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Epcot's World Showcase -- Not Just for Old Folks!
By Pete Saroufim
ALL EARS® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the January 28, 2003, Issue #175 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Hallo. Ciao. Bonjour. Hola. Nihongo. Hello. The planet Earth is a mix of hundreds of languages, thousands of dialects, and more cultures than Gene Hackman movies. No one place brings them all together like Disney's World Showcase in Epcot. However, on my many rides on the monorail and the buses and the boats, in my travels walking through the parks, and even back here at home, I always hear people talk about how Epcot's World Showcase, and even Epcot in general, "isn't for the kids." This always baffles me, because contrary to what some believe, there's as much fun for kids as there is for adults. There are dozens of shows that stretch from masquerade parties to belly dancing, parades to fireworks, and upbeat music to laugh-out-loud hysterics.
When I was 5, I probably wouldn't have been too thrilled to go country-hopping either. My mom, being vary smart and just a little deceiving, tricked me by showing off one of those flashy World Showcase Passports that kids can take around the countries collecting stamps and signatures. It worked. As I traveled from country to country, having my passport stamped and learning a word or two in another language, my journey opened my eyes to a part of Disney that many other kids have tried and succeeded in ignoring. I no longer have my passport, but over the last 10 years I've built on that experience and stretched it into a wider knowledge of what is now my favorite Disney park.
Out of the wealth of offerings in World Showcase, I have my own personal favorites, and what better place to start than the United Kingdom, home to scones, the Beatles, and most importantly, the World Showcase Players. The World Showcase Players produce 25 minutes of laugh-out-loud hysterics with members of the audience playing guest roles in what can end up being a mockery of one of your favorite bedtime stories. My particular favorite is the Holy Grail. You might be called into action as the King of England or one of his brave knights, but even if you're not picked, the crowd interaction is some of the best this side of the World Showcase Lagoon. You'll find that you're soon laughing your Disney pounds off while chanting "Grail! Grail! Grail!," and groaning at puns that will either put you in stitches or leave you with a migraine.
Like all shows, check your map for exact times, but it's good to know that the Players perform in both the United Kingdom and France, and currently have a sign language show Tuesdays and Fridays at 4:05 p.m. on the side street in front of The Queen's Table and The Toy Soldier.
"Is that Jackie Chan?" "No, it's a kid!" Think that's a silly conversation? Then you haven't been to China... Disney's China, that is. The Dragon Legend Acrobats are easily the most talented performers in all of Epcot, and they aren't even old enough to drive. These well-practiced daredevils put on a jaw-dropping performance for audiences of all ages. From tossing teacups to backflips from the sky, this incredible show is jam-packed with "ooohs" and "aaahs." Don't expect the newborns to give a standing ovation, but don't be surprised if you return to the hotel to find your 14-year-old secretly attempting somersaults in a secluded hallway.
How about something for the teenager? Actually, you'll like it too, but don't spoil their fun by telling them. The Celtic rock band in the Canadian Pavilion known as Off Kilter are five of Epcot's most popular performers, getting a streetful of viewers for every performance. I know what you'll say: "My kid? Listening to a bagpipe?" Be assured that this is not an ordinary Celtic band. Off Kilter is as loud as Nirvana, as funny as the Monkees, and as fun to watch as Emeril. It may look like I'm building them up as the "next big thing", but through my 30-odd visits to see and hear this band, I've seen 6-year-olds dance like the Ugachaka Baby, 16-year-olds waving lighters, middle-aged men going Saturday Night Fever on us, and Grandpa break dancing. OK, so there were no lighters -- I doubt Disney would allow it -- but I haven't seen anyone of any age not enjoy this mix of rock, pop, and silly antics, all combined with the great bagpipe work of Jamie Holton.
Red, white, and green -- the colors of one of the most delightful countries in the world. (My Nana would be proud of me for writing this.) Now, when I say world, I mean Disney World, of course. I have not had the privilege of visiting the "real" Italy, but I have visited World Showcase enough times to know my way around their portrayal of this country. When you begin your venture through the land of pasta, you may find yourself on a bench, relaxing after a great deal of walking, admiring the beautiful statues under the bright sun. Wait, is that statue sweating? Of course not, they're experts, they don't sweat. Kids will find "Imaginum: A Statue Act" to be one of the most delightful attractions on their trip. These statues come to life seemingly for the sole purpose of stealing kids' hats and ladies' handbags, and trust me, this is the finest acting performance that has come out of Florida since Dan Marino in "Ace Ventura."
Sometimes I do have to agree with my mom that I'm a typical teenager. I won't go into an attraction in Walt Disney World that even remotely reminds me of school. If I'm going to learn anything at Disney, it has to be done subtly and without my consent. Because the American Adventure reminds me a little too much of Mr. Rush's history class, I haven't been inside since 1994, when I fell asleep long before Mark Twain said his first five words. What I really do like in the American Pavilion, however, is American Vybe -- a group of gifted singers who perform the fantastic jazz, swing, and gospel music that America has produced over the years accompanied only by a bass. This will introduce your kids to an era you've been trying to show them for years.
Something else to love about America is the America Gardens Theatre, home to many different shows such as Blast and Lord of the Dance. I've been lucky enough to see two shows at the theater, Blast and Blast II: Shockwave. Both shows were stunning, both musically and visually, and give you 20-plus minutes of non-stop Broadway-worthy performances. Just check out your map to see what's playing on your Disney trip.
The final attraction on my list of "what young people will love about World Showcase" is without a doubt the most amazing of all -- Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. IllumiNations is "performed" each night at 9 p.m. around the World Showcase Lagoon, and with flames, fountains, fireworks and lights. It is an impressive visual phenomenon that amazes me each time I see it. It doesn't matter how young or old you are, at the conclusion of IllumiNations you will be in awe, completely astounded and entirely amazed. And that, to me, is one of Disney's greatest feats: to let me watch the same show hundreds of times and still be left speechless. Imagine. Me. Speechless.
I've barely scratched the surface of all that World Showcase has to offer young folks, and as you wander through the winding roads of Epcot's many countries, you'll find your own favorite shows. Perhaps it will be the surround-screen movie theaters, the Moroccan belly dancing, waving dream catchers through the air, falling backwards down nifty little drops on Maelstrom, watching the giant drums from Japan, or listening to a nice Norwegian folk dance. Whatever your tastes, you're sure to find something to enjoy. Don't listen to those folks on the monorail who tell you that Epcot "just isn't for kids." They couldn't be more wrong.
Enjoy Pete's other ALL EARS® features at:
You can also drop him a note at: TheLebageek@aol.com
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.