Today was all about Epcot. We were scheduled to be there for not one but two special events that night (because, once again, D23 didn’t announce its event schedule in time and, once again, I bought tickets for something else that turned out to be right in the middle of the D23 event), so we decided to just spend the day there.
I guess all the diehards hate the Tronorail for some reason? I don’t care—I like the design!
Since nothing gets your day going like a 60mph jaunt in an open car, we started with Test Track.
We’re not exactly used to dashing straight to Innoventions first thing in the morning or, um, EVER, but I thought Patrick would like the Sum of All Thrills’ virtual rollercoaster and had heard the lines could get long due to low capacity. The attraction here is that it uses the same KUKA robotic arm technology as Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey. I guess even though Disney couldn’t get the rights to it for an Incredibles-themed ride on the Peoplemover track at Disneyland, they could get it for an experience nobody knows about in a part of Epcot no one visits…
The way it works is you sit through a painfully over-acted and unfunny pre-show video (seriously—these guys make Test Track’s John Michael Higgins look like Sir Laurence Olivier) that’s supposed to tell you how to use the computer screens to design your own rollercoaster, bobsled course, or jet flight that “totally rocks!” Then you dash to a computer station and have about 17.3 seconds to design your chosen experience by answering stoopid MATH questions in order for Sum of All Thrills to qualify as educational. The fingers of the children around us were a blur as they input data on their screens; meanwhile we were still trying to figure what the heck to do with the slidey ruler as the sinister countdown clock ticked to zero. D’oh!
Your design is stored on a plastic card with a magnetic strip that you hand to the person in the loading area. They make you put your, well, *everything *in a free locker before you strap into the ride simulator. We designed our rollercoaster to be as wild as the computer would let us, and at the last minute I started to chicken out. But I knew we wouldn’t be going completely upside down, so I stayed put. The ride was great! Too short (of course) but great! They just need to figure out a way to increase riders per hour, though, cuz even a short line seems to take forever.
From there we moseyed over to the Seas With Nemo & Friends, even though there’s barely anything to do there anymore…
It was about time for World Showcase to open, so we made our now traditional trek to Mexico to see if the Animales Fantasticos painters were just starting on anything we could afford.
Along the way, we got our first whiff of DuffyMania—or at least, the manufactured attempt at inducing it. You could almost hear consumers being hit over the head with the metaphorical hammer.
It seems like every time we go to Epcot lately, I ask Patrick to try and get a flattering shot of the Epcot Public Library—I mean, er, the Odyssey Center—but there’s only so much lipstick you can put on that pig…
On the other hand, the Mexico Pavilion looks good from any angle!
We were in luck that day—the artist had just started on a small, affordable dragon, so we bought it on the spot and asked them to send it to our hotel when it was finished.
Patrick then took a TON of reference pictures of the animals for the summer puppet show he was about to start building and which is now playing at a SoCal library or school near you: Dream Carver!
On our way out, we stopped to listen to the mariachis in their then-new home. I don’t know if this means they don’t play inside the pavilion anymore, but it is kinda fun to be able to enjoy them as you’re passing through.
We didn’t stop at the Hacienda cuz we were scheduled to have breakfast there the next day.
We did stop at the country’s Food & Wine Festival booth, though!
Somehow Patrick must’ve prevailed upon me to let him ride Ellen’s Universe of Energy, because our photos indicate we reversed course and headed back into Future World. Maybe we’d suddenly discovered 45 minutes of our lives we never wanted to get back…?
He can never resist shooting Mission: SPACE when we pass. I liked this ride until a few days ago, when I found out it replaced Horizons and that Horizons was a dark ride filled with animatronics and fantastic environments. (I guess my family completely skipped this half of Future World on our one trip to Epcot…?) So now instead of being a welcoming respite from the Florida heat for guests of all ages, it’s a punishing thrill ride suitable for only a portion of guests? Huh.
Patrick always wants to go on this ride because there are dinosaurs. I like dinosaurs too, but not if it means sitting through the other 38 minutes of faux-educational and hilariously pro-fossil fuels propaganda. So he gets to go on it once every couple of years or so.
By then it was time for our lunch with fellow DIS Boards members Trish (cdtola) and Christine (2excited2sleep)! Off we went to Le Cellier.
Not only had Trish managed to get us a reservation at Le Cellier, she’d also brought me my all-time favorite Canadian food product, President’s Choice peanut sauce! I always feel bad trying to bum this stuff off Canadian pals cuz it’s not like I’m asking for a pack of gum—it comes in heavy glass bottles. But it is seriously THE best peanut sauce I’ve ever had (not too vinegary!) and a main component in one of my favorite guilty pleasure meals, Brad Thai (invented by another Canadian friend).
We got what we always get at Le Cellier, and it was just as difficult to photograph as it always is!
It was really nice to spend our air-conditioned break in the day getting to know fellow Disney fans like Christine and Trish. It also turned out to be one of few opportunities to spend time with them even though we were all going to the D23 event the next day, just due to the logistics of Sip & Stroll. After lunch, Patrick helped Trish shoot her second-round Walt Disney World Moms Panel video submission, which was due that night! When they set such a narrow window for callbacks, they don’t seem to consider that some finalists might actually be AT Walt Disney World on trips during that time….
(Pretend you’re wandering around Canada waiting for Patrick.)
(Oooh, and England too?)
When Patrick was done, we headed for The Epcot Ball Ride ™!
Off to the Land Pavilion to live with the land!
By then it was time to go check in for D23’s Sip & Stroll at the America Pavilion. We dropped the ball on lining up an hour early with the rest of the über fans, and there was a long, slow-moving queue by the time we got there.
We’d had no idea how to schedule Sip & Stroll around the other things we wanted to do that weekend because we didn’t get an agenda until the moment we checked in. One thing we did know was that we weren’t paying an extra $100 each to eat convention food in Living Seas Salon with Dave Smith on his last day of work, which was the main event that first day of Sip & Stroll. One of the big reasons I go to these D23 events is the chance to get inside the private event spaces I write about for PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, and since I’d already eaten inside Living Seas Salon, we saved a bundle.
The pre-dinner wine and cheese reception inside American Adventure was open to all Sip & Strollers, so we thought maybe we’d eat there before checking out the new Disney Dessert Discoveries event being held at World Showplace as part of the Food & Wine Festival.
Remember when you were a kid at an adult party and, after a quick look around, you’d realize there was nothing interesting to eat or do there? It was kind of like that. The menu consisted of wine, cheese, crudités and Le Cellier cheddar cheese soup but, inexplicably, no bowls to put it in! I didn’t know what to do so I slopped some on my plate and then tried to dam it up with bread as it oozed all over my cheese and honeycomb. Huh.
That wasn’t really enough to have in our tummies before bombing them with dessert, so Patrick and I went off in search of real food at the booths in World Showcase.
Finally it was time to go to the 3D Disney’s Dessert Discovery party (why, Food & Wine Festival naming committee, why…?).
It was pretty much just like Party for the Senses, but with dessert only and fewer choices. There was lots of complicated, high-concept stuff and almost all of it had fruit and/or booze in it. I get that most people on this planet like fruit and/or booze in their desserts, but at $50/person couldn’t they have thrown in a few old standbys like, you know, brownies or ice cream sundaes? What were the kids at this event eating?
Eventually I invented the Butterfinger Donut Sundae, which involved stops at three stations, one for the donut (*before* it was flambéed in whisky), one for some booze-free ice cream, and one for the Butterfingers… And it still wasn’t even that great!
What WAS great about the Disney Dessert Discoveries party was the reserved viewing area for IllumiNations. This spot, World Showcase Plaza, is between the two stores at the entrance to the showcase and is the same place they put you if you buy a Candlelight Processional dinner package. But usually they don’t let you fill in the very front section.
On that night the fire marshal (or whoever) let us go up to the very front railing, and, since we’d left the dessert party early and were at the front of the line, we got to stand right by the water’s edge.
Oh my goodness, the view from there is AMAZING! You feel like you’re almost inside the show, and there’s nothing in front of you but water and fireworks. It was so beautiful, we were both weeping by the end.
So, if you’re a picky eater, is the Disney Dessert Discoveries party worth it just for the reserved viewing of IllumiNations? Probably not. You could wait for a spot in Italy or the UK, if those terraces aren’t being used by private parties. You can even watch from World Showcase Plaza without a ticket because only half of it is reserved for partygoers. And if one of the various Disney fan sites like AllEars or the Disney Food Blog is having a ticketed dessert party in Epcot, I’d say that would give you way more bang for your buck.
On the way out of Epcot, we saw this: