We did Epcot.


We did Epcot before the Magic Kingdom. Last year I would have found that perverse; the order here is dessert first, then Brussel sprouts. If at all. But Epcot is fun, and we were looking forward to the Nerdatorium and the International Village.  We were looking forward to it so much that we nearly wept when we realized that we’d left (G)Nat’s ticket back at the hotel. For that matter, we hadn’t seen it in some time. Perhaps it was made of some special plastic that evaporated when it made contact with the air around here, just like your money and resolve. We decided to plead with the front desk and get a replacement; barring that, I would trudge back and find them somehow. It would mean I would enter the park on a child’s ticket, and there’s probably all sorts of alarms that would trigger; I’d get ten feet into the park, and guards dressed as Tweedledum and Tweedledee would march me off to a secluded room and ask where I’d buried the body. Because we’ve had experience with your kind, mister. You’ll stop at nothing to fuel your sick need for daily park attendance.

While my wife went off to plead her case we moved through the security line, checking bags. We were next to a couple of look-away line nudges, the people who move in front of you and pretend they’re not. It was a tie when we got to the desk. I waved them ahead, because that robs them of their sense of victory. That’s one of the things I’ve noticed about this place: unlike the state fair, where people connect with other people in a vague communual sense, it’s every man for himself here. You’re connecting with the Central Myth, the Disney Current that runs through the whole place. It’s generally not shared, but enjoyed in private, or small groups. There are exceptions, as I’ll note.

Once separated, of course, we could not rejoin. I assumed my wife was off at Guest Services, and we should stay put in a prominent, obvious position. As the minutes ticked by and it seemed likely she had been kidnapped, I decided I should compound the matter by moving away from the prominent, obvious position, and explore the direction from which she might be coming. If everything worked according to plan, we would find her ten minutes later at the prominent, obvious position we had located.

My plan went perfectly.

Rejoined, we headed off into EPCOT, under the great million-faceted Ball of Optimism.

It would take me seven hours to realize that something was missing. They’d removed the Mickey’s Wizard Wand. From last year:

Good move. It didn’t fit, and it seemed a bit desperate – there’s characters in this park, really! It isn’t all just filmstrips and shows about the history of Vecro! First stop: the Pavillion of Land, or the Round House of Dirt, or whatever it’s called, to get FastPasses. Since we were here to do things we had not done before, we decided to take in “The Circle of Life,” a show about the interconnectedness of man, nature, and anthropomorphic cartoon characters. I hate to be a killjoy grump about these things, but oy,  what a load of sanctimonious rubbish. The actual Circle of Life, as applied to animals, consists of birth, killing, consumption, excretion, copulation, and solitary death from small predators in the blood or nasty ones with big teeth. Sometimes there’s death by fire, for variety’s sake. It takes consciousness on the human level to extract the metaphorical weight in the whole Circle of Life thing, and while I think it’s wonderful to appreciate and marvel at the intricate ecosystems of the planet, and tread as lightly as necessary, wordless choirs voicing ecstatic vowels over footage of wildebeest herds does not really equal a High Mass for spiritual impact or depth. All of which I kept to myself, of course. But I felt like the village atheist.

The plot was hugely ironical: Timon and Roomba or whatever the warthog is named were building a resort in the jungle, and damning a stream to create a water feature. Simba showed up to demonstrate the error of their ways. The hilarity of any manifestation of the Disneyverse criticizing an artificial lake to build a resort goes without saying. And it did go without saying, of course. Simba said that Timon and Roomba or whatever were acting like another creature that did not behave in tune with nature, and that creature was . . . man.

