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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Epcot: Space Elephants On Parade And Horizons, The Movie

My August 2011 trip to Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida was a blast to the past!

On this visit, I saw plush toys of Captain EO's pachyderm pal for sale outside of the Imagination Pavilion.

Captain EO, the 1986 3D Michael Jackson film, returned to Epcot in 2010. This sci-fi fantasy movie, which also starred Anjelica Huston, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The screenplay was written by George Lucas, Rusty Lemorande and Francis Coppola. The creative creatures were brought to life by Rick Baker and Lance Anderson.

Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was planned by Walt Disney to be an actual city. When Walt Disney, the driving force behind the project, died, so did the idea of Epcot being a real city.

The Epcot that was built opened in 1982, and has been compared to a World's Fair.

World Showcase and Future World were two different concepts that were joined together for one park.

It is difficult to predict the future, which is why Epcot's focus has changed dramatically over the years.

On my August 2011 Orlando vacation, I stayed at Disney's Yacht Club Resort.

I was so close to Epcot, I felt like I was staying at World Showcase. It was fantastic!

Epcot's name has changed more than any other Disney park.

This map is from my 1983 visit to EPCOT Center (my first time to visit the Disney theme parks).

Epcot dropped the all caps spelling at some point, and during 1994, the place was called Epcot '94.

Epcot's attraction roster has seen some big changes, and nearly all of them have been in Future World.
Many Epcot fans will recognize the much-loved Horizons Robot Butler seen on this map.

How did people in the late 1970s envision the future? Find out in HORIZONS, a new live action feature film based on the long-closed 1983 Epcot attraction of the same name.

HORIZONS follows the comedic adventures of Robot Butler (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and Robot Chef (voiced by Guy Fieri) and their experiences working with people in the year 2020.

Robot Butler and Robot Chef were created by an eccentric scientist and inventor named Dr. Scott Vernon (Will Forte).

Dr. Vernon shares a condo with his wife, Tammy (Ana Gasteyer) and their dog, Neutron.

Dr. Vernon is convinced that his robots will be extraordinary workers, but they turn out to be a bit too human, and prone to mistakes.

Tammy designs polyester jumpsuits, and also has a job at a citrus farm.

At the citrus farm, Tammy works with her friend, Biochemist Misty Greene (Maya Rudolph).

Hopefully this movie will be in Smell-O-Vision, and have the orange smell featured in the ride.

Dr. Vernon's niece, Cindy Dylan (Kristen Wiig) is a teacher and marine biologist in an underwater city.

Cindy works very (very) closely with a mechanic named Zack Harbor (Ryan McPartlin).

Cindy's best friend, Starla Craft (Niecy Nash) is an aerospace engineer.

Starla is working on a new space colony, with the help of explorer/astronaut Stone Rockford (Matt Iseman).

Robot Butler and Robot Chef get jobs at the citrus farm, the underwater city and the space colony. They nearly destroy all of them by accident.

Instead of ending up in a scrap heap, Robot Butler and Robot Chef find work at Eon's Oasis, an intergalactic resort and spa.

The resort is run by a science fiction enthusiast named Nimoy Kirk (Luke Perry) and his wife, an artist named Mercury (Shannen Doherty).

Despite some occasional hiccups, the Robots do well at their new jobs. Maybe too well.

In a shocking twist, the Robots take over the resort by force, and lead a Robot Revolution.

Yes, I made up the idea of this Horizons movie. This probably didn't fool anyone.

Horizons was a very cool attraction, and I really miss it! By the early 1990s, the future it portrayed seemed a bit unrealistic. It was still fun, sort of like Hanna Barbera's SeaLab 2020 animated series (and the Cartoon Network Adult Swim spoof/spin-off, SeaLab 2021). The ride was eventually replaced by Mission: Space.

Horizons was loaded with details, including The Horizons Robo-Kitty.

Horizons fans will be pleased to know that the Robot Butler is one of the characters featured in Disney's Vinylmation Park Starz Series 1 line of collectible figures. I know I want one!

In Epcot's early days, the classic Disney characters were tough to find. As the years went by, Mickey Mouse and his friends appeared in more and more places.

In Future World, Mickey and his friends typically wore space suits. In World Showcase, they wore costumes to reflect different countries.

This postcard from the 198os is a rare sight. It's the old Magic Kingdom Mickey in front of Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

This was taken before 1988, when Mickey and Minnie were given makeovers in honor of their 60th Birthday.

It's now time for my August 2011 Epcot trip report!

Because I stayed at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, I was at Epcot for all three days of my 3 Day Park Hopper Pass.

On Day 1 (Thursday, August 25th, 2011) I just walked through Epcot on my way to the Monorail Station for a trip to the Magic Kingdom. On the way, I did go check and see what the line for Soarin' was like (it was 70 minutes---no way!).

On Day Three (Saturday, August 27th, 2011) I visited Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Epcot all in one day.

For those trip reports, check out Disney's Hollywood Studios (AKA Disney MGM Studios) And A Muppet Twist and Disney's Animal Kingdom Thinks Outside Pandora's Box: James Cameron's AVATAR Land.

After visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom that day, I went to Epcot. The first thing I did was ride Spaceship Earth (AKA the "Golf Ball").

This ride has been changed a bit since it debuted. I do remember that the ending of the original version did not age well. The new version takes your picture (smile!) and puts you in a futuristic cartoon adventure (sort of a different spin on what Horizons did). When you get off the ride, you can email yourself a postcard of your adventure (in theory, anyway---I could not find mine).

Up next, I went to ride Test Track. This used to be the home of World of Motion, a slow-moving ride about man and transportation with a very large Audio Animatronic cast.

Disney will bring back World of Motion characters when pigs fly. Oh, wait, they do here.

The Vinylmation Park Series 7 will feature the Sea Serpent character from World of Motion.

Some of World of Motion's cast found work in other theme park attractions.

The pig on the right worked at Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean for a while as part of an enhancement to that attraction. Other World of Motion characters were inserted into the California Pirates ride, too. I think they may have been removed when the attraction added characters from the Johnny Depp Pirates movies. Some of the chickens from World of Motion could be found at Goofy's Barnstormer in Toontown Fair at the Magic Kingdom. The Sea Serpent was last seen as a prop at Disney's California Adventure.

Test Track, a much faster ride, eventually replaced World of Motion.

Dogs just live riding in cars, so Goofy is the perfect mascot for Test Track. Yes, Goofy is a dog, but that is another story.

Test Track is one of the most popular rides at Epcot. It is fast, fun to watch, and adds some energy to Future World.

The line for Test Track tends to be long. I used the Single Rider Line and still had to wait a while.

Test Dummy Goofy was created specifically for Test Track.

This plush of Test Dummy Goofy was sold at Epcot back in 2004.

From that same time, there was a pull-back Test Track car loaded with three Test Dummies.

I've never seen a toy with more than one Goofy before. It's just like the world of the Goofy cartoon shorts.

Fans of character actor John Michael Higgins should get a kick out of seeing him as Test Track's host (via TV screens).

After Test Track, it was time for dinner at Sunshine Seasons at The Land. I seem to eat here every time I'm at Walt Disney World.

I really like the hot air balloon mobile in here. I shot this while I ate my Cashew Chicken with noodles and broccoli. It was great!

A number of Epcot's attractions open late and close early. I had planned to see Captain EO after dinner, but it was closed. Instead, I went "home" to rest at Disney's Yacht Club Resort. I stayed on the Concierge Floor, which was incredible. Every night, they had some fantastic desserts waiting, and a fridge full of drinks. I had breakfast there every morning. I really miss it!

After dessert, I explored Disney's Boardwalk Resort. I had a long day visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot. With blisters on my feet, I finally crashed.

Day 4 (Sunday, August 28th, 2011): Epcot, Downtown Disney and the Magic Kingdom

Part One: Around the World at Epcot

After a short walk to Epcot from Disney's Yacht Club Resort, it was time to go back to The Land to ride Soarin'.

I first experienced Soarin' at Disney's California Adventure in 2008. It is a fun, film-based hang glider. It is extremely popular at Epcot, so you want to do it, you have to go first thing in the morning or get a FastPass for it. Since I was there early, the wait wasn't bad.

The Soarin' Pre-Show is hosted by actor Patrick Warburton. You can also hear his voice as a Droid on Star Tours at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

What else can you find at The Land? Let's check our trusty EPCOT Center Map from 1983 (it has a wheel!).

Wheel of Epcot, turn, turn, turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn.

Up next I rode Living With The Land. This used to be called Listen to the Land. This is an educational boat ride through a greenhouse, and past some of the few surviving Audio Animatronics characters that have been at Epcot since it opened. They are essentially atmosphere characters for the Land's revolving restaurant, The Garden Grill. Living With The Land is the only Disney boat ride to feature LIVE alligators!! They are small, farm-raised gators living in a cage, but still---LIVE ALLIGATORS!!! The ride also has some animatronic gators, too.

For a look at Living With The Land, visit Won't Someone Listen to the Land?!?

Up next, it was time to see Captain EO. I can remember seeing this when it was new. The line took forever. There was no wait this time. This is the same film from 1986, but with a twist.

This is now a ride, because the theater moves. This feature was added when the film was changed to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience (an attraction I never saw).

Captain EO is located at the Imagination Pavilion, home of Journey Into Imagination With Figment. I did not ride this. I loved the original version of this ride (1983-1998). Then they changed it to Journey into YOUR Imagination (1999-2001) and dropped the animatronic Figment. The latest version, Journey into Imagination With Figment (2002-today) brought animatronic Figment back, but none of the magic of the original.

This Figment plush is from my 1983 visit to EPCOT Center. This is not Mint In Condition---my Mom added "Figment" on his shirt (the larger, pricier version had it already).

Up next, it was my first time to visit to Club Cool, which offers free tastes of Coca-Cola products from around the world.

This is free, and the machines fill the small provided cups with a predetermined amount of the different beverages. My favorite drink was Smart Watermelon. I did not try the legendary Beverly, a drink famous for its bitter taste. I should have tried it! I will next time.

I then decided to visit World Showcase. I made sure to visit each country, even if it was only for a short amount of time.

On previous visits to Epcot, I tried collecting all the Pressed Pennies in World Showcase. I did not try that this time. It turns out that many of the ones I saw had not changed in years.

I went to Mexico to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.

This is a boat ride that floats past the indoor nighttime themed San Angel Inn Restaurante. it is really beautiful, and seems to be inspired by Disneyland's Blue Bayou restaurant.

This ride used to be called Rio Del Tiempo, and it is sort of like It's A Small World crossed with the Day of the Dead. In 2007, it was upgraded to include The Three Caballeros, with new animation created by animator Eric Goldberg (famous for animating the Genie in Aladdin).

How about a Donald Duck Pinata for a souvenir? They should have made a small, key chain size version of this. I would have bought one!

Right next to Mexico is Norway, home to another water based dark ride called Maelstrom.

Norway opened in 1988. When Maelstrom debuted, I remember hearing it being called "The Maelstrom thrill ride" in promotions. This ride features some cool audio animatronic trolls, puffins, vikings, and a polar bear. The boats do go backwards for a bit, and there is a small drop.

After Norway, I visited one of the large stores in China. I noticed lots of teeny tiny frogs hopping on the walkways here (I'm guessing there were many more in the gardens here).

I then stopped at the African themed Outpost and found pressed pennies of characters from the Lion King. There is no Africa at Epcot, though it was originally planned to be there. When Disney's Animal Kingdom opened with Africa in 1998, it sure looked like that was the end of Africa at Epcot. Yet, a tiny bit of Africa is represented here.

There IS a Lion King attraction in Epcot, but it is not in World Showcase. The Land has a short Lion King-based movie called The Circle of Life.

