by Amy Kawa
Epcot is coming up on quite the anniversary. October 1, 2017 marks the 35th anniversary of what was originally called Epcot Center. Similar to Hollywood Studios, Epcot is also going through an extensive change. And while we know the majority of what is coming to Hollywood Studios, a lot of what is coming in the next 5, 10, 15 years to Epcot is still largely unknown.
At this year’s D23 Expo, we learned that Future World East would be getting a huge makeover. The Universe of Energy pavilion, an opening day pavilion (although the ride on the inside has changed over the years), is being gutted in favor of a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. The defunct Wonders of Live pavilion (RIP Cranium Command!!!) will become a space-themed restaurant, going hand-in-hand with its pavilion neighbor, Mission Space. Add in a major refurbishment of the France pavilion in World Showcase with some serious additions and an exact replica of the Ratatouille attraction from Disneyland Paris, and Epcot’s future is looking so exciting!
Walt’s original intention was for Epcot to be much more than a theme park. It was supposed to be an actual city, where people lived and worked. Unfortunately, after Walt passed away, his dream for Epcot was so complex that only bits and pieces were incorporated throughout the theme park and throughout other places in Walt Disney World.
Epcot is obviously undergoing a transitional phase. We have lost several attractions over Epcot’s first 35 years, and the vision of Epcot as a theme park that educates visitors in some way is clearly starting to turn into one that more entertains. Again, we have to have a little faith here that Disney will come through like they always do – to somehow incorporate the spirit of innovation and what Epcot has always represented into the new age the park is entering.
Here is a list of the current attractions in Epcot. Between the major E-ticket attractions in Future World, like Soarin’ and Test Track, and then walking around the countries in World Showcase, there is enough to do in Epcot to keep you busy for days. Mexico, Germany, Italy, Japan – you can see them all!
Just like we have done for each of the other theme parks, we have created a list of each attraction in Epcot and alongside each attraction, you will find our ratings on a 10-point scale as well as how important it is to use a Fastpass+ on the attraction. Our ratings may not be exactly in line with other guide books or Disney websites, but hear us out. The ratings are based on overall impressiveness, fun-level, ability to immerse the audience in another world, and add in a pinch of nostalgia.
Epcot- Attractions and Shows- Future World
The Circle of Life (4/10)
Now, I should preface this by saying The Lion King is my favorite Disney movie, so that might be why my rating is a little too high. Even one of the greatest comedic duos of all time in Timon and Pumba can’t save this 20-minute film from its dated and yawn-inducing material on what we can do to help the environment. Next to Stitch’s Great Escape, I think this attraction is the biggest head-scratcher as to why it’s still on a guide map.
*Fastpass+ is not offered and would never be needed.
Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival (4/10)
Another placeholder until something else comes along, the film fest took over after the return of Captain EO and a short stint of film previews. Disney’s “Get a Horse,” “Feast,” and “Piper” are played as 4D movies, when you put on your 3D glasses and feel the theater come to life around you. The Magic Eye Theater was so ahead of its time in 1982, that it is still cool to feel the floor shake and move around you at corresponding points in the films. It just seems odd that Disney can’t at least put a Philharmagic-esque film inside this theater.
*Fastpass+ is offered, and while Epcot doesn’t offer too many good tier 2 options, this is one you will NEVER need a fastpass for.
Up until about 2004, Innoventions was so cool – offering exhibits that really did feel like you were looking at something from the future. Then, it became a place to play video games, and now, it’s basically a place to sit in some AC. One half of Innoventions is even completely closed to the public. There’s nothing really worth your time in the half that is open either. There is no doubt Disney is aware of the huge amount of space that is being wasted and plans on making some changes here soon.
*Fastpass+ is not offered and wouldn’t be needed because this isn’t an attraction anymore.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment (10/10)
Everyone you talk to will tell you that this rating is wrong. Everyone. Some people think this attraction is lame, just for kids, or even find Figment annoying (*gasp*). Others will tell you that this most recent incarnation of the ride is a shell of the glorious attraction that once stood in its place… the one with Dreamfinder. Now, I was born at a time that puts me at just a little too young to remember the original Journey Into Imagination, but I do remember the attempt to remove Figment from the ride completely, and that was horrible. So, this current version of Figment is the one that I know and do indeed love. I love that little purple dragon who teaches us all that “One Little Spark” is all it takes to unleash your greatest potential. Follow Figment as he shows you the importance of your imagination, “the brain’s open house!”
