People’s opinions on Epcot vary about as much as their opinions on politics, religion, and which Kardashian is actually the worst (does Kanye count?), so some of you might fervently agree with my picks while some of you will vehemently disagree. Let me know what you think in the comments down below. I’m also going to start incorporating alternative rides as suggestions in this episode, so let me know if you agree or disagree with my suggestions there as well.
Since its inception thirty-six years (and two days) ago, Epcot has had trouble finding its footing. Originally billed as a vision of the future, Epcot quickly became a random assortment of culturally relevant experiences and vaguely futuristic possibilities. Despite its ups and downs, Epcot has been enjoying something of a renaissance lately with its annual festivals becoming increasingly popular with guests and giving hardcore Disney fans (such as ourselves) a day of rest, so to speak, during their vacations. On our last trip, we had a wonderful day strolling through Epcot, enjoying the sights, the sounds, and of course, the food. But that doesn’t make Epcot exempt from scrutiny — far from it. The park still boasts some of the most ridiculously overrated attractions in all of Walt Disney World, starting with…
Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? Have you ever driven a convertible? Perhaps you’ve just been in a car with the windows down that was traveling somewhat higher than the posted speed limit. If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’ve experienced about all the fun there is to be had on Test Track. Test Track’s signature moment is a high speed blast down a long straightaway and around a banked curve — and by “high speed” I mean about as fast as your family drove on the interstate on their way to Disney. Seriously, in the era of Suburbans that will comfortably waft along the freeway at over eighty miles per hour, Test Track’s velocities are about as exciting as riding a bike downhill with a playing card in your spokes to make it sound as if you actually have a dirtbike when everyone knows that your parents don’t love you enough to buy you a dirtbike. The beginning of the ride is a little too close to the spine-bending antics of Dinosaur for my liking, and the view from the climactic moment on the high-speed track is of a large parking lot full of cars and trucks that probably traveled faster than you are on their way to work that morning. But despite all of this nonsense, guests still flock to Test Track as if it were the second coming of attraction Jesus in the Nazareth pavilion. Oops, that sounded a lot like religion…
Alternate Attraction: Soarin’. Reason? Because Soarin’ is awesome! Lighthearted, airy, and fun, Soarin’ is uplifting and inspiring where Test Track is clearly trying too hard. Soarin’ is “Fixer Upper” while Test Track is “Dancing with the Stars.”
Mission: Space (Green)
I’ll be honest: the Orange side is pretty extreme and quite a bit of fun if you’re into that sort of thing. Be warned, though, that it’s not for the faint of heart (or stomach), so if you’re not prone to motion sickness, it’s absolutely worth doing. However, because of the nature of the ride, the Green side’s lower thrill means that you’re just enclosed in a claustrophobic space breathing recycled air and staring at a 90s television monitor for a few minutes (possibly with complete strangers seated far too close to you on either side). Mission: Space’s predetermined button mashing storyline is fun for the younger crowd, but adults will quickly catch on that their actions have no real consequences and that the person sitting next to them probably had eggs for breakfast, wears Old Spice cologne, and has precisely 437 eyebrow hairs. None of this would be quite so bad if the Orange side didn’t exist, where the centrifugal forces pin you to your seat at over twice the force of gravity — an undeniably cool experience. Thus, if you complete the Green side, you’re left with little more than the waning aroma of flatulence, some sort of communicable disease, and the lingering notion that you’re a wimp.
Alternate Attraction: Living with the Land. So you’re a wimp? Embrace it! Living with the Land is a fun and educational ride that feels like you’re getting a sneak peak behind the scenes of an advanced agricultural lab — mainly because, you are. It’s a must do for Rad Ella every time she visits Epcot.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
I’ll be honest: I have a hard time remembering much of anything about this ride. Like, at all. I had to look it up just to remember why we went over there other than to snap Instagram pictures at the toothpaste wall just outside the entrance. The Seas with Nemo and Friends is basically just an aquarium — which isn’t bad in its own right — but as a ride it offers very little and lacks the educational involvement of Living with the Land. The ride uses a similar vehicle to The Little Mermaid in Magic Kingdom, but most of the ride itself consists of animations projected on screens, which aren’t particularly interesting until they’re superimposed upon the real views of the aquarium at the end of the ride. Though the ride leaves much to be desired, the pavilion itself is fun, and Turtle Talk with Crush remains a younger guest favorite (because Crush is awesome and totally RIGHTEOUS!)
Alternate Attraction: the pavilion itself. Don’t bother with the silly ride if you don’t have younger children, just enjoy the sights and experiences the rest of the pavilion has to offer. It’s far better than the boring ride.
Yeah, I might get some hate for this one, but I don’t love IllumiNations. I feel as though it takes far too long to get going, building up too slowly to a climax that doesn’t really justify the wait. [Insert Michael Scott meme here.] The premise is cool and the venue even cooler (how many other Disney nighttime extravaganzas allow 360 degree seating?), but the overall wow factor of the show definitely takes a backseat to its message — which I find oddly detracts from that message. With a symbolism so significant and a message so powerful, it feels as though it should somehow be even more impressive, more special, and more significant. While I can remember nearly every detail from Happily Ever After, the high points of Fantasmic, and the giddy nostalgia of Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars nights, I struggle to remember anything from IllumiNations other than the globe. The World Showcase deserves better, and IllumiNations has definitely run its course. When it was recently announced that the show would end in the near future, many lamented the coming changes. I, however, remain optimistic because I thoroughly enjoy Epcot and feel that it needs something loftier, even more inspiring, and worthy of the dreams of Walt Disney.
Alternate Attraction: Happily Ever After… because obviously.
Spaceship Earth — just kidding, it’s Frozen
Frozen couldn’t win. Replacing a cult favorite in Maelstrom, Frozen had its work cut out for it from its opening day. While the ride is reasonably impressive from a transformational standpoint, it still boasts fairly ridiculous wait times and features almost nothing to distinguish it from many of the dark rides in Magic Kingdom. The level of fit and finish is high, but at the end of the day, Frozen is little more than an updated veneer atop the bones of an old favorite. It’s not that Frozen didn’t deserve Maelstrom’s spot — it was inevitable after the success of the film — but the laziness in execution is unfortunate and makes the sting of losing Maelstrom just a bit harder to deal with. Disney shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to capitalize on its profitable IPs (it’s a business, after all), but it certainly has the financial resources and engineering prowess to create something a bit more inspiring than a rehash of a dark boat ride with updated animatronics, lighting, and set pieces. Put it this way: if the Gran Fiesta Tour is completely gutted and transformed into a Coco themed ride tomorrow, it is doubtful that many people will complain. Coco is a beautiful film that integrates organically into the pavilion, and the Gran Fiesta Tour already incorporates elements of Mexican heritage central to the film’s premise. (In fact, you could argue that the removal of the Three Caballeros would actually make the ride more authentically Mexican.) But the film Frozen is about as authentically Norse as Jackie Chan, so it doesn’t feel as though it elevates the experience in the Norway pavilion but rather devalues it just a bit.
Alternate Attraction: a time machine to travel back into the past and ride Maelstrom the way God intended. Shoot, there’s that religion again…
Thanks to @mickeys_photographer, @magicalshannonmarie, and myself for the images!
Lament the loss of Maelstrom in the comments down below!