- Fishing Excursions
- --Fantasia Gardens
- --Winter Summerland
- Running/Jogging Trails
- Surfing Class at
- ESPN Wide World of Sports
- AllEars® Team Meets
- D23 - The Official Community for Disney Fans
- Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet Website
Other Fun Things
- SHARING THE MAGIC
- -- AllEars® Trading Cards
- -- Close Your Eyes and Blink Yourself to WDW
- -- Photo of the Week
- Audience Participation
- Birthday Ideas: Adults
- Birthday Ideas: Kids
- Carriage Rides
- Collecting Character
- Grand Floridian
- Hidden Mickeys
- Overlooked Attractions
- --Film Tips
- --Digital Tips
- --Videotaping Tips
- Pin Trading Guide
- Pixies at WDW!
- Pressed Penny &
- Scrapbooking Magic!
- --Pontoon Rentals
- --Resort Park Cruises
- Character Warehouse
- Directions from
- Grocery Stores
- Ground Transportation
- Radio/TV Stations
- Religious Services
- Telephone Numbers
by Deb Wills, July 2000
This article appeared in the July 15, 2000 Issue #38 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
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.
It's been a while since a new in-depth tour has been available at Epcot. Previously, interested guests could pay an additional $40 plus to spend several hours learning about the Art, Architecture and Culture of World Showcase, in the Hidden Treasures Tour or spend several hours with a Disney horticulturist in Gardens of the World. Neither of these tours, however, has touched much on Future World. Undiscovered Future World takes you in and around the public and "backstage" areas of Epcot's Future World.
I took the tour on Saturday, July 8th, just several days after it became available for the public. We gathered at 8:45 a.m. Saturday morning at Epcot's Guest Relations. I met Disney Cast Member Glen, one of the designers of the tour. Glen is very excited about the new opportunity Undiscovered Future World presents for Guests and after taking the tour, I can certainly understand why.
Every tour has a guide and ours was Kelly from Epcot's Guest Relations. We began at the Entrance Turnstiles, just as guests do every day when they are about to enter Epcot. Kelly made sure we were facing Spaceship Earth and then began by discussing Walt Disney's ideas about Epcot. In Walt's original plans, Epcot was to be a self-contained community with people from all over the world, living and working together.
Originally called Epcot Center, today's Epcot celebrates Human Achievements and has two defined areas, Future World and World Showcase. Future World tells the story of current and future technological advancements. World Showcase celebrates the achievements of the world's people, art and cultures.
Our next stop was Spaceship Earth. We stood underneath this massive geosphere learning lots of interesting facts. Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury and a host of other consultants worked with the Disney Imagineers to develop Spaceship Earth. The geosphere is 165 feet in diameter and weighs 16 million pounds. If Spaceship Earth were a golf ball, the golfer would need to be one mile tall!
As we walked to our next destination, Kelly talked about her many jobs at Guest Services. She has had the opportunity to provide VIP guest service to both 'N SYNC and Michael Eisner's family. I could certainly see why Kelly received these super assignments as she has a great deal of poise and presence. Who knows, she might even be headed for Disney's Ambassador Program.
On to Innoventions East. Innoventions originally came to Epcot as part of the 1994 Epcot renovation. It replaced Communicore, which was the original hub area for Epcot. Communicore was the home to Epcot Computer Central and the World Key Information System. Innoventions is a World's Fair of Technologies.
The Disney Company has partnered with top vendors to put the latest in cutting edge technologies on display for Epcot Guests. Innoventions underwent its first major upgrade in time for the start of the Millennium Celebration. We toured the House of Innoventions - the Home that is ready for the Millennium. It's a far cry from what futurists envisioned 20 years ago but it is very high tech, nonetheless. The Kitchen of the Future has a Flash Bake Oven, instead of a microwave; the refrigerator door has a monitor that is directly connected to the Internet, with a bar code reader so that your inventory is kept for you. From virtual display clocks to interactive games, to a jacket equipped with a telephone and computer, to robotics and even the Independence 3000 - an incredible personal travel device for the disabled, you'll find it all in the House of Innoventions!
The first Disney house of the Future, Kelly explained, actually debuted in Disneyland in 1957. Sponsored by MIT and Monsanto, this early futuristic home raised many eyebrows with its demo of the Electric Toothbrush and the Microwave Oven.
