Thursday, May 05, 2011

Epcot

Our final day at Disney World was spent at Epcot. I was quite excited about Epcot. Though I have the impression that Epcot is commonly regarded as the most boring of the Disney World parks, I was more excited about it than the rest. From what I could see online, it looked very cool, and I liked that there was a sense in which Epcot seemed like it would be more museum-like. Having been to Epcot, I have to admit that it wasn’t as awesome as I had hoped. I was particularly disappointed in what they call the World Showcase, which I always took to be the heart of Epcot. World Showcase consists of 11 “pavilions” that are designed to reflect various countries—France, Japan, Norway, Morocco, China, Germany, Mexico, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada (not kidding), and the United States (still not kidding). I’ve always assumed that each of these “countries” had plenty of room to walk around in and explore, making you feel immersed in the country itself. I was surprised just how tiny each pavilion is. You can’t, for instance, go to France and spend a good hour exploring it, unless you want to spend an hour exploring the one or two gift shops that are there, or waiting in line for an √©clair at the caf√©. And that’s about as extensive as the countries get. A bit of a letdown.

One nice perk to visiting Epcot is that we were able to park right at Epcot itself. In fact, we once again arrived at our chosen Disney World theme park just before the gates opened. We got a great parking spot and were able to enter the park as soon as they opened the gates. We took straight to the Spaceship Earth Pavilion, the famous metallic golf ball that everyone thinks of when they think of Epcot. Inside, we were able to go on the Spaceship Earth ride. It is a dark, slow-moving ride that basically transports you through the history of human civilization, from the ancient Egyptians to the Renaissance to the invention of radio, etc. Dame Judi Dench narrates, but it was hard to really hear what was being said. Even so, I was intrigued by the ride. I found myself lamenting modern humankind’s lack of appreciation of intelligence. You look back on the history of humankind, and we’ve spent thousands of years getting to where we are now. During those many millennia, art and literature and high ideals were fought for and often protected at the cost of human life itself. We finally progressed to a day and age where it’s quite possible for us to bask in education and the beauty of knowledge itself, in art and creativity, and what are we doing with it? I feel like we’re collectively pooping on everything that thousands of years of humankind strived so bloody hard to achieve. Hell, if you have the audacity to pursue knowledge for the intrinsic worth of it, you’re practically considered a pariah nowadays. We’re so concerned with making money for large businesses and instantly gratifying ourselves that art, philosophy, music, and everything that makes humankind a miraculous form of life is slowly—but increasingly quickly—being phased out. It’s friggin’ depressing.

To digress, I did have a good time on the Spaceship Earth ride. It snaps a picture of you very early on in the ride, and then at the end of the ride, a computer screen in your “car” turns on, asks you a few questions about what you’re interested in, and then shows you buzzing around in the “future,” doing various activities. I was sitting with Eddie, so Eddie and I got to see our heads put onto cartoon scuba divers, etc., and it was all quite funny and entertaining.

After leaving Spaceship Earth, we took to one of the few rides we knew our entire family would go on, The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Quite disappointingly, the ride was closed and they were telling us that it might open up again in the afternoon, though they weren’t entirely sure. Suck. We didn’t have that many rides planned for the day, so this seemed like quite a loss. With nothing else to do right then, we headed over to The Land Pavilion, where I picked up a few FastPass tickets for the Soarin’ ride, which I was quite excited about. We had a while before we could return and go on that, so we went to the Imagination! Pavilion. We headed into the Journey Into Imagination with Figment ride, and we were literally the only non-Disney employees in the place. The ride wasn’t even running when we showed up because nobody else was on it. We climbed in, and I was hopeful that this would be a fun ride. The online description talks about going through “sensory labs” that show how the five senses can combine with the powers of imagination. I was expecting something awesome, with very cool visuals, funky sound effects, etc. Well, the ride was incredibly lame. It didn’t do much of anything at all. Everything about it was quite lame and disappointing. It really amounted to little more than having a dragon singing at you that you can do a lot with imagination—you can see more with your imagination than with your eyes, etc. But they don’t really demonstrate that for you. Seriously. Online, for instance, it talks about going through an upside-down house. I thought that might be cool, that maybe it would actually make you feel somewhat disoriented. But nope, it’s like a three-second thing where you basically can see what amounts to little more than a playhouse attached to the ceiling. You don’t even feel like you’re in it, really. It’s just above you. Really lame. And that’s about as cool as it got.

Next up was watching the 3-D movie Captain EO. I had seen this many years ago at Disneyland, but I didn’t remember much about it. Being a Michael Jackson thing, I thought it would be quite fun. Unfortunately, it ended up being quite a nuisance for everyone but me, and so that made me not enjoy it very much. Creegan was bothered by the noise, and Edison and Peter were kind of freaked out by it (even though they both refused to wear the 3-D glasses). Eddie even asked if we could leave in the middle of it. So, that wasn’t too fun, either, really. And I don’t think it would have been tremendously entertaining even if the kids were fine. It is admittedly a rather corny movie. And, as I’ve said a few times before, I struggle a bit with 3-D. It often gets blurred because my eyes just don’t focus on it quite right. In short, it wasn’t really worth our time.

