This was the second of the theme parks to join Walt Disney World. It was dedicated to international culture and technological innovation. The park opened on October 1, 1982, and was named EPCOT Center from 1982 to 1993. Based on square footage, it was the largest Disney theme park in the world until 1998, when Disney's Animal Kingdom opened. The park consists of two sections: Future World and World Showcase. Both are patterned after the kinds of exhibits which were popular at World's Fairs in the first two-thirds of the 20th century, in particular the 1939 New York World's Fair. Epcot has become essentially a permanent display of the world's nations. EPCOT combines education and entertainment wonderfully.
Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology. Spaceship Earth: The eighteen-story-tall geodesic sphere covered in 11,324 triangular silver panels made of alucobond, is the gateway to Future World. Inside is a slow-moving continual dark ride through the history of communication, with a focus on the development of cultures and the future of technologies.
Innoventions, located in two pavilions (aptly named Innoventions East and Innoventions West), houses hands-on exhibitions from various science-and-technology oriented companies such as IBM and Segway. There are the latest computer games and you can even send a themed E-mail to someone back home. Very good for all the family. Universe of Energy: Now showing Ellen's Energy Adventure, a show starring Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, Jamie Lee Curtis, Alex Trebek, and (an actor playing) Albert Einstein in an episode of Jeopardy!. The categories are about energy and how people generate and harvest it. (Michael Richards, "Kramer" from Seinfeld, has a brief cameo in the show as a caveman who discovers fire.) The audience's seats are actually large vehicles which move slowly through the attraction and are partially powered by solar cells on the building's roof. Visitors travel through the primeval age of the dinosaurs to learn the origin of fossil fuels. Mission: SPACE: Simulates the training required to be member of the space program. Gary Sinise is the guide through a simulated mission to Mars in a spinning centrifuge gravity-simulator, which lets guests feel what it's like to blast off in a rocket. Can be a bit intense.
Test Track: Guests sit in six-seater cars and experience the wide range of testing that automobiles must go through before they are approved for mass production. Cars in the ride pass through extreme temperatures, over rough surfaces, and around high-speed turns.
The Living Seas: One of the largest indoor aquariums in the world, designed to appear as the deep-sea research station Sea Base Alpha. Guests can view many different aquatic animals such as manatees while learning about the preservation of the oceans. Scuba divers appear occasionally to maintain the aquarium and educate visitors; For a fee, guests with certified diving credentials can join a group dive in the aquarium itself. The pavilion is also home to Turtle Talk with Crush, an interactive show starring Crush, the Sea Turtle, from Disney/Pixar's film Finding Nemo.
The Land: Contains various attractions dealing with human interaction with the natural environment. Living with the Land takes visitors on a boat tour through a working greenhouse. The Garden Grill Restaurant slowly rotates, offering views of the Living with the Land ride, and serves food grown in The Land. Soarin', a copy of Soarin' Over California from Disney's California Adventure, opened here in May 2005, along with a remodeled pavilion. Be warned as this is a new attraction lines for it are very long. Get there early for a fast pass. Also showing is a movie called The Circle Of Life, starring the characters from The Lion King.
Imagination!: Contains Journey Into Imagination, a lighthearted ride starring Eric Idle and the Epcot mascot Figment. It encourages guests to use their senses and their imagination. This attraction is currently in its third incarnation: a refurbishment in 1998 removed the little purple dragon Figment and his creator/father figure Dreamfinder and featured Idle instead. There were so many complaints over the disappearance of Figment that a 2002 refurbishment added him back; Dreamfinder is still absent, except for a cameo in the queue area (look for a door reading "Dean Finder"). Imagination! also contains Honey, I Shrunk the Audience: a 3-D short film featuring Eric Idle, Rick Moranis, and the rest of the cast of the film Honey, I Shrunk The Kids; A demonstration of a new invention inadvertently shrinks the entire theater.
World Showcase is made up of eleven pavilions: in clockwise order, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States of America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Of the eleven countries, Norway and Morocco were not present at the park's opening, and were added later. Each of these contains representative shops and restaurants and is staffed by citizens of these countries, many of them college students living in Walt Disney World College Program housing. Some also contain rides and shows. Each pavilion is sponsored (and paid for) by the country it represents, so tourism brochures are readily available.
To cut costs, Disney now opens World Showcase late (usually 11:00 AM) and closes Future World early (usually 7:00 PM, except for Test Track, Mission: SPACE, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin' which sometimes remain open until park closing). Unlike the Magic Kingdom, which does not serve alcohol, many stores and restaurants in the World Showcase do serve or sell alcoholic beverages from their respective countries, and beer is sold at refreshment stands throughout the park. A popular activity is to "drink around the world" at World Showcase. Each Pavilion sell food from their homeland normally 3 or 4 choices from high priced gourmet food to quick snacks. A thirteen-minute fireworks show, Illuminations - Reflections of Earth, takes place in the World Showcase Lagoon every night at the park's closing time (usually 9:00 PM). Fireworks and lasers fill the sky above an immense rotating globe whose continents show changing pictures of culture and technology throughout the ages, while a rousing musical score plays over the loudspeakers. The show tells the story of Earth and is divided into three movements titled "Chaos," "Order," and "Meaning." the lagoon is surrounded by twenty large torches signifying the past twenty centuries, and the show culminates in the globe opening like a lotus blossom to reveal a twenty-first torch, representing the new century. This really is excellent and should not be missed!! Be prepared for a mass exodus from the park once the show is over. Although you can get a good view of the show all around the lagoon, it is easier to get out of the park when you are closer to the exit.