written communication, all wrapped in a “we can do anything, humanity is great!” vibe that I want to believe in so badly. I’m not in love with the modern ending of the ride where they plop your head on a cartoon body and show you a little video hypothesizing your personal future of work/play/etc, and I’m not just saying this because the photo the ride took of me was nothing but a dark smudge and my mouth. But honestly, who cares. It’s a minor thing; I could sit back and listen to Judi Dench (Old Deuteronomy herself!) narrate to me allllll day. Normally it kind of stinks to get stuck on a ride, but we had a delay that left us on the backwards descent in the infinite starry field. It was tranquil as fuck.

Spaceship Earth: 8/10. If you can read this review, thank the Phoenicians.

After Spaceship Earth my sister and I went back to the hotel to take a little siesta for an hour or two, but we headed back out as her group number in the virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind started get closer. The sun had set by now and MAN I forgot how pretty Epcot is in the dark. I need to think a little bit more on the subject but at the time of this writing I think Epcot is my favorite park to visit at night. We split up at the gate and I wandered around to buy some pins and do my own thing for a while.

Canada Far and Wide - I feel bad for Canada Far and Wide. I guess part of the Canada Pavillion was being refurbished, because there were big brown construction walls making it look like the building that housed Canada Far and Wide was closed. Because of that, the 8:00 showing of Canada Far and Wide was screened to me and one other family.

If you’ve ever been a Cast Member who operates a ride, does it upset you when no one comes to your attraction? Do you take pride in your ride? Or are you so over it you don’t care if the theater is empty, and maybe even prefer an empty theater because it means less dumbass guests asking inane questions? These are the things I think about.

I worked at The Disney Store in 2007 when the Walt Disney Company regained the rights to Oswald, the rabbit character Walt Disney created for Universal prior to starting his own company. There was a big marketing blitz and for the first time ever, a plethora of Oswald merch. No one cared. No one but me, an animation nut who understood the importance of Oswald and frankly took my Disney Store job too seriously. I would try to explain to guests who Oswald was and why it mattered, but as soon as I started with “well, you see, in 1927…” I could see the life leave their eyes. I bought the Disney Treasures DVD collection of the Oswald shorts and we would air them in the store on the big screen above Plush Mountain. People assumed it was just Mickey Mouse, or even more baffling, Felix the Cat. None of the Oswald merch ever moved. We wound up putting most of it on deep, deep discount. I bought an $80 maquette for $2.50 with my employee discount, and nowadays I see it go on ebay for over MSRP.

Canada Far and Wide: 6.5/10. It’s a Circle-Vision movie, very pleasant but there’s not much to it. I was going to give it a 5 but Catharine O’Hara rules, so that bumped it up a point. And then I remembered that there are only two Circle-Vision movies left, and that made me sad, so I gave it a half a point.

Frozen Ever After - I got out of Canada and hadn’t heard back from my sister. Was she still in the Cosmic Rewind queue? It was getting late, and there was one last ride I wanted to try and tackle before we called it a night: The Frozen Ride.

I fired off a quick “hey I’m gonna get in the Frozen line” to my sister, assuming she was still waiting for Cosmic Rewind, and I began my trek to Norway. Very shortly after I got a text saying she was in Norway looking for me. I had to book it from Canada to Norway fast.

I just pulled up Google Maps because I wanted to see what their estimate on how long it would take to walk around the World Showcase, and y’all? I am a fool. Why didn’t I just go from Canada to Mexico to Norway? Why did I go counterclockwise. What a rookie mistake.

We met up in Norway with our feet completely obliterated. Each one of us assumed we were in line for Frozen, waiting for the other to get there before it was time to get in the boat. My sister ran from Cosmic Rewind to Norway. I jogged across the entire world showcase to meet her. The forty-minute queue did nothing to help our poor little feetsies.

Until a day before we left for Orlando, I had never seen Frozen. I told my sister this in jest when we were together for Christmas, and her response was “well, you’re gonna fix that before we go”. Frozen is a fine movie, whatever. Olaf sucks. The songs are okay. The trolls are cute as hell. I’ll completely admit that I didn’t see the twist coming and I didn’t know which girl was going to pair with which guy, because traditional Disney rules dictate everyone has to pair up before credits roll. If I had seen the movie a decade ago when it came out, or if I had been seven years old, I bet it would have been life-changing. But in 2024 I gave it a resounding “it’s fine”.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Frozen Ever After is the first ride where I’ve seen those projection faces with my own eyes. I’d be lying if I said I liked them. I know they’re nothing particularly new— the singing busts and Madame Leota in The Haunted Mansion are just an older take on this tech. But those are small pieces in a bigger ride. Frozen Ever After is asking you to put all your attention on Elsa and Anna’s glowing faces. Assuming their glowing faces are working. At least if an animatronic stops working, you still have something to look at. Not a void where Elsa’s face should be. I just saw a video of the revamped animatronics in Hong Kong Disneyland and they look amazing. Can Orlando get those please?

But hey, the animatronic bodies are good. And I hate to admit it but Olaf looks great. I never went on the original Maelstrom ride (I won’t lie, I didn’t even know Norway had a ride my first two visits to WDW) so I can’t really compare the two, but for what it is it’s a pretty neat ride. I’m not dying to go on it again, but I’m glad I can say I went on it once, even though it murdered my already tired lil feet.

Frozen Ever After: 7/10. Better than Frozen the movie.

Other non-ride misc:
  • I wish I had had more time to look at the art vendors’ stuff. I saw some very cool pieces while going from place to place but I never really stopped to look around and I regret that.
  • Speaking of things I didn’t do, I didn’t try Beverly, because I am truly a coward.
  • AND speaking of being a coward, I didn’t join my sister on Cosmic Rewind because talk online made it sound like it was even more intense than Expedition Everest, but when I met up with my sister she said she felt it was no different then EE or the Rock N Roller Coaster. Maybe by the next time I get to Epcot I’ll have worked up the nerve to both ride a ride and drink an Italian soda.
  • The busses to/from the resorts play music appropriate to their resort’s theme. We stayed at Pop Century, so the busses play a bunch of music from the 50s to the 90s. You’ll go from Quincy Jones to Michael Jackson to… the opening to All in the Family. There is something extremely surreal about sitting on a bus exhausted after a long day trekking around the world while Jean Stapleton belts “AND YOU KNEW WHO YOU WERE THENNNNNNNN!”. This isn’t an Epcot-specific thing but riding back from Epcot was the first time I encountered it, and sheesh.
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