After Captain EO, we headed back to the Land Pavilion. It was time to go on Soarin’. Peter was too little to go on it, but I was hoping Eddie might agree and go with me and then possibly with Melanie, too. But Eddie was too freaked out by the idea of the ride, so he refused. Instead, Melanie took all three kids on a boat ride (Living with the Land) that was located right next to Soarin’, and I took my FastPass ticket to get “immediately” onto my ride. It seemed like I had to walk for 15 minutes even to get to the front of the line, even with the FastPass ticket, and once there, I still had to wait 15 minutes or so before I could ride. Still, it was worth it. It proved to be the coolest ride I’d been on at any of the Disney World parks. Basically, you are strapped into a seat, there is a huge movie screen in front of you, and when the ride starts, your seat lifts up into the air with your feet dangling beneath you. The movie starts, and you’re shown scenic images that make you feel like you’re hang gliding all over the country. You fly over the Golden State Bridge, over the Redwood forests, etc. They blow air in your face, and your seat sways and drops and so on to make you feel like you’re really flying around. I loved it. It wasn’t exhilarating to me. It felt incredibly relaxing. I found myself thinking that if I could fly, really just fly, up high above everything, I would probably spend all day doing it. It would just be so calming and peaceful.

Once I was done with Soarin’, it had been 30 minutes since I left Melanie and the kids to the boat ride. They had been done a little while. I felt bad about that. As we sat there and planned our next move, Creegan was lying on his stomach on the floor in front of us. Hilariously, a huge group of young Japanese girls suddenly surrounded Creegan and began taking his picture. It looked like the paparazzi had gathered around our boy. They have babies in Japan, right? I guess not white ones, maybe. Whatever it was, there were probably 20-25 of these girls all huddled around him, giddy, with half a dozen or so of them snapping his picture. We just laughed as they did this, and finally Melanie thought she should take a picture of the girls taking a picture of Creegan. She fumbled to get out our camera, and of course, the moment our camera was out, they all started walking away. It would have been such a great picture, and we lost it. That was really disappointing to us.

It was at this point that we headed to World Showcase, with a brief stop at a playground area so Eddie and Peter could play and Melanie could feed Creegan. We then headed into the countries and did little else for the next while other than walk around, feeling quite hot. Nothing excited us much about the country-themed pavilions, so it kind of felt like we were just walking for the sake of walking. It got a little tiring. I admit to feeling the slightest bit of awe as we walked through the Japan Pavilion. There was something majestic about it, something grand. That was where I felt the most transported to another place, and I liked it. I think it was just because the main building at the Japan Pavilion was so large, you couldn’t help but feel immersed in it even as you walked by. It also seemed very clean and serene there. It made me feel more interested in Japan than I ever have.

Norway was one of only a couple of the countries to offer a ride, the Maelstrom Adventure Cruise. As it says on the Epcot website, Maelstrom takes you aboard a “troll-tormented Viking ship.” It was kind of cool, really, but a bit intense for the kids. It’s a bit dark and fanciful. A cool part, in my opinion, is when you’re going along, and suddenly these three trolls (I guess) are up above you, telling you that you can’t come any further, and they blow your boat backwards and force it to go a different route. I guess that probably doesn’t sound that cool just from me describing it, but it was cool. There were a couple of parts where you’re going backwards for a minute or so, and it’s a bit intimidating, especially if you’re in the back like I was and you look behind yourself and it looks as though you’re heading to a cliff. Did we drop down it? Well, not backwards, and not that exact cliff, but forward and down one right in front of it. Cue sad faces for Eddie and Peter.

Another decent part of World Showcase was in Mexico, which also features a boat ride, albeit a much gentler one. The ride in question, the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros, was cool for a couple of reasons. One is that it went through the middle of a Mexican restaurant that was at the Mexico Pavilion, a restaurant that looked really cool and that I wish we could have eaten at. The restaurant is quite dark and is situated around an Aztec pyramid. Pretty awesome looking. Another reason the boat ride was cool is the fireworks that blast off above you as you’re on the boat. They’re not real fireworks, but LED lights (or something) in the ceiling. Still, they looked pretty cool. It was nice to go on another ride that the kids liked before our time at Epcot was done.

After enjoying the Mexico ride, we moseyed back toward the front of Epcot. We thought about going on one more ride, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, but we hesitated when we saw that it is a 45-minute ride. We were all feeling quite worn out, and the ride had a warning that at least parts of it might be a bit intense for younger children. Given that our kids had been so timid about most things, and given that we assumed Creegan would almost certainly get quite fussy sometime within that 45 minutes, we decided to be done. We made a very brief stop at Innoventions, which is basically like a children’s museum, and then headed back to our van. We headed to Fuddrucker’s for an early dinner (a none-too-enjoyable experience, I’m afraid, but that’s a story for a different day) and then back to the hotel. Our Disney World trip was complete.

I’ll conclude this entry with the few photos we took at Epcot. Epcot was a bit more picturesque than Magic Kingdom, so I do wish I had taken more photos. When will I learn my lesson? I don’t know. I’m not very good at learning that one.

Edison and Peter just inside the entrance gates of Epcot.

Another picture, with cute hugging.

Edison and Peter await our turn to head into the Captain EO theater. They’re not too thrilled by the music playing in the lobby.

The tail end of the group of Japanese girls who fawned over Creegan. There were many, many more than this, I assure you.

The end!

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