Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Visit to Epcot

I was thinking about this in relation to reading I did on Epcot Central about many issues with that park, as well as past reading at other sites (like some posts at FutureProbe and discussions at MiceChat (which I link to from MiceAge).

Epcot is our favorite park. But when I asked my 8 year old son (who is a pretty smart kid in my opinion) what he likes best about Epcot, why it is his favorite park, his answer: "I like Test Track and Mission: Space, and my favorite ride is Soarin'." When I ask my younger son, he pretty much copies his older brother, but did add, "I like Spaceship Earth and the part where we push the buttons on the computer at the end and then watch the video."

Then I asked my wife. Her answer was that she loves the World Showcase and loves the dining options and the shops.

I thought about their answers, because they are all part of why it is my favorite park, too. But there's more to it for me. I love the ambience of World Showcase, the architecture (which FoxFurr over at Passport to Dreams writes about in this article entitled From Paris To Provinces). I love the dining choices, even if we have only tried the food at Mexico (food quality - fair), Japan (good), Italy at the restaurant that is gone now (good), Morocco (good), France (very good), and Canada (excellent). (We've also eaten at the Coral Reef but my wife was so sick that it put a damper on the experience and the Garden Grill (fair).)

I love the faux sense of culture you get as you walk through these pavilions. I love the Beatles tribute band. I love the show at The American Adventure. I love the look of Spaceship Earth. I enjoy the fireworks show (that is more than just fireworks), though my wife and kids are not crazy about fireworks in general. I love the themes of The Land and of The Seas, and I love the music as you walk through the park. I loved the fountain, too, though it was behind the renovation walls and I hope they are making it even better. I love the kinetic energy of the monorail as it loops through FutureWorld.

In other words, I just love the FEEL of the park. The attractions, the food, the ambience, the appearance, everything works to make it a unique Disney experience.

But one thing I noticed that I didn't really care that much about, nor did my kids or wife, was the educational aspect, or lack of it, in the pavilions. The Spaceship Earth ride was fine. It was interesting to listen to Dame Judi Dench detail the history of western civilization while observing the animatronic figures. And it was fun to do the computer thing at the end. But otherwise, what did I learn?

Not much, really. Living With The Land is an interesting ride through the greenhouses and such, but it feels so staged after the first couple of times through it. I didn't learn much at the Seas or at any of the other pavilions, nothing that I didn't know or that wasn't pretty superficial. (We did get to see a cochlear implant of the exact same model that Grandma wears, but not much else excited me or the family.)

The Museum of Science and Industry, and the Adler Planetarium (a fine attraction in Chicago, even if John McCain obviously didn't know what it really was when he referred to funding for their overhead projector during the campaign) probably do the "science education and inspiration" far better, and in far more depth, than Epcot does. Should it be that way? That's for others to argue about.

Even without the education aspects, Epcot is still a fine experience and it is and will likely remain my favorite park to visit on my Disney World excursions.

1 comment:

Future Guy said...

Although it certainly is not perfect, EPCOT still remains my favorite park for the reasons you mentioned.

I always enjoy the Garden Grill; last time we were there I "scared" one of the characters (Chip or Dale, I can never tell them apart) by asking if the meat on my plate was anyone they knew. They didn't come back to our table after that (I'm evil, I know). I hear there's a new Italian restaurant and I wonder if it's any good. We may try it when we're there next year.

Before the Eisner Apocalypse in the mid-90s, EPCOT had a more educational reputation and it was a popular school field trip destination, but if you analyze what was actually in the pavilions back then, they were only marginally more educational than they are now. The sole exception is The Living Seas, but you have to remember that the pavilion's original incarnation was the result of a tightfisted corporate sponsor who balked at funding WED's ambitious original concept.