March 11, 2016

Our WDW Christmas Adventure Part V: Epcot

Every Disney fan worth his salt knows that EPCOT stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. I’ve always wondered how Epcot would have fared had Walt lived to see his plans to fruition. Would it have stuck to the original premise of a prototype housing project and if so, how would it have run? 

Would visitors be allowed or would it be closed off like an actual gated community? The truth will never be known, but it certainly wouldn’t have ended up as the Epcot we know today. 

Can you imagine if Walt had decided to name his new project “Advanced Prototype Residential Industry Community of Tomorrow”? Then we would all be visiting APRICOT! Okay, that was a pretty bad joke (as my wife would say, “Honey, don’t quit your day job”!) so let me just say that Epcot is my favorite park in WDW (although Animal Kingdom has upped its game and is in a virtual tie). 

I remember Mark writing about Epcot and encouraging readers to get out and see the real world. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment as our globe has so much to offer and experience. However, I think the countries, and the representations of it, fall right in line with Disney’s penchant to idealize and soft focus reality. I don’t expect 100% authenticity when walking down Magic Kingdom’s Main Street and don’t necessarily want it. I accept that this was Walt’s idealistic vision seen through a stack of nostalgic filters. Likewise, I see World Showcase as a platform representing the best of a country’s culture, foods, and arts. The darker, grittier aspects are absent and nonexistent. Most, if not all of us, subconsciously choose to ignore this fact and revel in this perfect utopia. I also appreciate Disney hiring cast members from their native countries (I’m sure the company could have save a few bucks by hiring locals). It adds a layer of authenticity to the storybook images while reinforcing the idea that park guests are actually visiting different parts of the world. 
Some random observations:

"Remember when Epcot was a very cutting edge theme park?"

Spaceship Earth is an icon in and of itself. While not possessing the majestic grandeur of Cinderella’s Castle or the powerful symmetry of the Tree of Life, SE stands as a jaw dropping testament to man’s ingenuity (It’s best viewed at night...bathed in a spectrum of other worldly colors). The ride itself has not aged well and is in need of updates, but I still love the concept of traveling back through earth’s past to view historical moments in the making. As today’s audience skew further towards thrill rides and adrenaline rushes, I feel some apprehension for the future of attractions such as SE that smartly blends entertainment with education (put Carousel of Progress, American Adventure, and Hall of Presidents on the list as well).

Christmas in Arendelle.

The Troll Horns at Norway’s Kringla Bakery og Kafe is a tasty treat both Sue and I enjoyed. Does it edge out Hawaii’s malasadas (a deep fried doughnut dipped in sugar from Portugal) for me? It’s of a lighter texture and less filling, but the malasadas wins when served piping hot. 

Beautiful and intriguing Mexico.

The Mango Margarita at Mexico. I don’t consume alcohol, but Sue nearly started me down a dangerous path when she gave me a swig of this frosty concoction. The cold blend of fruit juice, ice, and tequila was equivalent to drinking a Slurpee on steroids. It’s a good thing Epcot is a million miles away from me or else I might start seeing pink elephants on a daily basis (and I don’t mean from watching Fantasia)!

Italy should be more than just shopping and dining.

Lunch at Italy’s Via Napoli had us singing praises for the incredible wood fired pizzas! Crunchy and baked to near perfection, these pies passed with flying colors. The same great experience couldn’t be said for Mexico’s San Angel Inn. It was our last night at WDW and both the food and service were found to be wanting. Our waiter disappeared once the meals were served and I had to literally do a search and rescue to find our tab.

Just make believe...

“Living with the Land” was the main reason we spent time in Future World. There is one particular scene that features a farmhouse soaked in the golden rays of an early sunrise. This image has stayed with me since I first saw it back in 1996. I’ve always played this silly game where I could choose to live in one Disney attraction. This scene would definitely be at the top of the list (as a side not, this game always reminds me of an episode from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery where this escaped prisoner wishes to be inside a painting of a man fishing on a river. He wishes on the wrong painting and ends up in an image of a crucifixion).

While I don’t usually associate rides with Epcot, Test Track is one of my favorites. Although I actually prefer the old queue with its behind the scenes look at a car factory, the new “Design your Own Car” interactive feature is definitely more engaging.

America the beautiful.

The American Adventure is a glorious and touching journey through the history of our country. The colonial style pavilion is breathtaking and the perfect showcase for the Voices of Liberty. I always enjoy listening to this talented vocal group, but hearing them perform holiday melodies was icing on the cake. After the show, take time to enjoy the rows of statues symbolizing qualities that reflects the American spirit. It’s both inspiring and haunting at the same time.

Gran Fiesta Tour has been getting a lot of buzz lately thanks to the recent additions of the Three Caballeros. I somehow missed this boat ride on my last two visits, so I cannot say how much the ride has improved. I suppose it will kick it up a notch for fans of the movie, but I found the ride somewhat underwhelming. It really felt like one big travelogue with no strong narrative direction other than to sell Mexico.

France is stunning as always.

Candlelight Processional ended up being a mixed bag for me, but one that I ultimately still recommend. We opted for the dinner package (to ensure a prime viewing spot) with the food and service at Tokyo Dining garnering high marks! I ordered the Steak and Tempura combo while Sue went with the Steak and Sushi. I admit I was skeptical when booking reservations because Hawaii has no shortage of great Japanese restaurants. Tempura can be deceptively hard to cook. Too much batter and you end up with an oily mess of overcooked wheat flour. Too little batter, and the shrimp can come out tasting like a frozen fish stick. No worries here, the chefs at Tokyo Dining cooked our tempura to perfection and steaks were tender with just the right amount of seasoning. 

After the meal, we headed out to look for our line into the show. Our server had recommended we get there 45 minutes prior to the start in order to secure good seats, so we gave ourselves an hour. By the time we realized there was only one line, the human chain link was already past Morocco. Besides the one line, no specific area was reserved for ticket holders. We would have been better served grabbing a counter service meal and getting in line early for the 3 hour wait. I was later told that all dining package does is guarantee you a seat at the processional (even if that chair is in Timbuktu). This entire debacle put a hamper on the evening, but it was still worth the hassle. 

Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris was the host, but the star of the show is the story of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It really touched my heart to hear the tale told and reminding many of the true meaning of Christmas.

I’ll be back with the final part of my trip report with a fond look at Animal Kingdom!

(Photographs copyright Len Yokoyama.)

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