Up next, I visited Germany. This used to be a good place for collectors to find PVC Disney character items made by Bully (Bullyland) in Germany. You can still find German-made Disney character Christmas ornaments here.

Look! Dopey is on sale! They had other Dwarfs and other characters for sale, too.

Up next, I visited the stores in Italy, The American Adventure (the shop, not the show), Japan and Morocco.

I made sure to get a picture of the Eiffel Tower.

I enjoyed seeing the Eiffel Tower during the walk from Disney's Yacht Club to Epcot.

Somewhat new to Epcot is Duffy, the Disney Bear. The character had already debuted years ago at Walt Disney World, simply as a merchandising item. When the Disney Bear was introduced at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan as Duffy, the character became a big hit there.

I got a small, magnetic plush of Duffy for a co-worker and she went crazy over it.

I also visited the shops in the United Kingdom and Canada.

It was soon time to say goodbye to Epcot.

I returned back to Disney's Yacht Club Resort. I then caught the bus to Downtown Disney (I always have to include a visit there when I'm at Walt Disney World). After having lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express, I visited some of the shops, including Once Upon a Toy, The World of Disney, D Street, and the Art of Disney.

After Downtown Disney, I went to the Magic Kingdom. I rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (in a heavy rain---ouch), the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, the Walt Disney World Railroad, Space Mountain, Snow White's Scary Adventures and Mickey's Philharmagic.

On this trip, I found myself taking pictures of things that I liked, but did not buy.

This is a fun way to display photos of your trip to Epcot.

I got this unique Figment pin during my 2008 visit to Walt Disney Imagineering in California.

I think it is time to re-imagine Figment's attraction again. Maybe the Imagination ride could involve an experience with all of Disney's dragons, including Maleficent!

I had a wonderful time visiting Epcot. Hopefully we'll see some exciting new additions on the horizon.

Up Next: My August 2011 Vacation at Disney's Yacht Club comes to an end, with my visit to Downtown Disney, the Magic Kingdom, and shopping at the Orlando International Airport.


  1. Another great trip report! Unfortunately, I never got to see Horizons, World of Motion, or the original Journey Into Imagination attraction.....or Kitchen Kabaret! I've seen them all on home video and realize now that I should have gotten my butt over to EPCOT much sooner....before they destroyed it! I do NOT like Mission Space.....what a waste of money that was! It never seems to have a very long line. I love your idea for a Horizons movie. They should do it and then when the movie is a huge success, it would give them a reason to rebuild Horizons!

  2. Thanks, TokyoMagic! I'm sorry you didn't get to see the original EPCOT attractions, as they were very creative and cutting edge in the early 1980s.

    I've only been on Mission Space once, back in 2004. I agree with you. Once was enough for me.

    I'm glad you like my Horizons movie idea! I forgot to add that Johnny Depp will be the Narrator of the HORIZONS movie. There, maybe they'll make the film now. :-)

  3. Oh yeah, Johnny Depp HAS to be in it, otherwise there is no chance of the film being made or the attraction being rebuilt! Ha! Wait...now that I think of it, it could be an animated film, but in that case it would have to be produced by Pixar.....or James Cameron! Okay, I'll stop now!

  4. Epcot rocks! Spaceship Earth, Living With The Land, the Garden Grill, World Showcase and on and on. Can't visit without a bite to eat at the Moroccan or Chinese Pavilion.

    I just learned about Club Cool the other day from another blogger's post. I can't believe I've missed this. It's on my to-do list on my next visit.

    Super trip report Dan!

  5. TokyoMagic!: Yes, it would be very easy to take one of the Jack Sparrow Audio Animatronic figures from Pirates of the Caribbean and put him in a polyester Horizons jumpsuit.

    Thanks, A Snow White Sanctum! Yes, China and Morocco are great places to eat! I wanted to try the Garden Grill (I've never been there) but it was full. I'm glad I finally went to Club Cool. One thing I totally forgot to check out was Innoventions---I've never experienced the "Sum of All Thrills" KUKA robot arm ride there.