BOO HISS, I guess. Jaysus, I tire of this. Big evil stupid man had done many stupid evil bad things, like pile abandoned cars in the river, dump chemicals into blue streams, and build factories that vomited great dark clouds into the sky. Like the People’s State Lead Paint and Licensed Mickey Merchandise Factory in Shanghai Province, perhaps? Simba gave us a lecture about materialism and how it hurt the earth – cue the shot of trees actually being chopped down, and I’m surprised the sap didn’t spurt like blood in a Peckinpah movie – and other horrors, like forests on fire because . . . well, because it was National Toss Glowing Coals Out the Car Window Month, I guess. I swear the footage all came from the mid-70s; it was grainy and cracked and the cars were all late-60s models. Because I’m pretty sure we’re not dumping cars into the rivers as a matter of course any more. You’re welcome to try to leave your car on the riverbank and see how that turns out for you.

At the end Timon and Phoomba decided to open a green resort, and everything’s hakuna Montana.

My favorite shot in the movie: as Simba described how the early noble humans respected the earth and the circle of life and took no more than they needed – possibly because they had not invented refrigeration – the camera swept past a Noble American Indian, past the plains and the water,  and ended, with expected doom-laden crashing brass, at the Hoover Dam.  I mention this for a reason; stay tuned.


Next: Test Track, where you can test out high-performance automobiles. It’s the other Circle of Life: the rubber wheel, preferably one affixed to an internal combustion engine.

It had the usual warnings: do not take this ride if you have eaten within the last 24 hours, have a neck injury, have a neck, have been pregnant or next to a pregnant person in the last year, have consumed Viagra (the person next to you may be scared and instinctively reach for a handbrake.) The pre-ride introduction showed all the horrible things our vehicle would be subjected to, and I expected to end up looking like one of those slo-mo crash tests of a KIA prototype made out of peanut brickle. And it was a bit of a snooze. Up the hill, over the rough road – oh no, not the rough road! – through temperature extremes and around hairpin curves. It was fun, but hardly seemed worth the gigantic building they’d constructed to house the ride. And then we raced towards a wall as if to crash – and the walls parted. Shaka, when the stomach fell:


(Mouse over to get the controls; short Flash video. Top speed: 68 MPH. Holy smoking Judas, that was fun. The footage is from the camera, not the camcorder; I just held it up and hoped I got something. I did.)

Wandered around doing this and that. I’ve come to love EPCOT; there’s much more to do. We went to Innoventions, which has various exhibits devoted to things you’d never think your kid would like. The history of Velcro, for example. It was a “game show” held in a small theater; children and families were invited on stage to perform feats of skill involving sticky soft objects, and my wife and (G)Nat were chosen. She bounded up on stage and fought hard, but the gold went to the other team. No matter: a sticker was procured, and not many kids walking around EPCOT had one of those. Next: we put out fires in the House of Carelessly Strewn Oily Rags; our family was the Findwells, and we beat the Searchmores handily. This led to another fire-safety exhibit in which kids had to learn how to flee a house fire, and they all had a great time – in part, no doubt, to the giant bald bull-headed fellow who ran the drills. Former Marine. Kids like kind-but-firm Marines. At least they’re impressed by them, and they certainly heed his commands.

Yes, I’m telling the truth: we got on a plane and went to Florida for fire-safety instruction. It was worth it.

Visited my favorite spot, the Coca-Cola Soda of the World room, where you can sample soda from across the planet. Everyone took the Italian soda, even though it was advertised as “bitter,” and poured it out after on tentative sip. I drank off a cup with relish, and, to the evident astonishment of those nearby, had seconds. The man is mad. I told (G)Nat she should like it, since she’s part Italian, and she responded that she’s only part Italian, and the rest of her didn’t like it.

Later  Ellen’s Energy Adventure, a 45 minute ride my wife chose at the precise moment my bladder said “hello? Down here? Little help?” Ah well.  It was a curious ride: after watching a movie on an enormous movie screen (plot: Ellen DeGeneris doesn’t care about energy) we move into a larger hall, with an even more enormous movie screen, and take our places in broad wide seating areas, each of which holds about 100 people. A disembodied voice informs us that the next part of the attraction takes 37 minutes, and once you are in you cannot leave, so if anyone wants to leave they will have to leave now. Nothing makes me want to leave more than being told the doors are closing and we are pushing off from the gate – but no, those are old instincts. We are no longer claustrophobic. On we go, then. At least I had an aisle seat.

A small door emerged from a recessed slot and closed off the end of the aisle.

It was lovely, flying over the world in IMAXy splendor; you almost felt as if your seat was tipping back and forth. Probably because it was. The entire seating area moved up and down – and then the screen rolled up into the ceiling and the seating areas moved forward, formed a train, and wound their way into a
jungle filled with animatronic dinosaurs. At that point you just give up on having any clue what will happen next. Why dinos? Well, our energy was formed during their time – that’s the rather vague hook. It’s all explained by  Bill Nye the Science Guy, who’s taken Ellen back in time in a dream sequence that also involves Alex Trebec, don’t ask  - also Jamie Lee Curtis, who’s looking good.

The point – and I do have on – is this: “Ellen’s Energy Adventure” was the opposite of “Simba’s Bummer Lecture on the Circularity of Existence.” It surveyed the many sources of energy we have today, and presented each with crisp logic and fairness. You got the upside and downside. Hoover Dam was shown – but this time, it was a beauty-shot fly-by that made you weep. Bill Nye described with goofy enthusiasm the things we will soon do, and how we’ll just get better and better at finding new sources of energy, and how human ingenuity will rule the day. In fact the final Jeopardy question – again, don’t ask – is “This is the only limitless source of energy,” and the answer – proudly announced by Ellen – is “Brain Power,” which will help us power our bright, fascinating future. 

I left that one with a big grin. Because I have more faith in Bill Nye and clever Ellen than animated lions.

Supper was obtained in the bowels of a Mayan temple. You want some guys who didn’t do a crackerjack job of the whole Circle of Life and living gently on the land? Try the Pre-Columbian civilizations. But we don’t have documentary footage that involves smoky tailpipes, so nevermind. (The failure of the auto industry to have better PR, in fact, may stem from that unpopular children’s cartoon character, Smoky Tailpipe.) The interior is bathed in perpetual twilight; another temple, its pinnacle glowing red, rises against the far wall by a stream.

Very picturesque: nine PM all day long. If you expected some savage propitiation of the gods complete with heart held high and body tumbling down the steps, you would be disappointed; this is the usual sanitized Pre-Columbian civilization, which has been reduced entirely down to pyramids and scary masks. The meal was brown and salty, as befits the usual range of Disney cuisine. Afterwards, we decided to take the Three Caballeros boat ride. Panchito and Jose Tapioca are looking for Donald, who’s running around Mexico in a series of animated panels. You pass through a few happy Mexican towns having happy Mexican ceremonies, even though the puppets look like escapees from the “Small World” ride. Very charming. You think: that Panchito, he’s an underutilized property. You also wonder: is there a Disney property that doesn’t have a home somewhere here? Will we find that fat German caterpillar from “Bug’s Life”over in the Teutonic section of the International Village?

We took the ride twice, because (G)Nat found it charming. Halfway through my phone rang; I took it as quietly as possible with the headphones, because it was from the house sitter. Since I spoke low and the ambient noise was loud I doubt I spoiled anything for anyone – wouldn’t have taken the call from anyone else, but when your housesitter calls you think: Fire? Probably. Jasper had eaten something white crawling with ants in the creek, and ralphed it all up. She wanted to make sure we knew. He was fine – still wanted to go for walks, wasn’t sitting in dark room staring blankly at the wall while breathing shallowly, so I told her not to worry.

Afterwards we watched alarmingly flexible Chinese gymnasts and toured a minature version of the famous buried army of an Emperor.  It’s the line to Pirates of the Caribbean, and they’ve turned to fossils:

They included the Emperor's favorite blow-up companion in his afterlife army, apparently:

Even in the afterlife, people fart:

Back across the lagoon on a boat. Beautiful. The entire day: aside from a new interludes of begging and pouting, beautiful.

Best second day of the second trip in which we went to Epcot first EVER!

Tomorrow: the Kingdom. See you now at buzz.mn.