A tour of Future World would not be complete without a stop at the Innovention Fountains. As part of the opening ceremony for Epcot, each of the countries represented in World Showcase brought water from their homelands to pour into the Fountains as a symbol of the peace and community.
There were also four young Disney employees from Brazil on the tour. They were lots of fun and I enjoyed being with them. At their request, we went into Ice Station Cool and enjoyed all the samples including the Brazilian Diet Coke! I even ran into one of them, Jacqui, the next day in World Showcase and we chatted more about Disney.
Immediately upon exiting Ice Station Cool, we turned right into the building to look at a photographic history of Walt Disney. Large 2'x3' black and white photographs show the beginnings of Walt's use of the Multiplane camera system, as well as him showing the world his dreams for Epcot in Florida. It's a very informative photo display that you should try to see.
We left Innoventions and found ourselves standing on several concentric circles. This happens to be the Inventors Circle. Inside and outside these concentric circles are smaller circles representing some of mankind's greatest inventions, such as the printing press and the Internet. The Inventors Circle was added to Future World sometime in the last few years, but even though Kelly made several phone calls, she wasn't able to determine exactly when. I bet almost every visitor misses the Inventors Circle, as your eyes tend to focus on the massive pavilion in front of you -- The Land.
The Living Seas was our next stop and we entered a Cast Only area. We sat in the dimly lit VIP Lounge. This room has rich blue carpeting and very beautiful wood furnishings. The room is used for Press Events, Business Meetings, and even as a Green Room for visiting VIPs, such as 'N SYNC. We all oohed and aahed over the clear glass piano that was in the lounge. The highlight, however, was that the lounge had several large glass viewing areas into the aquarium of the Living Seas. We all sat and just marveled at our surroundings!
The next pavilion in our tour was The Land, an impressive pavilion that covers six acres, houses three unique attractions, has a unique sit-down restaurant and a fast food court. As you enter the building, look up at the ceiling where five balloons hang. The middle one represents Earth. The four surrounding balloons represent the seasons: Yellow for summer, Orange for Fall, Blue for Winter, Green for Spring. Under the Earth balloon are clouds and a lightning bolt. As it rains, the water goes into the fountain below and then recycles through the pavilion.
At this point we took a 25 minute break...everyone scattered and I looked around the pavilion more, exploring areas I had not seen before.
We reconvened and went outside to the Imagination Pavilion fountains where Kelly told us the history of the Imagineers (Imagination and Engineering). A monorail went past, which prompting Kelly to explain how Walt originally saw a monorail train in Germany, in the form of a loaf of bread. He came back and told his Imagineers to develop a similar monorail that was futuristic in design - thus the WDW Monorail was born! Approximately 50 million passengers a year travel on the WDW Monorail.
We crossed back over to Future World East and the Universe of Energy Pavilion. The topiaries outside the building are from New York's Rockefeller Center. At one time they had a Flower Festival and upon its completion the topiaries were moved to WDW. Next was the highlight of the tour for me! We were able to enter the Diorama (area where the Audio- Animatronic dinosaurs are) and look at them up close for about 5 minutes. Kelly told us how the ride vehicles in the Universe of Energy work, but I could hardly listen. I was only 6 inches from the dinosaurs!
There are 36 Audio-Animatronic animals in the diorama which is 515 feet long. It took three artists 6,000 hours to paint the background. Walt's original diorama was in the Ford Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair. Funny thing was, not only was I the only one who visited the 1964 New York World's Fair, but most of the folks on the tour hadn't even born yet!! LOL!
The Met Life Wonders of Life Pavilion was next. This building is a Health World's Fair. In addition to the 3 main attractions (Body Wars, Cranium Command and the Making of Me), there is a wonderful hands-on area that attracts and engages both children and adults.
There is one character who occasionally makes appearances in Wonders of Life, Sport Goofy! His appearance led into the discussion of how originally there were to be NO Disney characters in Epcot. Mickey Mouse was at the Grand Opening and he was not to be seen or heard from again.
Visitors to Epcot, however, had something else in mind...they wanted to see Mickey Mouse and other characters and didn't understand why there were none to be found. Disney listened to its guests and began character appearances throughout the park.
As we made our way through the side of Future World, we looked up to see the demolition of the Horizons building. Several months ago, during a visit to WDW, I saw that the building was being disassembled and was upset about this poor "show" for guests of Epcot! Walt would have never wanted guests to see any construction being done. Well, he'd really be upset if he saw it now, because not only are we seeing Horizons being taken apart, but the crane and wrecking ball are there breaking the building down during regular park hours! It's unfortunate that the Disney Company, one of the masters of illusion, could not find a way to keep Guests from seeing this. Yes, there is a wall up; but it's only about 8 feet high and you can't miss the hanging metal and cables in what was once Horizons. OK, let's move on.
In 2003, Disney plans to unveil a new attraction in the Horizons area called Mission Space. Working in close concert with the Compaq Computer Company and the folks at NASA (including shuttle astronaut Story Musgrave), Mission Space will enable guests to experience the feeling of liftoff and weightlessness! There will be pods seating 4 persons and each will be assigned a job. This will be the first Disney attraction built specifically with a FASTPASS design in mind.
Test Track was next and we went in a side door to watch the cars being loaded and unloaded. Kelly talked about the attraction's sophisticated computerized system. Exiting the Test Track area we walked under the outside ride track and listened to the screams of delight and the screeching tires from above.
We walked past the new Test Track Maintenance Building and into Epcot Cast Services. We had a brief glimpse at costuming and food service, as well as the Company D employee logo store. One of the neatest things I saw in the Cast Building is a hallway called Pride Hall. Here, members from various work units at Epcot have painted murals that represent their teams. Some of the artwork was incredible. There was even a larger-than-life size painting of Figment! I was happy to hear Figment's voice in the background music system in this hallway as the soundtrack from the former attraction with Figment and Dreamfinder was playing.
A member of the International Ambassador group, Laura from China, came out to talk to us briefly about the Ambassador program and her experiences. She seemed genuinely moved by her opportunity to spend a year in the United States and also to be able to tell others about her life in China. Right now, the Ambassador program has 70 participants from 30 different countries.
We walked outside again and crossed Perimeter Road, which encircles all of the park and provides access for any and all needed systems and deliveries. Walking further back, we got an up-close and personal look at the Tapestry of Nations Floats. Tapestry of Nations is a beautiful parade that takes place twice a night in World Showcase. It debuted in October at the start of the Millennium Celebration and will continue into 2001. There are 150 performers in the parade with 15 Drum Floats. The Drums represent the heartbeat of individuals and each other; the Universe is the heart beat of the clock. There are 30 assistants whose sole purpose is to help the performers get ready for the parade. Some of the puppets weigh between 8-18 pounds.
Our last stop on the tour took us to the back side of China where the IllumiNations barges are stored. Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth, takes place nightly around World Showcase Lagoon. Each time I see this show I enjoy it more and more. Our tour was now over!
There were 2 special offers made which I understand are NOT permanent or regular parts of the tour (so please keep that in mind). First, each member of the tour and their party could have lunch right after the tour at China's Nine Dragons restaurant at 20% off. Lastly, persons who took the tour could have access to a private IllumiNations viewing area for that evening only. I wish I had been able to take advantage of this special offer but I already had other plans that evening.
The tour cost $45 a person, and you must be at least 16 years old. Kelly assured me that the tour is fully accessible for persons in wheelchairs. The four-hour tour is offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. American Express card users, Disney Vacation Club members, and annual pass holders get a 15 percent discount. Admission to the park is required for the tour, and that fee isn't included in the cost of the tour.
For more information or reservations, call (407) WDW-TOUR.
I enjoyed the tour greatly and found it very informative. I thought we saw a good mix of inside and outside pavilions and were given the opportunity to enjoy some very unique behind the scenes experiences. If you have never taken a behind the scenes tour at Disney you will enjoy the mix of Walt Disney history blended with learning more about Future World.
As someone who has taken many of the special tours, a lot of the generic information is repeated in each one of them and so I would have rather that time been spent on actual Future World discussions. I recommend this tour to anyone who enjoys Future World, would like to learn more about the history of Epcot, and see things you wouldn't normally have the opportunity to as a regular touring guest.
The Epcot Guest Services Staff is very energetic and enthusiastic about this tour and they should be! It's a winner!
Other Tour Reviews:
Disney's Hollywood Studios