EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). This was Walt Disney’s idea for a futuristic city of tomorrow. He wanted to see a community enriched with education, innovative technology, clean, efficient factories, and homes where families could enjoy living and working in a clean, safe environment. He envisioned a perfect city with public transportation and a multi-cultural civic center covered by an all-weather dome, where factories would be readily accessible to all workers. Housing would be available in suburban subdivisions nearby. Unfortunately, Walt Disney passed away before he could see EPCOT become a reality. His brother, Roy Disney, was left with the daunting task of fulfilling his late brother’s dream. He was not secure in the thought of building a city. His idea was more of a Magic Kingdom Park with a series of hotels located on the edge of the property to keep out unwanted intrusions. Even though Walt’s idea of EPCOT was never developed, a World’s Fair type EPCOT does now exist, with exciting rides that thrill, and attractions that stimulate the mind and create an uplifting view of what the future may hold for us on this planet, Earth.
9. Spaceship Earth — Spaceship Earth is affectionately known as the “giant golf ball”, a 180 foot tall geosphere which is the centerpiece of EPCOT’s Futureworld. This geosphere houses a ride that takes its passengers on a journey into the history of communication beginning with the Stone Age and progressing to the technological advancements of our world today. Guests climb onto a moving platform and into ride vehicles that hold 4 adults comfortably. Your journey begins with the stone age where cave men are drawing their thoughts on cave walls, and as your vehicle moves along slowly, narration is being conducted by Dame Judi Dench, a celebrated English actress and author. Through the use of lifelike audio animatronic figures, guests are witnesses to the Egyptians inventing papyrus, Phonecians devising the alphabet, the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, a Greek system of mathematics, newspapers, radio and television, and computers.
Just before your journey ends, you get a chance to design the kind of future you want to live in using a touch screen in front of you. This is where the photo of you that was made at the beginning of the ride comes in handy. I can tell you this feature of the ride is very ingenious and seeing the result of your choices on the screen is so funny, because the cartoon characters in the short film have your faces on them. Once you exit the ride, you have an opportunity to participate in challenging games, futuristic displays, and an interactive play area for guests of all ages. Spaceship Earth is the first attraction/ride that greets you after you pass through the front entrance, and it is truly a beautiful sight and an unforgettable experience, entertaining and educational.
8. Innoventions West and Innoventions East — These two pavilions offer interactive games, special exhibits, stimulating simulations, and activities for all ages. Here you can imagine, invent, inquire, and be inspired. Innoventions West— “Where’s The Fire” promotes fire safety. You have the opportunity to find fire hazards in the “most dangerous house in America”. Get your picture made with a 30-foot fire truck and become a Fire Chief by answering “fire safety” questions at the “Burning Questions” kiosk. Other exhibits are “Think” where you can enjoy inspirational stories, then dance, play, and pose in front of the “Gesture” wall. The “Great Piggy Bank Adventure” contains physical piggy banks and virtual personal investment guides which teaches young people the importance of saving for future goals. Then there is the “Video Game Playground”. Here you can play video games with Disney characters using the latest in video game technology.
7. Innoventions East — Exhibits at Innoventions East include: “Stormstruck” – Experience being in the middle of the perfect storm, then test your knowledge on how to protect your home and family in the event of severe weather. Children can enjoy building a storm safety kit. “Habbit Heroes” – Team up with Quench, Dynamo, and Fuel for a series of interactive adventures and transform the world into a happy, healthier place for us all. “The Sum Of All Thrills”—Use your math, science, and engineering skills to design your very own thrill ride. “Vision House”—Take a home tour and find out how you can have a greener future today using whole-home automation, energy generation, efficiency, and environmental quality. Innoventions West and East are entertaining and educational for youngsters and adults!
7. Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure — This attraction is hosted by Ellen Degeneres (Actress and Comedian), and bill Nye, the Science Guy. After viewing a short film starring Ellen Degeneres, Bill Nye, Alex Trebek, Johnny Gilbert, and Jamie Lee Curtis in which Ellen dreams she is on the game show, Jeopardy” , and discovers she knows nothing about energy. After the film guests are seated in one of six seating areas and watch another film about the formation of fossil fuels. The seats then turn into “traveling theater cars” that move through a primeval diorama displaying audio animatronic dinosaurs of all types. The vehicles enter another theater for another film; this time Ellen and Bill Nye take a look at current and future energy resources. At the end of this film, the entire seating area moves back to the original theater for a final 2-minute film concluding Ellen’s dream.
**Tip**–I would not recommend this attraction for small children. Because this is a slow-moving ride, with films which may not be entertaining for their age, they tend to get bored and restless.**
6. Journey Into Imagination With Figment — How do our senses play a part in developing an imagination? On this ride you will be introduced to a whimsical purple dragon named Figment, and your guide, Dr. Nigel Channing. Guests take a walking tour through the Imagination Institute before stepping on a moving ramp and boarding slowly moving red vehicles. Dr. Channing and Figment welcome guests to the Open House experience where they travel through several “labs” that study our senses (sight, sound, and smell) and how they affect our imagination. Figment, the mischievous purple dragon, adds his touch to the “Open House” and the fun begins. There are special effects dealing with the senses, especially the senses of sound and smell. Need I say more? You’re in for a real treat, courtesy of Figment, who appears throughout the show, entertaining and surprising guests with his playful antics. This is a fun and delightful ride for the whole family to enjoy!
