Wednesday, August 14, 2013

EPCOT - A Celebration of the Future Past

Arriving at Epcot after a rain storm felt a bit like going into a time machine and emerging in a strange new world some time in the future that felt like the past. EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a Utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney, often interchanging "city" and "community." In Walt Disney's words.



It was opened in 1982, spans 300 acres and it is often referred to as a "Permanent World's Fair" whatever that means.

We probably should have paid a bit more attention to the 300 acre figure. As it was we decided to 'do' Epcot on the same day as Disney's Hollywood Studios which meant we were already fatigued by the time we arrived. The giant golf ball known as Spaceship Earth which is actually a geodesic sphere, greets visitors to Epcot.

No sooner had we arrived than that strange apocalyptic future/past feeling came over me. Epcot is meant to be futuristic but under gray skies it reminded me of one of those 1960s university campuses in Britain that were cutting edge in their day and now feel old and bleak.



Space was once the final frontier but now it's passé. The Future World segment of EPCOT boats a ride called Mission : Space - but space feels like the past these days, nobody bothers with the moon, the first man to walk on it has died and America has packed up the Space Shuttle.

All of this conspires to make EPCOT somewhat interesting as a visitor destination because there are no characters dressed up as giant mice waving at you. Of course the rides had closed due to the rain. We wandered through an exhibition hall where Zara was fascinated with the swinging of a giant hammer of the kind you can find in any 2 cent amusement arcade.

We lined up to experience the extreme weather exhibition, which was kind of ironic because we could have just stood outside. In the room we were treated to a tornado and sprayed with water while an elderly woman conducted an on screen quiz about what household design measures could be implemented to make the tornado less scary. I will never see an 'A' frame roof in the same light again. It was all rather low tech and somewhat enjoyable, even if the old guy in charge of putting the plastic emergency kit items in matching holes seemed like a bit of a control freak.

Then we walked north through the squalls, hardly conscious of the fact we had seen hardly any attractions in this brave new world of the future/past. EPCOT is nothing if not schizophrenic. The original plans for the park showed indecision its purpose.

Some of its designers wanted cutting edge technology, others international cultures and customs. So the model of the futuristic park was pushed against a model of a World's Fair international theme, and the two were combined. The north end of the park is devoted to world pavilions. My enthusiasm returned when I reached Mexico where there is a replica church, an Aztec pyramid, a candlelit restaurant and even a water boat ride. It's all very tastefully done.

The problem was by the time we had found Norway and Japan to be fascinating too, we were on our last legs and the distance around the lake seemed vast. We bypassed America, France and Canada. I didn't even stop in Great Britain - and not just because I know what a red phone box looks like.

I'd recommend this world pavilions to anyone with time on their hands, as well as a decent eating and shopping budget. Of course these places always make me wish I was seeing the real thing, but you can't fault the quality of these exhibits.

Sadly our Disney experience ended with the least pleasurable of games. Hunt the car. Almost lame from walking we arrived at the parking lot with a vague memory of a number and a letter. And we walked and walked as we tried to find the car. Finally a parking attendant suggested pushing the alarm, and we heard it going off in an area we had walked past three times. Disney had been fun but after a couple of back to back days, the idea of chilling somewhere miles away from Mickey Mouse seemed attractive.

8 comments:

  1. My guy talks about how bad he wants to return to 'Germany' and chow down at the restaurant there. He has Disney/Epcot down pat, apparently. He's been about as many times as I've been to see the Dead, which is 35. I would like to see it someday. My parents went in 1983 but I was in college & couldn't go (read: wasn't invited).

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    1. shame I was so tired by the time I reached Germany JoJo. ooo that is a lot of times isn't it..

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  2. And I such high hopes for Epcot! Still, I'd rather go to Alaska than Disney anything, but I always was a bit odd!

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  3. I've never been to Disney, and the vastness of it, and how overwhelming it all would be is one reason I might never go. You're not the first I've heard say, that to really enjoy it, you need to have a great deal of time (and money) to spare.

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    1. it's true you could spend a week Daisy - mind, you you would be broke

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  4. I've never been to Epcot but I remember even back when I was a teen in the 80s I thought it seemed like a bizarre place. The world pavilions do sound fun though, I think I would enjoy those. I cracked up about the pleasure of not having any giant mice waving at you. :D

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    1. lol Julie - I would say the world pavilions are a definite highlight

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