*Fastpass+ is offered and isn’t a bad tier 2 option if you are just looking to use one up.
Living with the Land (7/10)
In an attraction that I think fits in line with Walt’s original vision of Epcot as a city, Living with the Land is a peaceful boat ride that explains the different ecosystems of the Earth and then shows you how Disney uses some of the latest and most scientific farming and greenhouse methods to grow crops used throughout the park. Some of the foods you see grown in the huge greenhouse is actually served in the restaurants throughout the park! Talk about sustainable!
*Fastpass+ is offered and is a good tier 2 option, as being in the same building as the uber-popular Soarin’ can cause this line to see upwards of 20-30 minutes during peak seasons.
Mission: SPACE (6/10)
Recently refurbished, Mission: SPACE now features a brand-new mission and a new-look version of the original attraction. For a really intense experience, try the Orange Mission’s trip to Mars, as the experience is similar to the one NASA’s astronauts use in training. This mission can be a little much for some. Motion sickness bags are even included! For a much tamer experience, try the new Green Mission. Without the spinning and G-forces of the Orange Mission, you still get the feeling that you’re orbiting the Earth and see amazing sites only outer space can provide.
*Fastpass+ is offered and is your BEST choice for a tier 2 attraction should you desire to take a trip to outer space.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends (7/10)
Hop on board a clam shell and ride past scenes in a somewhat strange re-telling of Finding Nemo. I would give this a higher rating, but the storyline of the attraction doesn’t make much sense to me. Is Nemo lost again? Does this attraction take place after Finding Nemo ends? It seems like Nemo’s just hiding from Marlin, but then why do we go through the whole shark, angler fish, jellyfish journey again? Anyway, the EAC scene is “wicked cool” and the finale where they project images of the characters into the actual aquarium with the live fish is pretty amazing.
*Fastpass+ is offered but the wait times rarely exceed 20 minutes.
Ever wonder what it’s like to hang glide over the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Harbor, or the Iguazu Falls in South America? Look no further than Soarin’, as you sail above some of the world’s most beautiful and famous landmarks. A California Adventure-original, Soarin’ was refurbished in 2016 to see sites outside the state of California. The thrill of the takeoff alone is reason enough to ride, but then add in the smells of the scenery and the feel of the wind in your face, and Soarin’ is sure to give you a feeling like you’ve never had before. It takes my breath away every time I ride.
*Fastpass+ is offered, and Soarin’ is a tier 1 selection. This tier also includes Test Track and Frozen Ever After, forcing you to choose one fastpass for attractions that all share 60+ minute-wait times. Because the queue music is unmatched and there are games to play in line, I use my fastpass elsewhere, but you can’t go wrong with a fastpass here either.
Spaceship Earth (9/10)
If you’re reading this, you can thank the Phoenicians! So, you know that big golf ball-looking thing you see when you walk into the park? Yeah… there’s a ride in there! Take a journey through the history of communication, from cavemen through the Renaissance, onto the modern computer, and everywhere in-between. You also get to plan your future with some Jetson-like technology via a touchscreen computer and then see it come to life at the end of the ride. This is Epcot at its best – educational, fun, and just downright cool.
*Fastpass+ is available on tier 2 but can be used elsewhere if another attraction is higher priority for your party. Just be sure to avoid Spaceship Earth at park open, as it’s the first attraction you walk past to start your day, so may people head straight for it. Hit it later in the day for little to no wait.
Test Track (10/10)
Ever wonder how cars get tested before they go out on the showroom floor? Well… Test Track may glamorize the process a bit, but it’s neon, fast, and fun! First, you get to design your own car in the Chevrolet Design Studio, and then you get to test that exact car out on the “sim track,” competing against other people’s designs who are in the car with you. You’ll test the car’s responsiveness and efficiency along the way before ending with a power blast of 60+ mph.
*Fastpass+ is available, and as a tier 1 attraction, pits it against Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After for that one coveted fastpass. Test Track gets my vote for the fastpass, as the line isn’t as entertaining as Soarin’s and can average a much longer wait time.
Turtle Talk with Crush (7/10)
Duuuudddeee! Your favorite turtle from Finding Nemo is back to see what the human world is all about. Crush interacts with the audience in real-time thanks to some pretty awesome technology. He speaks with kids and their parents about pretty much anything, and when he opens the floor to the kids for questions, things can get downright hysterical!
*Fastpass+ is available but not necessary. You’ll just have to wait for the next show to start regardless if you have a fastpass or not.
Epcot- Attractions and Shows- World Showcase
I will go through each country and tell you how great the theming is, but the truth is all of the countries’ theming is remarkable and the shops, restaurants, and atmosphere are as unique to the region of the world as the pavilions they are modeled after. Some things may need to be changed, which we’ll point out, but in what other place in the world can you visit the UK and Japan all in one afternoon?
*Countries are listed in order as you turn right when you head into World Showcase from Future World.
Speaking from a geography perspective, Canada is really really big! In being so massive, there are so many different cultures and climates all wrapped up into our neighbors to the north. The Hotel du Canada is modeled after the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa. The Victoria Gardens provide beauty to the pavilion, and the Indian villages lend a rustic touch.
O Canada! (8/10)
This 360-degree film takes you on a tour of the expansive country to the north. Visit Niagara Falls, the Bay of Fundy, Quebec City, and every inch of the country from east to west. Comedic genius Martin Short lends his commentary to the film, making you laugh out loud at several spots. The film has heart, comedy, and some beautiful things to look at from every angle – plus, you have to walk through some pretty beautiful scenery to get to the film’s theater.
*Fastpass+ is not offered and is not needed.
This pavilion covers the 1500s-1800s in terms of architecture and the shops and restaurants are Victorian, London, Yorkshire Manor, Tudor (along with others) in design. Grab a pint at the Rose and Crown pub, take a walk through the butterfly garden, or listen to some music from the British Revolution who play covers of the Beatles’ best tracks.
You’ll find architecture circa 1870-1910 in the France pavilion. Along with a beautiful fountain and some seriously impressive gardens, you can find some of the most expensive cuisine on property as well as the best desserts you’d ever care to enjoy. The French are known for their pastries, so make sure you stop at Boulangerie Paitisserie les Halles to see why.
Impressions de France (2/10)
Take a journey around France in this opening day-original, 18-minute film. See the Loire Valley, the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and Normandy. For all of the heart and charm that O Canada! has, Impressions de France has none. Thank goodness that Ratatouille is moving into the France pavilion, so hopefully this snooze-worhty film can move out.
*Fastpass+ is not available or necessary in any way.
One of two additions to World Showcase, Morocco is as authentic to an actual Moroccan experience as you can possibly get. It is the only World Showcase pavilion that is sponsored by the host country’s government and not a corporate sponsor, and the king himself sent Moroccan officials to oversee the pavilion’s construction. Three cities are mainly represented – Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh – with a prayer tower that can be seen from Canada!
Grab some sushi or udon, buy some Hello Kitty merch, and listen to traditional Japanese drumming in this pavilion. Make sure you check out the beautiful gardens towards the back of the pavilion as well. The giant pagoda that serves as the pavilion’s main centerpiece also harkens back to the country’s Buddhist ties to the idea of balance with nature.
The American Adventure (9/10)
America serves as the focal point to all of World Showcase, as the other countries come together to meet at America. In a sense, the American Adventure serves as the “host nation” to all of the other countries in World Showcase
“America, spread your golden wings, soar on freedom’s wings…” With an inspiring song that is bound to get stuck in your head, The American Adventure is a 30-minute stage show that shows how this great country of ours came to be – bringing up the good and the bad that came along with it. Hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, you’ll see some of America’s most defining moments, including the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the move West to a new frontier, the women’s suffrage movement, and the country’s reaction to the Great Depression. The show ends with a montage covering the last 40-ish years to the present. The American Adventure is extremely well done and does point out that while America has been a world leader in many ways, the path to the top hasn’t always been the most ethical nor to the benefit of all. Now, that’s a powerful message.
*Fastpass+ is not available and with a theater this massive and showtimes plentiful throughout the day, is not necessary.
Buon girono! As you step out of the good ol’ U.S., you’ll swear you just landed in Venice and St. Mark’s Square. Aside from admiring the architecture, you can grab a piece of authentic Napoleon pizza, head into the Tuto Gusto Wine Cellar, or see the ancient art of flag waving.
Now, step into a quaint, picturesque German village. A statue of St. George, the patron St. of Soldiers, rises from the center of the village. (Yes, that is the same fountain that is features in the Disney episode of Full House.) Dine at the Biergarten with a German band, grab a beer and a brawt, and shop for teddy bears and toys in the village’s gift shops. Make sure you check out the awesome model train display towards the front of the pavilion as well!
You’ll find more picturesque gardens and peaceful water features in the China pavilion along with some delicious dining options, a chance to see real acrobats several times a day, and a marketplace that sells authentic Chinese goods.
Reflections of China (5/10)
Another 360 degree, circle vision film, see martial arts, acrobats, and travel to Shanghai. Enter the walls of Beijing’s impossibly vast Forbidden City and travel the Silk Roads. Again, there’s not much to see here besides the beautiful sites. There’s no unifying story or theme, leaving you a little bored throughout the film.
*Fastpass+ is not offered or ever needed.
The newest addition to World Showcase, the Norway pavilion offers a chance to step into a Scandinavian town, the likes of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund or Setesdahl. The Stave Church is probably the most distinct architectural element in the pavilion, dating back to 1050 when St. Olaf brought Christianity to Norway. You can also eat with a Disney princess here as well as dine on some authentic Norwegian desserts.
Frozen Ever After (9/10)
Frozen is not just for kids. Join your favorite characters in a journey through scenes and songs from the movie. Although its popularity may be blown a little out of proportion, Frozen Ever After is an incredibly well-done attraction. The audio animatronics (particularly Olaf) are so well done, it feels like you’re in the movie with them. The scene where you enter Elsa’s ice castle is awe-strinkingly beautiful and a wonderfully creative way to utilize the backward motion of the track. While the lines for this attraction can be exceedingly long, if you can get on with a Fastpass+ or with a wait time of 45 minutes or less, I’d say “love is an open door,” and hop on!
*Fastpass+ is available and should be utilized as a tier 1 attraction, especially if you have kids, but you’ll have to forfeit a chance at Soarin’ and Test Track to get it.
Aside from a couple of restaurants on the outside, the Mexico pavilion is really all housed under a giant Aztec pyramid. While inside, you can see things from Mexico’s history and then enter a bustling marketplace, where it’s always twilight and offers one of the coolest vibes in all of Disney World. Dine under the ambience of a volcano, take a boat ride with The Three Caballeros, and have a few adult beverages at La Cava del Tequilla.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros (8/10)
Follow Jose Carioca, Panchito, and Donald Duck on this boat tour of some of Mexico’s most well-known sites. Most people will tell you I’m crazy for giving this ride a rating any higher than a 3, but I stand by the 8 thanks to my love for the Three Caballeros and a good boat ride. The opposition will say that the ride loses points for its cheese-factor and its lame representation of the Mexican culture. I say, “boo to that!”
*Fastpass+ is not offered and would only be needed if every other attraction in Epcot were closed.
If you’ve read anything else on this site, you can probably guess that some of our favorite things in the parks happen at night. The park seems to come alive with a whole new level of magic when the sun sets. Epcot only features one nighttime show, but as Disney’s longest running fireworks spectacular, it offers the perfect way to end your day.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (10/10)
Taking place on World Showcase Lagoon, Illuminations shows us an abstract story of how our planet came to be. The show features lasers, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and a huge globe that works as a giant tv screen to display the beauty the Earth offers. As the countries around World Showcase light up one-by-one and then in unison, the show’s theme of global unity and what binds us together really rings true. The 12-minute show features a soundtrack so beautiful that it may just move you to tears.
*Fastpass+ is available, but as a tier 1 attraction, Illuminations is hard to choose as a fastness option. Fortunately, there is no shortage of options of good viewing areas around the lagoon to watch from. Personally, we like to grab a dessert from either Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie in France and watch from the fence by the lagoon there or a treat from Kringle Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway and watch by the lagoon there. As you walk from country to country, there are ample spots to see the show from. Save your fastpass to use elsewhere.