EPCOT is the second of the four parks built at Walt Disney World® Resort. It opened as EPCOT Center on October 1, 1982, consists of 300 acres and is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. The acronym stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. It is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, technological innovation and international culture. Many people think of EPCOT as a permanent World’s Fair.
Many Disney lovers wonder if there a system of tunnels under EPCOT similar to the utilidors at the Magic Kingdom. Well, sort of! There is a tunnel under EPCOT. In Future World, a U-shaped tunnel stretches 700 feet. It starts at the north end of Innoventions East, curves under Spaceship Earth and ends at the north end of Innoventions West. The tunnel is used for deliveries to Future World shops and restaurants. It is not part of or connected to the elaborate utilidor system of the Magic Kingdom.
When you are riding the vehicles inside Spaceship Earth, you are not seeing the inside of the silver-faceted geosphere. Spaceship Earth is actually composed of two separate spheres, one inside the other. The facade of the outer sphere is positioned two feet away from the inner sphere by 467 four-inch-diameter aluminum hubs.
Test Track is the longest and fastest ride in Walt Disney World. The cars travel almost a mile and reach speeds of 65 miles per hour and hit the curve at a 50 degree angle. Each car is designed to last one million miles. Each car is equipped with six braking systems. And while there are four visible wheels on each car, they actually have a total of 22 wheels. Each vehicle is controlled by three on-board computers.
On Mission: Space, if you hit all of the switches and dials at the same time, Gary Sinise will come over the speaker and tell you to cut it out.
At the old Sea Base Alfa in the Living Seas (before we welcomed Nemo in 2006) the beams inside were interesting to see. The people who worked on building the attraction wanted to leave something behind, so the letters and numbers meant something special to each one who helped construct the building. I’ll have to check next time I visit to see if any of these are still visible. When you leave the building, notice the overhang coming out is very large so that your eyes have time to readjust to the sunlight.
On the Living with the Land boat ride, be sure to look at the address on the mailbox in front of the farm house – it reflects the year that Epcot opened.
At the top of The Land Pavilion is a VIP room used by the former sponsor, Kraft. You can see the windows of the lounge from the lobby of the pavilion right above the Garden Grill Restaurant. If you look up during the rainforest and farmhouse scenes on the Living with the Land boat ride you will see it too!
If you stand under Spaceship Earth when it’s raining, you won’t get wet. The structure has a special drainage system designed to collect rainwater, funnel it through the support structure and let it run off into the park’s lagoon.
On Soarin’ when you board flight number 5505 – Soarin’ debuted in Epcot on May 5, 2005. Most numbers in Walt Disney World have some sort of hidden meaning.
In Future World there is a courtyard which contains Inventor’s Circle. Inventor’s Circle is a representation of mankind’s greatest achievements throughout history. Surrounding the innermost circle is a tribute to some of most important scientists and pioneers in human history including Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Sir Isaac Newton. From there circles mark huge breakthroughs in discoveries, including the wheel, the printing press, the telephone, the world wide web, and more.
If you walk around the entire World Showcase lagoon, from China to Canada, you will be walking a total distance of 1.25 miles.
When World Showcase was originally built, there was space left for 10 additional countries. Norway and Morroco were added, leaving room for 8 more. Proposed Pavilions and/or attractions that were never built include:
- ISRAEL PAVILION – In 1980, the State of Israel signed a deal to officially become part of Epcot. The proposed Israel Pavilion would have featured a menorah in the center of the courtyard, along with archaeological artifacts from The Jewish Museum in Tel Aviv. Due to possible security issues and boycotts, the Pavilion wasn’t built. Still, Israel was featured in an exhibit at the Millennium Pavilion from 1999 to 2001. It featured a simulator-movie ride called Journey to Jerusalem, a virtual tour of historic holy sites.
- MT. FUJI ROLLER COASTER – This ride was planned for the Japan Pavilion but it was thrown out not long after it was suggested thanks to protests by Eastman Kodak, the sponsor of the Journey into Imagination ride. Kodak didn’t take kindly to a ride sharing the name of their biggest competitor, Fujifilm.
- BULLET TRAIN – All aboard would stand in a Japanese simulated bullet train, looking out through the phony windows while taking a gander at all the fake scenery of Japan’s historic sites.
- IRAN PAVILION – Hop on a ride through Persian history inside a replica of Golestan Palace. The Iran Pavilion was called off when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979.
- SOVIET UNION PAVILION – Developed in the 1990’s, this location would have featured recreations of St. Basil’s Cathedral and Red Square. The proposed area had two rides: a sled journey through the Russian scenery, and a ride-through attraction based on Russia’s famous folk tale The Fool and the Fish.