5. The Seas With Nemo and Friends — This pavilion is the home of one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the world and features over 200 species of sea life, including dolphins, sea turtles, gliding rays, and a multitude of tropical fish. This massive tank is 200 fet in diameter, is 27 feet deep, holds 5.7 million gallons of saltwater, and the glass is 8 inches thick. Before you view this remarkable aquarium, you are invited to take a ride on a “Clam Mobile” for a journey beneath the ocean, joining Mr. Ray on an underwater field trip. Nemo, being the curious clownfish that he is, goes missing, and its up to Marlin and Dory to join in the search to find him. Through the use animation, puppetry, and some amazing technology, the characters from the Disney film, “Finding Nemo”, appear to be inside the aquarium. It is here Nemo is reunited with his Dad, and all the characters join in a musical rendition of “Big Blue World”. This is where you disembark and have the opportunity to gaze this extraordinary aquarium and explore the rest of the pavilion. In “Bruce’s Shark World” you can get your picture made inside Bruce’s enormous, teeth baring mouth and check out all the hands-on activities, including peeking into periscopes. This area is fun for children and adults and offers several exceptional photo ops. Enjoy the ride on the “Clam Mobiles”, and prepare to be mesmerized by all the wondrous undersea inhabitants.
4. “Circle of Life” — Inside the almost 6 acre “The Land” pavilion, this 20-minute film starring “The Lion King’s Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa is presented in the beautiful Harvest Theatre which can hold up to 428 guests. The film teaches the importance of environmental responsibility by combining live footage with animation. It’s a great way to take a break and enjoy an entertaining film. “Living With the Land” boat ride—This 13-minute boat ride is not only relaxing, but very informative. On your trip you will observe a tropical rain forest, an African desert during a sandstorm, and the windswept plains of a small turn-of-the-century family farm. Guests are informed about the future of farming, including Hydroponics (cultivation of plants by placing the roots in liquid nutrient solutions rather than in soil, aeroponics (a method of growing plants without soil by suspending them above sprays that constantly moisten the roots with water and nutrients, and Aquaculture (the cultivation of aquatic animals, especially fish, shellfish, and seaweed, in natural or controlled marine or freshwater environments. As you ride along and see examples of each method of farming, it is very interesting to see the results: fresh fruits and vegetables growing without soil. Even more interesting is the fact that these fruits and vegetables are used in some Disney restaurants, and its possible that some of the food you have eaten was grown right here in these special soil-free farms, or in one of the marine hatcheries.
3. Soarin’ — After passing through a beautifully lit, colorful passageway inside “The Land” pavilion into what seems to be a modern airline entryway, you will watch a short introductory film, after which you will be guided to one of the three large ride vehicles. Each has three rows of seating. As the ride begins, your vehicle is lifted swiftly and smoothly forward and up, with each row stacking vertically above the other, right in front of a mammoth theater screen. The film begins, and your “hang gliding” adventure begins as you take flight over California’s most breathtaking scenery; snow-capped mountains, desert canyons, rocky seashores, and gorgeous beaches. The thrilling part of this ride comes as the camera banks and turns through the scenery, and your moving theater also banks and turns. Each individual seat moves, banking left or right, angling you up and down, in perfect synchronization with the camera angle on the screen. This virtual ride is very exhilarating and never gets tiresome or boring. “The Land” has something to offer all ages, from information to entertainment.
2. Mission Space — This is a virtual, centrifugal motion simulator thrill ride, meant to simulate astronaut training for the first mission to Mars aboard the fictional X-2 Deep Space Shuttle in 2036. After boarding the ride vehicle, each rider is assigned an on-board role (navigator, pilot, commander, or engineer). The mission includes liftoff, a slingshot around the moon, a brief moment of simulated hypersleep, and a descent for landing on the Martian surface. As the mission runs into problems, there are sharp movements, drops, and a high speed descent to a perilous landing on Mars. I can tell you from experience that you do not want to be a passenger on this ride if you have had any experience with any degree of motion sickness. The pull of gravity of gravity at liftoff, and the feeling of weightlessness are incredibly realistic, and there is a lot of rocking and swaying. For those who are up for the challenge, take heed of the warning to keep your head still and eyes forward at all times. This is an awesome ride, but not for everyone. Read the warnings posted at several locations before you enter the ride chamber.
**Tip** – You can choose a less intense ride called the “Green Team Experience” The more intense ride is called the “Orange Team Experience”. Choose wisely!
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1. Test Track — As you enter the Test Track building, you will immediately notice the state-of-the-art design and innovative technology being displayed in the cars of the future. Chevrolet is the official sponsor of this attraction, and when you enter the Chevrolet Design Studio, you are given a special card, which allows you to access an illuminated station where you design you own virtual custom concept vehicle based on capability, responsiveness, efficiency, environmentally friendly, and power. Once you board your “Sim” car you progress through the course, and easy-to-read visual charts along the way inform you how your concept vehicle is performing. Your car is tested on rough terrain, surprise obstacles, inclement weather, curves banked at 50-degree angles, and hills up to 3 stories high. The last maneuver (speed) takes your vehicle on a high speed race on the outside around the building reaching a speed of 65 mph. This is a finale that keeps you coming back for more, a real thrill ride. When your ride is over, check out all the newest car models, pose for a picture with a Chevrolet dream car or your concept vehicle with a dramatic backdrop of your choice. You can also steer your concept car around a track at a smaller virtual test ground. This interactive area is a great way to wind down after a fantastic test drive.
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Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper