by Elizabeth Brown
AllEars.Net Guest Blogger
I took the Undiscovered Future World Tour in Epcot on Tuesday, May 15. Tour check-in was at 8:15 a.m. at the desk on the front side of the pin shop near Mouse Gear. This is a location change from last year when tour check-in was located inside the building between Club Cool and Starbucks. Just one other person was signed up for the tour, so we had a VERY small group. Our guide, Yifae, was originally a cultural representative from China in 2009. She loved Disney so much that she returned after her program and is now in Guest Relations. Her enthusiasm was evident as she greeted us and encouraged us to ask questions during the tour.
We started off at Guest Relations, where there are some photos of Walt Disney. We learned about Walt’s original vision for Epcot as a place where people would live and work. There would be direct transportation to the airport, a large hotel, and many other conveniences for the residents. One of the photos shows Walt with a map of his plans for the community. He passed away before his vision could become reality, and the plans were never implemented exactly as he had imagined, but Imagineers did return to his plans for inspiration on what would eventually become Epcot.
Our next stop was Spaceship Earth, where we learned some interesting facts about the construction of the geodesic sphere. A system of gutters is built into the surface so the water doesn’t cascade down on guests in the Florida downpours. The attraction inside has changed and evolved over the years, currently narrated by Dame Judi Dench. We rode Spaceship Earth, paying special attention to the faces of the animatronics — some of them are rather familiar!
The Innoventions buildings were formerly home to different sponsored exhibits, but are currently used mainly for storage.
From there we continued over to The Seas, where we had a behind-the-scenes look at the former sponsor lounge. That space is now used for employee training sessions and special events, such as weddings. We learned about the features that make the aquarium unique, and how the pavilion has changed over the years.
Next up — The Land pavilion. This building has so many fascinating details! The building itself is modeled to resemble a volcano. The pavement in front is red and black, to represent both hot and cooled lava. In front of the building a tree grows up through a circle, representing the growth of plant life. Inside, guests see the beautiful yellow and orange banners around the ceiling, representing the rays of the sun. A globe is suspended from the middle of the ceiling, with four hot air balloons around it.
Each balloon is themed to a season. The seating areas in the Sunshine Seasons restaurant also each correspond to a season. The silver structures represent flowers, and the green pillars around the perimeter represent grass. This pavilion is home to Soarin’ Around the World, which highlights the diversity of lands around the globe. Our visit here included a 15-minute snack and restroom break.
The Imagination pavilion has a base of rainbow colors topped by a prism. When light refracts through a prism, it make a rainbow! The only color missing is purple. Where did it go? It is Figment, of course! The ambassador of Imagination! This pavilion also features the exterior “leapfrog” fountains and the “upside down” fountain. The second floor of the pavilion houses a DVC member lounge, while the ground floor hosts the Journey Into Imagination ride.
The building that houses the Epcot Character Spot is also home to a photo timeline with highlights from the park’s opening to the present. Stop in and enjoy the air conditioning while looking at these moments in Epcot history.
The large fountain between Future World and World Showcase is called the Fountain of Nations. When the park opened, a ceremony was held with cultural representatives from around the world. They each brought a jar of water from their home country, and all of the jars were poured into the fountain as a symbol of unity and peace. The fountain is a favorite spot for photos.
From there we headed over to the Universe of Energy, which is currently being reimagined as a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. The exterior of this pavilion features solar panels on the roof and a mirrored facade to reflect the sun and keep the interior of the building cooler.
The former Wonders of Life pavilion is currently empty. They were doing a bit of exterior work on it the day of our tour. It originally held attractions such as Body Wars, but in recent years the space has been utilized for festivals such as Food & Wine and Flower & Garden.
Mission Space was home to the Horizons pavilion, intended to be a sort of continuation of the Carousel of Progress at Magic Kingdom. Currently sponsored by Hewlett-Packard, the attraction features a simulator that takes guests in a rocket. Developed with consultants from NASA, the ride is quite intense. It is now divided into two experiences so guests wishing for a gentler ride have that option. We were able to peek into the HP Employee lounge here as well!
Test Track features a lounge for General Motors employees, as well as the popular ride that simulates the tests that new cars undergo as part of their development for the consumer market. The cars hit speeds of approximately 65 mph on the exterior track. Imagineers had originally hoped the cars would go faster, but the GM consultants were concerned that higher speeds would compromise guest safety so that idea was shelved.
Want to see what goes on backstage? The next stop on our tour took us to the Cast Member hub! The building has a variety of services such as a small shop, a snack bar, lockers, and tons of resources and information. The buses for Disney College Program Housing drop off and pick up at this location. It is also home to Costuming, where Cast Members check out and turn in every piece they need for any role in the park. Each costume has a detailed graphic so cast members know exactly what pieces are needed. Once the costume pieces are selected, the cast member simply walks through a scanner where the bar codes are automatically read and they are on their way.
The Odyssey building was originally home to a quick service restaurant, but the location proved to be an issue since it is so close to the Electric Umbrella and the many choices in World Showcase. It is currently used for festivals, most recently the Festival of the Arts. This was the final stop on the tour. We each received a pin to commemorate the tour.
I really enjoyed this experience, and I am amazed at the thought and consideration that go into each and every aspect of the parks. The tour is available on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday for a cost of $69 per person. Discounts are available for Passholders, Chase Disney Visa cardholders and DVC members. Guests must be age 16+.