The concrete paths around the lagoon are red – this technique makes the grassy areas look greener.
Walt Disney Imagineers often use a technique called forced perspective. An optical illusion, forced perspective is used in the parks to make things look bigger or smaller. The American Adventure Pavilion is designed to look like a three story building. but is actually five stories tall. Over in the Canada Pavilion the Hotel du Canada building appears to be five stories tall, when in fact it is only three.
The World Showcase is a great place to learn about other cultures. There are two museums, hidden in plain sight, that most guests pass right by.The first is a Viking museum which houses an authentic Viking sword that is over 1,000 years old. The museum in Morocco is easy to miss, Most don’t realize its there at all. The Gallery of Arts and History in Morocco displays works of art.
When passing the African Outpost, be sure to stop and open some of the crates. You may get a little squirt!
Why do we go to the second floor to watch the American Adventure show? Because the presidents and other figures that you see during the performance are all housed on hidden platforms that are stored underneath the audience’s seats.
Take a really good look at the pictures on the walls inside the American Adventure. The picture hanging in the left corner when you enter the rotunda is a painting of a World War II era B-17 bomber. If you stand on the gray strip of tiles on the floor in front of it and walk backwards and forwards, the plane appears to swivel and follow you.
Have you ever noticed the statue on your right as you enter the Japan Pavilion area? It was a gift from the government of Japan when the Magic Kingdom opened. It was later moved to Epcot.
The Japanese pagoda has five stories. Each represents one of the elements that Buddhists believe make up everything in the universe – in ascending order: earth, water, fire, wind and sky.
Take a look at the rocks in both Canada and Japan when the the Illuminations show is about to begin. The top of some of them will open, revealing sound and lighting equipment.
There are three totem poles in the Canada Pavilion. Only the one on the left is real. It was carved by Tsimshian Indian carver David Boxley, and weighs approximately 700 pounds. The other two totem poles are made of fiberglass.
The trees in Canada are replaced when they grow too big. Also, the plants at Canada change with the seasons, to simulate the seasons in Canada. White in winter, gold and red in autumn, etc.
Look towards the back of the courtyard in the Germany Pavilion, and you’ll notice a clock. Every hour, a wooden boy and girl emerge from the clock and twirl.
Walk to the back wall in the Germany Pavilion. Knock on it, and you’ll notice a very hollow sound. The wall covers an area that was originally intended to host the never-built Rhine River Cruise boat ride that would take guests on a boat ride through the German countryside. The main entrance to the ride would have been located at the back of the Sommerfest Outdoor Cafe.
When looking at the train set in Germany, look at the church on the side of the bridge. Over the doorway are four hidden Mickeys. Can you spot any other hidden Mickeys in the train set?
In the Italy Pavilion, look for little red buttons located close to the fountains behind the shops. If you push them, water sprays out.
The carvings on the sides of the pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion were not originally there. They were added later after it was realized that small children liked to climb the step-like walls.
Most of the pavilions in World Showcase are lit up as part of the Illuminations show each night, but Morocco isn’t. The temple remains dark since lighting it would violate religious beliefs.
Look at the mosaic tiles in the Morocco Pavilion. Each mosaic has at least one flawed tile in it because beliefs dictate that only Allah can create something that is perfect.
When Morocco was asked to join World Showcase, the King was so excited, he sent his own men to Orlando to build it and he also paid for the construction. It cost Disney nothing to build. Every year the King of Morocco sends craftsmen to touch-up and repair the Pavilion, still free of charge to Disney.
There is a gold prayer room in Morocco that was included for the Cast Members and is open to the public.
The roof of the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe in the Norway Pavilion has real grass growing on it. Disney Horticulture Cast Members climb onto the structure to maintain it.
If a bird were to land on top of the France Pavilion’s Eiffel tower, it would spoil the illusion of height. The tower is wider at the bottom and narrower at the top, so any bird perched on it would look enormous. Disney uses natural bird deterrents to scare them away.The Eiffel tower is the only structure in the World Showcase that cannot be reached by the general public.
Diners in Chefs de France used to be treated to an unexpected visit from a small, animatronic Remy. Remy would visit with guests, interact with them and respond to their questions and comments.
There are iconic phone booths in the U.K. pavilion that had real working phone numbers. Anyone could call and talk to whatever guest answered. At some point in 2013, dialing the numbers would only result in a busy signal or a ‘this call can not be completed as dialed’ message.
Don’t forget about these secrets at some of the other parks: